Aks Festival: A Dose of Intersectionality for Denmark

Film still from Lipstick Under My Burkha

Film still from Lipstick Under My Burkha

Not many days left until Aks International Minorities Festival kicks off in Copenhagen! The festival, which is in its fourth year now, aims to promote the visibility of minorities and marginalised groups and communities through film screenings, discussions, workshops, debates and performing arts events. Aks is also held in Pakistan (Lahore, Karachi and Islambad), and recently took place in Manchester for the first time.

Founder and artistic director of the festival, Saadat Munir, believes that this year’s festival, which focuses particularly on intersections between migration, religion and sexuality, is a vital addition to the cultural landscape of Denmark.

“Being both queer and a person of colour, I feel our fight for rights and visibility are still underrepresented in the mainstream,” they say. Having previously worked for MIX, a well-established lgbtq film festival in Copenhagen, Saadat was frustrated at the limited opportunities for intersectional approaches when curating the festival program, which is why Aks emerged as “a result of an inner desire to revolutionise society through art and achieve personal goals of self expression.”

Festival poster by Shahnawaz Memon

Festival poster by Shahnawaz Memon

Moreover, Saadat points to the lack of nuance and representation in Danish media: “I think Danish, or western media in general, lacks diversity. There are very few authors, journalists or filmmakers with non-white or non-privileged backgrounds, who are given a platform. This is why we often see our representation in news, films and other mediums being presented in an investigative manner, as if we are some sort of test animals that can only be represented negatively or positively; there are very few grey areas for us in terms of representation.”

Among the various events this year, during which the festival directors of Queer Kampala Film Festival and Proud LGBT Myanmar Festival will also be present, there will be an additional focus on brown feminism. “Feminism is often associated with middle class white academics. We hope that creating a program with special focus on inclusive feminism and giving space to feminists of all colours and diverse gender and ethnic backgrounds, will allow us to stir up discussion about the importance of including different perspectives,” Saadat explains.

Brown feminism is also the overarching theme of a panel discussion during which Lipstick Under My Burkha will be screened; a thought-provoking Indian film about the personal narratives of four women in Bhopal and the ways in which they navigate their autonomy, sexuality, hopes and dreams in their everyday lives. Uzma Ahmed, an activist and public speaker specialised within the field of integration, will partake in the panel. She welcomes the film as an important take on issues such as sexuality, and empowerment that comes from within oppressive structures.

Film still from Lipstick Under My Burkha

Film still from Lipstick Under My Burkha

For Uzma, brown feminism is something which definitely needs to be addressed more in the Danish context, where equality is often reduced to discussions about gender. She has, on several occasions, experienced that raising awareness around this topic has led to silencing and unwillingness to engage. “I have often been treated by majority white women with the same blindness that all privileged people have,” she points out. “Not to talk about colour and gender as related measures of inequality is suppression. This provokes the mainstream, because I speak about ‘challenges' that are not defined by the oppression of patriarchy, religion or class only. We need to acknowledge that white women are as much an obstacle as white men when it comes to representation, equal rights or the power to change narratives.”

Saadat also echoes a need to change the discourse in Denmark, stating “I’m so tired of watching films and reading news articles and reports with a hardly any insider portrayals of POC lives, it needs to be changed.”

Guest at Aks Festival, ballroom gatekeeper and activist Chi Chi Mizrahi

Guest at Aks Festival, ballroom gatekeeper and activist Chi Chi Mizrahi

On top of increased representation, Aks also aims to go beyond a ‘rainbow sexuality’ that mainly accounts for cis-gender gay and lesbian representation. Saadat shares how personal realisations have them led to an understanding that “migration and marginalisation can certainly have a great effect on how you conceive of or practice your faith, sexuality or gender identity.”

When asked what event they are most looking forward to next week, Saadat declares “my favourite is the Vogueshop, where my sista Chi Chi Mizrahi will rock Copenhagen with his Voguing moves!”

 

For the full festival program and to stay updated on events, check out the festival website, and facebook page.