QCC changes as times change (mostly) for the better

by Gregory Beatty


filmQueer City Cinema
Neutral Ground
May 15-17

When Queer City Cinema debuted in 1996, the status of gays and lesbians in our society was much more precarious than it is today. That’s not to say that homophobia doesn’t still exist. Indeed, in some backward corners of the world, laws have recently been passed that subject queers to insane hatred and persecution.

But overall, gays and lesbians enjoy much greater visibility and acceptance than they once did.

For QCC artistic director Gary Varro, that presents both a challenge and opportunity heading into this year’s festival which runs May 15-17 at Neutral Ground.

“I’m always trying to keep it fresh rather than recycling the same coming out and boy-meets-boy/girl-meets-girl stories,” he says. “So I’m veering away from the kind of stuff which seems to populate more mainstream movies and TV shows.”

While Varro agrees that popular depictions of queer characters have helped demystify homosexuality in the public mind, they’ve also created new barriers.

“A lot of the characters are quite digestible and normalized to the point where the argument is made that we’re all the same. I can appreciate that. But at the same time I like the idea of difference, and queerness meaning something that’s not meant to be embraced and given the green light.”

Celebrity same-sex couples appearing on the red carpet together, and athletes like St. Louis Rams draft pick Michael Sam coming out in high-profile (and hyper masculine) pro sports are other examples of strides queer people have made in the past two decades.

Transsexuality, though, is another matter.

“A few years ago I noted in a festival introduction that trans is the new gay and lesbian,” says Varro. “[They’re] going through what gays and lesbians experienced years ago, so it’s important to me to have a whole program dedicated to trans identity and experience.”

Around three-quarters of the films and videos in this year’s festival were culled from the Mix Festival in New York. Inspired by the experimental nature of much of the work, which includes an especially strong animation component, Varro settled on “Perforation” as the festival theme.

“The way the work’s presented, it might not be the typical way of viewing queerness,” he says. “So the idea of perforation is a way of piercing the status quo and offering some other punctures to view this work and be enlightened as to new and different [forms] of queer experience. It’s meant to feature work that’s unusual, risk-taking and outside conventional barriers.”

That doesn’t apply strictly to queer sexuality and identity either. “As much as the festival’s about identity, it’s also about artists and creativity and interests beyond identity,” says Varro.

“One program is called Rebel, Outcast, Outlaw, Alien,” he adds. “Sure, you can be a sexual outcast or outlaw. But you can also be a political outcast, or even an artful one who creates work that disrupts and dismantles [prevailing attitudes] and hopefully creates intelligent dialogue. That’s what I’m hoping for the festival, that it stimulates a sense of that.”

For more information on the festival visit queercitycinema.ca.