So, my name is Karni and, as my first column might have given away, I am a writer, a director, and an occasional actress. My first feature film is called Fuck You Jessica Blair and it was featured, among others, at the Mar del Plata Film Festival.
I guess that, in many ways, the logical thing to do would have been to use my previous and first column to make this introduction of myself and my films, so that the readers would know who I am and why am I writing here. However, being a logical person is not what I am most known for, so I decided to introduce myself now, so that I can discuss something I wanted to write about for my second column; something I have been struggling with lately, while working on a script for my next feature film.
There is this somewhat unique challenge I had to face on my first film: the LGBTQ aspect of it. Even though I was over my personal issues with accepting myself as part of the LGBTQ community and “coming out” —well, mostly—, there was still the issue of the depiction of the LGBTQ community in cinema. Half of the film festivals that Fuck You Jessica Blair had been screening at are LGBTQ themed, and I myself consider it to be an LGBTQ film, but not exclusively. It is many other things as well, such as indie, and feminist, and “weird”, as some have pointed out. I myself am an LGBTQ person as well: I consider myself bisexual and have had relationships with both men and women in my past —and present—, but again, I also consider myself to be many other things.
And during those film festivals, there was also an interesting parallel phenomenon I encountered: I’ve been told, on several occasions, that my film is not “gay enough”. Now, I’ll admit that I am relatively new at this —both roaming the film festival world and being queer—, and therefore I am not all that informed on the exact extent of “gayness” required to be considered “enough”. So I think it would be fair to say that it took me the past couple of years to fully comprehend that saying, and start asking myself many questions as a result.
There are four main characters in my film and, yes, “only” one, Karni, is evidently struggling with her sexuality, but she is also clearly struggling with other things —and is also just coincidentally named after (and played by) me, obviously. There is another character, Jessica, that is clearly not completely straight either, except she isn’t going through any internal or external struggle in relation to this. There are also a couple more characters —the guys, Orr and Guy— whose sexuality is never really discussed because it doesn’t come up directly —however I have been asked about them being gay in a couple of Q&As. Does this mean that, in some people’s views, the only way for a film to be considered LGBTQ “enough” is if I have a clear main character struggling solely with their sexuality and nothing else? What if I have more than one? Is there a certain percentage of them that need to be clearly LGBTQ, and do they need to be depicted as struggling with it?
I started wondering if an LGBTQ character can just be LGBTQ, without any deep internal hatred, or a vivid external stereotypical identification. Shouldn’t it be a good thing to have some LGBTQ films just presenting such characters as a given, without explicitly defining them or depicting a stereotyped or tragic angle of it? There was at least one film festival I’ve taken part in where I was told that it actually was one of the things they really liked about my film, the way that sexuality was just one of the many parts of this character and her story.
Of course, real life stereotypes are also the fuel for this issue to begin with —in fact, I am currently conducting an entire MFA research relating to it—, but then here is the thing I am wondering about ever since I started working on the script for my next feature film: how do I show bisexuality in cinema without the stereotypes? Or, at all, really?
With Fuck You Jessica Blair, I left that question open. People just assume a character is gay or straight based on what is in the film itself, and there is no specific problem with this, of course, it makes perfect sense to only try to read what is visible on screen. But when the film started screening and was serving as my —incredibly public— coming out to a lot of people all around the globe, everyone always assumed I was a lesbian. Some people asked me directly, some asked about me, indirectly. I was even asked about that by people who do know me and knew that I had dated men as well, and yet they still assumed I was a lesbian now. The possibility of bisexuality hadn’t even crossed their minds. Because I chose to tell the story of this character’s love for another woman in this particular film, everyone just assumed it was a lesbian character. So then, what if I had wanted to present Karni’s character in my first film as being specifically, and clearly, bisexual?
Is there even a way to show bisexuals in films other than by saying it directly? Because so far, most of what I encountered is either avoiding clearly saying it, treating it as some sort of a phase or temporary experience, showing a character who cheats with someone of a different gender from their partner, or who has a threesome.
To date, my favourite bisexual film dealing with this problem is the magnificent Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behaviour, which is also one of my favourite films in general, and if you haven’t watched it yet, go! Now! Well, maybe finish this article first.
But since this is a personal topic for me, and since I think we currently don’t have enough positive non-stereotyped bisexual characters, I really am wondering how to face this cinematic challenge myself, being both a filmmaker and bisexual.
Then again, to judge by many of the reactions I am still receiving not only as a bisexual filmmaker, but just as a bisexual person, the challenge stems from way beyond the camera, and having bisexuality not widely understood, sometimes even within the LGBTQ community. Yet since I am most likely not going to be able to solve that worldwide challenge outside cinema, I can at least try to create better depictions, or any depictions at all.
But… would that be gay enough?⚫
Autora: Karni Haneman.
Ver todas las columnas de Karni Haneman.