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BRISBANE Council continues to attract criticism after the fallout over a Brisbane Queer Film Festival promotional poster.

News of a poster featuring two men recreating a scene from the 1953 film From Here to Eternity being pulled from city billboards made headlines last week.

The image was deemed “too confronting” by Council Lifestyle Committee chair Cr Krista Adams, who has repeatedly denied censoring the poster.

“There has been no censorship, banning or opposing of any images being used by the BQFF,” Adams told the Star Observer.

“Council indicated to the Brisbane Powerhouse that they would like some advice from the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) before proceeding.”

An ASB spokesperson said it did not act as an advisory body and had rejected council’s request because it only investigated advertising breaches upon receiving public complaints.

The Star Observer understands that the decision to “hold” the image from distribution came from Adams on February 20 without community or council consultation. Adams’ fellow Liberal-National councillors also allegedly learned about the decision via social media or having it brought to their attention by other means.

It is also understood advertising company JCDecaux first brought the poster to Adams’ attention, seeking approval from council. However, JCDecaux last week denied this and that it was following council directions.

The Star Observer contacted Adams’ office several times to seek clarification surrounding the JCDecaux’s involvement but no response was given at the time of print.

However, at a Lifestyles Committee meeting last week, Adams said they decided to hold the poster for review because she was worried about possible complaints.

“Our concerns were literally only for the JCDecaux audience. At that eye height, we were concerned about the complaints we may receive. We decided to hold for review,” she said.

In light of ASB’s subsequent rejection of that request, during council Question Time last week Adams was questioned how her continued stop on the image did not equate to censorship.

Adams responded by stressing it was Brisbane Powerhouse who decided not to publicly display the image, because of the tight time frame and their desire to begin promoting sooner, and again denied she had engaged in censorship.

“This is not about censorship, this is about sensitivity,” she said.

“The image in question I did not censor, it is being used on a 10-foot billboard on the wall of the Powerhouse… I did not censor a picture to do with a homosexual queer film festival.”

An e-petition on council’s website requesting the original image be put on public display was also launched last week and has attracted over 1000 signatures.

This week, a motion moved by Cr Steve Griffiths during another Lifestyle Committee meeting proposed council declare support for the removed image and its public display. It was voted down, with the committee’s four LNP councillors voting against it while the two remaining Labor councillors, including Griffiths, voted in favour.

Speaking about the alternative image to be used on billboards, Adams said: “We still have two men looking into each other’s eyes, holding hands, it’s just not as confronting,”

Despite the Star Observer not receiving further clarification and information requested from her office by deadline, Adams also said she had responded to all media requests and urged opposing councillors to move on and focus on supporting the BQFF.

Meanwhile, the Powerhouse, which is funded and majority-owned by council, has responded to Adams’ statements.

“While council had concerns with the use of this image on large billboards in the city, we continue to use the image… because we feel it is an extraordinary beautiful image,” artistic director Kris Stewart said.

“You will see this image on the front of our program, on our home page, at the front door of our building, on posters in cafés throughout Brisbane and extensively in the media.

“We thought it was an artful and passionate expression of a male couple in love, and an image that the wider Brisbane community would think was in line with modern relationships.”

Stewart also responded to public criticism that the organisation had succumbed to council pressure by stressing the Powerhouse’s independence and commitment to the LGBTI community.

Griffiths said that it was clear that the Powerhouse – by using the original image as much as they could and wherever they were still allowed to – were not in agreement with Adams’ decision to ban the original image.

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Meanwhile. Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk was questioned during a council Question Time last week about his objection to raising the rainbow flag at City Hall to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia.

The question came before council’s decision to light the Story Bridge in rainbow colours to commemorate the same day — which was welcomed by many within Brisbane’s LGBTI community.

However, responding to the question on the rainbow flag put forward by Cr Victoria Newton, Quirk told the chamber that he preferred “actions over symbols” when it came to representing the city’s LGBTI community.

When asked why he did not allow the rainbow flag on City Hall, the Lord Mayor’s office told the Star Observer that only three flags were ever flown: the Australian, Queensland and Brisbane flags.

However, an internet search indicated that this was not the case, with one photo showing the French flag being flown.

Newton said it was meant to be a building to represent all Brisbane residents, and that both lighting the bridge in rainbow colours and raising the rainbow flag at City Hall would be symbolic.

“I can’t see any difference between the two. Both are amazing symbols of acceptance and support and Council is only willing to go through with one whilst denying the other. It’s even more reason why the Lord Mayor should reconsider his stance,” she said.

Further clarification over the Lord Mayor’s position and statement was sought last week. No comments were provided by time of print.

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