The lesbian movement of the 70s and 80s, particularly in
America, but across the wider world too, was also one of the first
and most forceful feminist movements. Along with the civil rights
and anti-war activism, a new strand of feminism emerged; it was
based on the simple yet radical idea to invent a new way of life
entirely centred on women.
A vibrant, productive lesbian culture came to life through
innovative women who created physical and cultural spaces in which
to live, meet, discuss and organise this parallel revolution. They
created literature, films, music, theatre and a new body of
political and philosophical theory, and as a result, numerous
lesbian communities were established in diverse countries.
Perhaps it's for this reason that the 1st London Feminist Film
Festival sees fit to begin its hefty 4-day programme with the film
'Lesbiana - A Parallel Revolution' by Canadian director Myriam
Fougere; the film documents this unique moment in history when the
lesbian movement was at its strongest and brightest.
The film draws its material from Myriam's travels in the 80s which
took her across America and through these lesbian communities, and
it includes archive footage filmed at the time, and present-day
interviews with activists.
The screening of Lesbiana is followed by a panel discussion which
includes the director, and then the Opening Night Party of the
Organiser Anna Read hopes that the evening will set the tone for
the rest of the Festival - "a good, friendly vibe, with mostly
women coming together to celebrate feminism." Anna does however
want the festival to be an inclusive space; everyone is
Anna dreamed up the Festival last year when she realised that
although there were film festivals for women directors, the films
in the festival weren't necessarily feminist in content. So while
the rest of us were going gaga over the Olympics this summer, Anna
was hard at work with the help of some friends, putting together an
entirely new film festival with no budget, and inviting feminist
film submissions from all around the world.
And submissions came from every corner of the globe - "176 films
in total, from every continent except Antarctica" Anna clarifies.
The four day festival has programmed 16 films; six feature length
ones, and a number of shorts which can run up to 30 minutes in
length. They include films from Senegal, Kenya, India, Sri Lanka,
Canada, China and of course Britain.
'Beautiful Sentence', by Suzanne Cohen is a documentary about the
poet Leah Thorn who worked with female prisoners in the UK, to help
them find a voice through creative writing. Leah herself will be on
the panel discussion after the film.
Also included in the same session on Prisons is the Ghanaian film
'The Witches of Gambaba' - an award-winning documentary about a
community of women condemned to life in a camp for 'witches' in
Other international films include 'Kung Fu Grandma' from Kenya
where women undertake a self-defence course, 'Ladies' Turn' from
Senegal about a women's football team, and 'I Too Have A Name'
about a Tamil nun in war-ravaged Sri Lanka, by first-time
filmmaker, Suba Sivakumaran.
'Audre Lorde - The Berlin Years 1984 - 1992', a documentary about
the famous lesbian feminist poet, also takes centre stage; it
charts Lorde's contribution to the Afro-German movement, where she
examines what it means to have a hyphenated identity, and
challenges white privilege.
Bidisha, the festival's 'matron' will be chairing panels
throughout. Panelists include filmmakers and directors as well as
academics and critics, including Linda Bellos the prominent lesbian
feminist. Anna has organised it so that the festival and its
participants are engaging with audiences throughout. In fact, the
four day festival concludes with a session titled 'Fighting Back!'
Here the festival aims to encourage its audience to think about
what they can do to change outlooks and encourage a greater
awareness of feminism.
And will the festival be back next year? "Yes, hopefully," Anna
says. Bigger and with more people involved. It certainly looks all
set to succeed; tickets are selling fast - within a few days of
going on sale, they've sold over half. So hurry up and get yours at
The 1st London Feminist Film Festival
29th November - 2nd December 2012