6 mins


As GAZE finalises its packed 2024 programme, festival director Greg Thorpe considers queer cinema in Dublin, discusses being at the helm of three festivals, and teases what lucky audiences can expect this year.

When my mum was a young woman in Dublin, she found a job at the Player Wills tobacco factory on South Circular Road where one of her tasks was delivering daily cigar rations to the office bigwigs. It was no place for an ambitious (non-smoking) girl-about-town, so when she heard the film studios at Bray were after red-haired extras, she got herself an Equity card. There began an exciting period rubbing shoulders with the stars and earning more than a factory girl could dream of. Her horizons had expanded and she began to think about leaving Ireland for good.

Fast forward to 2012, and I’m attending my first GAZE film festival, and listening to my partner Oisín in conversation following a screening of Andrew Haigh’s Weekend the film Oisín had recently worked on. After the screening, I DJ’d the launch party and was well and truly hooked on the energy of the festival. I like to say that cinema is the reason I wasn’t born in Ireland, but cinema is the reason I eventually came back here.

I could never have imagined back then that I would one day step into the role of Festival Director, but in 2022 I did just that, taking over from the fantastic Seán McGovern who kept the festival fire burning magnificently through difficult pandemic days.

The first thing I did in my role was research as much as I could about the history of the festival, and meet with Irish filmmakers. My background has always been artistfocused – closing the gap between making and curation is a deep part of my practice. Also, if I’m honest, I was self-conscious about stepping into such an esteemed role as an outsider and I wanted to make myself seen and accessible. I needn’t have worried on that score. Nowhere has made me feel quite so welcome as GAZE. Everyone from the team, to the Festival Friends, to audiences and to our sponsors Accenture, have made me feel at home and supported to do this work.

My first festival was in a late September/early October weekend slot that was a hangover from Covid. We opened with Wildhood, a gripping romantic adventure centring Canadian First Nation two-spirit identity, and screened classics by Gregg Araki and Cheryl Dunye, a German lesbian heist drama, films about the Vietnam War, AIDS, queer friendships, and shorts from over 20 countries. We also took over The Complex for two weeks of gallery screenings. It was also the year GAZE turned 30, so it was important that the legacy of the founders was celebrated. We were proud to honour Kevin Sexton and Yvonne O’Reilly with that year’s Vanguard Award. We literally would not be here without them. They both gave funny, eye-opening and touching speeches at our Opening Gala.

With the packed autumn cultural calendar beginning to explode across Dublin once again, it was decided to relocate the festival to its original August bank holiday weekend. It would allow an extra full day and night of programming, which we heartily made the most of with 35 total screenings, a theatre show with David Hoyle, a live gig with The Hidden Cameras, plus workshops, socials and conversations galore.

My time in the archives had also yielded a gem in the shape of The George a documentary from 2002 by a young American filmmaker that centred on the regulars of The George and other queer characters from the wider Dublin community. It hadn’t been seen in 20 years. Featuring Panti, Veda, David Norris, Brendan Courtney, Shirley Temple Bar and many others, we had a huge sell-out screening. The filmmaker himself, Clark Harding, not only joined us all the way from California but bequeathed his film to us. In turn, we will deposit it in the Irish Queer Archive for posterity.

Working in queer film is an experience that is both uplifting and deeply affecting. Each year, myself and our incredible Assistant Programmer, James Hudson, watch hundreds of films from around 40 countries in preparation for programming. In those films, people find voice for experiences of oppression, joy, desire, revolution, illness, transition, and love – as well as the deepest most expansive parts of the queer imagination.

Storytelling is the key aspect of the films in our festival, over and above technological prowess, location, or experience. For me, the International Shorts embody this life-giving drive to be seen and heard. Last year, Golden Voice by Mars Verrone won Best International Short, telling the story of a trans man returning to his village 40 years after surviving the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia. The year before, the accolade went to Mutya by Jon Cuyson of the Philippines, the tale of a trans resort worker and her absent sailor boyfriend, told entirely through telephone conversations.

Last year, two incredible intersex narratives came our waythe feature doc Who I Am Not by Tünde Skovrán and Irish short Lambing by Katie McNeice. I expanded the subtitle of the festival to LGBTQIA to recognise these extraordinary works, both of which scooped awards. This year we just missed out on a feature focusing on an ace/aro relationship drama, but if those films are out there we want to see them.

A film festival of our relatively modest size can often be passed over for mainstream queer releases, which is why I’ve been so happy this year that we’ve been able to partner outside our festival period to premiere titles such as All of Us Strangers and Love Lies Bleeding in Dublin. My hope is that any major queer release coming to Ireland thinks of GAZE first so we can bring our audiences with us to launch exciting new work. There would be no queer film industry without festivals like ours, and, more importantly, without the audiences. On that note, stay tuned for a special GAZE co-presentation of another exciting new feature as we head into Dublin Pride week…

The biggest change I’ve seen in my short tenure at the festival is the availability of queer cinema – not that it’s rare, but quite the opposite. Programmers like myself are often in a race against time to catch a quality queer film before it hits one of many streaming platforms. Invariably, a filmmaker is thrilled at the chance to put their work on the big screen, and if we can welcome them in person, that’s often a platform that can mean the world to them – and us. For many GAZE films listed as ‘premieres’, our screening might not just be the first time it shows on the big screen in Ireland, but the only time. Catch it while you can is always my advice.

This is exactly what I hope gets bums on seats now and in the future. There is nothing quite like watching a film in good company, writ large up on the screen, with thundering sound, and with all the collective emotional investment of a fellow audience. I truly believe that for marginalised people this is doubly true. I hope this is what keeps people coming back to the cinema now and in the future, and to GAZE film festival in particular – and if not that, then hopefully our conversations, workshops, parties, and good times will do the trick.

As for GAZE 2024? I can promise you masterclass conversations with some truly leading lights of queer cinema. Expect: A tribute to our dearly departed friend, Edmund Lynch. A mind-blowing opening gala film with the director in tow and new short films that push what queer cinema is capable of. Programming strands centring queer people of colour, in both curation and artistry. A well-known lesbian island and a nude gay beach. Dance, wrestling, kink and animation. Trans history, queer sci-fi, and old lesbians galore. Forgotten gay artists rescued and remembered. A big bad bisexual pop star. Palestinian solidarity and activism on screen. And a good few parties to keep you up late.

Our programme launches late June and we will see you all in August.

GAZE International LGBTQIA Film Festival runs from August 1-5 at Light House Cinema and Irish Film Institute. Follow GAZE on social media and sign up for their newsletter at

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