Natasza Parzymies, a Polish film director and (screen)writer. You wrote and directed short lesbian films Teddy and Control. What inspired you to write these two short stories and what message(s) did you like to convey to the audience?
Well to kick things of, I don’t see my shorts as the so-called lesbian films. To me, they are universal stories that all of us can identify with and they just happen to have queer characters. I think that’s the main message behind both projects. „Teddy” is a coming-of-age tale about growing up and letting go in which the main character has the same struggles as every other person but instead of falling in love with a boy at one point of her teenage years, she falls for her best female friend. Same goes for „Control”, the plot here is basically real life getting in the way of love. No matter your sexual preferences, you connect with the characters and feel the pain. A broken heart is something we can all relate to. „Teddy” and „Control” are both inspired by my experiences in life that I thought were worth telling.
You come from Warsaw, Poland. How things regarding making lesbian film(s) stand in Poland? Is country ready for this kind of stories yet and does the film academy and film center approve and give grants for films with lesbian contents?
As far as mainstream movies and series go in Poland we don’t have much lesbian representation yet. I feel that it keeps getting better as years go by though. Baby steps.
Does personal experience(s) and/or sexual orientation of the director and writer should be an important part for writing a lesbian story? If yes, why?
I think they are important but not crucial. Of course it’s easier if you’ve experienced what your characters are going through but as long as the story is truthful and conveys the right emotions I’ll be down to watch it.
Which lesbian films you watched made the biggest impact on you and why? What do you think it still needs to be done regarding lesbian representation in film and how do you plan to add/contribute to that?
Well obviously ‘Carol’ by Todd Haynes. It’s a masterpiece, fantastically directed and acted and oh my god, the visual side of the film! It just all works so well. ‘Carol’ inspires me a lot when I direct. Just how subtle and emotional it is, that’s the kind of directing I aspire to do.
I think what needs to be done the most is giving LGBT characters in movies and TV storylines that don’t revolve only around their sexuality. That’s not what should define them. There’s so much more to tell and so many interesting stories.
The way I am contributing to more representation in film is just when I feel it’s right for the story I create interesting queer characters and try to get my projects to as many people as possible. Especially the ones who still struggle to accept LGBT folks because they are the ones that need to see it being normalized.
What are your plans for the next film or another project: does it involve also lesbian character(s) and if yes, how?
I’m about to make a 20-minute short for film school about growing up and first love. It doesn’t include any lesbians. I had a version of the script where the main characters were gay but I just didn’t see it in this particular story. My next project however includes a lesbian storyline. It’s about a husband and a wife and how their marriage falls apart when they find out their daughter is dating a girl.
Eva Gračanin, you are long-term editor in chief of Slovenian LGBT-blog which covers a wide range of topics from news, life, people to health, culture and archive. Do you have any politics or philosophy as an editor in chief, what kind of authors and articles do you accept and if you refuse anyone, why?
Narobe blog is an LGBT blog covering different topics in Slovenia, the Balkans, Europe and the World through the prism of gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexuality. Writers are encouraged to approach topics in a norm critical manner and question social categories, concepts, phenomena through a lens or lenses of non-violence, solidarity and equity.
For example: If an oppressive apparatus such as armed forces in a particular country publically declare that they welcome LGBT persons among their ranks, we would try to analyse this statement and see how armed forces inclusive of LGBT persons contribute to non-violence, solidarity and equity. In short, we would examine the level of pinkwashing in such a public statement.
The politics or philosophy of Narobe blog can be deduced form its title. Narobe could be translated into English as Wrong. If I reuse a slogan of Narobe blog’s sister magazine Narobe, which is currently not being issued due to financial difficulties: Narobe is a blog in which everything is right. Also in a sense that anything goes from a standpoint of norm critical approach.
Does your Blog writer need to have a(ny) particular style of writing, does (s)he needs to pay attention to certain LGBT-sensitive words and terms?
When we write about a certain topic connected to a certain community, we try to use the language that a particular community is using to describe their identities and experiences. If such community does not yet exist in Slovenia, we turn to similar communities abroad, mostly in USA and UK. We then discuss how a particular word or phrase should be translated into Slovenian. Some of these translated words and phrases are accepted by the LGBT community and some replaced by more exact and respectful translations.
Writers are also encouraged the question the meaning of different words. Does a particular word really convey the meaning we are looking for or is it conveying a meaning preferred or even imposed by groups in position of power? For example: In Slovenian language diversity is still often referred to as otherness (drugačnost in Slovenian) although Slovenian language has a perfectly functional word for diversity – raznolikost.
Slovenian language is also very gendered and based on gender binary. Nouns, pronouns, adjectives, even verbs are gendered in most forms and tenses. Furthermore, the male grammatical gender is dominant as it is also used a generic grammatical gender. Therefore, we have decided to use a form, a way of writing that connects and divides both regulated grammatical genders and at the same time creates space for grammatical genders that do not exist yet. This form of writing is raising founded and most of the times unfounded concerns. However, currently this is the most comprehensive way of addressing cissexism and misogyny in Slovenian grammar.
Language is important. Words are important. They are our only tool to describe and create the world(s) inside of us and around us.
Do writers for your blog need to have any other particular knowledge, knowledge in journalism? What about intertwining knowledge of LGBT-topics with certain philosophical, sociological or historical knowledge/theories?
It is desirable that writers are familiar with at least the basics of journalism: how texts should be structured; how to assess the reliability of different sources; how to communicate with different sources etc. However, writers can also learn this by joining Narobe blog’s team. It is important that writers are familiar or get themselves familiar with the latest sociological, anthropological, psychological and/or philosophical knowledge and asses it. Not in a sense that they dismiss it, but that they find arguments that support the strong points and reveal its shortcomings.
At Blog you also covered reviews of lesbian films and recaps of lesbian characters in TV-shows. How were you satisfied with the reviews, as I was the one who covered these topics. Do you think that positive lesbian representation in films and TV-shows can (actually) improve life of lesbians?
I think visibility of any minority in popular culture is important, especially for people who are looking for their identity or identities or are in difficult situations because of their non-normative personal circumstance(s). However, I must stress that in order for a representation of a minority in popular culture to improve individual lives it has to be rooted in diversity of experience and reflect different positions of power in society.
Furthermore, I think it is crucial that the creators of such representations, writers, directors, actors etc., are themselves part of such minority or minorities. Why? For example, nowadays we find it unacceptable for cisgender male actors to portray female characters or for white actors to portray people of colour. It is especially crucial for the wellbeing and safety of transgender women to not be portrayed in popular culture by cisgender men.
This said, I think it is perfectly ok for an actress who is also a lesbian to portray a heterosexual character or for an actress_actor who is also transgender to portray a cisgender character. For me, this does not constitute double standards. Not, if I take into consideration positions of power in society and the meaning of authentic portrayal of minorities in popular culture for the wellbeing of individuals who are part of such minorities. To be more concrete: it has absolutely no effect on my wellbeing or safety if a heterosexual character is portrayed by an actress who is a lesbian or if a cisgender female character is portrayed by an actress who is a transgender women. It also does not affect the authenticity of such portrayal. Provided that the actress does her job properly. (Smiles.)
In my opinion, we cannot think popular culture as separate from our society or societies. Therefore, I was glad to publish your reviews of lesbian films and recaps of lesbian characters in TV-shows. I think you contributed substantially to the debate on how popular culture and real life experience are intertwined.
What about lesbian intellectuals (physicist, biologist and philosophers, sociologists) and artists, such as musicians, designers, painters, have you covered any topics regarding them, such as their theories, experiments, music, paintings?
Not enough. By far not enough. Not because I find these topics unimportant, but because Narobe blog has never been properly financially supported and has always relied heavily on volunteer work. Therefore most of the times we only have the resources to cover the most pressing issues.
And last but not least, do you have anything to add about things I haven't asked you but you wished I would and has to do with (the future) vision of Blog?
I see Narobe blog as a tool for LGBT persons and activists in Slovenia to quickly and easily access reliable, accurate and up-to-date information about different topics seen through the prism of gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexuality. I also see it as a safer space for LGBT journalists and writers to perfect their knowledge and skills. I hope that it will keep on evolving despite of the difficulties on the away.
Nataša Bučar, you are the director of the Slovenian Film Centre (the SFC). The SFC has carried out a study revealing that the amount of financial resources, allocated to female film directors in the period between 2011 and 2017, has decreased from eleven to eight percent in comparison with the 1995 – 2010 period. The study has also shown that not a single female director was financed by the SFC in the years 2011, 2012, 2016, and 2017. Why is that?
As late as in 2002, Maja Weiss made the first female-directed feature film with cinematographic distribution in Slovenia. Her work was soon followed by that of Hanna Slak. In the context of the aforementioned study, the percentage of financial resources allocated to feature films by female directors between 1995 and 2010 has been analysed, and it has been established that only ten percent of female directors have been awarded funds. During the existence of the SFC, this share has increased to 12.7%, which, however, is still far below the European Union average. It is quite conceivable that since the success of projects by female directors has been so modest in the past, directresses are currently simply not motivated to even begin outlining any projects.
However, the statistics indicate that several female directors have indeed applied for script and project development support, but have not received it. I am not sure what the exact reasons behind these decisions are, but I do believe that women are less motivated to finish their films in case our commission does not select them at competitions related to pre-production. One of the reasons for this could also stem from the relatively modest female representation in the expert commissions of the SFC, especially those related to the film activities. The presence of women is much higher in the commissions focusing on festival support and film education, which involve considerably less resources; but considerably more modest in the commissions focusing on project development and realisation.
To what degree is the SFC aware of films with lesbian content, which are increasingly often referred to as "lesbian film"?
The SFC is aware of the topic, but it is a fact that not many such films or scripts have applied for our calls for projects. If you recall, the documentary film Growing Up by Siniša Gačić and Dominik Mencej had its premiere this March. The film may not be a typical "lesbian film", but it certainly raises the crucial social issue of same-sex couples. The documentary is an intimate portrait of the four-month-old Tibor and his mothers Daja and Jedrt, who start fighting against the discrimination of their family. When they get involved in the pre-election campaign leading up to the same-sex marriage referendum shortly before Christmas 2015, their private life becomes one of the main political issues in Slovenia. In addition to the challenges posed by first-time parenting, Daja and Jedrt must also confront opponents who compare them to paedophiles and label their relationship as unnatural. Growing up was the final film of the 33rd LGBT Film Festival in the Slovenian Cinematheque in Ljubljana, and it is definitely a good example of how to present an exceedingly important topic on the big screen.
As far as the film festival support is concerned, for many years the SFC has co-financed the realisation of the Ljubljana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the oldest festival of this kind in Europe. We are pleased that this film festival was recognised as an important and significant event at this year call for applications and received a three-year continuous support for the years 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Do you pay attention to feature and short films with lesbian and/or bisexual content when selecting film projects; and how much resources, if any, do you devote to the promotion of Slovenian lesbian films? (I do not know whether any Slovenian lesbian films exist at all. As far as I can recall, Maja Weiss's film Guardian of the Frontier (2002) features Žana, the only openly lesbian character to date, and depicts her semi-romance with another female character, Alja.).
In 2013, Nejc Gazvoda directed the film Dvojina (Dual), which focuses on a lesbian couple – Iben from Denmark and Tina from Slovenia. You can find out more about the film at https://www.film-center.si/en/film-in-slovenia/films/3514/dual/.
The SFC does not reserve special funds for this genre.
How about lesbian and bisexual directors, screenwriters, etc., of whom there are quite a few in Slovenia?
The Slovenian Film Centre promotes all films that it co-finances with the same focus and in the same manner, regardless of the sexual orientation of the filmmakers involved. The selection of projects depends almost exclusively on the quality of the scripts.
Last but not least, how important do you personally feel that the SFC's attention is to the aforementioned issue – i.e., to the promotion of lesbian and bisexual features and shorts as well as lesbian and bisexual directors and screenwriters? Does the SFC have any vision of how it could promote the swiftly-developing films and TV series with lesbian characters in the future?
When selecting projects, we must ensure both the diversity of genres as well as film themes. These topics have obviously not been subject to any sort of discrimination. I am convinced that any high-quality screenplays, focusing on the aforementioned topic, will be successfully identified as such by the SFC as well.