Kansai Queer Film Festival 2007
Kansai Queer Film Festival 2007
An interview by Justin Ellis
As the third annual Kansai Queer Film Festival (KQFF) gets underway later this month, festival co-coordinator Jo Lumley ruminates on gay life in Japan and this year's best flicks.
It was a bit lonely being queer, says Lumley of his arrival in Nagoya in 2002.
As a Durham University (UK) undergraduate he spent a year at Nanzan University where he says he was clueless about the gay scene. By the end of his stay, the queers had banded together, and through an American friend he had explored the gay nightlife of Nagoya, Japan's fourth largest city.
In 2005, after securing a Ministry of Education scholarship to study linguistics at Osaka University, Lumley returned to Japan. It was in the same year that his American friend put [him] onto the KQFF (Kansai Queer Film Festival). Since then, Lumley has been programming, translating and interpreting for the Festival. The KQFF, an all-volunteer organization, engaged his interpreting skills for previewing the English language movies. Interpreting was like a snce, he says. I would wait for the spirit to move me, speak occasionally, and then be silent, he laughs.
As most foreign films don't include Japanese subtitles, the KQFF is an opportunity for the queer community to define itself in authentic language. When films with queer male characters are subtitled, even if a character is very masculine, the subtitlers will still feminize them, says Lumley. The festival gives us the freedom to use words like hatten (cruising) and nonke (straight people) that wouldn't make it into films subtitled by major companies, he adds.
The KQFF selects movies by consensus. Encompassing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex identities, it has long championed diversity of gender and sexual orientation in its programming. As such the festival organizers are keen to discuss prejudice within the queer community itself. Even when you get people together who ought to care about the same thingsit's surprising how there is less of a common place to go than you would think, says Lumley. For example, in the world of trans film there are comparatively few (films) about female-to-male (F-to-M) trans people. Some people have difficulty understanding the need to make a deliberate effort to go out and get trans films, he adds. If we don't, if we send out an open call to distributors, the mainstream movies are what tend to come back, he continues.
Majority/minority relations can also be contentious. If you look around, even this room, it has a bias of its own, says Lumley of the Queer and Women's Resource Center office in Osaka's Nakazaki-cho. Those big fat magazines are all gay men's magazines and the little thin ones, they're gay women's magazines, he says pointing across the room. There's a [male] homosexual bias within the queer community in that it is assumed if you're queer you must be homosexual, and exclusively homosexual, he continues.
So it's hard to be bi, and it's hard to be trans- and straight-identified, and to be bi and be in a relationship with someone of the opposite gender, he adds.
The opening and closing are some of the strongest stuff we've got, he says of this year's KQFF program. The opening-night triple bill includes the silent anime, Desert Dungeon by Tagame Gengoro, whose characterizations will be familiar to gay manga aficionados. Desert Dungeon is about a strapping guy who wakes up in the desert and is taken prisoner, says Lumley with a grin. I also liked Enough Man, he continues. There are a lot of films about transitioning and there are several skip loads of films about coming out, but this film is about how you go on living after coming out and transitioning as an F-to-M trans person, he says, adding that The closing show is a series of films by Norwegian artist Tonje Gjevjon and the inaugural Kansai performance of her all-girl-band, The Hungry Hearts.
I also really enjoyed Hatsu-koi (First Love a film about a senior high school boy who has a crush on another boy), says Lumley. There is some quite good sex in this, he chuckles. It's a sweet film - a crowd-pleaser - but also confronts the topical issues of coming out in Japan, and gay marriage, he says. Once you start working on projects like this you meet more people who are out than you would think, he continues. But it still surprises me that if, for example, you were going to take a photograph, there would be people who didn't want to be in the photo or people who didn't want to use their real name, he concludes.