David C Jones charts what he likes at this year’s festival

David C. Jones is an arts lover and a critical thinker. He makes films, directs plays, teaches, is a professional emcee and writes for the OUTtv website.  He also loves the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.  Here are David’s take on the many films he saw at this year’s Festival.  Top of the list are his most loved.

grown up movie star

The Queer Film Festival is such a lover of fine films they occasional reach back to bring forward a queer film that was unjustly over looked. They did this with XXY an Argentinian film a couple of years ago and now they showcase Grown Up Movie Star from Canada. What a treat. A singe dad in Newfoundland – a former NFL hockey player is struggling with his homosexuality while raising two daughters one who has just become a sexually aware and rebellious teenager. I judge art on whether it provokes an emotional response as oppose to an intellectual one. This film made me laugh, cry, feel tense and curious. It was perfectly orginal and I never would have seen it is it weren’t for QFF.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qq7ph4FwCc

the night watch

Oh those British, they are experts at repressed feelings and hurt glances. This is a film that plays with time. It starts in 1947. Three different stories intersect, a trio of lesbians, a heterosexual woman trapped in an affair and a young gay man with a dark secret. Then it rewinds 3 years to see where the characters were then and then it jumps back 6 years. Women were emboldened in wartime as they were thrust into the workplace and lesbians more so. Big budget gay war stories not often told and very powerful in its presentation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUOxVAeb8Ec

the wise kids

The Wise Kids

This drama was a last minute addition to the festival replacing Leave It On the Floor and it is the story the musical Bare wanted to be. A very small religious town, three kids about to enter adulthood. One devout, one questioning her faith and one gay..and devout. Other characters are conflicted and in pain but all smiles on the surface. The acting is real and story is so sweet and heartbreaking. Their internal conflicts are haunting me still. Lovely. Check out the trailer. Vancouver is it’s third festival and it’s already one awards at the other two!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUM3HpGHFgk

strapped

This is an odd and mostly successful film for me. It’s like Rod Serling or Jean Paul Satre wrote a soft core fantasy. A young hustler – good at adapting and lying becomes trapped in a building where each apartment leads to a lesson learned or a danger revealed. There is stunning camera and lighting work and the male lead – well, all the cast is stellar. It’s a little slow in spots and you can see the end coming a mile away but this is why I love the festival. This is a gritty queer film – that is not mainstream and you will only see it here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJ_flsYDz64

beautiful rejects

This series of short films was amazing! From the touching Australian film about re-united lovers, Teddy to Jason Karman’s bittersweet I am In The Mood For Love to the twisted comedy of a fey man wanting to be a The Single Mother and the hilarious tenacity of gay skinny dancer in Go Go Reject. A Dragged Out Affair was brilliant (although it started so strong that it’s end was a little flat). All of these pieces were extremely well executed and inspiring and made me think – I have no business trying to be a film maker.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKT53NR4J90

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fv6sfZfwQ5U

the string

If you like your warm and romantic foreign films with a bit of metaphor this Tunisia set story is for you. Malik has returned home after years abroad and as soon as he is re-united with his loving but domineering mother (Claudia Cardinale) strings appear literally and tether him to the home and the past. The scenery is beautiful and cast sexy and dynamic. There is no high drama – when Malik falls in love with a gardener people are surprisingly supportive and even Mom only gets a little non-plussed but recovers quickly. But it is sweet and distracting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbM1Ax4oU0Y

to faro

This German film is about gender identity and unlike Boys Don’t Cry – it gets deep and intense while still maintaining a lite and quirky air. The story of Mel who when mistaken for a boy by some underage girls decides to roll with it. It is heartfelt and not cliched and you have no idea where it is going but you enjoy the ride. The use of silence is also to be commended. A good gentle film.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbNyCySnqhM

gun hill road

Gun Hill Road

Another film about gender identity in a unique setting. Esai Morales plays a hardened jail bird dad who returns home to find his wife dated someone else while he was away and his son is transitioning from Michael to Vanessa. The urban Latino flavour make it fascinating journey and although I saw the screenwriters hand emerge in the last 25 minutes, it was interesting story that provoke a few visceral reactions.  .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYlXBBQNaKA

the coast is queer

One of my favorite things about the festival is how much it supports local film makers and how much the community supports them in doing so. This collection of 14 films was witty, shocking, hopeful, surprising, gentle and in your face. From a grandmother coming to terms with her lesbian grandchild, to a pair of loving parents trying to cure their son of gay with pills to the graphic (!) portrayal of lesbian couple try to conceive a child. The passion and artistry on screen was breathtaking and I was thrilled (and nervous as hell) to have two film in the collection.

queer history project

The Queer Film Festival is one of the few festivals in the world to actually commission films and this series of short films by mostly local artists about different parts of Vancouver’s queer history was inspiring and eye opening and a little tear inducing. As one of the commissioned film makers I was honored to take part.

reflections/refractions

One of the great things about Out on Screen is that it does not always behave like a film festival should and this co-production with the Queer Arts Festival is a great example. Five short experimental films were given to five diverse performing artists who then created a live response to the film. Varying degrees of success but always inspiring. Congrats to Kristina Lemieux and Jen Crothers for this innovative offering.

madame x

A very camp film from Indonesia about a tranny that becomes a super hero defending gays and women from political forces that seeks to oppress them. It’s a slow build and along the way ‘faggot’ is tossed around a lot and there are odd melodramatic deaths but once it gets down to the showdown it becomes a wild chop-socky action film with flying villainesses with sonic screams. Wild! I also admit it felt really good to have a vengeance seeking super hero for the gays.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EI-5lMW93bo

the kind crusaders

It is odd that this documentary about the BDSM community and the International Mr. Leather Men Competition is ranked higher than the harrowing Dancing Boys, but there it is. Director Michael Skiff crafts a film that keeps revealing more twists and new information as it unfolds, he is passionate about his subject matter and a skilled story teller which makes this documentary intriguing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mw8wlRdXAyU

dancing boys of afghanistan

This is a disturbing documentary that is about a bizarre and deadly practice of taking young boys and training them to be dancers and then sexual slaves in a old practise known as Bacha Bazi. To know Muslim men of power in a country that condemns homosexuality are entrapping and then killing boys that they used for sexual pleasure was distressing and revolting. I found the disturbing subject matter delivered in such a cold way however – with calm narration by Juliet Stevenson – distancing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eR1b4ev-2ic

hustler white

As part of the Director Spotlight series this 1996 film (though it looks like it is from the 70’s) starts like Sunset Blyd. with a dead guy floating in pool narrating his own life. A man (director Bruce La Bruce) arrives in Santa Monica to research the gay hustler scene and promptly becomes obsessed with one (Tony Ward). There is gore, porn and the infamous amputee sex scene. It also has a charming and unique way with it’s narrative which explains why it is a Canadian cult classic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJpu9USvUWI

spork

SporkWhen I see a film I don’t like to feel ripped off or manipulated. I am likely in a minority but that is what I felt with Spork. This film is Napoleon Dynamite and Little Miss Sunshine literally rolled into one. It is mistakenly called a musical – but there is only one number in it. Savannah Stehlin is charming but as written very inconsistent. Sometimes she is naive and other times she does things that make her seem mentally disabled. The film just keeps making fun of her. She walks her stuffed dead dog down the street, she gets lipstick on her teeth. spitballs in her hair, muffin to the face. She is a hermaphrodite but it only meant to highlight how weird she is. At the halfway point the film says how it is going to end (someone needs to enter a dance contest and give the prize money to Spork’s friend Tootsie Roll so she can visit her dad in jail) and then does exactly that.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZ5TdPg5Xy8

going down in la la land

This film looks good and has a sexy funny cast. But the story of an actor who accidentally ends up in a porno film after moving to LA, get hooked up with a crack head photographer and then a warmhearted TV star felt a little trumped up drama wise and then the self conscious cameos undermined any chance of real drama. “Look, it’s Perez Hilton playing a nurse talking about celebrity gossip blogs!” I am also not a fan of any romantic film (gay or straight) when two cute people meet, have a drink and then are hopelessly in love to the point of tears if they have to break up a couple of days later. Maybe I am bitter?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwqYk-eU4Qs

porn start

I love these boys – they are so eager to entertain and have fun. This barely an hour long sketch is not really a film but a silly lark with some moments of great wit. I admire their passion and smile and laugh at the their antics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-Fy8_o5wO0

open

This very very slow – pause – film is about – pause – silence – a couple of transgendered – pause – people – going – silence – somewhere. I – pause – never found – silence – ponder – stare with eyes half closed – out where – because – pause – I didn’t care – pause and – I walked – silence – out. It won an award in Berlin – that should have been my first clue. Or maybe I am suffering from festival fatigue.  No further screenings.

Vancouver Queer Film Festival
August 11 – 21, 2011

Visit http://queerfilmfestival.ca for more information on the Festival.  Visit http://davidcjones.ca for more information on David C Jones.

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