Vancouver Queer Film Festival corrals crowd pleasers

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      Going into its 25th year, the Vancouver Queer Film Festival appears to be in very good hands.

      “It’s the plum job, the stuff of the festival; the whole reason we’re coming together,” says new director of festival programming Shana Myara during a visit to the Straight offices. After four years with Amber Dawn at the helm, Myara inherits the second biggest film festival in the city. “I couldn’t resist,” she adds. “It’s a labour of love.”

      No kidding. After signing on in January followed by a quick pond hop to the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, Myara and her programming committee culled almost 40 features and three separate shorts collections from 400 submissions. As a festival veteran herself—she started volunteering for VQFF 13 years ago—Myara is aware of the inclusive nature of the bill. “Queer people are as diverse as all people,” as she puts it, but her stamp is right there in this year’s gala presentations.

      Opening the festival on Thursday (August 15, followed by a party at FanClub) Magnificent Presence is, as the program guide notes, “a refreshing change of pace from the common queer cinema experience”.

      “It’s a wonderful film about how history never goes away,” Myara says of the picturesque, supernatural comedy, written and directed by Italian-Turkish filmmaker Ferzan Ozpetek. “A very enjoyable, crowd-pleasing film.”

      Closing the festival 10 days later on Sunday, August 25, Frauensee is a luminous drama about the complications that arise between two couples of divergent age. “It presents some very familiar scenarios about the way our relationships can get entangled with other lesbian relationships,” she says with what looks and sounds like a weary chuckle.

      Two remaining gala nights are equally striking. Heading up seven international movies covering everything from cosplayers in Vancouver to queer kids in China, G.B.F is a rip-roaring gala presentation in VQFF’s under-25 stream. The Megan Mullaly comedy screens on Friday, August 23.

      And then there’s Chitrangada: The Crowning Wish, which forms the festival’s centrepiece gala on Thursday, August 22. Myara clearly feels very strongly about this one, which concludes the festival’s first ever Focus on India.

      “He was beloved and lampooned quite a bit because of his own gender expression, which was very fluid,” Myara says of actor-director Rituparno Ghosh, who died just as plans were being finalized to bring the filmmaker to Vancouver. “His films especially have the power to kick start some of those conversations in Indian cinema. And I think when you look now, in what they’re calling the hundredth year of Indian cinema, they’re on the cusp of having their own kind of queer cinema renaissance.”

      As ever, VQFF also offers outside events including a panel on cultural boycotts, a workshop by writer Michelle Tea, whose memoir Valencia has been turned into one of the more intriguing feature films coming this year. The festival will also present its first PechaKucha, in which a series of speakers will each speak to a series of 20 slides, with each image remaining on-screen for 20 seconds. Creator of the blockbuster web series The Outs, Adam Goldman is among the speakers on Sunday, August 18.

      “If you tried to imagine a Vancouver without this festival you’d feel bereft of something very special,” says Myara.

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