Statement Re: the Vancouver Queer Film Festival 2014

Painting of a dark-skinned disabled woman on left in a jail cell clasping hands with olive-skinned disabled woman on right in a warzone. Woman on the left uses a wheelchair and is wearing orange prison clothes with bars in the background.  Woman on the right is wearing a hijab and her left arm & left leg are newly amputated & bandaged. Image on text reads: ”Disability Justice means resisting together from solitary cells to open-air prisons.” Art by Micah Bazant & Sins Invalid.Sins Invalid is a disability justice-based performance project centering disabled artists of color and queer / gender non-conforming disabled artists. Our work celebrates the embodied, erotic humanity of disabled people, and we understand all bodies live in a multitude of very real social, political, economic and cultural contexts.We cannot separate the sexuality of people with disabilities, and our right to sexual self-expression and human connection, from the rights of all people to eat, drink, have shelter, medicine, breath, sovereignty, and peace.We are proud of our work, and had been excited to curate an evening of films and discussion for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival (VQFF), including a screening of our documentary film about our performances. It was a valuable opportunity for us to share our work with new audiences.However, we were angered and disappointed to see the print ad accepted by the VQFF that attempts to portray the state of Israel as a friend to LGBTQ communities, particularly in the current moment as the people of Palestine are living through hell and dying in staggering numbers daily. We recognize that such ads are part of a global effort to “pinkwash” Israel’s image, to persuade LGBTQ people in other countries that the privileges enjoyed by queer Israelis are reason enough to be silent about the inhumane treatment of Palestinians of all orientations.Palestinian civil society has called upon the world to exert political pressure and moral persuasion on Israeli society through the nonviolent tools of boycott, divestment and sanctions, and we are answering that call.As we write these words, the Israeli military continues to kill scores of Palestinian civilians every day in Gaza, including queer Palestinians. The Israeli military is disabling thousands of people, while it continues to bomb hospitals, fire on ambulances, and destroy disability rehabilitation facilities. Of the thousands wounded from this current assault, many will be permanently disabled in a place where the basic necessities of daily life are stopped at the border, and basic medicine – much less adequate medical care, physical therapy, and adaptive technology – is beyond reach. These newly disabled Palestinians have been described by some as a “burden” to Palestinian society. In fact, these are the Palestinians whose bodies most directly bear the burdens of occupation and state violence, and most obviously show its scars.As a result of the ad, we have decided to withdraw from the program and decline to screen our film, Sins Invalid, at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. We will be screening it at an alternate location in Vancouver on Mon Aug 18th at 7pm PST. All tickets purchased for the VQFF program will be honored at our alternate event. We urge the festival to consider that the issue is not about its lack of advertising policy, but about its unwillingness to acknowledge settler colonialism and the violent occupation of Palestine.We urge Festival goers to stand with us by asking the Vancouver Queer Film Festival to agree to refuse “pinkwashing” funding in the future, and to stand in solidarity with all queer and gender non-conforming peoples, wherever they may live.