The Vancouver Queer Film Festival is the 2nd largest yearly film festival in Vancouver and one that continues to bring in fantastic content from around the world. Hastings Crossing BIA had the pleasure this past Thursday of welcoming the audience to a film that received a lot of excitement at Sundance earlier this year, Appropriate Behaviour, directed by and staring Desiree Akhavan. As Executive Director of HxBIA the folks at VQFF graciously invited me to pick which film I would like to welcome the audience to, as the BIA is a Silver Reel Sponsor of the festival which continues on until August 24th.
The reason I wanted to pick Appropriate Behaviour is that the theme and title of the film resonated with me regarding the DTES and the work that I do with the Hastings Crossing BIA. Many BIAs throughout the world are very concerned with appropriate behaviour. They want to create a space that is ideal for shoppers, tourists and others with money to spend. Things like loitering, sleeping on park benches, asking for money, dressing in dirty clothes, being high in public, those are all generally considered inappropriate behaviour, and are often dealt with through policing public spaces or sometimes through urban design interventions like spikes on the pavement, dividers on benches, or high pitched squeeling in stairwells. Not to say BIAs in Vancouver have employed these things, there are thousands of BIAs, BIDs, NIDs etc all over the world. Feel like geeking out on this stuff? Start with Lorelene Hoyt.
As a BIA in a predominantly low-income community we have a bit of a different appreciation for what appropriate behaviour is. We work to keep our area cleaner, and safer, picking up street debris, assisting people in distress or in need of directions, activating public spaces with events, and promoting our local shops, cafes and restaurants. Yes, we do want you to shop in our area and support our local merchants, we are after all a BIA (If Hoyt looked intimidating and you prefer the Coles Notes version for more on what that is see here). But our programming is constantly informed and guided by social inclusion and social innovation, which we have embedded in our constitution and bylaws and in our strategic plan.
There is a line between unsafe or dangerous behaviour and inappropriate behaviour, broadly speaking, we’re more concerned with the former as we recognize that 12,000 people living immediately around Woodwards , where this film was screened, are living at or below the poverty line and may be dealing with a range of issues that result in different forms of behaviour. Several thousand of them in severe poverty. Several thousand of them with mental health or addiction barriers. Many of them high functioning but self medicating. Many of them having come through trauma of a physical, mental or emotional nature. This perhaps casts the idea of appropriate behaviour in a different light. This perhaps gives us reason for pause, to consider how tolerant, compassionate and just we are, or can be, as a BIA or as individuals.
I also picked up on a broader narrative of the changes that were going on in Brooklyn in this movie too. Apartments becoming increasingly expensive, and hard to find, precarious employment, the general challenge of creative millennials living in increasingly unaffordable cities, a theme many Vancouverites can relate to as well.
There is another reason why I felt particularly drawn to this film, because I believe that the Queer Community has been at the forefront of the work, the struggle, globally, for a more just, equitable, compassionate and tolerant world. From Russia to Uganda and even here in North America, we’ve seen regressive policies and utterly shocking language from politicians and media pundits alike targeting the LGBTQ community. The struggle for tolerance and compassion is today one of the principle struggles of our time, and the ongoing work of the Queer community is tied directly to the broader fight for social justice, equality, tolerance and inclusion of countless other groups who face injustice, intolerance, exclusion and inequality every day both here in the DTES, Brooklyn, and elsewhere.
What many of us forget, captured perfectly in that famous poem by Martin Niemuller, is that intolerance, bigotry and exclusion knows no boundaries, and is only kept in check by the human will and the human effort to do so. For this the Queer community and activists within it deserve thanks and deserve to be recognized. For every victory, every step forward, is a step towards that safer, more compassionate, more inclusive world that we deserve.
Hastings Crossing BIA is proud to be one of the many sponsors of the Queer Film Festival once again this year, and are thrilled to continue building on this partnership moving forward.
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me— and there was no one left to speak out for me.”