Culture

Heartwarming true story of ‘gayest ever’ school reunion with class of 30 queer students

SJ Zhang February 16, 2022
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Two adult friends standing back to back in their old classroom

Twinkleberry. (Netflix)

“We’re the gayest year ever!” a student proclaims in the opening of Twinkleberry. 

The moving short film, funded by Netflix, documents the lives of “a super gay year [group] that had 30 plus queer students” in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire.

Director Daisy Ifama didn’t realise what a “unique experience” she’d had growing up with such a large and supportive queer community. In fact, she “grew up thinking it was very normal life.”

“Small towns have like such a bad rep because it is a smaller life, but it also builds this bubble of like protection around you,” she tells PinkNews, pointing to the abundant support she received as a queer person from her friends, family and local community.

The power of friendship is at the very heart of Twinkleberry. For the film, Ifama spliced together videos recorded when she was at school, between 2005 and 2012, with footage of the reunited class getting together to rewatch old memories, after they had all left Tewkesbury.

“Everyone was very up for it, they took time off work to come down [for filming],” Ifama says, adding: “I love my friends, they are the stars of my life.”

Ultimately, the story of Twinkleberry is a happy one – but it’s not without its more challenging moments. The film shows how, while at school, the students gathered together and wrote a powerful letter to their local MP calling for same-sex marriage to be legalised.

“He was horrible,” Ifama recalls. “He voted against marriage equality [and has] continued to vote against queer and trans bills.”

However, she is quick to point out that his views were at odds with the majority of the local community in Tewkesbury, who are “very understanding, very loving”.

At the end of the film, the group of friends host the town’s first Pride parade, and are received with open arms by the local community.

A Pride float with a banner reading 'we put the twink in Twinkleberry'
Twinkleberry. (Netflix)

“Loads of people came out: friends, family, people just walking along, taking pictures coming and talking to us” Ifama recalls, noting how joyful the atmosphere was.

Ifama says Twinkleberry was born out of a desire to “make sure this chapter isn’t lost, [document] what were kids doing 10 years ago, building up to this point [of acceptance] that we’re at now”.

She also wanted to address “cultural amnesia about homophobia in the UK,” and depict how young queer people navigated growing up in a society that wasn’t always welcoming.

“[There is] this idea that, the UK is this progressive places [and] always been fine, as if, we didn’t create homophobia.”

Ifama also hopes that Twinkleberry’s relative utopia impresses upon people what happens when kids are allowed to grow up in a loving and open community.

“There’s a lot of like misunderstanding and hatred for trans and gender non-conforming people at the moment,” she says. “And I just hope that people watch this and think: this is what happens when you’re happy and have people who get you and back you.

“We kind of need to we need to make sure that those spaces exist for everybody.”

Ultimately, she wants young, queer kids who think that they’re alone to walk away knowing “there [will be] a group of people for you somewhere, you will find them even in the tiniest little dot in the UK, there will be people who support you and understand you”.

Twinkleberry was funded by Netflix’s Documentary Talent Fund, an initiative to support emerging filmmakers. Each of the 10 recipients were asked to answer the prompt: “Britain’s Not Boring And Here’s a Story.”

The resulting 10 films will premiere via a Netflix TikTok Live taking place at 7pm on Friday here.

They will then drop on Netflix’s YouTube Channel Still Watching on Sunday at 2pm.

More: netflix

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