Sophia McDonald attends the launch of Ireland’s biggest LGBT film festival.
GAZE International LGBT Film Festival Dublin hosted its launch event in Accenture located by Grand Canal Dock which celebrated the 25th anniversary of the festival and introduced the 2017 programme. GAZE has been celebrating LGBT stories and storytellers since its establishment in 1992. Founders Yvonne O’Reilly and Kevin Sexton held the first ever Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in the Irish Film Centre and this LGBT event has grown considerably since. With a crowd of approximately 9000 drawn in 2015, it has become the biggest LGBT film festival in the country and the largest gathering of people from the LGBT community after Dublin Pride. GAZE’s programmes aim to “thematically explore the many facets of LGBT lives worldwide, expressly including films which deal with the difficulties facing our LGBT sisters and brothers around the world and at home.”
The launch event had a terrific atmosphere with several well-known Irish personalities such as Panti Bliss and Brendan Courtney in attendance. As the lead sponsor of the event, Accenture has supported GAZE since 2012 and Alastair Blair, Country Managing Director of Accenture called it “An example of opening our doors”. Noel Sutton began proceedings by saying that he was “proud of [the] work” that GAZE does and, when talking to Trinity Film Review, he viewed the festival as a “representation of our culture”. Michael Connell, Chairperson of GAZE Film Festival Board, emphasised the “power of LGBT stories”, stories which often aren’t as visible as most. He viewed GAZE as a “safe environment” which “give[s] the audience a platform”. Before a performance from Markus Feehily, John Butler, director of comedic drama Handsome Devil, spoke about how LGBT storytellers “belong everywhere” and “belong in the mainstream”
This year’s film showings will take place over the August Bank Holiday weekend, Thursday 3rd of August to Monday 7Th of August. A whole host of films are being screened in the Light House Cinema in Smithfield. The opening Gala will show The 34th: The Story of Marriage Equality in Ireland, a documentary which follows the arduous path along the campaign for legalisation of same sex marriage. As part of the celebration of 25 years of GAZE, there will be a focus on British LGBT film. This provides the centrepiece of the GAZE 2017 programme and acts as a way “to strengthen our cultural ties, and look forward to how we can continue to develop artistic relations”. The British Council’s collaboration with GAZE this year includes the screening of films such as Against the Law, a BBC produced factual drama based on the Montagu Trial which saw Peter Wildeblood jailed for his sexuality. God’s Own Country, one of the most talked about films of the festival, follows a rural farmer who begins to fall for a migrant worker, God’s Own Country combines the remote setting of North Yorkshire with romantic story that has been one of the most “critically-praised LGBT films of 2017.”
Other highlights include the highly anticipated Tom of Finland, the true story of Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen and his rise to fame as an artist for gay culture, YesterGAZE, a screening and panel discussion of RTE productions that shaped LGBT life and representation and a series of shorts which follow gay, lesbian, trans and Irish stories.
As well as having a plethora of films on show, GAZE is also hosting a series of evening and day events. Friday August 4th sees GAZE offer free entry into The George. GAZE’s 25th birthday celebrations are going to be in full swing on Saturday August 5th in Mother, Dublin’s subterranean queer club with electronic and disco tunes until the early hours. Café en Seine and Pantibar will be receiving any film attendees on Sunday evening on August 6th. In collaboration with Airbnb Experiences, a walking tour of historic queer Dublin allows those interested in the social-cultural and political life in LGBT Dublin to follow activist and historian Tonie Walsh as he takes you from St Patrick’s proposition in the 4th century right up to the present day.