Vancouver Queer Film Festival 2018 gives prominence to Asian filmmakers

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      In a city like Vancouver where approximately one-third of citizens are of Asian descent, it's unfortunate and disconcerting when local Asian representation continues to be neglected, overlooked, or an uphill battle, outside of Asian Canadian initiatives. 

      That's not the case at this year's Vancouver Queer Film Festival (VQFF), which features works by filmmakers and talent of Asian descent, whether on screen or behind the camera, in prominent positions throughout this year's program.

      Co-curated by artistic directors Anoushka Ratnarajah and Amber Dawn, the 30th anniversary edition of the festival runs from August 9 to 19, with over 70 films from 15 countries.

      Malaysian-born Texas filmmaker Yen Tan will be present as his feature film 1985 opens the festival.

      The domestic drama, set amid the onset of the AIDS epidemic, depicts what happens when a closeted gay man (portrayed by Cory Michael Smith) returns to his Texas hometown to tell his conservative parents that he has the then-little-understood disease.

      The cast also includes Michael Chiklis, Virginia Madsen, and Jamie Chung.

      1985
      Dutch Rall

      The centrepiece gala will highlight L.A.–based Korean American comedian, writer, and actor Vivian Bang, who cowrote and stars in the comedy White Rabbit, about a struggling Korean American performance artist who falls for a photographer who is pursuing her own artistic career.

      Visiting filmmakers will include PJ Raval with the documentary Call Her Ganda, about a transgender Filipina murdered by a U.S. serviceman, and Debalina Majumder, who examines the suicides of two young girls in West Bengal with her films "If You Dare Desire…" and "…and the unclaimed". 

      "If You Dare Desire…"

      Canadian broadcaster, musician, and artist Sook-Yin Lee will also attend the screening of her sophomore film Octavio is Dead!, a gender-bending supernatural thriller about a woman who attempts to understand her recently deceased father, whom she never met.

      Coinciding with the Year of the Queer in Vancouver, a celebration of several local LGBT organizations having significant anniversaries this year including VQFF, a number of films delve into queer history.

      We Are the Vancouver Men's Chorus

      The world premiere of Mark Halliday's We Are the Vancouver Men's Chorus will feature cast and crew in attendance, and live performances by the Vancouver Men's Chorus. This documentary takes a look at the development of Canada's first gay men's chorus that launched in 1981.

      For a dark chapter in Canadian queer history, Canadian filmmaker Sarah Fodey's first feature-length documentary The Fruit Machine details the stories of survivors of the Canada's LGBT witch hunt, which the Canadian government apologized for in November 2017. Fodey will be in attendance.

      Fruit Machine

      U.S. filmmaker Shaz Bennett will also be present for her debut feature drama Alaska is a Drag, about an aspiring drag queen in an Alaskan smalltown who is offered boxing training, to be showcased at the Youth Gala.

      A retrospective of the work of Thirza Cuthand will offer a chance to reflect upon the artist-in-residence's work that addresses queer, Indigenous, and colonial issues. Cuthand will also lead a panel discussion about storytelling with four local artists and creative professionals.

      The festival will close with Desiree Akhavan's big-screen adaptation of the novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post, starring Chloë Grace Moretz as a high-school senior who, after her clandestine affair with her best friend is discovered, is sent to a Christian conversion therapy camp in the 1990s.

      Festival passes and tickets are now available online. For more information and full details, visit the VQFF website

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