Fringe! – review

The Bitchhiker

A scene from Brazilian film A Caroneira/The Bitchhiker

The four-day queer arts and film festival took place last month in venues all over the East End with a diverse range of workshops, film, art, lectures and parties, writes Samuel Emden.

Films were shown at the Rio cinema, the Hackney Picture House, the Arcola and the Aubin, and there were showcases ranging from the UK premiere of Satan’s Angel: Queen of the Fire Tassels about a lesbian burlesque star to quote-a-long screenings of Mean Girls, with an afterparty/high school prom at Dalston Superstore.

The festival centred around The Old Cardinal Pole School in Victoria Park, a wonderful mid-Victorian school with its own mini-chapel. The kitsch value of the space used for films and even a café wasn’t lost on the organisers, who set up the confession booth with a priestess next to the modest school chapel.

Within the school space an Open Barbers sat adjacent to the café where personalised and friendly coiffeurs allowed you to sign up on the day and pay what you wanted.

I popped my head into an educational lecture about the American photographer and filmmaker, Bob Mizer, which was a fascinating insight into the career and works of an artist I hadn’t encountered before.

On the Sunday I headed to the Rio to see a fantastic documentary on gay marriage and relationships, made in 1981 by LWT.

Not only was the film a radical exploratory portrayal of homosexuality, but the festival had also organised a Q&A session with three of the participants from thirty years before.

This opportunity to speak to those in the film was leapt upon and the impromptu debate over 21st Century hetereonormativity was engaging, lively and thought-provoking.