Vancouver Queer Film Festival 2011: a look back at the Queer History Project
Urban history that mostly takes place in a city's ever-shifting nightlife can easily be lost or difficult to recover. But compound that with invisibility, discrimination, and covertness, and a historian's job becomes even more challenging.
Well, this challenge was something that the Queer History Project, initiated by Out on Screen (the organization that also runs the Vancouver Queer Film Festival), was undaunted by. Over the past five years, they commissioned 14 artists, including writers, dancers, visual artists, comedians, and more, to make short films that would illuminate different facets of Vancouver's queer history.
Now that the project has run its course, the entire nine film series will be presented in a retrospective at Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour Street) tonight (August 15) at 9:30 p.m. as part of this year's Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
You may have seen some of the offerings before at previous festivals. For instance, you might have caught Daphne Marlatt and Aerlyn Weissman's "The Portside" at the 2009 festival. It's a historical drama set in a lesbian venue that existed in the '70s and offers a glimpse of what life was like during the disco days.
On the other hand, if you missed catching some of these films, now's your chance to not only see them, but watch them all together as a collection. (The directors and cast will also be in attendance.)
If you missed writer Ivan E. Coyote and musician Veda Hille's "The Love That Won't Shut Up", it's a great opportunity to see how much has changed over the years. The 2007 documentary captures gays and lesbians reminiscing what they remember life was like growing up gay in Vancouver in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. It's enlightening to see how different life was then than it is now in places like the Davie Village and it can help younger viewers appreciate some of the things they might take for granted about contemporary gay life.
There's also David C. Jones' "Laughing Behind Enemy Lines", which looks at club owners and performers who dared to broach homosexuality issues from the 1950s to the '80s.
For a slice of history even further back, "Rex vs. Singh" takes a look at a 1915 sodomy case against two Sikh millworkers in B.C. Three directors—Ali Kazimi, John Greyson, Richard Fung—each shot their take of the trial, and reveal how anti-homosexual laws were used by corrupt police to target visible minorities.
Other selections include films by Gwen Haworth (perhaps better known for her gender-transition documentary She's a Boy I Knew) and visual artists Joe Average and Jamie Griffiths (about Joe Average's lipoatrophy, or loss of fat tissue, due to drugs for HIV/AIDS).
Just before that screening, you can catch a slice of the contemporary queer arts scene with "Reflection/Refraction", a presentation of short films and performances, at 7 p.m. also at Vancity Theatre.
The lineup looks quite promising and intriguing, with five short films (including work by Thirza Cuthand, Wayne Yung, and Michael V. Smith) each paired up with different performers, including a hoop dancer, a drag queen, a spoken-word artist, and musicians.
The Vancouver Queer Film Festival runs until Sunday (August 21) so there are plenty of other titles coming up, not to mention workshops, performances, talks, and parties. Check out the full lineup at the VQFF website.
Follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig.