Monday, December 23, 2013

Pause || Play >> the Mezripatra Queer Film Festival

"Stop! Now! What's that sound?
Everybody look! What's going down?"
Buffalo Springfield, For What It's Worth

The Mezripatra Queer Film Festival
took place between 7-20 November 2013
in Prague, the Czech Republic

Pause || Pause

Pausing after a difficult year, I'm replaying some of the moments that may fall through the cracks without more reflection and refraction. One such happening was my return to Prague to take part in the Mezripatra Queer Film Festival and a seminar led by Robert McRuer and Katerina Kolarova.

The theme of this year's festival is "Truth or Dare" (in English) or "Truthful Lies" (in Czech) but I am far more struck by the non-verbal theme: two vertical pillars (a pause sign) and a side-ways triangle (a play sign). 

Reflecting the affect digital video-casting has had on film-making, as well as queer politics, one wonders if this is an invitation to PAUSE our anxious march forward (or wherever we are going) and take a moment to consider ourselves...

or is this an invitation to PLAY and not get bogged down in trying to attain perfect epistemologies or ethics, opting for direct, messy action, or are we supposed to consider these actions together? How might PLAYING keep us stationary and might PAUSING keep us going?

Unpacking my winter-clothes (Prague is much colder than Washington DC) I am ready to both take a moment of pause and to play around. Taking off my high-heels to safeguard me against Prague's cobblestone streets and putting on a heavy jacket, I look at my new dangerous androgyny. 

Will I be read according to the Trans-Femininity that I insist on a daily basis? Will I be read more masculine now? Will I be more of a mix than before? 

At this point another reading of the festivals symbols assert themselves: two pillars for two erect dicks standing side-by-side or else a tilted EQUAL sign, signifying and bastardizing the HRC's branding of LGBT politics...

As well as a tilted "upside-down" pyramid, a symbol of womanhood (see: a vagina) as well as the twice appropriated symbol for gay men. These symbols remind me that change is as distinct yet inextricable from time, as gender is from sexuality. Experiencing one is bound to fuck with the other.

After worrying about how my gender would be read, one night our seminar group attended a queer club that -- unlike most Gay and Lesbian bars I've visited in the US -- was equally mixed between men, women, and tranny-genderqueers. 

As the sensuality and fleshiness of the club reminded us, gender doesn't have to be covered up to allow for diversity. Often, like the roaring meeting halls of small democracies, the noisy club can provide a zone where genders and sexualities can be met, expressed, explored, and debated.

The same night that saw a violently aggressive masculinity expelled from the community, saw members meet at the point of conflict and contingency to defend, attend, and mend; saw a woman open up to her own desirability for and by another woman; saw words exchanged and shared silence. 

It is hard to recollect all the fragments because they exist together where change meets time and gender meets sexuality to dance and debate in noisy confusion. Chaos is often the grounds for transformation that isn't quite a simple Pause or move forward. It is that re-Play that we keep on going back to and come back from different, changed.

Play >> Play

The mirth to Play demands a lot more from us than a solemn Pause, reminds GK Chesterton in his apologetic introduction to Heretics. Play requires some mastery mixed with an openness to failure. Play requires a keen awareness of contingency (contact) mixed with a self-surrender to shared existence. Play is hard but needs to be fun, that is harder.

As I walk down the hill from the castle to downtown Prague, I pass a row of taverns and shops. Browsing the tourist traps for something for my partner and her two young daughters, I replay scenes of them playing in the yard. Without fail, every so often one would fall & cry out. 

As the child looked up at us, there was a moment where we were assessing her body to see if she was solemnly hurt. At that same moment, however, the little girl was assessing our faces to discern what the proper reaction should be. 

In most cases, the kid would be alright, just a bit muddy, in which case we would laugh. Once we did, you could watch as the child paused and decided, "yes, this is funny." Then the girls would be up and playing again. Fun is something we learn. Mirth is hard; it comes through scraped knees.

Passing the shops I walk across the Charles Bridge. What a resilient piece of architecture to have endured through generations of war, occupation, and poverty! Considering its scenic perspective on the surrounding city, punctuated with dramatic statues depicting the life, death and afterlife of mythic figures, I take in the hardened mirth of Prague. It has gotten up after many scraped knees to laugh again.

From the bridge I proceed through the old town center and to the theater where the night's films will be showing: tales of exile and death in the Canadian woods, of HIV and English comedy, of dispossession and German retirement homes, of undesired children and the court battles in the United States to allow their adoption by men with "wrong desires."

Playing Queer films can remind us of all that we have to be solemn about, but they can also teach us how to find our mirth. Like children who have fallen down, we can look at these films to try to learn what our response should be. Or perhaps the films are the scraped knees that are looking to us to help make sense of the hurt and the play.

Our play comes at that point of contingency and self-surrender -- inter-subjectivity -- and it is hard to keep pressing PLAY. Hurt after hurt, we may want to press PAUSE and make it all stop. Everything in us may rightly demand we not go on in the face of such solemnity. 

But we have learned to laugh again after such moments of pause; learned how to reflect and then refract the light that shines on us. We have done a lot and had a lot done to us, but we are not yet done. We can learn to play again.



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