Friday, August 5, 2011

Cinematically Inclined: Vancouver Queer Film Festival 2011

Now in its 23rd year, the annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival will commence two weeks after the Pride activities in town, just ahead our own International Film Festival in the early fall (is it that close already?). An annual celebration of film, it is placed strategically after Pride on the social calendar to catch the residual excitement of the Pride events. Featuring works by and for the LGBT community, the festival is one of the largest amongst its kind in North America and features a number of hard-to-find titles that often become festival favourites, but may not necessarily secure distribution deals. It is an opportunity to show these works to a larger audience, one beyond DVD and the late-night HBO rerun schedule.

A number of films are being grouped under different focuses and titles to cater to the more discerning viewer. Younger-oriented films are marketed under the “Fierce and Under 25” category. The neo-New Wave Queer films are grouped under the heading “New Gender-Queer Cinema”, as a throwback to the 80s heyday of filmmakers such as Derek Jarman, Todd Haynes and Lizzie Borden. There is also the “Celebrate Queer Vancouver” theme which spotlights local history, and a focus on Asian LGBT cinema. For those festival-goers looking for films with a common theme, these focuses help create de facto ready-made themed viewing packages (although tickets to each of these focuses are sold separately). There’s also a tribute to queer director Bruce LaBruce scheduled for the evening of August 14.

Here are some of the noteworthy titles that are playing the VQFF, but take note that it is by no means an exhaustive list:

To Faro (Mein Freund aus Faro)
The opening night gala, this is a cross between Boys Don’t Cry and Fucking Amal, set in Germany, and tells a coming-of-age tale with a transgender twist.

Grown Up Movie Star
A selection from the Sundance Film Festival, this feature tells the tale of a dysfunctional father-daughter dynamic: he is a disgraced, closeted former NHL star, and she’s dangerously rebellious. This is presented as the Centerpiece Gala and is accompanied by a party at The Helm lounge.

Different from Whom? (Diverso Da Chi?)
The closing night gala presentation is an Italian comedy about the efforts of an openly gay human rights activist and a fiercely conservative politician running together for public office to stop the mayor from erecting a wall to encircle and enclose their beloved city.

Going Down in LA-LA Land
Made by the director of last year’s festival favourite Violet Tendencies, this is a romance between an aspiring actor and a famous but closeted TV sitcom star. Hilarity ensues.

Judas Kiss
Starring Saskatchewan native Charlie David, this is the story of a failed film director returning to his hometown to judge a student filmmaking contest and falls in love with one of the contestants. The plotline alone echoes Thom Fitzgerald’s 1997 masterpiece The Hanging Garden.

The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan
It may surprise you to learn that there is a secret trade in the country where orphaned youth and young men are acquired for sexual purposes by older businessmen, politicians, and military officials. This bold documentary exposes the hypocrisy of Taliban and post-Taliban Afghanistan.

The Night Watch
Made by the BBC, this is the film version of one of Sarah Waters’s most acclaimed works. Following in the footsteps of the successful adaptation of Tipping the Velvet, this explores the effects of war and loss on three British WWII survivors.

Winner of the Teddy Bear Award at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival, this is a pair of two films exploring gender identity and intersex romance, with the use of modern medicine to question the nature of love.

We Were Here
An exploration of San Francisco in the 1970s and 1980s, from gay liberation to the ravages of AIDS on the community.

A young intersex girl challenges the mean girls at her school to a dance-off, with leg warmers, hairspray and a 1990s pop music soundtrack, this comedy won the Best Feature prize at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival Virtual.

Reflection / Refraction
A dazzling combined performance art and short film project, this anthology of five short films is the brainchild of director Jen Crothers and contemporary dance artist Kristina Lemieux. You can find more on the film’s event page on Facebook

Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seek Same
Is it a Sapphic twist on Plan 9 from Outer Space? An homage in the vein of Mars Attacks!? Regardless, I’m going to see this just because it may have the single best title of any one film at the Festival.

In addition to the selection of films, a number of cinematic discussions with a queer focus will take place during the ten days of the festival, including workshops, artist presentations and lectures. There are also a number of performances by the Blogger’s friend, the effortlessly magnetic drag king Edward Malaprop. And there are of course a number of parties, including the opening night gala at 560, the Fierce and Under 25 mixer at the Roundhouse Community Centre, the Centerpiece Gala and the Closing Gala at the famed Celebrities Night Club.

The 23rd Vancouver Queer Film Festival will run from August 11 to 21, 2011, at numerous cinemas, clubs and bars in the City of Vancouver. It should be noted that the innovative Out in Schools project will be one of the beneficiaries of the proceeds earned from the festival, as the project will continue its aim on educating schools in British Columbia on homophobia, bullying and creating safer school atmospheres. Your ticket to the festival will help to fund this worthy, ongoing project. To show how far the community has come, the Festival is being generally supported by a number of large Canadian and international corporations, such as TELUS, Cineplex, Empire Cinemas, TD Bank, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Smirnoff, Vancity Credit Union, the Sandman Suites and Delta Hotels. The festival is also supported by the City of Vancouver, the Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia, the BC Arts Council, Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts.

You can find out more about the festival on their website