On Tuesday, Q! Film Festival, an international film festival celebrating gay cinema being hosted in Jakarta, experienced a violent protest lead by members of the Islamic Defender Front. The protestors, who wore masks, threatened to set fire to one of the festival’s venues in Jakarta in an effort to force the festival to shut down its operations.
Q! Film Festival, which was founded in 2002 by freelance journalists, is the only film festival of its kind in a predominantly muslim country. The festival travels, showing films in cities including Jakarta, Surabaya, Malang, Yogyakarta, Seminyak, Denpasar, Ubud and Makassar.
The festival itself, which has run for nine years, has achieved international recognition for being a shining example of great initiatives focusing on LGBT human rights at local, national, regional and international levels. They proudly note that as a result of their efforts to introduce alternative films to the mainstream and raise awareness on queer issues, the Indonesian human rights commission has improved the protections afforded to LGBT people over the past three years, and an nonprofit organization was founded that advocates for queer issues.
Rather than respond to the violent protests by shutting down, the Q-Munity Foundation for Equality in Indonesia, organizers of the film festival, wrote a public letter stating they will continue the events until the end.
The group listed six specific reasons as to why they would continue, all emphasizing that the festival is about the need for both religious and gender tolerance.
1. That Q! Film Festival is an arts festival that presents information and works of art from all over the world on the subject of human diversity.
2. That this festival is part of our offering to the public to increase awareness on human rights, specifically from the perspective of gender and sexuality within human identity.
3. That this festival is held by volunteers of various ages, economic backgrounds, religions and sexual identities, and is built on awareness to preserve tolerance between various types of people.
4. That this festival is a real effort to raise public awareness on the subject of health through free-of-charge health facilities.
5. That this festival serves as a forum for discussion and the exchange of cultural ideas for anyone interested in the themes and ideas behind the festival.
6. That if there are parties who disagree with the ideas behind the festival, we urge them to state their opinions through a discussion forum or by holding a forum like a festival or something similar that allows for the exchange of ideas without fear or coercion.
Despite their bravery in continuing on with the festival, the organizers were forced to cancel screenings of films at three locations in Central Jakarta. The festival has played movies in Jakarta since September 22, and will play its closing film on Sunday.