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Short film questions police role at Pride

Short film questions police role at Pride

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Event glorifies fascist imagery, says filmmaker
According to Winnipeg filmmaker Noam Gonick, Pride is becoming a "military parade" that glorifies fascist imagery of cops, conformity and corporatization. And this summer, he's taking his message — and a short film on the subject — to Pride events in Vancouver and London, England.
 
It all started last year, when Pride Toronto organizers asked Gonick to make a one-minute film on the subject of human rights, to be broadcast on big screens at the 2008 event.
 
His mind turned to the subject of military torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. In particular, how men use hoods, electrocution, wires and even watersports (in the form of waterboarding) to degrade other men. The military, says Gonick, "uses homoerotic, aggressive acts to harm victims and act as a contagion to society in general."
 
And, he says, it turns us on. "Conquest is not only about territory, or oil, or puppet dictatorships," he says. "It's sexual, too."
 
Gonick's first challenge was to think of a way to catch the attention of Pride-goers. "It's hard to compete with the beautiful people and the floats and the nudity," he says.
 
He turned to the University of British Columbia's football team for help. Gonick asked the Thunderbirds to imitate waterboarding techniques on each other, with players' faces covered in rainbow-coloured underwear. They also performed hazing rituals.
 
"I didn't even have to direct them," the filmmaker says. "It took off on its own."
 


Gonick and animator Dennis Tam edited the football player footage with graphic text ‘scorecards’ recalling military dictators like Adolf Hitler and Augusto Pinochet. He also gave his film a name: No Safe Words. In SM culture, a safe word is what a slave says to a master to force them to stop. "In human rights abuses," says Gonick, "there are no safe words."
 
Finally, Gonick jetted off to Toronto Pride to watch his work on the big screens. "I've always been a bit scared of the crowd," he says, "so I wanted to ask the crowd to question itself. I was hoping my work would shock people out of their Pride reverie for one minute."
 
Instead, Gonick was the one who was in for a shock.
 
He watched in fascination as more than a dozen police cars blazed through the parade, with sirens blaring and crowds cheering. Firefighters turned their hoses on the masses, and the big story of the day was the arrival of Canada's Armed Forces, as recruiters and marchers.
 
Gonick found the display "chilling." Considering the police's checkered history with the queer community, including bathhouse and sex club raids, as well as arrests at Pride itself, Gonick says, "I can't think of a more perfect example of co-optation than police presence at Pride."
 
He was also disturbed by the conformity of the crowd, particularly in the way parade-goers were dressed. "Instead of going against the flow," says Gonick, "Pride was going with the flow."
 
This year, London, England's Sketch Gallery has asked Gonick to screen a longer version of his project during that city's Pride week in July. He's re-editing No Safe Words to include images of soldiers and police at Toronto Pride, as well as muscle daddies with bank logos. In August, he'll take the same director's cut to Vancouver's VIVO Media Arts Centre.
 
With the new footage, Gonick feels the focus of his film is even clearer. "It's about us and who we've become," he says. "We're willing to do anything to get the approval of the state."


 
NOAM 101: WHO IS GONICK, ANYWAY?
 
Long known as the "bad-boy filmmaker of Winnipeg," Noam Gonick burst onto the scene in the late '90s with a black-and-white short about the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, set in a bathhouse. He quickly followed it up with two provocative feature films: Hey Happy!, about a DJ who tries to sleep with 2,000 men by the turn of the millenium, and Stryker, about a 14-year-old arsonist who gets caught up in a gang war.
 
Gonick is also the producer of two cult TV hits, Psychic Saturday Night and Kink. Just prior to completing No Safe Words, he directed a short called Wildflowers of Manitoba which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as a video installation called Commerce Court, Precious Blood for Toronto's Nuit Blanche.

Watch the clip that was broadcast at Pride Toronto 2008 (a new, extended version will be shown at London, England's Pride in July, and at Vancouver's VIVO Media Arts Centre in August):


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Comments

Canadian police and military are great
I am tired of police and military bashing. Yes the police and military are not perfect but they actively risk their lives everyday for us to live in this great country. We have one of the most professional and well trained militaries and police forces in the world. They are not the worst trained, stupidest (not a word) forces in the world. Get over yourself.
Aghast at agast
What Al wrote was spot on and you do not understand the meaning of the film which was spelled out for you, lmao. OBVIOUSLY, this is a comparison to the American military AS PREVIOUSLY STATED in the aforementioned article by the author, "His mind turned to the torture..at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay." Not to mention what is so obvious a comparison to waterboarding. Why are you so desperately trying to defend Canada? Are you saying that sexual humiliation, torture, and degradation by officers of any culture should go unnoticed because it isn't performed by Canadians(according to your omnipotent and allseeing eyes)? You are the example that the director is talking about so I see why you are angry, "We are willing to do anything to get the approval of the state"--even torture and humiliate and degrade. No, your post was neither "logical" nor "scientific" and least of all thoughtful.
Continued
Are some laws unjust? Maybe. Are there still problems? Yes. But we can not blame the police or the military for doing their jobs, which is to protect us!
uhh... the police... are not the crown...
The Crown prosecutes crimes not the police. The police just enforce the law. They don't make the law and don't get to choose which laws they enforce. If you don't like the law or the way the crown operates write to your MP or maybe even your Senator, launch a charter challenge, hold a rally, that's what they are there for. It's called democracy give it a try. But I guess that standing around disrespecting authority like a good little "activist", bitching at the police for trying keep you safe and keep our society from falling apart is a lot easier...I've said before and I will say it again, When you get bashed or sexually assaulted or harassed, where the hell do you go? THE POLICE! Who should have been there to protect you from the bad people... and "failed gay people everywhere" when they didn't right? This self-entitled anit-establishment crap is so 80's, lets all grow up shall we? And move on to something more productive? Also, Al that still makes no sense, those are American examples. You are saying that "the Military" is homophobic and you're baseing that on what? The actions of a foreign military? We have different polices than the Americans, different command styles, different histories...ect. What you're saying is completely illogical and unscientific and what about Butch lesbians? They integrate into both the police and the Military fairly well. Also, "racialized queer folk" what the hell does that mean? That gender conforming queer people are traitors? That they don't know what it's like to feel oppression or social stigma? No. of course not only "feminine" gay men do right? What a homophobic thing to say. Also, The police do benefit us all. With out them we would have anarchy, then where would GLBTQ people be? In a much worse situation. We need them to maintain order and safety for all of us. Are some laws unjust? Maybe. Are t
Canadian Police are the Worst in the Hemisphere
The Canadian constabulary are the worst trained, the most stupid, the highest paid, HIV bigots in the world. Live with that Canada. You have a Conservative government, bad laws for homos, aggravated assault inclined police who at the same time averse to prosecuting hate crimes, or secularized pornography statutes reversed by the Supreme Court. Canada is a free for all for homophobia.
Insightful and needed
Folks commenting on this article obviously dont have much depth of thought. I am not bashing BDSM practitioners or queer cops/police officers, but there are links and people need to understand it. Abu Ghraib tortures included forced anal and oral sex, hooding, leashing, extreme bondage and power plays (quite like BDSM-minus the forced)-it is not that these acts resembling BDSM are inherently or morally wrong, but that they expose the ever present homophobia in the military and in our society. If soldiers believed such punishments were humiliating, it is because they felt they were sufficiently degrading to the victim. Thus anal sex, bondage, hooding, leashing as a punishment=faggotry, the ultimate humiliation in their eyes. Just like the USS Enterprise dropped a bomb on Afghanistan with the phrase "high jack this fags" painted on it-the military is homophobic, racist and institutionally oppressive. Finally, we need to look at which queer people are joining the police and benefitting from it-certainly not racialized queer folk and trans people, especially trans women often forced into sex work by social transphobia. So no, the police aren't good to all of us-usually only if you're white, middle-class, male and generally masculine. If a rather feminine queer man entered the police force, fo any of you folks think they would be accepted with open arms? When we talk about times changing and tolerance in the army and the police, we need to ask tolerance for who? It's only a certain kind of queer they can tolerate.
I don't see the connection
I don't see how BDSM activity has anything to say about human rights abuses, consensual sexual play and torture/brutality practiced by the US military have nothing in common as far as I can see. Also why shouldn't the police and military participate in Pride? do gay cops and soldiers not count as "real" queers? Better relations between the police and gays is a benefit to of us, of course not all cops are decent folk, but the same can be said about lgbt folk too and as for the military they were there to make it clear that we are welcome to openly serve in the military these days and to publicly acknowledge the gay soldiers who are already serving our country in the military. I don't see how that co-opts Pride at all, queers are found in every section of society, it isn't us against them, its just us. Lets not pretend we haven't made any advances in society. I also don't believe we should turn on queers who enjoy BDSM or being cops/serving in the military because those organizations have been hostile to us in the past. Thankfully times change.
Incoherent Thinking
Who is co-opting who? There are plenty of gay cops and why shouldn't they have a right to be at the Pride Celebration? And it's offensive to the BDSM Leather community to treat consenual sexuality or the display of homomasculinity or homofemininity as being politically compromised or Quisling behavior. If I want to wear a leather police uniform and use handcuffs, that's sexual play, that's subverting the paradigm. It's using the ambivalence about police in a creative way, and I get to define it. I know the difference between fantasy play and actual police brutality. I don't think Noam Gonick does. I don't think he understands that everything isn't black or white.
"Brave" non-conformist.
I would agree that Prides in many parts of the country have been corporateized and this bad. Everything else though is a complete load of crap. What exactly is wrong with a police presence at pride? Some bad things happened in the past? Also, what the hell does Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay have to do with the Canadian Armed Forces? Last I checked this wasn’t the United States. It is great that the police and the Canadian Armed Forces are at pride, because it shows that we are part of the larger Canadian community. It shows that we deserve and have access to the same protection that the police and the Armed Forces provide. It shows that they accept us and want us to join their organizations so that we can have the same opportunity to fight for OUR nation and defend our way of life...that’s one of the reasons why I enlisted, I have the right too just like any other Canadian. The police and The Armed Forces protect society. I am so tired of non-conformists, and their “ideas” about “the evils of conformity and authority”. We are part of Canadian society that means we as GLBTQ people now have a responsibility to function within it. Part of that is respecting authority. Which everyone at Toronoto Pride except Noam Gonick seemed to be doing. Also, I'd like to point out the funny thing about people like Mr, Gonick, they're very hate authority and conformity and the police and the military, but when they get bashed or assulted or the country gets attacked, who do they run too? The big bad police and the fascist military.
Stupid stunt
It might have been sexy if they put each other's underwear on their head for the dousing. As for "waterboarding," put them on an inclined board with their head below their feet, then douse them.
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