VQFF – 30 years of Expressive Creativity

For its 30th year, VQFF has shown to have a wide variety of many amazing events to make it the most memorable so far. As you may have gathered from my last article, Vancouver Queer Film Festival is locally based (like other events I cover) but submissions are about a certain demographic: LGTBQ. With the United States accepting gay marriage a couple years back and Trudeau apologizing to the gay community (he did something right), Trans and Queer are (hopefully) being accepted just as much as veganism and going gluten-free. At least I hope for it to be so, depending on whether or not school libraries still ban books about duo dads.  For someone who was raised during a time when homosexuality was considerably controversial, I became quite open to their community because I’ve always felt a feeling of acceptance towards them. This festival truly shows off their colours and they’ve succeeded at making a rainbow of creativity. Of course, it wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for all the amazing partners and sponsorship it received. So I’d like to give shoutouts to RBC for their generosity, the LGTBQ community for their extremely kind support, Teresa Trovato for hooking up the hnmag team with media passes, all the volunteers and everyone else involved with making this program go perfectly.

Now here is an amazing glimpse of all that happened at the festival of this year (I’ve already covered the opening gala so I’ll discuss the other things) :

Feature Screenings – The storylines all contain different either Lesbian, Homosexual, or Trans, even a little bit of drag, but there’s a wide variety of plots and genres. Shaun has done a great job in covering the two opening films so here are some of my personal favourites. The Year I Lost My Mind is disturbing but funny. Exploring the life of a young man who has a habit of wearing animal masks and breaking into homosexual’s apartment, slowly developing into a gay person himself. This film described why certain dark obsessions are meant to cease before they get out of that. After watching this I realized it’s probably a good thing my emo phase faded out rather rapidly. 

Another film that focuses on the subject of homosexuals is Tinta Bruta (Hard Paint), which focuses on socially awkward Pedro, who lives alone putting on an online show dousing himself with glow-in-the dark paint. When he discovers his first copycat, they actually form a strong bond together which shows competition can sometimes turn into a merger. Really cool and intense.

There’s a fair share of lesbian films as well, like Extra Terrestres which was one of the more interesting films. Teresa comes home to her family in Puerto Rico to tell her family about her spouse, another woman. But before she can come out to the family, she has a much bigger issue helping out her father as his poultry breeding business is on the verge of going down the pipes. An extremely well thought out film that not only was heartwarming but amusing at times as well. 

Lesbian films do have a habit of being extremely funny, as one of the more humorous ones was Freelancers Anonymous, the strange story of a young lady named Billie (not sure on her name’s backstory) as she’s getting married to her love Gayle, and at the same time opening up her own business alongside her newfound unemployed associates who get together at a church group. An extremely fun film to watch with all kinds of over-the-top ridiculousness that I enjoyed. Which is unusual because I don’t usually enjoy that kind of humour. But then, I didn’t expect it to turn out like that, I almost thought it would be like some other movie I watched about an oddly named lesbian chick.

A more serious approach was documentaries, and one good strong documentary was The Fruit Machine, which focused on many veterans of the Canadian forces (women mostly) who went through the dreaded process of being put in a room with two guys who asked the same questions repeatedly and then being ejected from the forces if you were gay. People got a couple of laughs out of this, but it actually really hit them in the feels and made them understand things a bit better after this subject spent too many years in silence. I was extremely moved.

50 Years of Fabulous was an interesting documentary that explored the drag industry in San Francisco. Starting from the years when homosexuality was strictly forbidden leading up to the years where it is proudly embraced. Directed by Jethro Patalinghug, the interviews and live clips were ver genuine and well-arranged into a properly made documentary that explored more than homosexuality but also Emperors and Empresses from LA’s drag industry.

Workshops – It was hard for me to get involved in any of these. There were only three anyway. The first was for screenwriters, which required a script to get in, specifically a script about LGTB2Q+. From what I gathered, that one was hosted by Joshua M Ferguson and Florian Halbedi for about 3 hours. I kind of wish I applied so I could get more details. Another workshop giving insider info for artists was strictly for queer and trans people of colour, to which I was none of the above. But I did manage to get into Community Digital Storytelling with Love Intersections (quite a mouthful). Hosted by David Ng and Jen Sungshine, they explain stories about a series they made, as well as some stories they collected during their experience. It was a very thorough and interesting seminar.

Short Film Showcases – There were quite a few of these this year. Troublemakers 3.0 (3rd year in a row) was a short film showcase which featured documentaries (mostly) about trans, queer, and two spirit people who tell their interesting life stories and how they made a difference. This was probably one of the most interesting showcases which really dwelled deep in history. 

There was also Thirza Cuthand: New and Retrospective, which was pretty much a showcase screening short films made by Third Cuthand over the years. Not really much, but the whole thing was a mix between humorous and educational.  The Coast is Queer was a rather fun showcase ranging with all sorts of funny films such as The Pigeon, Pass the Salt, and The Common Fag. One of the more newer short film case editions was The Coast is Genderqueer, which focuses more on transgender stories. Since it’s new there was only 5 shorts showcased at this one but they were all very informative. Indigiqueer Shorts from Turtle Island & Aotearoa was quite the wild mix itself, showcasing some of the funniest work I have ever seen.

Youth Gala – Premiering at this particular gala was Alaska is a Drag, a film about best friends/twins Leo and Tristan are sick of life in a small town in Alaska and have plans to move out so they can find their long lost mother. At the same time, Leo finds himself dealing with his co-workers mocking him for his homosexuality and Tristan is having to deal with cancer herself. The film was very heartwarming and at the end everyone got to see young people put on a drag show. I learned that the host wasn’t super flexible in movement that night.

Debalina: Documenting, Dreaming – A two-parter screening event which showcased two feature films about two young girls residing in West Bengal. Swapna and Shucheta had a very close relationship that their parents had heavily disapproved of. So they ran away to pursue their love life without any interference, but came across quite a few hurdles on the way which eventually lead to them both inhaling poison to kill themselves. The first film showcased the aftermath of their suicide and how it affected the family and friends, along with interviews of trans and queers in the Indian community. After that came the second film which was more focused on the two girls and their journey along with a closer look into their relationship. A very dark story with some heartwarming feels throughout, it really had me moved. 

Centrepiece Gala: White Rabbit The halfway point at VQFF, was the showcase of the hilarious and somewhat complex screening of a movie that just barely scraped the surface of lesbian feelings. Beginning artist and occasional fill-in Sophia wants to make herself heard (and seen) in LA, with her style of art, which ranges from making videos of her face planting herself in different substances to wearing all white and making public speeches about the riots and her childhood. But after one bad meeting with another lady named Victoria, the two surprisingly see each other everywhere and somehow become friends rather quickly. But Sophia feels she’s more than just friends. This was a perfect movie for the middle of the fest complete with a Q&A at the end with Nana Ghana, the actress for Victoria, who is just amazing in real life as she is in the movie. Truly a fun showcase that got everyone in a good mood.

We Are the Vancouver Men’s Chorus – Roughly the length of a tv show, the documentary discussed one of the most vocally talented gay organizations of Vancouver, The Vancouver Men’s Chorus. But before that, members of the chorus (from the first three rows) stepped onto the stage to sing Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now” complete with six of them dancing all around. A very educational and amusing showcase of a film, I quite enjoyed this.

Love Intersections: New and Retrospective – Once again hosted by David Ng and Jen Sungshine, this was a short series showcase of their interesting new series, Finding, which told many stories about different people in the queer community, some of the rather unique people, so to speak. This was a fun showcase which even had a drag queen come through in the middle and do a live performance.

Closing Gala – This had to be the best. The whole place was jam-packed. On the final night of the closing gala, it was a night of many amazing happenings. Okay, well it was more of a couple speeches, a tribal anthem performance, 3 awards, and a screening. As for the 3 awards, the best feature (surprisingly) was a musical called Saturday Church, which told the story of Ulysses who is the new man of his house after his father died and at the same time is debating his gender identity.  The best short film was Beauty, an amazing short film about transgender children (Darren goes into better detail). Finally, the Gerry Brunet Memorial Award went to a short film called Colors, which was a short animation about an Asian teen feeling nervous about coming out. All 3 were amazing works of art, and finally the film to finish off the event was The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a hilarious and strong-willed film about a young girl and her secret lesbian relationship which gets her sent to a special camp run by the kinds of Christians who abolish homosexuality. This film was so amazing. Even more fun was how sometimes people would interject and overreact to the amazing statements delivered in the dialogue. Once that was all over, there was something of a party at Junction afterward, though I don’t have much to say regarding that.

VQFF was an amazing event. It gave a sense of inclusiveness, the films were very well established and made, and the whole thing was a lot of fun to attend. To the LGTB2Q community, you folks keep fighting the good fight, keep staying strong. I hope to check this out again next year.


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