Global Queer Research Group: Sexual Politics in the Era of Transnationalism, Diasporas and Postcoloniality

QTIPOCs Letter to VQFF

Ad-hoc alliance of Vancouver QTIPOC organizations’ statement on pinkwashing ad in VQFF 2014 Program

Queer, trans and intersex people of colour (QTIPOCs) and Indigenous queers/Two-Spirit have a long history of engagement with the VQFF (Vancouver Queer Film Festival). For 26 years of queer film festivals in Vancouver, as individuals and in our organizations, we have consistently and in good faith challenged VQFF on issues of racism and settler colonialism, among other critical accountabilities to various marginalized queer communities in this city. We’ve lobbied VQFF for films and for dialogue that recognize the multiple lived experiences and realities of queers, trans and intersex folks on Turtle Island and abroad. We have loved, valued and also hated VQFF. Yet in 25 years, we’ve never walked away because we believe, as you do, that it is in cultural and artistic spaces that we can effectively come together to bring about social change and political transformations. In this belief, we have been your community sponsors, your donors, your audiences, your staff and your volunteers, your critics and your friends.

On August 7, 2014, VQFF broke that trust and relationship. It’s the day most of us became aware VQFF had reneged on its stated commitment at the panel on cultural boycotts in 2013, an albeit wishy washy commitment to “not taking sides”––but one which, surely even VQFF cannot deny,  includes refusing to allowing our festival to be used for pinkwashing of the Israeli occupation of Palestine (what VQFF term, “the Palestinian/Israeli conflict”). Because time is short, we have suggestions for your immediate consideration during this festival, we will not repeat specifics regarding what pinkwashing means or why publishing this ad demonstrates an utter disregard for peoples under settler colonization and occupation nor spell out the extent and depth of our political solidarity with Palestine: these important issues and statements have already been well addressed in several letters to VQFF by SFPIRG, QuAIA, and Sins Invalid. See:;; and

In solidarity with those voices, we want to publicly and strongly register our disappointment and shock that VQFF has published an ad of a known pinkwashing, Israeli-Canadian organization, Yad b Yad, in the 2014 Festival Program in contravention of what VQFF promised at the panel last year. We are of course aware that VQFF ED Drew Dennis took a stab at addressing your “not intentional” support for Israel but that letter comes disappointingly short of accepting responsibility for the consequences. See VQFF letter here: In the simplest of terms and in addition to what’s been written in the above cited letters, these consequences include: a) publicity throughout the festival for Israel pinkwashing agenda by way of Yad b Yad’s ad; b) which means having to endure seeing the half-page image of an Israeli flag juxtaposed with a rainbow flag at a time when many of the queer communities VQFF serves are emotionally stricken and horrified at the relentless and internationally condemned genocide and destruction in Gaza by Israeli forces; c) the impact on those of us who stand against settler colonialisms, violent occupations and genocides everywhere in the world of VQFF’s failure to stand by its own stated commitment to not favouring Israel over Palestine (VQFF’s so-called “political neutrality”).

Further to the last point, this puts us in an impossible position. How can we continue to attend, sponsor, volunteer, or otherwise participate at VQFF if The Board and Staff are unwilling to acknowledge these consequences or take responsibility for your albeit unintended actions? The harm’s been done. Explaining why is not enough. So where do we go from here? How do we build back trust? How can we carry on engaging with VQFF with integrity? As some of your community sponsors, audiences, staff and volunteers, critics and friends, we have thought long and hard about this and here is what we came up with. Please take these points as our bottomlines of what can begin to mend what’s been broken, build back trust with us, and continue the conversation and the work between VQFF and your stated valued communities:

  1. We urge you to think about the roots, purpose, and relevance of VQFF to Vancouver’s queer communities. What do you stand for? Which communities are you trying to reach? Will you stand in solidarity with and alongside racialized and colonized gender fluid, gender non-conforming, sexuality non-conforming queer audiences and communities?
  2. Intentionally or by internal error, VQFF has provided space to an Israeli pinkwashing perspective. It is therefore reasonable to expect that if VQFF genuinely acknowledges that mistake, short of reprinting the program, you should and could easily provide counter public ad space. We suggest you do this in the form of a slide, along with the other ad-slides that run before films at the festival. We’re happy to help you with that.
  3. The letter Drew wrote focuses on internal procedural issues and does not acknowledge why so many of us are deeply concerned about this ad. Therefore, we suggest you ask one of us, or a representative of any other Palestinian solidarity group, to speak at VQFF’s opening film to address why so many of us are devastated by your actions and the ad.
  4. After the festival, we urge you to stay open and listen. Hear the voices of those of us who are committed to taking a stand against occupation and settler colonialism, both on this land and on lands abroad. We must point out that right now, given Israel’s blatant disregard for international law and human rights in Gaza, the world has changed. VQFF cannot afford, especially in our names, to stand on the wrong side of history. As with South African apartheid, Canada lags in recognizing that a worldwide BDS movement against Israel is not just imminent and inevitable, it is here! We therefore hope that Out on Screen/VQFF will, very shortly and in tandem with many of its longtime audiences and supporters, support the call for anAcademic and Cultural boycott of Israel, which is part of the larger non-violent movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS).

We look forward to your response. If VQFF fails to make any concessions to the concerns community members have expressed about the ad, some of the groups named below intend to withdraw their community sponsorship of the VQFF. We will send you notice by the start of the festival of who we are shortly. As well, members of these groups may choose to make our stand and solidarity with Palestine known in various ways throughout the festival. We give you notice of that here.


Organizations and Individual Endorsements (as of August 19, 2014):

Trikone Vancouver
Salaam Vancouver
Vancouver Latin GLBT Communities and Friends
No One Is Illegal – Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories
SANSAD (South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy)
Desi Dialogues
Global Queer Research Group, UBC
Chin Bannerji, Retired Professor, SFU
COPE Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Pansexual Caucus
Fayza Bundalli, MSW
James Diamond, Filmmaker, Playwright
Donna Dykeman
Kathrine Fobear, UBC
Joan Hall, Artist
Lauren Hall, UBC alumni
Fatima Jaffer, UBC
Dai Kojima, UBC
Magnolia Pauker, Lecturer, Emily Carr University, UBC
Summer Pervez, Filmmaker, Writer
The Radical Access Mapping Project
Pragya Sharma, F Word Media Collective
Erdem Taşdelen, Artist
Nishant Upadhyay, York University

(More groups and individuals to be added: please contact if you or your organization wish to be added as endorsers. Supports are pouring in, and we thank you for joining this collective endeavor!)

1 Comment

1 response so far ↓

  • EDGAR ROBLES // Dec 29th 2014 at 7:29 am

    when I was a Mayor of Bogota Adviser and LGBT public policy coordinator, I had started the LGBT Bogota film festival named ‘Pink Cycle’, more power to you, my name is EDGAR ROBLES a colombian LGBTIQ activist, I knew about GQRG and want to subscribe global lgbtq list, thanks a lot

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