There’s a proud history of protest in the gay rights movement, but this year’s Melbourne Queer Film Festival has found itself in the unusual and unwelcome position of being the target of a protest.
The festival has been accused of helping to “perpetrate institutional violence” against Palestinians by including an Israeli feature, The Swimmer, in its program. It has also been accused of not doing enough to represent the diversity of LGBTQI+ experiences in its broader programming, ignoring films and filmmakers from large parts of the world.
The campaign was led by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions protesters – who seek to use cultural boycotts as a way of pressuring Israel to change its policies towards Palestinians – and it played out across social media, with promises to cancel tickets and boycott screenings. It played out in the real world too, where dozens of placard-waving protesters gathered outside the Jam Factory last weekend, and were eventually met by police. It played out within the program, with the makers of 10 shorts and one feature withdrawing their films in support of the BDS campaign (protesters plan to hold two “counter-screening” events showcasing these films early next month).
It even played out at board level, with two members of the festival’s governing committee resigning in the wake of the protests (this masthead understands, however, that one of those board members had never actually attended a meeting of the MQFF board).