Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (BGLFF) was established by the staff of ‘Attitude Magazine’, an LGBT weekly publication from Bangkok in Thailand, in 2015.
The magazine, which began publishing in 2011, is the first in Thailand to specifically address the interests of the country’s LGBT community, and to seek to represent LGBT views in wider Thai society.
The magazine decided therefore to launch Thailand’s first-ever LGBT Festival, as LGBT people and issues have already gained acceptance in Thai society for many years, and several other countries in the East Asian region, which sometimes record less legal acceptance of LGBT issues than Thailand, such as Indonesia (which has held Asia’s largest LGBT film festival, Q! Film Festival, every year since 2002), The Philippines (which holds the annual Pride International Film Festival), Cambodia and Myanmar, already have well-established LGBT film festivals. The magazine argues that, with Thailand’s enactment of the 2015 Gender Equality Act, discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is no longer tolerated in Thai society.
Despite the advances made over many years, the magazine believes that the LGBT community is not always portrayed in a positive light in Thai films and other forms of media, with certain stereotypes still prevalent whenever movies, in particular, address gender diversity. The magazine believes that the Festival will therefore help to provide a more realistic and varied view of the LGBT community. The first film to open the first Festival in 2015 was “How To Win At Checkers (Every Time)”, a film about two brothers, one gay, set around a military draft day in Thailand.
The 2015 Festival lasted for 10 days, with 15 films from 12 countries, including Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, South Korea, the United States and Europe. Sanchai Chotirosseranee, deputy director of Film Archive and partner of the BGLFF 2015, claims that it has been “a long journey” for the LGBT community in Thailand. In the 1955 Thai film, Chua Fah Din Salai, the Thai male comedian, Lor Tok, was shown dressing up as a woman and dancing with another male character. From then until now, the portrayal of what were dismissively referred to as ‘katoey’ meant that LGBT characters were presented as comic relief in films and soap operas, and had become the norm in Thai society. The magazine is keen to ensure that such portrayals are brought to an end, and that members of the LGBT community can be fully accepted and respected as equals.