Red Umbrella Film Festival opens in October

The red umbrella has been a global symbol of sex workers’ solidarity since being used for the first time in 2001 in Venice during the 49th Art Biennale. This autumn, the fair city of film will host its own platform for sex worker solidarity, drawing from that same symbol. Across Dublin, a series of features, shorts, workshops and events will create conversation and community around the issues sex workers face in Ireland and internationally through film. The Red Umbrella Film Festival has been organising, fund raising and planning for some time and its first edition kicks off next month.

A collective of current and former sex workers have organised Red Umbrella Film Festival, Ireland’s first-ever sex worker film festival.

The festival will run from Thursday 19 until Sunday 22 October across four Dublin venues: Light House cinema, Unite the Union on Abbey street, Wigwam, and the Grand Social.

The goal of the festival is to create conversation and community around the issues sex workers face in Ireland and internationally. By creating space for sex workers’ stories, the festival organisers hope to challenge stigma and shame, fight for the safety and self-determination of sex workers in Ireland, and build towards a decriminalised future.

The festival launches on October 19 in the Light House Cinema, where Swedish writer and director Tove Pils will present the Irish premiere of their documentary LABOR (2023). Ten years in the making, LABOR follows Hannah and her friends – dominatrix Chloe, and escort Cyd, in their journey of self-discovery through San Francisco’s vibrant queer scene.

Other highlights of the festival include the European premiere of Fly In Power (2023), a documentary exploring the work of Red Canary Song, a grassroots organisation of Asian and migrant sex workers and massage workers. The film will be followed by a panel discussion with the filmmakers. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (2022) follows the life of artist and former sex worker Nan Goldin and showcases her role in the campaign against the Sackler family.

The festival’s short film programme will include House of Whoreship (2023), a queer love story set in a suburban brothel by director Holly Bates, and Call Me Mommy (2022), an intimate portrait of Irish sex worker and mother of four Sinéad, followed by a Q&A.

Red Umbrella Film Festival will also feature talks, workshops on harm reduction and legal advice, stripper bingo, and a Saturday night event with burlesque, comedy, and pole dance performances.

It’s a great opportunity to see one of the best films of the last year, a intimate, innovative short by an Irish talent on the rise, and provide organisation and conversation for sex workers in Ireland. Tickets for the Red Umbrella Film Festival are on sale now via Eventbrite.

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