A Conversation Over Coffee
a short-film by Sámal Hansen
For so many of us, the pandemic presented a necessity to experiment with our creativity and confront personal aspects of ourselves. At the time, Sámal had shared this short-film that he made in his kitchen, and the vulnerability of both the themes and the “home-made” nature of it really struck me as something so relatable. In this conversation, we talk about silence as a paradoxical form of allyship, and the evolution of our creative practices.
An interview with the Artist:
Thank you for sharing this piece on our platform! It comes across as a really playful, introspective self-reflection. What were your intentions around making this short-film?
The script for the scene was actually written in mid to late 2019; me and some friends of mine from university had talked about helping each other building a portfolio for after graduation. I think in total I managed to finish three scenes – all featuring two to three characters, engaging in dialogue that centred around different topics, with nothing but either a glass of wine or a cup of coffee featured as a prop.
And then fast forward, the pandemic happened. It’s no secret that having to leave the UK, in order to be with my family in the Faroe Island through an extremely strange and scary time, was very difficult. However, this was also an opportunity to just exist in nothingness. It felt like I had been given a pause button.
I never intended on this video to be public, and so I didn’t put a lot of time into the “production”. I didn’t memorise the lines, evident by my computer being present in both shots of the video, I even included moments where I had to look and reread some of the lines. I purely made this video to pass the time, try something out creatively and then send it to some friends who I thought would enjoy it. The focus for me, in this instance, was purely in the writing and making it feel conversational. I’d had experience with acting prior to this video, as my main creative expression, but the thought occurred to me that I could potentially build my own portfolio, or at the very least experiment with that idea, full of entries that were entirely made by me.
What inspired the themes that the characters discuss? How important was it for you to convey topics close to you, or to give space to conversations you may have never experienced?
A long time ago, I had a very interesting conversation with a gay friend of mine, who argued against something his mother had said: “Being gay doesn’t define who you are.” In his opinion, this wasn’t true, or rather not entirely true. Growing up gay (or any other non-straight sexuality) and then living with that sexuality as an adult has an impact on our lives, how we approach the world around us and ultimately our personalities. However, this is obviously a very generalising perspective, because of how individualistic our experiences as queer people are, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a reality for a lot of us. I thought of this topic for a while - how I felt people acted around me in my late teens.
For me, it was something that could potentially be very funny to explore in a scene, whilst still carrying some truth to it. I experienced a paradox: people thinking that the equivalent to treating a queer person equally to anyone else, is treating their queerness like it doesn’t exist. I remember well-meaning people either congratulating me on my coming out or completely ignoring it whenever it was brought up. Congratulating me on not being like other queer people who are “so effeminate” or questioning if I would be the man or the woman in a relationship then. Little things that held a lot of weight in my formative years. Little things that stem from sexism as much they do homophobia.
But I remember how I’d internalise a lot of the things that were both said and not said to me. For example, when someone would tell me that “I wasn’t as effeminate” as some other queer person, I’d take it as a compliment. For a lot of my life up until that point, I had really tried to fight and suppress a lot of what and who I was, the feminine things that I tended to gravitate towards, because I wanted to fit in with the other kids. So, this was my attempt at revisiting some experiences I felt I’d had in the past and trying to put some things into words that I didn’t know how to articulate when I was younger.
“Nobody treats you gay, who says that?
How does one treat you gay?”
It’s not that I thought or think I have the solution to the problem, nor did I intend to make it seem like there was a solution in the scene. The conversation between the two characters, was more or less supposed to feel like a snippet of life. Confronting casual homophobia, or any other discrimination, is an uncomfortable process to dismantle. Silence is just the easier option, right? So rather than trying to resolve it, this scene was more to shed light on an issue, through a bit more of humorous angle, that I felt had been part of my queer adolescence.
Is confronting the ever-changing experiences of sexuality and identity something that has always been important to your creative expression, and how does it show up for you today?
When I “came out of the closet” at 15, I would draw pictures that were heavily focused on embracing one’s self, and I’d fantasise about making art that featured slogans like “Being gay is OK” – I was listening to Born This Way by Lady Gaga quite a lot back then, so maybe that explains part of that. There was a desire to create things that could potentially reach out to other kids, who’d felt the same way I had and maybe make someone feel less alone, even though I hadn’t confronted all of the internalised homophobia myself. So already back then, I wanted my art to be somewhat reflective of my experience as a queer person.
Now, as I’ve gotten a bit older, there’s an entity in me that wants to go against everything that I thought about myself when I was growing up. Recently, I felt the need to tell someone I’m currently working with, who is helping me with a project of mine, that the project that we are working on comes from a queer perspective, even though it is never explicitly stated in the project. It feels important to me, to make everything I do creatively feel inclusive to the queer community.
I’m not really interested in trying to normalise it, because I don’t want to make art that suggests that something has to be "normal" for it to not to be discriminated against. I want to embrace the aspects of myself that make me queer from the heteronormative. And maybe, even just the fact that something is made by me, then makes it automatically queer unless explicitly stated otherwise, because it came from a queer mind.
Since creating this short-film, two years have passed. What is the biggest difference or growth you see in yourself “now and then”, both as a person and a creative?
Two years later, this video represents something quite unique to me. A time of uncertainty, not only in the context of the pandemic but also existentially. I’m not a whole lot smarter today regarding the existentiality, but I do feel so far removed from the person in the video. I’m working on things now that I didn’t think were possible at the time. I have a much better grasp on what I want to do artistically. And what’s interesting is that in order to get to the point I am at today, I’ve had to introspectively be forward thinking, whilst also indulging in the things that I never got to creatively explore as a kid/teenager. So, I’ve both gone back in time before 2020 and beyond. It was bit of turning point for me I guess, due to a kind of imposter syndrome I’d felt about myself up until this point. Because while I was creating things that felt very fulfilling, I was also doing things that I ended up hating. But then I allowed myself to sit with it and understand that to discover my own voice, it would require practice and experimentation.
Film by: Sámal Hansen (he/him)
Illustrations by: Sámal Hansen (he/him)
Interview conducted by: Madalena Miles (she/her)
Publication curated by Sibling Collaborative LTD
Page design: Mia Quimpo Gourlay (she/her)
Facilitated by: Madalena Miles (she/her)