“The [Wotever Film Festival] films are accessible to all of the queer community and show how all of us deal with our own queerness.”
This year’s Wotever Film Festival took place in the cooperatively-run DIY Space for London in the United Kingdom, celebrating LGBTQ+ filmmakers and films, from professional artists to enthusiastic amateurs. Now in its sixth year, the festival has grown from a fun, one-evening event showing films made by queer people in London, to a prominent worldwide film festival in its own right.
From 3-4 September, London’s queer community gathered to enjoy films that were being screened for the first time. The significancce of this festival is not lost to the organisers, coming at a time when so many queer spaces are being lost to gentrification and urban planning. In February, gay nightclub Chariots announced its closure and August saw club Yard in Soho successful with their #SaveTheYard.
Theresa Heath, Wotever Film Festival’s producer, told the IPF:
“I would say that now, providing the space for our community is as important to us as showing the films.”
Free and accessible to everyone
Part of Wotever World, a queer arts, performance and activism collective based in London, the annual film festival showcases films submitted by filmmakers themselves. Run entirely by volunteers, it was financed by a Kickstarter project that raised more than £400 in the course of 21 days, ensuring that the event was free and accessible to everyone.
“The festival is so much more accessible than last year,” said Ania Urbanowska, whose film ‘Cheat‘ was screened at Wotever. “The organisers listened to people and it’s great to see that there are no stairs this year and a British Sign Language translator for the screenings.”
She added: “The films are also accessible to all of the queer community, and show how all of us deal with our own queerness.”
Art in the queer community
Jac Nunns, a filmmaker and regular at the film festival, said the festival is a great opportunity to meet budding artists and initiate conversations about art in the queer community.
“We appreciate this rough and ready environment, where raw stories are told in unusual ways,” Jac said. “Films like this are so rarely commercially available, especially for women, when they aren’t porn.
“It’s also a great way to network with queer filmmakers and collaborate. We become informal sounding boards for new artists and continue to follow their work online.”
One of the films shown at the festival is being screened at the New Orleans Film Festival, an Oscar-qualifying festival in the United States.
“It’s amazing to have opportunities like this, to show films without a big budget,” said Sasha Milonova, producer of documentary ‘Cecil and Carl‘, which documents a couple’s 45-year love story. “Especially when the subject matter is not the young and beautiful. There’s so much to the stories of LGBT families, and it’s great to be able to show films about stories you don’t hear about it.”
Community Politics at the Wotever Film Festival
Representation matters and this was particularly prevalent during the “Community Politics” section of the film festival. Featuring shorts films about black transgender young people in London’s Brixton (‘BOXX‘, Joy Ghaporo-Akpojotor), Mexico’s Pink Spring (‘Primavera Rosa en Mexico‘, Mario de la Torre) and the struggles of India’s LGBTQ+ community (‘Unkahi Unsuni Kahani‘, Nakshatra Bagwe), Wotever Film Festival brought to the surface conversations that are much-needed within the queer community.
Angela and Beth, a young couple who attended the film festival for the first time, said it was important to be able to watch a version of themselves on screen. They noted:
“We want to start a family soon, that’s why we came. Even here in London, it’s almost unbelievable to see that that’s possible on screen.”
“I don’t know exactly what the future holds,” Wotever Film Festival organiser Theresa said. “We will certainly continue to show queer, DIY films in some capacity.”
She concluded: “I think queer film festivals and events have such an important role to play in the queer community today.”
The Wotever Film Festival will culminate in two screenings on 8 and 22 September at the Cinema Museum in London.