SQIFF Review: Pride & Protest

Year: 2020
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Director: Blaise Singh

By Tom Moore

Creating a film that lets multiple voices and stories be heard loud and clear within the LGBTQ+ community, director Blaise Singh guides viewers through a search for pride and understanding with his first feature documentary, “Pride & Protest,” now screening at the Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF).

In the wake of Birmingham protests against LGBTQ+ relationship education in primary schools, Singh takes viewers on a journey alongside a team of queer community reporters of colour to call out homophobia and racism as well as reclaim the narrative of the LGBTQ+ community. Right from the first sequence of Ferhan Khan, a gender non-binary activist, talking with protesters in Birmingham, the film perfectly establishes the difference between pride and protest.

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Ferhan Khan in “Pride & Protest” / Courtesy of IMDB.com

Within these protests against LGBTQ+ education, feelings of hate and anger spark through every breath and word. Rather than getting caught up in this anger and creating conflict, Singh and Khan make the smarter choice in simply letting the homophobia and narrow-minded opinions speak for themselves. Watching protesters mock Khan numerous times, ignore any opposing views, and even use a misinterpreted conflict from a pride event to discredit them shows the opposition the LGBTQ+ community faces.

While “Pride & Protest” is about giving the LGBTQ+ community a voice in a positive outlet, the film is not afraid to talk about the hate speech, racism, and struggles within its own community. Singh’s personal approach in discussing some of the hardships and backlash that have made it hard for the LGBTQ+ community to find acceptance is effective, tying irresistible emotion with every story from people talking about their experiences. Stories about issues of racism that many people face on dating apps like Grindr, high suicide rates because of the anxiety and lack of support they can receive from unaccepting family and friends, and daily homophobia create genuine empathy for a community whose voices often go unheard.

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Lady Phyll in “Pride & Protest” / Courtesy of IMDB.com

“Pride & Protest” does an especially great job in giving a voice to the bi community, with interviewees expressing how their issues are not taken seriously or how people say that being bi is “just a phase.” It’s really not, though. It’s just who they are, it’s just as important as any other gender or sexual distinction, and the issues they face are real.

It’s sad to say that higher suicide rates and a lack of support even within the LGBTQ+ community isn’t all that uncommon, and the film puts a much-needed special spotlight on the issues within the bi community. Singh also adds in some intriguing social experiments, like having a gay couple kiss on the street to identify “how gay-friendly is your street.” Although passersby don’t do anything outwardly harsh or hateful, their subtle stares and not-so-appreciative faces give new definition to looks that kill.

Being a LGBTQ+ person of colour, Singh also fleshes out some issues that people of colour who are LGBTQ+ also face within their own communities, highlighting a unique perspective that is rarely discussed.

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Sanah Ahsan and Blaise Singh in “Pride & Protest” / Courtesy of IMDB.com

The negative atmosphere of the protests and the talks about issues never consume the film, though. “Pride & Protest” embodies more empowering visuals and stories that show the strength of the LGBTQ+ community coming together. Once the film’s opening transitions from the Birmingham protests to a Pride parade, there’s this explosiveness of positivity and vibrant colour that instantly warms the heart.

Any time Singh covers a Pride event, the film has an incredibly caring and collective tone that signifies this overwhelming sense of support – something that the LGBTQ+ community desperately needs. The vibrant rainbow colours, supportive messaging on signs and clothes, and people gathering together shows why Pride events are so unique and impactful. Even just seeing the LGBTQ+ community meet at smaller events, like panels and nightclub parties, as well as social campaigns in the form of photo shoots for clothing lines and artwork, really shows the strong level of support that some experience.

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Vaneet Mehta and Manpreet Dhindsa in “Pride & Protest” / Courtesy of IMDB.com

Honestly, the way that Singh shows support within the LGBTQ+ community really hits a strong, connective chord that adds a deeper impact to the personal stories being told here. Some of the most impactful and touching moments of “Pride & Protest” simply come from  small conversations. The sequence of Khan giving advice to Vaneet Mehta (whose story I absolutely adored throughout the entire film) about speaking on a panel about bisexuality s genuinely sweet. That sense of support continues when Mehta gives advice to Manpreet Dhindsa about fully coming out as bi.

Support is truly the lifeblood of the LGBTQ+ community. But self-support is also a strong element of “Pride & Protest,” which Singh showcases in an excellent way. During moments where people talk about their experiences or views, the editing uses footage so that it appears that the speakers are looking at and reacting to what they’re remembering. These moments also add some self-reflection, making the film’s notions of self-support and care immensely more impactful.

With “Pride & Protest,” Singh creates a vision of the LGBTQ+ community that’s unapologetically open and honest with itself and brings new issues to light. The film is a fulfilling triumph, giving unheard voices a platform for their messages to be loud and clear. It not only succeeds in reclaiming the LGBTQ+ narrative that has been skewed because of unbridled hate, but it does so through empowering imagery and stories that are deeply personal and are booming with love and support.

5 stars

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