It’s not easy being a woman in Indonesia. The role comes with a host of baggage: the double standard, the prejudice, the expectations, the moral and religious values, the family obligations and many more
In my case, you can add another layer to this complication: I am a straight woman who runs Indonesia’s queer film festival. Firstly, there are the typical questions people ask: What are you doing with the gays/lesbians? Aren't you afraid you’d get AIDS by hanging out with them?
Even the less judgmental still find my involvement puzzling: Why are you doing a queer film festival in a predominantly Muslim country? Aren’t you afraid you won’t find a husband because they think that you are a lesbian?
Ironically, these questions do not only come from my fellow Indonesian citizens. During my jury duty at Teddy Award section in Berlin International Film Festival 2007, international journalists often asked me the same thing. Apparently the idea of having a heterosexual female participating and being a jury for the gay and lesbian films version of Oscar is baffling. Even harder to accept is the fact that the same heterosexual female is actually running, programming and defending a queer film festival.
My typical response is: “Film has been my first love and undying desire, beside writing and travelling. Lesbian, gay, trans etc are just labels like Cartier, Blahnik or Tiffany. Whatever the label, we are all still 100 percent human. I don’t think I need a certain cause to do this because I am 100 percent human.”
True, a straight woman who is a Muslim doesn’t sound like the ideal person to run a queer film festival, but the world is not a perfect place and neither is it linear. There are hardly perfect love or perfect ideals.
In 2010 around 100 fundamentalists grouped in the Islam Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam) demanded our Q! Film Festival to shut down or they threatened to burn down the place. They said gay/lesbians were inhuman, and it was wrong, disgusting and sinful to have such a festival in Indonesia.
I was there face-to-face with them when I received their letter of rejection. I held my grievance and tried my best to stay calm, while they pointed at me, calling me names and threatening to rape me to 'straighten me up'. In a perfect world this does not happen, but in my imperfect reality, I have had to cope with this kind of threats – strangers following me home, random phone calls – even to this day.
But I still believe we should never stop seeking knowledge, and nurturing compassion, humanity and empathy for a better understanding of ourselves and others.
This is why with my friends I have continued the joy of screening good films with LGBT theme in the Q! Film Festival, despite the fact that we are living in an imperfect world in which the likes of FPI thrive. The Q! Film Festival has been our playground for 13 years and this time we are celebrating the ingredients that make us 100 percent Human.
The festival will be opened on Sept. 19, 2014 with the film Quick Change from the Philippines. Set in Manila, it tells the story of a community of transgender who desire instant-changes in their lives and also in their physical features. But will a quick change make life better for them?
There will be 107 films to be screened in 10 venues in Jakarta until Sept. 28. The films will be shown at Kineforum, Salihara, Institut Francais Indonesie (IFI), Goethe Institut, Sekolah Tinggi Teologi Jakarta, Lembaga Bantuan Hukum (LBH), Angsa Merah, Arus Pelangi, Paviliun 28 and Bina Nusantara University.
Representing all genres, the movies include a mother-son relationship in the movie Eat With Me, Heavy Girls and Rosie; the awkwardness of finding your true self in Boys and In The Absence of The Sun. Another notable film is The Circle, which won the best documentary and audience award in Berlin International Festival 2014.
In addition to films, Q! Film Festival will also hold Q! Art Exhibition: Straight Acting in which 10 local heterosexual artists portray their vision and impression of queers in different medium of arts. We will have Q! Gossip: Straigthly Looking Back At You with Dennis Adishwara as one of the speakers, and a book launch of Gender in Indonesian Cinema by Ben Murtaugh.
We also collaborate with the National Commission on Human Rights, the National Commission on Violence Against Women and the Legal Aid Institute to screen films with human rights message, with discussions afterwards.
For the last seven years we have been providing free HIV test and counseling to our participants, and we will continue the tradition this year by collaborating with Angsa Merah Clinic. Our audience can come to each facility to get a test confidentially, and they will receive counseling services as well.
What makes this year's festival special is we will close the festival with a special musical that celebrates songs from movies’ soundtracks dedicated to our friends who have passed away.
All of the events are free of charge. So let’s celebrate the ingredients that make us human at Q! Film Festival 2014. For more information follow our Twitter handle @qfilmfestival, our website www.qmunity-id.org and our Facebook fanpage: Q! Film Festival.
About Meninaputri Wismurti
Meninaputri has been involved in Q! Film Festival since 2002, starting as audience, then a volunteer coordinator, event coordinator, head of programming, operational manager, all the way to the festival director. Now she is the festival advisor and programmer, along with some distinguished names. She feels strange to be called a human rights activist, and refers to what she does as Happy-Go-Lucky Activism. During the day she works in the film industry as a representative of MPA in Indonesia, a freelance writer and an avid-traveller.