Supernova Cinema: Safer Spaces and Cinematic Realities
The International Queer and Migrant Filmfestival, or IQMF, annually takes place in early December in Amsterdam. The event is not only dedicated to queer and migrant-related films and the making thereof, but also aims to serve as a community space.
Linked with the festival are the IQMF Academy for young filmmakers, the podcast Queer Faces, Migrant Voices, and the Youth Artivists for Change, an alliance of 17 organizations active in the Western Balkans. And since August 2021, Supernova Cinema in Amsterdam. Supernova Cinema is an ambitious project. In their crowdfunding campaign, the team refers to its project as a ‘safer space cinema’: “We really try to work with the concept of what a safe space is for queer people, especially after the pandemic, where so many safe spaces for queer people met their end, this is kind of a response to that”.
The idea of safe spaces, and of safer spaces, has been a persistent one. Criticized by some as exclusionary and silencing of free speech, the importance of striving for safer spaces becomes clear once you realize how much society historically has been, and is, a safer space for cisheteronormativity, white privilege, and the patriarchy. And sometimes, as a marginalized person, you need a break, an escape. It is not about exclusion - but about providing a refuge. In a perfect world, safe spaces wouldn’t be needed - but in a world of social and material inequalities, of internalized misogyny and subconscious bias, of unintentional microaggressions, safe spaces are an act of community, support, resistance, and after all, survival. But how is a safe space ensured in a world of multiple identities, co-existences, different needs? We all navigate different intersections, and are irreducible to one core part of who we are. How do we feel safe to exist as all of us?
The duality of the Supernova Cinema grasps at this conundrum. Talking to Galo from the team, he explains how “there is this duality of reaching beyond, of bringing stories from far and wide to Amsterdam and serving as a podium of sorts, particularly to people who don’t know queer narratives. At the same time we want to also create a community.” And it’s true: cinema is a refuge, an escape, a fantasy. Simultaneously, it is a representation of reality, a medium of storytelling and making visible. So while it might serve as a safe space for the queer community, Supernova Cinema is also an open stage, to celebrate stories of queerness with a wider public. But in opening up the space to confront people with alternative realities, with queer stories they might not see, how is the community's safety ensured? “We have a series of protocols in place. There is a manifesto for the space [Supernova Cinema], and we work to ensure that this manifesto is real and not just a concept”, Galo explains. “We want to facilitate dialogue, but it must be considered that the communities participating in this dialogue have been marginalized and need to feel safe to do so [to participate].”
The work of the Stichting Art.1, the organization behind the IQMF and its several projects, such as this cinema, seeks to continuously challenge, reflect on, and work with ideas of safety, of queerness, and of inclusivity. There lies also a special focus on artivism - on forms of art with an activist component and purpose. “We don’t necessarily have the funds, but there is a responsibility beyond borders to the queer community. We see a queer community beyond latitude”: at the heart of Supernova Cinema, Stichting Art.1, and the IQMF is the aim of addressing the sidelined stories of forced migration because of sexual identity. This responsibility extends beyond showing films relating to queerness and migration: “We work on the visibility of different identities.”, says Galo.
“We see Supernova Cinema as a kind of lighthouse for these values of inclusion, diversity, love. These are the values we want to see reflected in Holland, but also in Europe and in the world. That is why we work very hard to uphold international cooperation”. Besides several ongoing projects dealing with artivism -with IQMF being one of the main ones- the Stichting Art.1 [the team behind Supernova Cinema], is also doing a project with youth artivists in Suriname, and went to French Guiana to scout queer artists and spaces.
The duality of cinema present in Supernova Cinema corresponds to the duality inherent in its program: “We want to tell stories of hope, but also of what is going on in the world”. The historic position of Amsterdam as a city welcoming to queer people is a fitting context for a visible, physical queer space. But at the same time, homophobia and transphobia is everywhere, even in the Netherlands. Which is what makes the exact location of Supernova Cinema within Amsterdam all the more fitting: OT301 is a manifestation to the squatting movement of the 1980s, to the importance of arts and culture in the face of real estate capitalism, and is seen as a center point of the alternative scene in the city. For Galo and the Supernova Cinema team, “it’s a pinnacle of diversity within Amsterdam that reinforces the openness of the city, to welcome all people of backgrounds. That is what Supernova Cinema intends to do - to tell their stories within Amsterdam.”
And they have already started to do so: Supernova Cinema has already hosted its first screenings, as well as their grand opening weekend between the 28 and 31st of October in collaboration with Soura Filmfest Berlin. But the team is not done yet: “Right now, we are also co-curating an environmental (mini)festival. In dealing with human rights and migration, the next logical step is to address climate change - how it drives migration and displacement. And that is the amazing thing: The cinema will allow us to do that, to grant spaces to [different] causes, for sidelines voices, and not million dollar productions.” But to do so, Supernova Cinema needs funding. As a cultural and queer space during the Covid pandemic, it almost seems incredible that it is opening up now, given that many of these safe community spaces are disappearing. And with its aspiration to create a safer space, it is important for the community to be ingrained in its existence, including its funding. Galo says that while the crowdfunding campaign is going really well, there is still a long way to go - “but everyone has a different reality, so just supporting however you can and how much you can is good. The project has touched people because of what it offers to become: telling stories that have been sidelined and marginalized. People relate to that, on different levels”.
Many thanks to the team of Supernova Cinema, in particular Chris and Galo, for taking the time to talk to us. Please support Supernova Cinema if you can and pay them a visit. Credits for all images to Stichting Art.1