Quiet activism: an art video

Silent Pride, Holy Pride

Brighton Pride has come and gone in a pretty quiet state this year. Covid19 managed to turn the volume down on this boisterous celebration/protest/commercial event which usually brings hundreds of thousands of people together over this summer weekend. Being asked to take the picture of a small group of friends having a drink at the park caped in rainbow flags was all the pomp and circumstance I became involved with this year.

Somewhere before Pride

This reminded me of Milk CY, a film I created for the International Day Against Homophobia 2012, in Cyprus. It was two years before the first-ever Pride parade in Cyprus was organised, on 31 May 2014. I was doing volunteer work for Accept-LGBT Cyprus, at the time, and they asked me to create a video that was shown as part of a group exhibition which launched the IDAHO 2012 activities in the Cypriot capital.

Poster image for the film Milk CY, created by Star Phaedon
Poster image for the film Milk CY I created in Photoshop, inspired by the following words from Harvey Milk’s Hope Speech: “a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward.”

Art meets activism meets video

I wanted to support the organisation and mobilisation of Cypriot LGBTQI+ people that was experiencing a certain rebirth at the time. I wanted to inspire people to go further as individuals. I wanted people to think about their own personal revolutions and how in the quietness and mundanity of every-day life, they can transform into a movement beyond individual barriers.

So I did something I thought to be quite brave, considering the huge stigma against members of the LGBTQI+ community that exists in Cyprus to this day. I put myself in front of the camera. It was doubly frightening considering what an introvert I am.

Hence the stiff smile in the photo below.

Production photo of Star Phaedon in front of the Town Hall during the shooting of the film Milk CY
Production photo in front of the Town Hall during filming. Credit goes to Stalo Nicolaou.

Stalo Nicolaou of (toy*)films helped me shoot the video, in the quiet of the night, in various recognisable parts of Larnaca, the port city where I used to live. Musician, Constantinos Lemesios wrote the beautiful music score and I did the rest. I voiced a part of Harvey Milk’s celebrated Hope Speech (which I translated and adapted to fit my Greek-speaking audience) over silent shots of myself merely existing the context Larnaca, separating the screen into three parallel stripes of images exploring distinct visual narratives of marginalisation, import/export/cross-contamination of ideas and coastal/administrative borders.

Still image from the film Milk CY, showing the structure of the screen separated in three horizontal stripes containing three different narratives
Still image from the film Milk CY showing the artsy visual composition I used to make my point.

The power in quietness

As an introvert and an outsider to a lot that’s mainstream, I understand how empowering quietly defining yourself can be. Big, loud changes are based on tiny little shifts in the perception of ourselves and our surroundings. This theme keeps creeping back into my work, the magic that starts hushed and small in the “undergrowth,” as it were. Or at the park, during a Pride weekend that never really happened.

Photo of Star Phaedon editing the Milk CY video on Final Cut
I pulled an all-nighter on a Sunday in order to edit the Milk CY video in time for the exhibition. The Cyprus Community Media Centre provided the camera we shot the film with, as well as the equipment and the Final Cut editing software I used for the post-production.

Click below to watch the Milk CY video.

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