Kristen Stewart and Katy O'Brian in "Love Lies Bleeding" Source: A24

Homophobic Harassers Spark Counter-Protest, Mar Brussels Film Festival Screening of 'Love Lies Bleeding'

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.

Attendees of a screening of Kristen Stewart's new lesbian thriller "Love Lies Bleeding" at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFFF) – the film's first showing in Belgium – were infuriated at the treatment they and the film received by homophobic hecklers that the festival's press chief characterized as the "gram of shit" that ruined "a kilo of caviar," Variety reported.

The entertainment news outlet noted that "the Brussels fest has built a reputation on boisterous screenings animated by ribald interaction," but the hecklers allegedly went way beyond mere "smart-aleck" commentary as the film played.

The contingent of homophobes came up against "a younger, queerer, more female-skewing crowd" that "flocked to the Saturday premiere for the chance to see Kristen Stewart and Katy O'Brian ignite on the big screen," the article relayed. "Unfortunately, sparks flew in the 1,400-seat auditorium as well," as a mass exodus of unhappy LGBTQ+ audience members and allies walked out of the screening.

The walkout was prompted by lewd and anti-LGBTQ+ comments shouted by the homophobes in the crowd, the article said, detailing that "an instance of sexual coercion drew applause" from the disruptive element.

As they stood up to leave, however, the offended audience members themselves became the targets of harassment and even threats, the article relayed.

The women pushed back, both at the theater and after the fact, with some of them telling Variety in a statement: "We know the difference between standard jokes and lesbophobic insults and commentary."

"When audience members applaud during a rape scene," the statement declared, "when they pantomime masturbation and catcall the actresses on screen by shouting 'get naked,' 'she wants cock,' 'disgusting,' and 'dirty dykes' at the slightest scene of lesbian intimacy, once spectators stand up to leave the theater or ask for respect, only to be booed, insulted and physically assaulted, and once dozens of lesbians leave the theater in tears, dirtied, degraded and shocked, we can't speak of a 'good-natured' atmosphere."

One person who was at the screening described how the nasty atmosphere reportedly generated by the hecklers escalated into violent confrontations, some of them reportedly physical, telling Variety, "Once we stood up, we started hearing insults directed at us."

"It became something much nastier," the audience member added. "Violent. We were overwhelmed, crying, and we said to each other that this wasn't normal."

Eventually, Variety recounted, "somewhere between 60 and 80 attendees regroup[ed] in the cinema lobby. There, the young viewers began to push back en masse.... asking that the show be cut short."

"When festival organizers opted against that request," Variety went on to detail, "the incensed attendees became more vocal in their protests, looking to interrupt the screening from the outside before local law enforcement arrived to break up the demonstration."

"We shouted so that they could hear us inside too, to spoil their experience of the film a bit, just as they had spoiled ours," the audience member told Variety.

Festival press chief Jonathan Lenaerts, referencing organizers' assertion that only a tiny fraction of the audience were responsible for the harassment the women faced, told Variety that "10 people out of 1,400 is already 10 too many," the writeup said.

Lenaerts told Variety that the festival had "programmed this film specifically because it touched on the LGBT community," and said that the programming of the film was "the perfect opportunity to welcome a new audience to our festival."

Though part of the festival's fun is its reputation for spirited screenings, Lenaerts stated that the "humor in the room should never be targeted and mean spirited, and all exceptions are intolerable."

"To be frank, a gram of shit will spoil a kilo of caviar," Lenaerts added, "and right now, we're going to do everything we can to remove that gram of shit."

"We will take direct measures: If someone makes inappropriate comments, they'll be immediately thrown out," he went on to add.

The festival's organizers moved swiftly to call out the homophobic hecklers for their bad behavior – sort of.

"On Sunday, BIFFF released a statement calling the previous evening's events 'unacceptable' and apologizing to the audience for 'discriminatory remarks against any community,'" Variety reported.

"Only the release made no explicit mention as to the nature of those inflammatory remarks," the article noted, "a point not lost on many of those who felt targeted."

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Read These Next