By Shreyas Raghuram
This year the Scottish Queer International Film Festival celebrates its fifth anniversary in Glasgow, marking five years of award-winning LGBTQ+ film and television. Last week I had the opportunity to interview Michael Lee Richardson, a queer screenwriter who has not only written award-winning films but also kickstarted support for LGBTQ+ youth in Glasgow.
Q: Your short film “My Loneliness is Killing Me” was a breakthrough for the industry. What impact do you think it is making two years on?
A: First screened in June, it took a while to take off and this year has been the biggest year for the movie in terms of audience and publicity. It tells a different kind of story and that is going to be an important thing to address now and in the future.
Q: Why do you think there aren’t more LGBTQ+ movies represented in the film circuit?
A: I think there is a really good queer film festival circuit, proven audience and queer film characters but for the mainstream there is some sort of gatekeeping- something that I’ve experienced myself, trying to tell queer stories to people who don’t have the same experiences means they don’t have the context for stories about us which makes it hard to write more diverse experiences.
Q: Do you think it’s more important for young LGBTQ+ teens to see romanticised depictions of LGBTQ+ culture or raw, darker sides of the community?
A: I feel like there is room for both. We can be critical sometimes of films like Love, Simon, you can underestimate its value, but you have to think of teens who go to the cinema and see themselves being represented- that’s a big deal for the growing community. At the same time, it is also important to see the gritty side of LGBTQ+ culture in order to learn and grow.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about your foundation – Trans Youth Glasgow?
A: Trans Youth Glasgow is a part of LGBT Scotland and was founded in 2011. I was a youth worker working with trans individuals and their needs weren’t being met. Trans and Gender non-conforming youth identities were misunderstood and that’s why I started it. There were obvious needs such as healthcare and education that needed to be addressed but also it would act as a place where trans people could come together and share their experiences in a safe space and a social space.
Q: Could you tell us anything about your current projects?
A: I’m working on projects with young men and mental issues as well as another project that’s set in the same world as ‘My Loneliness is Killing me’.
Q: Do you think Glasgow could do more to uplift the LGBTQ+ community?
A: I think there is a piece of work to be done, in the sense that older LGBTQ+ individuals, trans individuals that have medically transitioned need care and attention. With an ageing LGBTQ+ population going into old-age homes and care facilities and being forced back into the closet; we have to re- educate an entire generation on the community. We also need to focus on making more social spaces for queer people to socialise and be a part of the community in an informal setting so that young people can have safe spaces to socialise and learn from the experiences of other LGBTQ+ individuals.
SQIFF took place from the 2 October to the 9 October 2019. A full list of events can be found at www.sqiff.org you can follow the festival using the hashtag #SQIFF19