2016 marks the 28th Anniversary of Out On Screen’s Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Between August 11 and 21, the festival is screening 35+ queer films at several venues around Vancouver. I love the VQFF because it is a chance for the LGBTQ2 community (and friends) to come together and see films that are not mainstream and that tell different stories – our stories.
This year Susannah and I chose 3 films to see; Women Who Kill, Aligarh, and Fire Song. We selected these films because their synopses sounded interesting but also because their settings and genres were so different from each other. We chose a woman’s story, a foreign story, and a First Nations’ story.
First up was the thriller, Women Who Kill. Morgan (played by writer and director Ingrid Jungermann), is a podcaster whose life is closely entwined with her ex-partner and podcast co-host, Jean. When Morgan meets the mysterious Simone, she embarks on an exciting and fearful journey that is potentially lethal.
Women Who Kill is primarily a thriller. The plot is story driven and it’s a story that anyone can relate to. Although this movie is about women and features almost all lesbian characters, the characters could have been male or female, gay or straight. It doesn’t matter, the story and theme would still hold. In my opinion, one of the purposes of Queer film is to normalize not marginalize people and I really feel this movie did that. It was great to watch a cast of women in a film and to feel that that was perfectly normal.
Aligarh is an Indian biographical drama film directed by Hansal Mehta and written by Apurva Asrani. Set just after Delhi High Court’s discharge of Section 377 (the anti-sodomy law), it revolves around the story of Dr Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras who, without his permission, is filmed at his home in bed with a male rickshaw driver. Consequently, he is suspended from his position at Aligarh Muslim University on charges of immorality (homosexuality).
His story is investigated by ambitious young journalist Deepu (played by Rajkummar Rao), who explores media ethics and the legality behind Siras’s suspension.
Aligarh is a very important tale that explores the intersections between culture, social change, religion, and sexuality. Manoj Bajpayee is great, bringing soft nuances of expression well befitting his character Siras, who is also a poet.
This film is a story of professional and personal persecution that is not unusual in countries where LGBTQ2 people are marginalized or persecuted. It was extremely moving and made me very aware of how lucky I am to live in Canada.
Our final movie from VQFF, Fire Song, tells the story of Shane, a two-spirited high school senior who is struggling to maintain the balance of self, family and culture. Set on a northern Ontario Anishinaabe reserve, the film tackles the reservation’s problems of alcohol, drugs, suicide and loss, and the challenges faced by two-spirited people. Fire Song is the first feature from writer/director Adam Garnet Jones who is of Cree and Métis heritage.
The concept of “two-spirit” is something that is new to me and has recently been incorporated into the LGBTQ2 acronym with the addition of the “2” at the end. I absolutely love to see acknowledgment of our First Nation’s brothers and sisters in our community.
The film was engaging and moving but at the same time full of hope. Fire Song is a story that needs to be told and was my favourite of the three movies we saw.
The Film Festival aims to show queer films with a different perspective; to make social change through storytelling. Unlike mainstream movies, the VQFF offers a broad spectrum of film-makers – movies made by women, First Nations, transgender, people of colour – movies that embrace and share both our struggles and triumphs. Life is not perfect in these movies, many are about challenge or struggle, but all serve to make our voices louder.
I can’t wait to see what next year’s films will be.