The success of 5 short films on LGBT issues shows how international campaigns using film and social media can promote values of diversity and human rights.
In recent decades Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights in the UK and many other countries have been transformed. The UK was recently placed second in Europe for the strength of its LGBT rights. Yet this progress has been far from universal. In many countries, millions of people still face discrimination and persecution. In Russia for example, in 2013 a law was passed banning ‘the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors’, and gay pride parades are regularly being broken up by protestors and police. Further afield, even in countries like South Africa that have adopted same-sex marriage and protection against discrimination, the reality is often one of violent persecution. Across the world, LGBT campaigners and influencers are struggling for greater protection of their rights.
The UK was recently placed second in Europe for the strength of its LGBT rights
Cultural programmes, and in particular the combination of film and social media, can offer a powerful means of influencing discussion on such topics globally.
‘fiveFilms4freedom’ - the first initiative of its kind anywhere in the world - is an example of how film and social media can be combined to promote values. Now in its second year, fiveFilms4freedom is a social media campaign and partnership between the British Film Institute and the British Council to promote equality and diversity, by encouraging people around the world to watch five short films from BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival.
The films tell a range of stories about contemporary LGBT experience in countries including Brazil, Ireland, Spain, the Philippines, and the UK. In Petersen Vargas’ ‘Swirl’, for example, two young girls in love move backwards through a Philippino cityscape. In Ferran Navarro-Beltrán’s ‘The Orchid’, a man tries to tell his son something important, but can only get through to his voicemail. The films are polished, rough, funny, sad, and inspiring and each has a different voice. They were made globally available and free to watch via social media platforms – Facebook, YouTube – as well as the British Council website and BFI player from 16-27 March (this year’s BFI Flare’s festival dates).
This year there were 1.57 million views of the films on Facebook and YouTube, with the films being viewed across 179 countries. Significantly, among the top countries in that list - with thousands of views recorded each - were countries in which LGBT rights are entirely lacking or seriously curtailed, including Russia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and UAE (which alone has recorded almost 28,000 views). With a hashtag reach of 85.6 million and total web impressions of 54.9 million worldwide, the films have contributed to a growing global conversation that extends discussion about LGBT rights.