SQIFF ’20: Every Utopia is a Dystopia


SQIFF looks across the world, backwards and forwards in time for their ‘Every Utopia is a Dystopia’ strand at this year’s festival. Hard pressed to find anything as desolate as the word ‘dystopia’ brings to mind however, SQIFF presents a retrospective of work from pioneering artists and filmmakers. Interrogating queerness, the natural world, and visions of the future in their trailblazing selection of cinematic voices.


Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn Copeland Story (SQIFF)

It appears that Glenn Copeland has always been living in our future — not only dreaming of, but creating and sharing that better world through their music. I am a sucker for a music doc, even more so for mad professors, and this lovely feature on Copeland ticks both boxes. Flowing through the musician’s life and journey in such an easy-breezy talking-heads manner can be dull, though Copelands charm, skill, and energy coupled with archive footage here is beautiful and infectious. 

Though I am weary to ever worship at anyone’s feet, I am totally worshiping at Copeland’s feet.  Highly recommended.

35 (dir. Maggie Zhus)

Anyone familiar with trans rights will be familiar with this number 35’s devastating significance, and in Eseoghene Obrimah (Writer/Producer) and Maggie Zhus’ (Director) short, the cold bureaucracy of this statistic is made surreal. Tonia Stanwell (Freyhja Ravencroft) navigates a transient office on her birthday facing off with people, material and mannequin, whilst dealing with the unreality of the experience with violence as a Black trans woman. 

NEGRUM3 (dir. Diego Paulino)


Building from theatrical self-reflection in broken mirrors and sequins, NEGRUM3 follows an afro-futurist vision of black transness. Glitchy and housey, this is a declaration and actual party: Aretha notes, “Blackness for me is the wonderful slimy shine, the shine which is above”. Worried at points that the flashy construction would overshadow the serious statements of the speakers, the film is punchy so that the critiques are equal to the sum of the celebrations. 

ASHLEY (dir. Jamie Crewe)

Ashley (SQIFF)

A lone figure taking a trip to the coast to refresh and renew is often the first sign of trouble. In Ashley, the trouble for Ashley is found between sensation and feeling. Utilising the tropes of horror, Crewe leads us deeper into the titular characters fears with an intimate voice over (voiced by the force that is Travis Alabanza); questioning where the horror can be located, between the landscape and the psyche, between the experience and ideologies of gender. Rooted in the present, the everyday search for utopia here is a path wrought with dread.

Jamie Crewe made this work as recipient of the Margaret Tait award commission, in collaboration with LUX Scotland and Glasgow Film Festival. 

The virtual edition of the Scottish Queer International Film Festival 2020 ran from October 5th to 18th

by Reba Martin

Reba (she/her) recently graduated Film Studies from Manchester School of Art, and freelances as a Writer, Programmer, and Barista. Her top recommended Netflix Category is “Wacky 80’s Movies With a Strong Female Lead”. You can find her on Letterboxd @discorebekah. Contact her with festival news and coverage at rebamartin.sq@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.