Now in its 11th year, Mezipatrahas been instrumental in bringing LGBT culture, especially film, to a Czech society. In the last ten years, the festival has attracted 75 000 viewers.
We were fortunate enough to speak with the director of Mezipatra, Aleš Rumpel, to get some further insight into this year’s festival and the events. The most obvious place to start was the festival’s name.
“Mezipatra means mezzanine, the space between individual floors of a building, and it’s a symbol for a space where people can meet, whether they don’t fit somewhere or whether they’re experimenting, moving up or down, so this is the space which is unofficial. It’s part of the building but at the same time it’s not, so it’s a metaphor for the kind of space we’d like to create for our viewers and the films that we show.”
Inclusiveness is a key element to the festival. It appears to position itself very much as a community film event as well as an exploration of human sexuality.
“We do research every year and each edition of the festival shows that fifty percent of audiences define themselves as straight and we’re very happy about that because we’ve never tried to do a ghetto community thing only. We like to show good film making art to a mixed audience. Invariably, we are part of the social dialogue. Because we are a queer film festival, we show art that’s queer, we like everyone to come and experience the messages of the films.”
Commendably. Mezipatra is not limited to Prague. In fact, it started in Brno originally as Duha nad Brnem (Rainbow over Brno) then moved to the capital in 2000 without losing its Moravian roots. The festival actually commences in Brno on 4th of November and runs to 9th. Then it moves to Prague from 11th to 16th November. Afterwards, there will also be events in Ostrava, Pilsen and Olomouc.
This year’s theme is “High Art”, which according to the festival website “provokes a questioning of how a piece of art can specifically warrant categorization among higher genres and open a space for dramatic plays and raising doubts about the border of definitions.”
Aleš expanded a little more on that theme as to how it ties in with the festival’s goals.
“There is still this notion of some art being, high art, being highly appreciated, being framed by curators, galleries, etc and there is the idea of low art like body painting, maybe, and we like to take a look at creativity, and what it means to be a queer artist and what it means to be part of a social dialogue. What are the restrictions, for instance, for lesbian film makers who are trying to make films and are unable to because of financing reasons. We’re also looking at important artists, so we have biographies of Allen Ginsberg or Keith Haring, so we’re looking at the relationship between the creator of art and the recipient of art, also.”
Here are some tips for films and events in English:
Perhaps one of the most interesting films is the adaptation of Ginsberg’s famous poem Howl (Kvílení in Czech), starring James Franco and directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, focuses on the obscenity trial of the famous poem. It has garnered a lot of media attention for its experimental approach, blending archival footage with acting, and using the poem and court transcripts as the basis of the script. Ginsberg has a special connection to Prague as he was once crowned Král Majáles (King of May) in 1965.
Prague, Lucerna, Vodičkova 36, 11th November 20:00
There are many more films, both classic and recent, which will be part of the festival. A full list can be found here.
Another LGBT-identified artist represented in film is the street artist Keith Haring. Haring who’s work drew on New York street art is perhaps most famous for is so-called shining baby motif: a nondescript infant with lines of light coming from it. Haring passed away twenty years ago yet his work is in some ways more relevant than ever as he quite consciously brought elements of so-called high and low art together. Mezipatra presents this 2008 documentary among its films.
Mezipatra is particularly proud to present a retrospective of the “artist and pioneer of lesbian videoart” Barbara Hammer. Her work has focused on on “taboo topics connected with female corporeality and lesbian sexuality.” The exhibition called “Hammer!” Hammer has long been respected in LGBT, feminist and avant-garde circles for her use of film. Her work is non-narrative, relying on texture, light and image, much like other visual artists, while still remaining personal and contemplative.
Hammer sadly is unable to attend because of illness. However, her creativity remains vibrant as can be seen in this recent piece “A Horse is not a Metaphor.”
Prague, Studio Fotograf, Školská 28 , 10th Novemeber to 2nd December.
Two lectures in English will also be presented. Queer in Horror Films (Queer v hororech) will look at the relationship between cinematic horror and queer sexuality. The lecture is presented by Harry M. Benshoff, associate professor of radio, telvision nad film production at University of North Texas. At a basic level the horror genre can be understood as an expression of the entrance of LGBT sexuality into heteronormative environment. Or as Aleš elaborated, the lecture “focuses on American horror films and how they can be read through a queer perspective and what they say about our fear quote unquote different sexuality.””
Prague Francouzský Institut, kinosál, Štěpánská 35, 16th November 16:00.
The second and intriguing lecture will be Get Bent: Cinema at the Intersection of Queerness and Disability. The lecture will shed light on how many LGBT people there are among the physically challenged. Furthermore it asks “Can the concept of queer be expanded to include disability as well?” Lawrence Carter-Long will address these questions and more.
Prague Francouzský Institut, kinosál, Štěpánská 35, 15th November, 16:00
There will also be plenty of social events. The opening party “Open Up” is in Brno 4th November frp, 10pm at Scala, Scala, Moravské nám. 3 after the screening of Howl. The Brno section closes with “The Scroll Down” party at Cinema Art, Cihlářská 19, 9th November from 10pm. The opening party in Prague is “You Know Who You Are?”, at the Hard Rock Cafe, Malé náměstí 3, from 10”30 pm. The venue for the closing party has yet to be announced. You can check the website or join the Facebook page to keep up with this and any other developments for the festival.