Queer Screen Film Festival Archive

I am very relieved to have come to the end of this project. This project, which was the archiving of Queer Screen’s past film festivals between 1995 and 2010 was far more difficult and time consuming than I had initially thought. There were many issues along the way: some catalogues would not fit in the printer in the correct manner, my computer struggled to cope with the size of the different files and someone about half of my scans less than a week before the project due date. Despite these challenges, however, the project is finally completed.
When I commenced this project, I could not help but feel slightly concerned that it was not sophisticated enough. Unlike writing an essay, scanning documents does not involve much critical thinking. However, after I submitted the project proposal, I realised that the sophistication in this project does not lie in the process of creation, much like an essay, but rather in the manner in which it will be consumed by a public audience. This notion is expressed in Private Lives, Public History by Anna Clark. The German theorist, Jörn Rüsen coined the term ‘historical consciousness’ which Clark describes as being the manner in which people ‘engage with, and make, history’. An archive does not serve the same purpose as an essay, which is the product of someone’s historical consciousness. Rather, an archive is there to provide the backdrop for historical consciousness to occur: archives allow people to find historical information, see it in its originality and inspire some form of historical consciousness in those who view it.
With this in mind, there was some room for creativity and originality. I was required to write a brief description to accompany each year’s festival. These descriptions each were required to contain at least one to two descriptions of significant films from that year and, when available, information on the venues, growth of the festival compared to other years and popularity of certain films and programs. These descriptions hopefully have contextualised the festivals and highlighted some significant moments from each year thus providing more historical meaning to the archive.
The archive itself is presented on Queer Screen’s website and is placed along side their already existing archive of 2011 film festivals to the 2018 film festivals (see https://queerscreen.org.au/past-festivals/). However, unlike the recent catalogues in the archive, the sixteen years which I have added to the archive are all scans of original documents, meaning that the presentation of the catalogues are noticeably different from some of the more recent ones. Despite this, however, the archive is still accessible to the public and easy to locate on their website. It is also easily sustainable; in future years, new catalogues can be added without jeopardising the presentation of the archive and the accessibility of it too.
I hope ultimately that it will be a significant piece of public history. Queer Screen is becoming a popular organisation in the queer community and their Mardi Gras Film Festival has become one of the highlights of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras each year. As the festivals become more popular and attract larger audiences each year the need to have an archive that documents the growth and changing nature of the festival becomes more important.

History Behind the Screen: Archiving Sydney’s Queer Film Festivals

How do you tell the history of something that does not necessarily have a physical presence? How do you tell the history of an organisation that is inherently focused on changing the future of the media landscapes?
These are some of the questions I have been asking myself as I prepare to start work with the Sydney-based organisation, Queer Screen. They’re a relatively small organisation, staffed by only two full-time people, who rely heavily on the assistance of volunteers to see their film festivals take place each year. They aim not only to showcase the diversity of sexuality and gender on screen but also to help new and aspiring film-makers produce projects with a focus on diversity. In doing so, this organisation seeks to bring change to the Australian film landscape through a stronger focus on diversity.
Queer Screen has been at the forefront of creating a queer film culture in Australia and the world: they were behind the creation of the Mardi Gras Film Festival which has become one of the largest queer film festivals in the world; they organised queerDOC, which lasted ten years and was the first and only festival of queer documentaries in the world; and, since 2013, have hosted the annual Queer Screen Film Fest which not only screens films but awards a ten-thousand dollar production funding prize to a new and emerging film-maker each year.
The work I am doing with the organisation involves archiving and presenting the organisation’s early film festivals from 1993 (when the organisation was founded) to 2011. In doing so, the history of the various film festivals the organisation has organised will be presented as well as the history of how the organisation has grown over the years from when it started to the influentual presence it is now in queer cinema.