The role of cinema in queer visibility and expression is immeasurable. To celebrate and continue its creative legacy of progression, Dazed has teamed up with Calvin Klein to present Queer Lens: a series of four original short films from five emerging queer filmmakers across the globe.
Directed by young visionaries Justice Jamal Jones, Heather Glazzard & Nora Nord, Monika Lek, and Adam Munnings aka Adam Love, all four films interpret the idea of chosen family from the LGBTQ+ perspective. Each will be released right here – every Thursday at 8pm BST.
Watch the first film and learn about its filmmakers below. Stay tuned on this page and across our channels for the weekly film drops and exclusive Queer Lens content.
Mar de Dirac
Mar de Dirac
In Mar De Dirac (“Dirac’s Sea”), made for Dazed and Calvin Klein by Spanish-born, New York and Los Angeles-based director Monica Lek, the idea of a summer romance is beautifully queered.
Throughout this short film, we are privy to the story of the bond between two women, Vega and Lethe. Vega meets Lethe, “a young queer woman visiting for the summer”, and an “impulsive” new presence who is “different from anyone she’s ever met,” Vega’s life is altered.
Lek’s dreamlike style captures the contrast between a place in memory and reality itself, keeping us, the audience, suspended in a timeless space where past present and future melt into one. Before Lethe arrives on the scene, the film’s palette is blue and moody, but Lethe breaks it up with sparks of light at a fairground and dappled early morning skies, under which the two protagonists swim, Lek’s way of observing and honouring bodies almost Jarman-esque in its reverence.
Ultimately, this is a film about the marks people leave on us, particularly when they help us to make important discoveries about ourselves, as the two fall in love. Lek is particularly inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 film Persona, and the theory of quantum entanglement, whereby, as she puts it, “two particles that were once bound together are still somehow related – it doesn’t matter how far apart they are, even if they are at opposite ends of the universe.”
This is true for Vega, who feels the lasting effect of her connection with Lethe even when she is alone again, as the summer ends and she breathes in the cold sea air once more. Lek’s message in Mar De Dirac – that even if our time with someone doesn’t last forever, what they leave us with does and in some subtle way, they never leave but transform to find their way home “light always finds the fastest way to arrive to it’s destiny” – therefore, is a universal one, captured tenderly and sensitively via her lens.
Pearls in the Spotlight
Pearls in the Spotlight
For Nebraska-born, New York-based filmmaker Justice Jamal Jones, chosen family is spiritual and sacred: this is a truth that they express loud and clear in their new film for Dazed and Calvin Klein, Pearls in the Spotlight.
They describe the short as “a behind-the-scenes mockumentary talking about community, chosen family and the lineages of Black, POC, queer family”. It has every inch of the humour and care that description implies, as we’re let in for a warm, joyous, personal look into life for the group of musicians, dancers, actors and filmmakers with whom they surround themself.
Jones’ affection for their inner circle radiates from every stripped-back black and white shot, as they allow the natural beauty of the connections between individuals shine, with little to distract. They observe with admiration the ways in which their friends create, emote, and have fun – they vogue together and play truth or dare together, creating a beautiful foundation for the honest conversations they have about their identities throughout. Each person shares their points of view on queerness, gender, creativity, love and everything in between, mostly via voice over, with the quiet intimacy of a conversation between loved ones.
Movingly, the film, in which Jones appears, also honours their relationship with their biological family, showing in particular how their father’s traits have informed their own ability to relate to others, and to their chosen family, in a full-circle moment. “My dad has a way of pulling people together,” they say. “There are some really beautiful qualities that I mirror within him.”
Of the future of queer cinema, Jones is adamant that it’s crucial for new blood to be platformed – “Without emerging artists art can’t move forward… without that, art will get boring,” they say – and they add that “it’s about time that marginalised cinema in general is put into those spaces of classics.” Watching Pearls in the Spotlight, in all its deft handling of its subjects, completely immersing us into their world, you won’t be surprised if, in the near future, one of those classics is made by Jones.
In the Presence of Artists
In the Presence of Artists
Photographer and filmmaker Heather Glazzard and cinematographer and editor Nora Nord are two queer creatives showcasing their collaboration through the medium of film. Partners in life as well as in art, the pair have previously put on an exhibition of photographs depicting themselves, at home, in a domestic setting. “Queer has always felt outside of the home setting, so I wanted to bring it into that family space that was more domestic,” Glazzard said at the time.
However, in their new film for Dazed and Calvin Klein In the Presence of Artists, fellow queer creatives take centre stage: drag king Prinx Silver and artists Jade O’Belle and Ebun Sodipo. In selecting these creatives, Glazzard and Nord wanted to look outwards into their own community to make this warm, intimate portrait. It felt, said Nord, “like a really beautiful opportunity to share our world a little bit.”
Based in London, Sodipo focuses on Black trans history in her work – specifically “what it feels like to not have much of one, and the possible strategies of making or finding histories that pertain to us.” Her practice, therefore, is inherently about others; about seeking them and finding them. And it’s her friend Chloe Filani who has helped her do this. “[Filani’s] friendship, her critiques and her questions have really developed my practice,” she says. “As someone who makes work about marginality and oppression, it requires people who understand that.”
Online, Sodipo is frequently described as an artist who makes work for the Black trans people of the future, and she spends time organising events that enable her community to come together: “There’s a lot of us out there, around the world. Let’s make connections, make things happen,” she says.
Another organiser is Silver, a trans non-binary drag king, who “embraces sexiness to embrace his body, his transness and queerness.” Silver hosts the London drag king night Lèse Majesté, “a night to celebrate marginalised communities within the queer community, where you see the type of drag that is not platformed in mainstream TV.”
It is the drag kings who went before that inspired Silver, who says, “It sparked something in me, when I saw those performers playing with gender. It’s changed my life, and it’s been the catalyst for my transition.” They have been consistently supported by their partner Katie Duchenne, who has “always been very supportive emotionally and creatively.”
Likewise, O’Belle has found support and space in discussions about “the body and the possibilities of the way we use it” with collaborator Sinéad O’Dwyer, and her work is inspired, too, by her own lineage. “Going back and looking at my ancestry, it’s helped me navigate my queerness, and the queerness of non-Western society,” she says.
Her more recent history informs her practice too: she comes from a family of hairdressers, and adds that “hair within Black culture is a ritual in itself”. When she is hand sewing – textiles is one of many mediums she works in, along with film and audio – she is inspired by those rituals. “Each piece is like a diary,” she says.
The intensely personal element of all the work discussed here, as well as the film itself – of choosing to show Sodipo, Silver, and O’Belle in In The Presence, Glazzard says: “I wanted to capture my friends who are making amazing work” – is testament to the fact that even when we think we are moving through the world alone, none of us really are. We are the products of so many histories, and we are all the better when we acknowledge the pasts that created us and the presents that nurture us. It puts us in a place to offer connection to others too, as all three of these artists do.
Tasmanian-born, Berlin-based filmmaker Adam Munnings is deeply interested in connection. Inspired by the work of Xavier Dolan, his films are stylish and unmistakably queer, and his new short Oasis is no exception. Throughout the four minute Queer Lens film – there’s a clear message that collectivism is better than isolation. It’s a celebration of queer family, and the ease and elation that emerges once you find your people and your place in the world.
Discussing his intentions for the film, Munnings explains: “I really wanted to represent the Berlin community and the landscapes that we engage here in Berlin, especially with the queer community.”
Oasis is a film of two halves: it opens with a disembodied voice, which recites a speech about feeling lost and out of place. “There was no joy there, not for me,” it says, over greyscale footage of contemporary dancers, each shot alone, their movements telling stories of discomfort and restriction. “You’re too much, you’re not enough, stand up, bend but don’t break.” For anyone who has ever hidden themselves or struggled to fit into narrow definitions of acceptability, as many queer people have, the words will resonate.
At the film’s halfway point, the voice begins to speak of its journey of discovery: “What I once thought impossible here it was made real: all genders, no genders,” it explains. The visual shifts from black and white to vibrant light and colour, as an electronic soundtrack – a nod to the Berlin scene – sets the stage for group euphoria. The dancers, separated in the first part of the film, all join each other together, dancing as one pulsating, blissful mass.
“You deserve this oasis, you deserve this joy,” the voice concludes. “You live here now, take your fill.”
It’s an ode to the fact that finding yourself is in itself a destination, and the way that our connections with others only help us on that road. And for Munnings, the film is also an expansive exploration of his ideas about what queer cinema is and can be. “It’s an ongoing journey of understanding what it is to be queer,” he says. “As we progress we’re learning that queerness is so much more than sexuality: it’s deeper than that. I think queerness is beautiful.”