Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Film to Profile Quidditch Inclusivity

By Abby Whiteley

As we all know, quidditch is a unique sporting phenomenon not only in terms of gameplay, but also from the perspective of gender inclusivity. It is one of few fully mixed sports in existence, and the gender rule that allows people to play as their identified gender (rather than their sex) is rare in sports. This rule and the environment of acceptance it facilitates has made quidditch a safe space for trans and nonbinary players whose existence is denied or marginalised by most sporting communities. Jerona Van der Gevel, a Dutch filmmaker and quidditch player, will be producing a film in conjunction with Roald Zom focusing on the experiences of a trans player, Rein Aspach, on his journey to the European Games (to be held in Sarteano, Italy, in July 2015) with Team Netherlands (The Flying Dutchmen).

Although in the UK and Europe there is a reasonably high concentration of trans and nonbinary players, most people’s understanding of the dynamic surrounding them is on a more superficial level. It is widely known that the gender rule is important for marginalised genders, but this comprehension is on an institutional and legislative level. Van der Gevel hopes to offer a more personal take on the experiences of trans people in quidditch.

“Were definitely looking at gender through a more personal lens,” said Van der Gevel. “Obviously its very much related to quidditch. Were following the Dutch national quidditch team this summer. But within that team we will focus mainly on the keeper, Aspach. He will be talking about his personal experiences with regards to identifying as trans.”

Quidditch provides an interesting dynamic for filmmakers and writers, due to its unique attitudes towards gender and its fluidity as a developing sport. The community in particular receives a lot of attention, as its small size means that it remains intimate and friendly for the majority of players. This in particular appealed to Van der Gevel for her project.

“Ever since I started playing quidditch Ive loved it and I wanted more people to know about it and how amazing it is. Not just the game, but the community surrounding in it,” said Van der Gevel. “So its really a combination of wanting to take on a bigger project and finding the perfect subject in quidditch. I want to show people not only the game, but that there is this amazing friendly community out there that accepts players of all sorts regardless of gender or anything.”

Nothing of this kind has been attempted within quidditch before. While there is a flourishing talent pool of videographers specialising in highlight reels and small introductory videos, there is a general dearth of longer films about the sport. The only clear example previous to this is Mudbloods, the American documentary following the quidditch team from the University of California Los Angeles on its way to World Cup V. While Mudbloods was seminal in terms of its scope and recognition it can be found on Netflix it focused on gameplay and did not address issues of gender; Van der Gevel’s Off Broom will provide a refreshing take on the community.

The primary intent of the filmmaker is to give people a better insight both to quidditch as a sport, and to the way it affects those who play it.

“I guess it really comes down to giving people an insight into something they might not understand at first glance. When it comes to quidditch a lot of people dont immediately understand what it is and can be dismissive,” said Van der Gevel. “I hope our film shows them what can be found if they just take a closer look. The same thing can be said for Reins story I suppose be open to the stories of people who are different from you. You might be pleasantly surprised.”

As the film is still in the preliminary stages of gathering funds, it is yet to be decided exactly how and when it will be available to audiences. It is likely to emerge in the autumn, hopefully with some recognition at film festivals such as the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). For ordinary players, the filmmakers hope it will be available through streaming services.

In all the drama of tactics, gameplay, and rulebooks, the social issues surrounding quidditch can sometimes be drowned out. When they do emerge, it is too often in a cloud of controversy. Off Broom hopes to provide insight from a different, more human, perspective and give some life to a topic that is often discussed in the abstract.

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