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Blurring boundaries

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Mezipatra, the name of the Czech Republic’s international queer film festival, literally means “the space between floors”. It’s a meeting point not only for gays, lesbians, trans- and bisexuals, but for anyone interested in queer culture and being liberated from traditional sexual and gender identities based on fixed categories like male/female and gay/straight.

The main theme this year is the third world war of genders, which means a full-scale attack on traditional sexual identities and roles, heterosexual norms, male gender superiority, and forced perceptions of the “normal” and “natural” in our society. It’s also the main theme of this year’s opening film, XXY, which tells the story of an intersex teenager who refuses to decide on a gender at all.

Now in its 10th year, the festival will include screenings of award-winning feature films from previous years on the Czech TV website. (Each week, a new film will be added, with all films staying online until the end of November.) Among festival director Aleš Rumpel’s picks are Reding brothers’ production Oi! Warning, which was best film in 2003, and Whole New Thing, the 2006 winner.

As part of the accompanying programme, don’t miss The Other Kind of Blue exhibition at Prague’s Václav Špála Gallery, including a retrospective of the work of Derek Jarman, honoured by the festival some 15 years after his death. Other experimental works come from talented young Czech and Slovak artists such as Darina Alster, Radim Labuda and Tamara Moyzes.

More than 100 screenings will take place at Mezipatra this year. Rumpel also singles out Fig Trees, an experimental film opera about AIDS and the growing complacency around the illness. More mainstream offerings include the Norwegian film Man Who Loved Yngve. Fans of documentary should head to Against a Trans Narrative, a collage of ideas about gender transformation.

Mezipatra also boasts many workshops and lectures, including a highly recommended talk by feminist icon Jack Judith Halberstam. Oher workshops cover bisexuality, asexuality, transgender and gay-speak.

Founded in 2000, the festival began in Brno as a staging of films with lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual content under the title Duha nad Brnem or Rainbow above Brno. In 2002, it became Mezipatra, taking place in Prague and Brno, with offshoots in other Czech and Slovak towns organised by the non-profit organisation STUD.

The festival is mainly financed through state subsidies and ticket sales that barely cover its annual costs of some CZK 2 million. State funding has varied in the past, sinking as low as a few thousand Czech crowns in Brno. This year, the festival might have gone short of any subsidies in the Moravian town, had it not been for Green party representatives at the town hall who granted organisers the CZK 50,000 sum originally planned.

Rumpel says that like every other festival, Mezipatra must pay distributors for most of its films, excluding those in the main competition. Rumpel, his colleague Tereza Hendlová, who looks after media services, and all the other organisers put the festival together every year for no financial reward. There is also a chance for individuals and groups to adopt a film, an option welcomed by various audiences in previous years.

Clearly, there’s a huge need for festivals like Mezipatra. We are still a long way from an open society: The exhibition Tělo (The Body), forming part of the festival, had to be moved from the café Spolek in Brno to a new venue, Starý pivovar, due to protests from visitors.

The festival runs from 23 – 31 October in Brno and 2 – 8 November in Prague. Visit for the complete programme.

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