This year’s Vancouver Queer film festival offers some unexpected stories; from a gay Filipino boy working in an unfamiliar culture to the true story of Power-ful voices from today’s diverse and multitalented youth performers. All have elements which speak to open-dialogue, a safe space, acceptance and the opportunity for growth and accomplishment.
Boy- A first choice
Shana Myara, Director of Festival Programming at this year’s Vancouver Queer Film Festival, came across the Filipino film and chose it before any other film for this year’s lineup.
“I was entranced by the nuances,” says Myara. “It’s a feeling of being invisible and yet vulnerably visible.”
Myara started a film festival at 19 and knew a career in the arts was her calling. Growing up on Vancouver Island, Myara didn’t talk about her sexuality but it was a move to Vancouver in 1996 that was her ‘coming out’. The daughter of a Moroccan father and a German-Portuguese mother, Myara says despite people’s differences, the ‘glue’ that holds us together is film.
A part of the annual Migrant Voices Presentation and in partnership with Migrante BC – the grassroots community organization of Filipino immigrants and migrants – Boy is a movie about a gay Filipino youth who becomes a caretaker for a Dutch master. The protagonist known as Boy, sends the money he earns to his lover and family back in the Philippines. Boy falls for a rich art broker in his new country and the rest of his story unfolds.
“The movie shatters the stereotype of Filipinos engaged in caregiving work and shows the spirit of endurance of Filipinos in their host countries,” says Erie Maestro, founding member of Migrante BC. The group is committed to the inclusion and promotion of respect and acceptance of the Filipino LGBTQ community.
Maestro says an immigrant or migrant’s experience is affected by many things: country of origin, gender and status. A position deemed ‘low-skilled’ such as a live-in caregiver can make immigrants or migrants vulnerable to potential abuse and exploitation. Adding to this, one’s sexual orientation or ‘coming out’ can significantly affect his or her experience.
“The movie is thoughtfully made, stripped of the hysterics usually found in Filipino commercial gay movies. It asks more questions than it gives answers,” says Erie Maestro .
The films in this year’s Queer Film Festival, including Boy, reflect the diversity of their creators, with over 50 per cent female directors headlining in 2014, says Myara.
“I’m really proud of our lineup,” says Myara who says some films came directly from prestigious festivals such Sundance. “The pedigree and diversity is definitely there.”
One local female director who’s happy and grateful to be a part of this list is Elaine Carol.
Growing up in Montreal and later in Toronto, Carol honed her artistic talents at professional film and theatre schools. She also toured the country as a rap artist and solo performance artist. Yet, it wasn’t easy growing up as a queer woman.
“It took me so long to come out. I was 26 years old. There were a lack of [re]sources and supportive communities,” says Carol.
She moved to Vancouver in 1996 and joined forces with transgendered people, queer women and women of colour to form Miscellaneous Productions where she currently sits as Artistic Director. Carol describes the organization as a “theatre boot camp for socially and diverse youth and a full interdisciplinary arts program with some of the best performers and teachers in town.” Miscellaneous Productions work with youth as young as 13 (evident in her latest film Power) but the age range is generally 14-24 year olds.
Carol’s says it is all about creating a safe space for young people. “We don’t out the youth who are queer. Yes, some do come out to me privately but it’s not a part of their performance. We have to be extremely sensitive to that.”
In her latest work, Power, director Carol puts forth a documentary about a diverse group of youth in East Vancouver who lend their voices about their journey in the performing arts.
Carol says the LGBTQ movement has come a long way from her days growing up on the east coast. “I’m so proud of my generation for the activism,” she says.
There’s still a ways to go, Carol adds. Despite mainstream dialogue on sexuality and events such as Pride, Carol’s students tell her homophobia is still an issue in today’s schools.
She says the Vancouver Queer Film Festival is a crucial community event– for both the progression of the LGBTQ movement and an artistic avenue for filmmakers.
“It’s one of the only places that filmmakers like me can get their work out there. It’s hugely important to see work that you normally don’t see,” says Carol.
For more information on the festival please visit