Hamish Downie’s Five Questions With Lee Campbell #3
Editor Note: Hamish has another in his series of Five Questions With…
Hamish came up with this idea because he was accumulating too much material for his Famous News Sushi column and asked if he could do these mini-interviews. Why would we say no?
Thank you Hamish for being such a trooper for us. We really appreciate all for your hard work.
Let us know what you think of these interviews in the comments below.
TGG: Could you please introduce yourself to our readers again?
LC: Hi! I am an artist, performance poet, experimental filmmaker, writer, Senior Lecturer at University of the Arts London, and curator/founder of Homo Humour, the first of its kind project on contemporary queer male film and moving image practices that explore humour and LGBTQ+ storytelling and has screened all over the world since 2020. My experimental performance poetry films have been selected for many international film festivals since 2019. My film SEE ME: A Walk Through London’s Gay Soho 1994 and 2020 (2021) won Best Experimental Film at Ealing Film Festival, London 2022 and I had my first solo exhibition in North America of his poetry films, See Me: Performance Poetry Films at Fountain Street, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A in July 2022].
My recent moving image work revolves around my personal autobiographical perspective and explores (gay male) identity and desire. Comedy is an integral part of my work. I use it to engage, disarm, and highlight.
TGG: In a nutshell, could you please tell us about your film festival?
LC: It’s not so much a film festival, it is curated set of films that have screened and will screen in various cinema, galleries and institutions worldwide. I had the idea for this after I begun making short films in my own practice which contained a lot of humour by using the mechanisms of comedy and also from listening to Senior Director of GLAAD Media Institute, Ross Murray during his presentation, ‘Telling Your Story to Accelerate LGBTQ Acceptance’ as part of Thessaloniki Queer Arts Festival 2020 where he suggested the following:
Stories are a way for people to understand stuff not cognitively or through their head but emotionally, through their gut. Helps the audience connect to you as a person. You can talk about the world from your perspective and that makes people think about X. Storytelling is incredibly powerful, we do it verbally, we do it visually, through art, through videos, through social media. The best kind of stories are those that are personal to you, from your own experience as you have expertise in that, and you can retell that story in a certain way … take the personal and make it universal
Ross then connected storytelling to humour:
Humour puts you back in control, humour can diffuse that [a grave situation] tension. A little humour can remind people that ‘No, I am in control of my life and I still have a choice about what I want to do. I am going to laugh at how absurd that situation is’
Extending Ross’ ideas above into practice, this essay shares aspects of Homo Humour, a three-part project that I have curated since 2020 comprising of 1) a one-hour curated programme of artists’ moving image/film by gay male artists/filmmakers, 2) its discussion between curator, audience, filmmakers and invited speakers and 3) an interactive one-hour workshop which extends my poetry film The Tale of Benny Harris included in the showreel that is written Polari, a slang language for gay people when it was illegal to be gay so they had to talk in a coded language.
Homo Humour explores the history of comedy as a queer identity defence, a means of expression and storytelling and the subversive and surprising ways that humour can be used on screen. It responds to the growing interest in LGBTQ+ folk using film and moving image to tell their stories by focusing purely on humour. Whilst the concept of humour helping LGBTQ+ people is an interesting (and vital) world to explore, this event seeks to also engage wider groups of artists, academics and students interested in film and/or the study of humour. We also invite health/inclusion/wellbeing practitioners who are interested in how comedic storytelling may encourage people’s understanding of LGBTQ+ communities. The films are targeted towards gay men (though open to the LGBTQ+ community at large) interested in artist moving image/experimental film practice as well as storytelling and humour/comedy. It is designed to generate public pedagogy amongst gay men/the LGBTQ+ community into how humour can be used to help sort through issues attached to their respective community. Homo Humour aims to reach a diverse range of audiences within and beyond the LGBTQ+ community. Whilst LGBTQ+ film festivals such as BFI Flare contain programmes of LGBTQ+ humour as part of wider thematic programmes, the session responds to the growing interest in Queer film festivals for queer folk to use film and moving image to let their stories be heard by focusing purely on humour. Whilst the concept of how humour is used to help people sort through issues attached to the gay male community is an interesting (and vital) thesis and world to explore, the session seeks to engage not just for those within that community but within the LGBTQ+ community at large but also artists, academics and students engaged in the study and making of moving image and film/the study of humour; as well as health and well-being practitioners interested in how LGBT storytelling combined with humour may encourage people’s understanding of LGBT communities in terms of wellbeing and social injustice and inclusion.
Homo Humour was first presented at Edgezones gallery in Miami in January 2020 and then at Sardinia Pride/Queeresima in June 2020 bringing together emerging and established gay male artists/independent filmmakers for the first time from all over the world including Marcel Barelli, Jordan McKenzie, Lee Campbell, Hamid Waheed, Steve Reinke, Ernesto Sarezale, Jake Shannon, John Walter and Wrik Mead. In 2022, the showreel screened at Metal, Southend-on-Sea, FRISE Kunstlerhaus, Hamburg, Germany, Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, UK and Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK. In 2023, the showreel will screen at Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR), Brunel University and Brewery Tap Project Space, Folkestone, both events to mark LGBT History Month in February 2023. Lee presented talks about Homo Humour at the conference Queer Pedagogies organised by the Queer-Feminist Interdisciplinary Working Group at The European University Institute in Florence and Untold Tales: Sharing Peripheral LGBTQ+ Stories in Research, University of Surrey, both events in Summer 2022. There is also an accompanying workshop Bona Polari! (approx. 1 hour) which explores the gay slang language, Polari, the subject of one of my films included in the showreel. This workshop has been successfully delivered twice at the University of the Arts London and also at The Margate School, Margate U.K and will be delivered at the Transforming Sexuality & Gender Research Centre, University of Brighton in January 2023. You can read more about the workshop + Homo Humour here: https://www.hakara.in/lee-campbell/
TGG: What kind of films are you looking for?
LC: Short, up to 10 minutes. Whilst many of the films shown are couched within artist moving image, the showreel begins with examples of short narrative-driven films to help frame the audience’s understanding in terms of accessibility and engage audiences in more experimental work.After the screening , me along with several of the filmmakers present (some virtually if possible via Zoom/Skype to accommodate filmmakers in different geographic locations worldwide and mindful of time-zone differences), I help the audience unpick themes pertaining to humour within those films so audiences reflect upon their own lives in a confident and honest way. Storytelling of different aspects of gay men lives is at the heart of all the films but I am also interested in not just the narrative content of the films but also their film. I love films which ‘queer’ the film medium i.e in the subversive use of glitching in some of the films.
TGG: Will it be available online for international audiences to join?
LC: At present, the showreel is geared towards in person audiences but I am currently exploring ways of taking a hybrid approach.
TGG: How can we submit or attend?
LC: Visit this website for submission details:
The current deadline for films is February 12th 2023
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