An interview with Barbara Hammer


AE: Do you think there’s a need then for lesbian and gay specific film festivals, or do you feel that’s ghettoizing at all?BH: I do. For instance, St. Petersburg, Russia, the last queer film festival they had — they’ve had two. The first one was hut down by the police. The seconds one, when they tried to shut it down, they had an alternative, and they had all these secret places where you could go and sit on the floor and watch these queer DVDs that they’d programmed. They were able to avoid censorship and government control and societal control. Today, they’re starting to get together for their third festival in October. I don’t know what will come of that. They’ve asked me to go, and I hope I can.

The world is not San Francisco and New York City. Most of the world is still — and then when you read about Africa! Just the issues in Uganda and Kenya about killing gays, and definitely devaluing them in society, and the two that tried to get married in Kenya last week and their lives were threatened.

AE: That reminds me of how, in your book, you tell how you used to journal the audience responded to your work, whether they liked it, whether they didn’t, if they had any questions. Is that something you’ve continued? After you see how people react, do you take that into account when you’re making new work?
BH: You know, I don’t take it into account in terms of making work. I feel like I can’t make something strong if I’m thinking about an audience. I’m sorry, but I’ve heard other people say that too. If I want to make something that’s never been seen before, I can’t think about an audience. The audience has to grow to reach me.

Just like when I go to see work I don’t understand, then I like to read about it again, and then I get it, or I see it a couple of times. I don’t want to make something I’ve seen before. I don’t want to see the same patterns. You never know where your audience is, so you’re trying to make something you’ve never seen, then you hope your audience hasn’t either. And you say, “I guess I’ll have this small following that wants to be challenged.” That’s fine with me, because I could never work the other way.

I mean, I do have somebody come in and look at my works-in-progress and make some small suggestions. It helps because you do get close, but by this time it’s almost developed, so they’re smaller points. It’s helpful things you’re blind to because you’ve been living with the material for so long. Are you a filmmaker?

AE: No, I’m a writer.
BH: Similar process.

AE: Yes, and I understand what you mean about criticism. I appreciate constructive criticism, but especially writing for the internet, you get so much direct feedback that sometimes you take it too much into account when you go to write the next thing and you end up censoring yourself.
BH: Yeah. The strongest blogs are those that have the fiercest personalities, who aren’t afraid to be out there.

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