Queer film festival celebrates 25 years

Queer film theatre-goers at last year’s festival. |  Photo courtesy of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival

Queer film theatre-goers at last year’s festival. | Photo courtesy of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival

Queer stories come out on screen from August 15–25, as the annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival celebrates LGBTQ films and filmmakers in various venues around town. This year marks a milestone in the festival’s history, as it celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Shana Myara, director of festival programming, says that this year’s festivities are a chance to look back and see how our lives and the community has changed, as well as an opportunity for the community to think about what they want the future to look like.

The community will largely shape the direction the festival takes moving forward. As part of the 25th anniversary focus, the festival will host a PechaKucha event, called “Who are we, Cinema?” Invited speakers will talk about what role cinema has played in queer lives and what it can continue to say in the future. Myara notes that special guest, Adam Goldman, creator of popular online dramatic series, The Outs, will arrive from Brooklyn. Myara describes Goldman as part of the new generation of artists that bypass traditional distribution sources, and instead bring their work directly to the audience.

Focus on India

The VQFF is doing something else different this year with their Focus on India series. The focus on India was largely inspired by Rituparno Ghosh’s film, Chitrangada: The Crowning Wish, which is the centrepiece gala film. The film explores a particular Indian law that prohibits same-sex couples from adopting a child. Ghosh was slated to be this year’s special guest but had passed away last May from cardiac arrest.

Film capture from In-between Days. | Photo courtesy of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival

Film capture from In-between Days. | Photo courtesy of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival

Another notable Indian film is documentary In-between Days, by Sankhajit Biswas. The friendship of two best friends is tested as they compete for a senior position in an organization for HIV-prevention outreach. Biswas follows Chiranjit and Bubai around the streets of Kolkata as they navigate their way through the sex trade, companionship and survival.

In an email interview, Biswas told The Source that many documentaries about the LGBT community might come across as ‘preachy.’ Instead, he wanted his film to be more of an observational study.

“This way, I wanted to show that they are ‘normal’ human beings and undergo similar life experiences as we do. Let’s not treat them as ‘different.’ That’s humiliation,” he says.

Although the situation of transgendered communities in Vancouver and India are very different, Biswas points out it’s important to understand and sympathize with communities in other parts of the world. In India’s case, transgender boys are particularly at risk because Indian society believes that males are less affected by sexual exploitation than girls, so they are not protected.

Biswas believes that Vancouver audiences will be able to emotionally relate to the characters and also see a “slice of life” from a very different country.

“I think these crisis situations in the lives of Bubai and Chiranjit are something that binds an audience to a film. It is local and universal at the same time,” he says.

Other events to watch

There will also be a selection of international dramas like Magnificent Presence (Italy) and Bwakaw (Philippines).

Myara suggests audiences check out other events like another 25th anniversary event focus, called “Lot in Sodom & Vintage Queer Porn.” They will be showcasing vintage queer silent films from the 1920s and 1930s, accompanied with a live musical score, courtesy of local musicians. Myara mentions that some of the films were very racy, of the pornographic variety, but some of them were also made for popular media.

Looking back on the past 25 years, Myara believes the festival is an integral part of strengthening Vancouver’s queer communities. She indicates that popular media may focus on heterosexual love stories most of the time.

“But for this 11 days, we’re the stars of the show. Our gaze and sensibility rules and we get to talk about issues that are very important to our community,” says Myara.

Myara hopes that the festival provokes thought within the community and brings people together for a stellar collection of films.