The first meeting of my new Film & Debate club took place, after a couple of weeks of false starts, at the beginning of February. A week of continuous promotion resulted in five participants, which is apparently quite good for an event in Buje. Monika, Alessio and I were there as well, so in eight people in total, something to build on at least.
The topic was discrimination due to sexual orientation and LGBT rights, and after some introductions we started the film.
Or we would have started the film, but we had technical problems. After an awkward few minutes I tried to start a discussion whilst we sorted it out, this proved difficult, not many people wanted to speak to begin with, although there was a small discussion starting as Monika brought the correct WiFi password, and we could watch the film.
The film, Love is All You Need?, is about a young girl, Ashley, growing up in a world where “gay” and “straight” are switched and same-sex relationships are ‘normal’. Ashley is raised in a typical family by her two mums with her little brother, but from a young age she knows she is different as she is attracted to boys. This attraction to the opposite sex means she is the target of verbal and physical abuse from her peers, and some unsympathetic words from her mother, and leads to a tragic end.
The film is powerful, and one of the first comments was about how easy it was to slip into seeing the film’s world as normal, leading the discussion onto how we define what is normal. We talked about it being a construct of society, and defined by the most common views. The definition is changeable, and is something we learn from our parents and family, friends, and wider society, but something that we can ultimately decide for ourselves, whether we see something as normal or acceptable. This means that there are differences in acceptance of homosexuality across the world, between genders and between ages with many factors influencing it.
These differences could be seen in our group as there were six of us under 30, and two over 50. All of us under-30 were accepting of homosexuality, and were for equality of LGBT rights; of the two people over-50, one was tolerant of homosexuality, but the other, whilst seeming to accept that some people are gay, does not want to see them publicly, is against gay pride parades, and said that marriage should be between a man and a woman. These differences can be seen in many countries, where younger generations are more accepting – I don’t have the statistics for Croatia, but as an example, in the US 70% of 18-29 year-olds think homosexuality should be accepted compared to 52% of over-50s (source: Pew Research).
On December 1st 2013 Croatian held a referendum on a constitutional issue of gay marriage, which asked the question of whether the constitution should be changed to specifically state that marriage should be defined as between a man and woman, which would create a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage. The result of this referendum was a vote of 65.87% for, and 33.51% against, changing the constitution. The only two regions to have an overall ‘against’ vote were Istria and neighbouring Primorje-Gorski Kotar.
We discussed this, and about the fact that, although it might seem to show what is seen as normal in Croatia, only 37.9% of eligible voters turned out, and many of those who didn’t turn out would have been young people, who could have changed the result. This low turnout could have been due to political apathy, but also as a protest to a constitutional referendum that is not legally binding and also cost around 8 million US$. Of course, protesting by not voting just means you have no say in matters, and means politics is not truly representative.
This led us to discussing whether more social issues, like LGBT rights, should be a political issue when there are urgent concerns, such as a continuing economic crisis and high unemployment. I said that I thought they should be because otherwise it can lead to issues being ignored, or set back (although this seems to be the case here when it was being discussed), with the excuse that the economy is more important. I’m not saying that expensive referendums should be held, especially with less than 40% turn out, but making our societies more fair, equal and just should be done alongside sorting out the other big issues.
Alessio, Monika and I also spoke about the situation in our respective countries.
Alessio said that in Italy there are big differences between the north and south, which reflects the differences between how much Roman Catholic traditions and views are upheld, with more acceptance of homosexuality in the north. Monika said that in Podgorica they had held their first gay pride parade a couple of years ago, and they have been successful, leading to there being more (openly) gay clubs and bars. I said that in the UK there has been progress towards equality on things like marriage, and more acceptance of homosexuality in general, but there is still some way to go.
In conclusion, after a bad start, it was a good meeting, and good discussion, even if it was dominated in the middle by the woman with traditional views of marriage, who went from talking about whether gay couples should be allowed to marry and adopt to people trafficking and a village in India where all of the residents sold a kidney for 5000$ each. This was just a bit off topic, and made me think that, even though I want it to be an open discussion, next time I should try to keep the discussion on topic, and involve everyone.
The film is the first of a two-part project by Kim Rocco Shields, who wrote and directed it, and is currently working on a feature film. Find out more information here Love is All You Need?
Click here for some more information on the Croatian Referendum.