Film festival teaches tolerance

The Inakosť Film Festival (FFI), known in English as the Slovak Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, has been organised four times by the civic initiative Inakosť (Difference) but it has only been since last year that the festival has emerged with strong support, offering a broad range of films and other accompanying events.

The Inakosť Film Festival (FFI), known in English as the Slovak Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, has been organised four times by the civic initiative Inakosť (Difference) but it has only been since last year that the festival has emerged with strong support, offering a broad range of films and other accompanying events.

“The interest among viewers showed us that we were on the right track,” Ján Benec, the festival director told The Slovak Spectator, adding that the aim of the organisers is simple: to prepare an interesting festival and make sure that all people – either those from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community or anyone else who might be interested – have the opportunity to see worthwhile movies and feel good after the event.

The festival also provided young Slovak film directors with an opportunity to show their talents and works. Vladimíra Hradecká’s Miluj blížneho svojho (Love Thy Neighbour), a documentary which maps the first gay pride march held in Bratislava this summer, and Matúš Krajňák’s Praví chlapi (Real Men) were screened for the FFI audience this year.

One of the highlights of the festival was the Slovak premiere of the hugely successful film A Single Man, directed by Tom Ford and based on a 1964 novel of the same name. Ford, a well-known American fashion designer, made his debut as a film director in this work which centres on a college literature professor whose unwavering despondency over the death of his longtime companion drives him to decide to take his own life.

According to Benec, Dúhový PRIDE Bratislava 2010 (Rainbow Pride Bratislava), Slovakia’s first-ever gay pride parade in May, resonated at the festival and there has been productive cooperation between the organisers of the two events: the FFI participated in the pride parade by screening gay movies as accompanying events and the organisers of the pride parade held a provocative topical discussion within the framework of the film festival.

The number of offerings at this year’s FFI was especially significant. According to Benec, 55 movies from 22 countries were screened and the accompanying programme was the richest thus far – with three exhibitions, three discussion forums and three theatre performances. The venue of the festival also extended beyond Bratislava, as some movies were screened before the official start of the festival in Kosice and in Vrútky.

“To pick just one [event], I’d mention a successful and very lively discussion on the topic ‘Homosexuality and Christianity – Living in the Middle’, about LGBT people who don’t want to take one side or the other but rather want to integrate both,” Benec told The Slovak Spectator.

Slovakia’s Culture Ministry was the festival’s general partner and minister Daniel Krajcer took patronage over the festival, making this the first time that a government official offered sponsorship to a LGBT event. Several Bratislava-based embassies also acted as main partners for the festival, including the US, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish and Finnish embassies.

Irish Ambassador Kathryn Coll attended the opening of the festival, as did Daphne Bergsma, the Dutch Ambassador. The Dutch Embassy also financially supported the festival. The embassy told The Slovak Spectator that the festival’s organisers believed that having a prominent foreign guest such as the ambassador personally attending the event would have a beneficial impact on the perception of future festivals.

According to the Dutch Embassy supporting human rights and LGBT rights in particular are of special interest for Dutch representations abroad and that advocacy on behalf of LGBT rights is an integral part of Dutch foreign policy.

“There is an active community promoting LGBT rights in Slovakia and the embassy supports their initiative,” the Dutch Embassy stated. “We rely on the expertise of this community about how their rights are best promoted in Slovakia. Hence, at their request, we supported the film festival.”

The embassy’s statement said that acceptance of LGBT rights has to start by informing people about the issue and that in the Netherlands this process developed over several decades, starting with small events similar to the Slovak Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

“We hope that public awareness of the presence of LGBT minorities [in Slovakia] can be raised and society can slowly embark on a path of tolerance and acceptance,” the embassy statement reads.

Speaking for the festival’s organisers, Benec also stressed that their hope is to encourage tolerance and understanding between the minority and the majority.

“We basically hope that some decades from now such a festival will no longer be needed because being gay or lesbian will be about as provocative as having red hair or green eyes,” Benca said.

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