Over the past few weeks, Madrid has seen the 23rd cinematic celebration of the LGBT+ community in the form of LesGaiCineMad. The event is run and organised by Fundación Triangulo: an NGO founded in 1996 with the aim of achieving social and political equality for the LGBT community. With 23 years of experience and a multi-skilled team of employees and volunteers behind them, this organisation knows how to best celebrate everything LGBT+ cine has to offer.
The festival took place in different locations throughout la Comunidad de Madrid: making it was the perfect opportunity to explore some of the beautiful venues and artistic spaces Madrid has to offer. Some more obvious, others hidden; the organisers of the festival found an exciting mixture of spaces to hold the festival. Larger venues included Sala de América, Alcalá 31, and Cineteca. Although unsurprising venues they were no less interesting: Alcalá 31 was once one of the largest banks in Madrid, but has now been converted into a culture centre with its Casa de Papel-esque vaults still intact.
Several NGOs and organisations also offered up their spaces to be used for the festival: Fundación 26 de Diciembre, Programa LGBTI de la Comunidad de Madrid and COGAM: an organisation that has “worked for more than 30 years for LGTB+ Human Rights and for a more plural and respectful society”. When it’s not showing thought-provoking documentaries and poignant films, COGAM is a space that offers counselling services, sexual health checks as well as a whole host of talks and viewings throughout the year, not just when the festival is on. Screenings were also put on in some less conventional venues: the Wurlitzer Ballroom, Lanau Espacio Creativo, and even DRLO Live: a lively gay club that normally hosts one of Chueca’s many drag nights.
The themes explored in this year’s festival spanned more than just male homosexuality: a subject which the community and discussions surrounding it can often be dominated by. The festival aimed to show the huge spectrum of variety that it encompasses: and the great body of cinematic work that has come out of it.
The organisers chose this year’s theme as elderly LGBT+ in an effort to shed light on an aspect of the community that is often ignored. As well as using the medium of cinema to celebrate these members of community that fought (and are still fighting) for the rights many enjoy today, these films have also been used as a tool to discuss and illuminate the struggles of this particular group. Ti@s (‘Uncles/Aunts’)– part of the Venezuelan ‘arroba’ series by John Petrizzelli, is a documentary about gay and trans uncles in Venezuela, their estrangement from their families and the struggles they face in a Catholic-majority country. Another notable short in this category was Visibles (Enrique Rey): a powerful documentary exploring the loneliness and isolation within the elderly LGBT community of Madrid, and the organisations that are combating this.
This year also saw more films that any previous year that explored a variety of themes related to feminism and lesbianism; not only thematically in their content, but also in the large number of films from female directors and producers, such as Kenyan drama Rafiki (Wanuri Kahiu), American blockbuster The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Desiree Akhavan), and Argentinian experimental film, Las Hijas del Fuego (‘Daughters of Fire’) (Albertina Carri).
Although based in Madrid, the festival aims to show films from all over the world and in a variety of languages. So, whilst the main language was Spanish there were, of course, lots of films in English, French and even Swedish. Either way, most were subtitled, meaning an exciting and beautiful amalgamation of languages and cultures from both the LesGaiCineMad team and the audience throughout the screenings of the festival.
Each year, the festival awards prizes for a range of categories, both from Premios del Jurado: awards from a professional panel, as well as Premios del Público: awards based on the average vote out of 10 from the audience who attended the viewings. The professional panel awarded Best Spanish Documentary to Visibles (Enrique Rey), whilst Las Herederas (‘The Heiresses’) (Marcelo Martinessi), a film with uncommon topic of an older lesbian relationship, won Best Fictional Film. The public jury, however, awarded Best Film to Rafiki (Wanuri Kahiu) and Best Short Documentary to Sin Miedo al VIH (Don’t Fear HIV) (David Arteaga): an informative and emotive short that explores the prejudices and misinformation surrounding HIV in Spain.
It’s difficult to even scratch the surface of the many films, documentaries and shorts that were part of the festival this year. Collectively they have, and continue to, open up a channel of conversation surrounding at times difficult-to-discuss topics. LesGaiCineMad is a beautiful and all-encompassing celebration of the LGBT+ community, history and future; born of a collaborative and authentic effort to shed light on this multi-faceted society.