Out On Screen announced today the program for the 33rd annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival (VQFF), taking place virtually this summer from Thursday, August 12 to Sunday, August 22. Tickets and Passes are available online at www.queerfilmfestival.ca.
VQFF will be presented online in a video-on-demand (VOD) format, with a few small in-person events. Most films will be available throughout the 11-day celebration, with all content available to stream across British Columbia. The Festival will continue to follow the guidance of Public Health in order to offer audiences a COVID-safe viewing experience of the best independent queer cinema, along with workshops, artist Q&As, panels, and a few fun surprises.
VQFF 2021, with the support of presenting sponsor RBC, features six Spotlight Programs, eight Special Presentations, sixteen Feature Films, seven Short Film Programs, and several Workshops and Industry Panels – including a Queer Film 101 primer, a presentation from VQFF’s sibling program Out In Schools, and panels addressing a range of topics from representation to food to politics.
Curated by Artistic Director Anoushka Ratnarajah and Festival Programmer Nya Lewis, the theme of this year’s Festival is ‘Longing’, and many films touch upon the most urgent social and political issues affecting queer, trans and Two-Spirit people around the world, as well as universal themes of love, loss, and legacy.
“One of the greatest challenges facing the work of VQFF and the filmmakers we love is the rise of discriminatory ideologies and policies wielded against our communities around the world, and the toll that violence takes on our spirits,” says Ratnarajah. “Artists are responding to crisis in the best ways they know how: by sharing our stories, and speaking their truths.”
VQFF is thrilled to present a screening of local feature documentary, Well Rounded, which brings fat queers to the front, with interviews from artists to health professionals. Directed by Shana Myara and featuring hilarious, vulnerable and insightful stories from Mi’kmaw comedian and broadcaster Candy Palmater, multidisciplinary performer Ivory, and local queers including style icon Lydia Okello and comedian Joanne Tsung, this documentary balances the personal impacts of fatphobia with scientific facts from Dr. Janet Tomiyama, a psychologist working specifically with the causes and impacts of weight stigma, along with socio-political context provided by historian Dr. Jenny Ellison. Well Rounded is available for a limited release from August 19 to 21, and includes a post-screening Q&A with the director and cast members.
Black queer stories and their filmmakers shine on screens this year as well. Fabulous, directed by Audrey-Jean Baptiste, is a wonderful documentary that follows Lasseindra Ninja, a professional vogue dancer who returns to her home country of French Guiana to teach the beauty and drama of vogue to her own queer community. Director Ashley O’Shay portrays a powerful fight for justice in Unapologetic, which follows the lives of two young Black activists – Janaé Bonsu and Bella BAHHS – and their fight for racial equity amid the worldwide reckoning with police brutality. Highlighting Black queer women’s historic role in advocacy, Unapologetic captivates the painful truths surrounding anti-Black racism movements and the relentless spirit of the community leaders on the front lines in defense of Black lives. And Festival Programmer Nya Lewis has curated a spotlight on Black and African directors and filmmakers shaping cinematic storytelling across the diaspora. This shorts program includes a diverse collection of films that innovatively highlight the beauty and complexity of the African experience. This spotlight, titled Obsidian, is an opportunity for Vancouver audiences to share in the intersectional and nuanced power of Black Queer artistic expression.
With more than 90 films from 20 countries, the Festival shines a spotlight on queer artistic and activist histories and subcultures.
Cured chronicles a group of dedicated activists who went to battle with one of the most formidable gatekeepers to queer health, safety, and freedom: the American Psychiatric Association. This history is sensitively handled by documentary filmmakers Bennett Singer (Brother Outsider) and Patrick Sammon (Codebreaker). With interviews conducted over the course of five years, the stories revealed in this engaging documentary are rich, nuanced, and moving. In No Straight Lines, we meet some of the queer comic artists who brilliantly paved the way for future generations of writers and illustrators. Director Vivian Kleiman charts an undersung history of queer artists who shifted representation ahead of their time. The Fandom takes us on a journey into the imaginative world of Furries – an often misunderstood subculture that finds expression, joy, and authenticity through the anthropomorphic arts. Directed by Ash Kreis, The Fandom provides intimate access to a history and a community, with historical footage and present-day interviews. And Raw! Uncut! Video! is an uncensored and surprisingly tender tale of the legendary Palm Drive Video. When AIDS swept through their community in 1980s San Francisco, married couple Jack Fritscher and Mark Hemry moved to Sonoma County and turned their ranch into a safe sex porn studio that created sexual possibilities and education to generations of gay men.
Celebrating 33 years of illuminating and advancing queer lives through film, education and dialogue, VQFF is Vancouver’s second largest film festival and the largest queer arts event in Western Canada. The full 2021 VQFF program is available online at www.queerfilmfestival.ca.
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