Queer craving: a cinema of challenging narratives and stereotypes at VQFF

Photo courtesy of VQFF

Anoushka Ratnarajah, artistic director of the 33rd Annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival, indicates that this year’s event can be a special place for learning and growth through experiencing art. She argues that because stories create profound opportunities for connection, it becomes important to have spaces for queer folks to experience that bond, to understand their histories, speak to their presents, and imagine their futures.

Running until Aug. 22, the festival is streaming a range of films that allow viewers to engage with these possibilities.

“It’s incredibly important for there to be a queer focused film festival in Vancouver that continues to evolve and grow to meet the needs of our communities. It’s vital for us to continue to provide a platform for our local queer filmmakers and support their growth as artists,” says Ratnarajah.

She understands that filmmakers can have an incredible capacity to create empathetic opportunities through storytelling and transform culture as a result.

“Our festival is queer in the sense that we strive to serve and uplift as many narratives as possible from the diverse communities that identify under that umbrella,” says Ratnarajah.

What to watch? Tales of strong desire

The festival’s diverse program will explore this year’s theme – longing, a persistent desire or craving, especially for something, someone or some situation that is unattainable – through stories of love, sexual awakenings, community building, and artistic expression.

Invited to suggest her favorite titles to the audience, she mentions Forgotten Roads (screening August 12–18) and Cured
(screening August 12–22).

Cinema can act like a special place where learning and growth can be possible through experiencing art. | Photo courtesy of VQFF

Forgotten Roads (Chile, 2020, by Nicol Ruiz Benavides) is one of my favourites — it’s so gratifying to see a nuanced, sexy and daring lesbian film featuring older women and directed by a queer woman. And in keeping with much of Latin American cinema, there are moments of true magic and mystery” says Ratnarajah.

In the story, 70-year-old Claudina finds herself swept into a delicious love affair, and a new awareness of herself. As she connects with her sexuality and finds a community of queers who find refuge in the local underground queer bar and cabaret, Claudina becomes enamoured not just by Elsa and her new friends, but also by the sense of freedom and autonomy.

“I also think Cured (USA, 2020, by Bennett Singer and Patrick Sammon) is a really important watch for our community,” she adds.

The film documents the fight to remove homosexuality from its classification as a mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). “I think it’s important for our communities to see our successes celebrated and to reflect on our histories,” she concludes.

How to watch? Experiencing the online festival

To Ratnarajah, going digital as a result of the pandemic has allowed VQFF to expand its reach to queer communities that haven’t been able to engage with the festival before because of geography and mobility.

Though digital, the festival will continue to bring viewers together around stories that speak to a plethora of queer experiences – challenging dominant narratives and stereotypes of queer people in film and showcasing works that are filmed through an experiential lens.

Throughout its program of more than 30 screening options, this year’s festival is really an event for all.

Viewers can access the full program and buy tickets for films being streamed at: www.outonscreen.com/vqff.