Your Artists for Change in Prishtina: Queer Film Days and Filmmaking Workshop

Between the 16th and the 21st of July, art.1 had a very exciting time in Prishtina, Kosovo. While the 11th edition of the Prishtina International Film Festival took place, the project Youth Artivists for Change brought the Queer Film Days into the program, screening several movies which regarded LGBTQ+ topics.

The opening consisted of the film ‘I am Sofia’, which told the story of a young transgender woman from Rome and the challenges she faced. The protagonist herself, Sofia Qyvalar, was present at the event and, after the film, she took part on a debate about the importance of art for LGBTQ+ activism. Alongside her, sat Marriët Schuurman (the Human Rights Ambassador for the Netherlands), Chris Belloni (filmmaker and founder of art.1), and Erblin Nushi (a filmmaker from Kosovo who emigrated to the USA), for a conversation moderated by Sudeep Dasgupta, a professor from the University of Amsterdam. All of them shared their experiences and engaged with the audience in a discussion which touched multiple topics such as the clash of different realities, emigration, the creation of communities and the importance of film

The program went on with films such as Consequences - our Queer Film Days selection - from the Slovenian director Darko Štante, which later won the prize of Best European Film, awarded by the festival jury.

Alongside the screenings and the debates, it was also time for the first filmmaking workshop to take place in Prishtina. The Dutch trainer Nienke Eijsink and the local trainer Gazmend Nela introduced the group of young participants to the primary notions of documentary making and how they can be used to talk about Human Rights, LGBTQ+ issues and Gender Equality. The workshop was hosted in the Drop In Center, managed by Centre for Equality and Liberty (CEL), another partner of the project. The group of young people took great advantage of the safe space to talk about things that really mattered to them, such as asexuality, the process of coming out, fetishes and activism. By the end of the training, they all had produced short films, some were documentaries, while others were animation pieces or stories created from past experiences that they had had.

On Saturday, 20th of July, we all gathered in CEL’s safe art space to watch their work being screened. Donarta and Raven worked on a piece about bullying and fat shaming, while Valza created an animation alerting for violence. Bjeshkë made a documentary about the protests which had taken place in the previous day, regarding the police discrimination towards the Roma community in Kosovo. Gentrit created an animation about feet fetishism, and about the taboos and prejudices it involves. With Donarta’s help, Alba also told the story of how a friend of hers commited suicide due to an unexpected pregnancy which would not be tolerated by her family. On top of all of this, there was still time for an animation about being asexual, developed by Vernesa, and an animation about coming out of the closet as a lesbian, created by Alba. Raven also produced a short film where he interviewed everyone and made a summary of the workshop that showcased how much fun everyone had had (especially when they had to get very crafty and creative to find ways to overcome the absence of tripods :-)


The festival continued until the 21st of July, when art.1 left Prishtina with a bittersweet feeling and looking very much forward to see more of what these young artivists are going to do in the future.

Perform2Reform: Multiplier Event in Ljubljana

Stichting art.1 has been in Ljubljana, Slovenia, for the Multiplier Event of our project Perform2Reform, organized by our partner Legebitra. The event consisted of a training on how to use their recently finished book, “Mavrica v žepu” (‘Rainbow in the pocket’), which will function as a manual for teachers and youth workers who wish to address LGBT+ topics through art.

The event started with speeches from Mitja Blažič, Lana Gobec and Katja Sešek (Legebitra), who told the audience about the process and the importance of such a book.

Legebitra manages a youth center but, as Katja Sešek explained, the youth that visits it to be in a safe space still have to go back to schools and other environments where they are victims of discrimination. For that reason, the organization felt that it was necessary to have a more comprehensive approach to the problem and elaborate a toolkit that could better equip the schools to respond to these issues. Furthermore, we got to hear about the project “A Scuola Per Conocerci”, brought to us by Sandi Paulina, vice president responsible for foreign affairs and contacts with Slovenian minority Arcigay Arcobaleno Trieste Goiza ONLUS. This is a project which consists of an educational proposal for schools to tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying and the different forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. To finalize the speeches, Derk Jan Nauta, head of mission at the Embassy of The Netherlands, congratulated the project and reaffirmed its importance, reflecting on the reported numbers of discrimination in schools.

After a wonderful lunch prepared by +Kantina MSUM, a project which works towards the inclusion of refugees, we were all ready and eager to start the training.

As Katja explained, the manual includes an extensive section on research and clarification of LGBT+ topics to empower teachers and youth workers so that they can feel comfortable when discussing these matters. Besides, it includes 9 different workshops dedicated to different age groups, consisting of multiple levels of complexity. Filip Vurnik and Laura Pihlar, two of the authors of the book, guided us through some of the workshops which are proposed in the manual, explaining how they should be used, offering tips and advice, and also listening to our feedback and discussion. The workshops tackled subjects such as power relations, privilege, equality of opportunities, oppression, discrimination and empathy.

Their meticulous work makes it possible for people who want to engage in these topics with their students to do it in an informed and respectful manner, which can simultaneously be fun, stimulating and very engaging for the youth.

The Slovenian version of ‘Rainbow in the pocket’ can be found here and the English translation will be made available in September.

Upcoming: Perform2Reform multiplier event in Slovenia

A multiplier event promoted by Legebitra as part of the Perform to Reform project will take place on June 21st, in Ljubljana, Slovenia.  It will consist of a training on how to use their recently developed toolkit for youth centers, schools and NGOs. “Mavrica v žepu” (‘The rainbow in the pocket’) is the name of the manual which represents the organization's intellectual output of the project which is intended for youth workers, trainers and teachers. The purpose of the manual is to support youth and education workers in the promotion of an inclusive and respectful society, by addressing the complex and sensitive topic of peer violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity and/or sexual expression. During the multiplier event, the participants will have access to multiple workshops addressing different aspects of LGBTQ-topics.

Furthermore, the 19th Ljubljana Pride parade will take place on the 22nd of June, followed by a political program which will consist of speeches, concerts and performances. Since we will be visiting, Stichting art. 1 will also make sure to be present for the event!

“Perform to Reform” (P2R) project is an initiative by Stichting art.1 which aims to develop tools based on performative arts and soft skill methodologies in order to address sexual diversity topics and to create powerful and adaptable techniques for youth workers and educators.

In-Visible Film Festival in Azerbeidzjan

The In-Visible Film Festival was a queer festival which took place between the 23rd and the 26th of May, in Baku, Azerbaijan. It was promoted by Salaam Cinema Baku and Stichting art. 1, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Netherlands, IQMF, YPEER, EQUALS, Gender & Development Office, ADO, NEFES, Minority Azerbaijan, Baku IdeaLab, Dreamers Lab and Mil.

The four days of the festival were filled with film screenings, live performances, educational talks, exhibitions and parties, which put queer topics under the spotlight in order to celebrate inclusion and diversity.
The festival took place in Salaam Cinema, a community-driven safe art space which is located in a beautiful historic Malokan prayer house built in 1913. Besides the focus in promoting creative movies, audio-visual and performing arts, Salaam Cinema offers a wide program of exhibitions and workshops. Their mission is also to support local filmmaking and film history and make sure that the audience has the chance to discover new Azerbaijani films and rediscover movies which have written the Azerbaijani film history. The creation of this safe art space is part of the project Youth Artivists for Change in Azerbaijan.

Queer Faces, Migrant Voices

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Through a partnership between Stichting art.1 and LGBT World Beside, we held a storytelling and podcast workshop as part of the project Queer Faces Migrant Voices on the 15th and 16th of March, in Goethe Instituut Amsterdam.

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A group of refugees from Russia and Chechnya, now currently living around The Netherlands and Belgium, came together to acquire some tools designed to allow them to tell their stories in a more powerful and effective way.

This workshop created a safe space for all of the participants to get to know each other and provided great conversation starters that originated talks about their lives and experiences. Besides, the trainers explored the theory of storytelling and radio making, inspiring the participants to create their podcast episodes and tell their own story as they wished.

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“Queer Faces, Migrant Voices” is a project for LGBTQ+ refugees who have recently come to The Netherlands. Many of them have fled discrimination, war or lack of prospects and have decided to leave their homes to find a better life elsewhere. It is for people who struggle with questioning their sexuality due to a conservative education or religious upbringing, and who, in addition to this inner disruption, are confronted with a completely new environment: a new country, a different language, different customs and habits. Our project is dedicated to these people and gives them the space and voice to deal with their cultural, sexual and religious identity. The trainers Lotte van Gaalen and Salim Salameh help participants with technical and personal questions. These questions become stories that bring participants together in a narrative mosaic. The young refugees then have the opportunity to share their experience and thoughts on international platforms such as festivals, websites, a podcast channel and various radio stations.

Fotografie Els Broers