Council ‘out of touch’ over queer film festival billboard ban
The head of the Brisbane Queer Film Festival is urging supporters to create their own posters and T-shirts of a promotional image that Brisbane City Council has refused to allow on one of its billboards.
Last week, council refused advertising agency JCDecaux permission to put up a promotional billboard for the festival in a space it rents from council.
The promotional image (above) features two men kissing on a beach in imitation of a scene between Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster in the 1953 film From Here to Eternity.
Brisbane City Council’s Lifestyle committee chair Krista Adams said council "requested a stop" for one of three billboard advertisements for the festival, which is held at the Brisbane Powerhouse, to seek advice from the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) about whether the advertisement "complied with industry standards and community expectations".
“Council has never been and will not be a censor, which is why it sought advice from an independent assessor specifically about whether the advertisement complied for use on billboards,” Adams said.
However, the ASB only acts on advertising that is already in the public arena and about which it has received a complaint.
A spokesperson for the ASB told QP council had asked for information or advice on the image but was advised the ASB does not provide such a service.
“We did suggest that images such as that would generate complaints,” the spokesperson said. “But a complaint isn’t necessarily upheld by the ASB.”
The situation is now at a stalemate, with a non-kissing image from the same shoot (below) substituted for the original, which can still be seen in festival advertising elsewhere.
BQFF producer Troy Armstrong said he had thought an image had to go up before it could be complained against and taken down.
“We put our images through to be put up by JCDecaux, who asked the Powerhouse if we’d had it approved by council. We told JCDecaux we don’t need our program to be approved by council. That’s when we got a phone call from the council.”
Armstrong said it was “a total overreaction” and council was “pre-empting a reaction that they may get”.
“When you’re 20 metres away from these posters on the street it looks like the original image. It’s not until you get at least a metre from them you realise it's two men," he said.
“I chose the second image and said can we use this and they said yes. The reason I did that was so we had images of gay men representing the festival, because the three images we are using represent a cross-section of the community. I acknowledge that the second image is not as strong or dynamic, but that’s what I had.”
Armstrong said supporters could request a hi-res version of the original image that could be used to make their own protest material, such as T-shirts and posters.
“This is labelling Brisbane as a small country town,” Armstrong said. “[Council] is out of touch with public opinion.”
The festival opens March 28. brisbanepowerhouse.org
Sign an e-petition to support the festival poster here.