Laine Zisman Newman is a PhD student at the Centre for Drama, Theatre & Performance Studies and the collaborative program in Sexual Diversity Studies. After receiving an MA in Drama from the University in Toronto in 2010, Zisman Newman completed her MFA in Documentary Media at Ryerson University in June 2013. Her current research focuses on how queer women’s performance practices are shaped and transformed by the ephemerality of queer women’s spaces and the cultural and political policies that mediate them. In addition to her academic pursuits, Zisman Newman currently works as a dramaturge with Pat the Dog Theatre Creation and her documentary short, “You’re Not My Target Audience.” is screening at Reelout in our DEAR LESBOS WITH LOVE program at 4pm Saturday, February 8th at The Screening Room.
Reelout Rita: Can you remember the first time you attended a queer film festival? Where was it and what memories do you have of that experience?
Laine: I think I attended my first queer film festival in Toronto, shortly after I came out. I grew up in a very progressive household and went to see a lot of queer theatre when I was younger, but for some reason had never gone to a queer film festival. I remember going to my first festival and being amazed that there were queer movies made by queer people — It was a revelation seeing representations of queer bodies on screen that I could relate to.
Reelout Rita: Your research focuses on women’s performance practices and I wondered which artists inspire you?
Laine: There are so many incredible women performers and creators who produce challenging, unafraid and provocative work. In addition to the three women in my film, who truly are inspirations in my own academic and creative practice, Split Britches does wonderful work, as well as Nina Arsenault. Earlier this year Toronto-based artist Allyson Mitchell constructed “Kill Joy’s Kastle: A Lesbian-Feminist Haunted House,” which, for me, was one of the most notable recent accomplishments in queer women’s space making. The performances and the event itself were great creative achievements and inspirations.
Reelout Rita: What queer films made in the last 15 years have left an impact on you either personally or professionally?
Laine: I will be honest in saying that But I am a Cheerleader (1999), which I first saw when I was too young to understand it, had a wonderfully playful influence on who I have become personally. There are so many really beautifully made films that have effected me. One recent film that made an impact was Maryam Keshavarz’s Circumstance (2011).
Reelout Rita: During our formative years, the Reelout collective ensured that the festival programmed films that were “safe spaces” for queer women. During your research, what have you gleaned about the relevance of creating “safe spaces” for women during cultural events targeting the larger queer community?
Laine: It is so important that everyone feel invited, involved and included at an event. But, one of the things I have become aware of is how we use the term “safe space” as a catch-all statement, which wants to suggest that we can escape systemic oppression in purpose-specific spaces. It assumes we might be able to create a space that successfully disassociates itself from colonialism, transphobia, ableism, white privilege, capitalism, and sexism – in reality of course, these subversive structures inescapably infiltrate all spaces and interactions. Perhaps, working to improve our experience of space begins by recognizing that a “safe space” is not yet attainable even in isolated instances.
With that, of course I do think it is incredibly important to make space for different identity groups, not merely by showcasing works by people from diverse demographics, but also by inviting them to contribute to and spearhead curation and programming. For me, one of the most important things for cultural events targeting the queer community to do, is to recognize and to address the diversity within it. The “queer community” is no one thing and the most exciting and invigorating queer events are those, which support and promote the creation of spaces for diverse creative projects and identities.
Laine Zisman Newman will be in attendance along with fellow filmmakers Thirza Cuthand and Myriam Fougere at DEAR LESBOS WITH LOVE at 4pm Saturday, February 8th at The Screening Room (120 Princess St). Tickets are available online HERE.