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Plowing new ground in all directions

The Oslo / Fusion film festival has succeeded in presenting a program with a huge range, where the lesbian horror comedy Women Who Kill is one of the highlights.


Other People
Directed by Chris Kelly

Real Boy
Directed by: Shaleece Haas

Yes, We Fuck
Directed by: Raul de la Morena

Women Who Kill
Directed by Ingrid Jungermann

For the 26th time, the Oslo / Fusion International Film Festival – until 2015 under the name Skeive Filmer – was held at the Cinematheque in September. Originally, the festival's intention was to show films with characters that queer could recognize themselves in. How do you make what may have been experienced as a niche festival, more relevant to more people – and what can actually be called "queer film"? Ahead of the festival, leader Vanja Ødegård told Ny Tid that she wants to show that the queer – in the sense of the norm-breaking – is not really anything out of the ordinary. Then it is hardly coincidental that this year's main themes are migration and POC (People of Color) with films about what it is like to be queer and Muslim – two current fields that have points of contact far beyond the queer world.

opening film Other People seriously lives up to the expectation of making quirky themes relevant to many. This is a feel-good movie that almost borders on the clichéd look. The sleazy protagonist David has gone home to the conservative Sacramento family to help his dead mother. The family does not want anything to do with his cohabitant (they will, of course, get married, like many other gay movie characters), and this is obviously challenging. Social criticism does not go very deep, and the humor is simple, but the theme – that is, problems in the couple relationship, tired family members and life and death and such – is probably something even the most conservative audience can recognize.

The struggle for recognition. This way illustrates Other People both the worst and the best of what the traditional gay movement has achieved in recent decades: It shows that queer white middle class people are basically normal people with privileges and opportunities – but who may not need major societal change or redistribution of power and resources. The film ends, of course, according to the recipe: The mother passes away after saying a few well-chosen words on the deathbed, David's father suddenly realizes that he must acknowledge his son's sexual orientering, and David's cohabitant is therefore allowed to attend the funeral.

From the movie Real Boy
From the movie Real Boy

The documentary Real Boy is in many ways the opposite Other People. Here we follow 19 year old Bennett, who is undergoing a gender affirmative process. He was assigned female sex at birth, but has gradually identified himself as male. The family is not very happy with the arrangement – the father and siblings will not have contact with him, while the mother is expectant but not completely dismissive. Unlike i Other People In this film, we gain more insight into the inner processes of Bennett himself and his mother, but also external, structural conditions such as lack of health insurance and the struggle to raise money for costly gender-affirming operations. It is astonishing to see how the mother eventually succeeds in reconciling herself to having a daughter, but a son. This could have quickly become a feel-good movie on par with Other People, had it not been for us to gain insight into the processes surrounding Bennett's struggle for recognition. Although Bennett is a hero in his own life, no classic American hero story is served. This way shows Real Boy what opportunities individuals have to influence their own lives, but without giving the impression that this is a struggle that can take place alone, regardless of how society is organized. The story ends happily in many ways. But for the viewer it is clear that the tolerant mother has not lived in a vacuum where she has suddenly become more open – we have seen how she has gone through a process where she has had to deal with heteronormative ideals she and everyone the rest of us are surrounded by.

Film Other People illustrates both the worst and the best of what the traditional gay movement has achieved in recent decades.

Women who kill. Close to life is also the Spanish documentary Yes, We Fuck, which follows a group of activists who facilitate that people with various forms of disabilities can have sex. The goal is bodily autonomy, and we follow people who, with the help of assistance, are allowed to touch parts of the body they have not had the opportunity to touch before. The message is that everyone has a body, but that we tend to operate with ideals that do not match the diversity that exists. According to the participants, it might have been easier for those of us with various disabilities to get in touch with others if the norms for what a sexually active body should look like had been different.

While the strength of Real Boy and Yes, We Fuck is that they stay close to the lived life, it is the fictional elements and opportunities to experiment freely that make the film Women Who Kill a highlight. The American director Ingrid Jungermann visited the festival and said that she missed queer characters when she saw love comedies growing up. This combined with an interest in serial killers has resulted in a kind of lesbian horror-love comedy. Women Who Kill is about ex-boyfriends Morgan and Jean, who live and work together, and who have a strained relationship with each other's new boyfriends. When Morgan one day starts dating the mysterious Simone, they quickly get a suspicion that she is actually a serial killer. The film is in one moment a horror, while in the next moment it parodies heterosexual love comedies and the traditional gender roles that the genre often portrays. All the main characters in the film are lesbians or bisexuals, and most same-sex couples play on the stereotype that there must always be a man and a woman in the relationship. This well-worn prejudice that traditional gender roles must also take place in queer relationships – «which of you is really the man in relationship»- is elegantly addressed in this way and used to criticize gender norms. The masculine women drink and fight, not unlike traditional male ideals, while the feminine counterparts sit perfectly at home drinking wine. By using female characters in traditional female and male roles it becomes clear in the Women Who Kill that gender roles are more role-playing than expressing innate characteristics.

Women Who Kill is at one moment a horror, while at the next moment it parodies heterosexual love comedies and the traditional gender roles that the genre often portrays.

Impressive. It is an impressive width in Oslo / Fusion, and the range is wide Other People to Yes, we fuck. Common to all these films is that in different ways they show that society is more diverse than what we are told. It is said that skewed theory and skewed cultural expressions make the impossible possible. The impression I am left with after Oslo / Fusion is perhaps so much that what we think of as "ordinary" is really quite unusual.

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