Friday, October 4, 2013

Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride (2009): The state of pride around the world

Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride (2009)
dir: Bob Christie

1969. In mainstream subculture, this was the height of the hippie counterculture.  In terms of gay rights, 1969 was also the year of Stonewall. In case you don't know yet, Stonewall was the lightning rod June night where a gay bar in the middle of Manhattan was busted by the cops, and the gays finally fought back.

The following year, a parade/protest was held in New York to celebrate the Stonewall rebellion on its anniversary, and thus the pride festival was born.  Across the US, gay pride festivals traditionally happen in June to celebrate the gays fighting back and demanding our rights to merely exist.

Countries around the world have taken note of the western pride celebrations, and now there are world prides and country based prides and city based prides.  For instance, Rome's pride parade is smaller than what we have in the US and happens among the ruins (I danced along with it in 2004).

At InterPride, an collective organization of all the localized organizations that deal with pride events around the world, smaller, more oppressed, countries started complaining about how they were marginalized in the global community.  Countries like Russia started saying how they never get the recognition or help that countries like the US get and don't really need.

Beyond Gay follows Ken Coolen, the organizer of Vancouver Pride, as he visits Pride events around the world.  The prides he visits include Sao Paolo (Brazil), Moscow (Russia), and Colombo (Sri Lanka), which display varying levels of acceptance around the world.

Brazilian Pride is a pride that puts even the most gigantic US pride to shame.  Millions flood the streets to celebrate in a government-sanctioned party, and the streets are torn asunder in the aftermath. Millions.  Think about that.  The visuals of Brazilian Pride are astounding.

Russia (which has been in the news in 2013 for its anti-gay laws) has a far smaller and far more contentious Pride.  In Moscow, the Pride organizers got the permits and scored police guards to try to keep everything calm.  Unfortunately, Russia is still a heavily Catholic and deeply religious country following the downfall of USSR.  Despite all of the Pride organizers' precautions, the Moscow Pride is plagued by massive counter-protests, and ends up getting brutally violent. To contrast, it is national news when some dude in Seattle punches one of our local hate preachers, of which we have like 5. In Moscow, near riots are accepted.

Sri Lanka is even worse.  There, pride celebrations have to be covert, cannot be publicized until after the fact, and have to be rebellious.  Pride celebrations are considered illegal, and homosexuality is verboten.  The pride event they have isn't even a parade. It's a spontaneous protest and photo op, along with the flashing of flags.  This results in cops and violence anyways.

Beyond Gay finishes up by celebrating with Ken Coolen in Vancouver (who also brought along one of the Sri Lankan activists to be Grand Marshal).  Of course, Vancouver's pride is a big celebration full of commercial floats and everything that has western prides have become. We also make brief stops at other prides, like New York (origin), but the whole point of the movie is the comparison with the developing countries.

What makes Beyond Gay more heart wrenching and emotional than Dangerous Living is that it heavily uses first person narrative, and uses Ken Coolen as the emotional avatar for the western audience. It uses an event that western gays take for granted and presents a global state of homosexual acceptance, through the variations on this standard celebration. It's never rote lecturing. And, it is never a dirge.  Beyond Gay is always urgent, vital, and emotionally present.  The purpose of Beyond Gay is the same as Dangerous Living, but it is far more successful of a rallying cry against the varieties of global oppression by making it personal and relatable.  Required viewing.

Again, I'd like to highlight the work that Amnesty International does, and the ILGA.  These are important issues on a global scale, and I don't want to get too lecture-y, but things are still going wrong, and not only in Russia.

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