“fiveFilms4freedom” and LGBT Digital Visibility

“#fiveFilms4freedom” is a digital LGBT film festival that was created by the British Council and the British Film Institute in 2015. The innovative concept allows audiences to screen the films at formal screening events, and at home. The films showcase LGBT issues in different countries across the globe, and are also available to educators to use in a classroom setting. A global digital film festival is a groundbreaking concept, because of the introduction new forms of accessibility through social media. The festival aims to give LGBT individuals global visibility.

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I attended the New York screening at the Barclays Center. The screening and the Q&A were not terribly interactive. The interactive aspect of “#fiveFilms4freedom” exists outside the screening. I will delve into that further later on, but I would like to bring attention to their use of New Media as a mechanism for social progress.

The panelists that sat on the Q&A avoided talking about politics (a wise decision), but did discuss the importance of legal and social change. I made a point to ask a question about censorship in countries where LGBT “lifestyles” are still criminalized. I wanted to bring attention to the insularity of New York City, especially in academia. I recognize my privilege, and my access to this screening. It can be difficult to raise awareness, and give visibility to marginalized communities especially when a large portion of the community may not have access to the necessary resources. That is why the creation of a digital film festival is integral to reaching a larger audience. These films were available to screen online during the BFI Flare an LGBT film festival that was held in London from March 16 – 27, 2016. Also they are available online in the United States for the next 10 days.

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The availability is limited, and there are still restrictions based on contracts between the filmmakers and the festival. The ephemerality of the films existence is surprisingly appealing. I was initially disappointed at the prospect of only having 10 days to access the films, but then I connected their digital presence to a larger mechanism. I made a connection between the “hybrid modes of spectatorship” that were discussed in Marina Hassapopoulou’s “Reconfiguring Film Studies through Software Cinema and Procedural Spectatorship” and the adaptability of the spectator. These films intend to inspire awareness, and action (i.e. spectators creating their own films, and media).

My personal user experience did not end once I left the Barclays Center. I visited the website for the event, which is on the British Council website. I used the link that was provided on the email about the screening. The website provides a trailer for “#fiveFilms4freedom”, and below the trailer there is a brief description of the film festival, and it’s content. Below the description it says that the online viewing has closed. A British Council representative told the audience that the films would be available online for the next 10 days, but I have yet to find a link that leads me to the films. As I continue to explore the webpage for the event I click on the link to their Twitter page, because I am hoping they tweeted a link that will give me access to the films. Their Twitter is a combination of audience excitement, and information for online viewers. I found a tweet that referenced the online viewing experience for United States residents, but was directed to the page for the Washington D.C. screening. I scrolled down the page to see if there was more information about where to find the films online, but the page was only a description and link to register for the event.

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I can see the flaws within this system of a digital film festival. It is not as straightforward and user friendly as I was told at the event. I consider myself resourceful and knowledgeable about social media, and how to use it effectively. I believe that the content and purpose of this festival was clearly identified, but the execution of the digital portion was not as simple as it should have been. These films are meant to reach a global audience, but I wonder if they reached many viewers in developing countries. New Media presents us with a rapidly developing digital language, and I am unsure of whether LGBT communities in developing countries have enough access to the resources needed to view these films.

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I know that the British Council designated global advocates from different countries, and you can read more about these individuals in the section entitled “fiveFilms4freedom 2016 Global List” on the festival’s webpage. When you click on the Global List you are immediately directed to a page with pictures and bios of 33 individuals who participated in the global digital screening of the film when it was at BFI Flare. Of course 33 people cannot represent the entire global population, but this is a promising start to raise global awareness.

By: Jessica Leader

Works Cited:

Hassapopoulou, Marina. “Reconfiguring Film Studies through Software Cinemaand Procedural Spectatorship.” NECSUS. European Journal of Media Studies 3.2 (2014): 21-42. Web.