As SQIFF, Glasgow’s Queer Film Festival, returns for a third year it was clear that some soul searching had been done in regards to bisexual programming. The event began with an apology from a member of SQIFF’s staff who discussed how bisexuality is often the sexuality least discussed and catered for before offering an olive branch to the community in the shape of a series of films and talks (called Looking Awry) which discussed, explored and celebrated bisexuality.
Presented by Jacob Engelberg, a film programmer for Wide Open Cinema, the following hour and a half discussion was a wonderful, thought-provoking ride through cinema’s invocation of bisexuality, from the origins of the term, and its relationship to other sexualities, to questioning how bisexuality can even be represented on screen; how could a visual medium hope to convey multiple desires?
Alongside Jacob’s eloquence and passion as a speaker, what made the discussion so refreshing and exhilarating was the way he connected bisexuality to the academic theories that underpin film studies. By utilising academic texts, quotes from bisexual activists and clips from both mainstream and alternative media, he placed bisexuality within a broader context of the history of both sexuality and film, raising it to the same level as other sexualities, and by doing so, arguing that it is a subject worth exploring.
Some of the main points Jacob discussed were how there are inherent issues (which are not insurmountable) in representing bisexuality on screen, and how bisexuality is often overshadowed by other forms of sexuality or represented as promiscuity or a regretful form of monogamy (that a bisexual person can never be truly satisfied). Sometimes it is not just the challenge of being represented, but how that representation manifests that is the issue. The films discussed were a mixture of mainstream (Brokeback Mountain, Moonlight, Far from Heaven, Chasing Amy), independent (Appropriate Behaviour, Nowhere, Don’t Look at Me that Way, Go Fish) and genre (Jacob coined the amusing term LesBIan vampire movies). This allowed the discussion to be accessible and fun, as well as theoretically challenging, and gave the audience a chance to participate as well as listen.
Here’s hoping SQIFF carry on their commitment to bisexual programming, and that there will be many more talks as engaging and witty as Jacob’s.
For more on SQIFF click here.