VIFF 2014: Queer cinema from Canada and beyond

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      The Vancouver International Film Festival, which is pretty much the equivalent of several film festivals hidden within a festival, again offers up a plentiful serving of queer cinema.

      This year in that regard, there are 11 features and one short film.

      Three offerings are homegrown fare.

      Vancouver has had a notable year in progress for transgender people at the Vancouver School Board and Vancouver Park Board, and in this year's B.C. Spotlight at VIFF, there's a rom-com with a transgender protagonist. In Two 4 One, starring Gavin Crawford, Naomi Sneickus, and Gabrielle Rose, a couple have a one-night stand that—intriguingly—results in both of them pregnant (!).  

      Canadian director Martin Edralin explores a disabled queer man's desire for intimacy in the short film "Hole".

      Xavier Dolan, who has dazzled the world with his queer cinema, is back, this time with Mommy, about a single mother struggling to raise her troubled teenage son who is befriended by a mysterious neighbour. This fifth feature by the Quebec writer-director shared the special jury award with the legendary Jean-Luc Goddard. He also stars in two other films at the festival: Elephant Song and Miraculum. (For more details, see this article.)

      From the U.S., the documentary Regarding Susan Sontag takes a look at the notable American writer and activist. Also, New Queer Cinema filmmaker Greg Araki (Mysterious Skin) is back with White Bird in a Blizzard, about a girl whose disturbed mother vanishes.

      Films from Australia, Belgium, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, and Sweden round out the mix.  

      Here's a list of LGBT films at this year's VIFF.

      52 Tuesdays

      Australia, 2013

      So much can happen in a year. For instance, your mom can transition from female to male. Such is the case in Sophie Hyde’s provocative, authentic and refreshingly modern coming-of-age tale. Handled with care and restraint, “(this) accessible narrative experiment boasts breakout talent in front of and behind the camera.”—Variety. Winner, Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic, Sundance 2014.

      Before the Last Curtain Falls

      (Bevor der letzte Vorhang fällt)

      Canada/Belgium/Germany, 2014

      It’s closing night for popular Belgian cabaret Gardenia and its gay and trans stars face reintroduction into reality. Mixing avant-garde choreography with confessional interviews, Thomas Wallner offers “an endearing recollection of life as an outsider, a sincere exploration of queer identity, and a stunning celebration of the communion we achieve in art.”—Indiewire. Winner, Special Jury Prize: Canadian Feature, Hot Docs 2014.


      (Mahoro Eki-mae Kyosokyoku)

      Japan, 2014

      Director Omori Tatsushi follows The Ravine of Goodbye with a delicious comedy-drama about the perfect odd couple: Tada (Eita), who runs a shaky do-it-all service, and his buddy Gyoten (Matsuda Ryuhei), who usually gets in the way. The storyline involves phoney organic farming, pensioners, babysitting, yakuza and lesbian parenting. Two hours of sheer charm!—Tony Rayns


      Canada, 2014

      An isolated and disabled man yearns to experience intimacy in a world that would rather ignore him.

      Man on High Heels


      South Korea, 2014

      Yoon (Cha Seungwon) is the ultimate hard man, a battle-scarred cop who gets his man by any means necessary. But Yoon has a secret: she’s a woman trapped in a man’s body. Arch-satirist Jang Jin delivers all the thrills and ultraviolence we’ve come to expect from Korean cop/gangster movies, but with a very subversive twist.—Tony Rayns

      Regarding Susan Sontag

      USA, 2014

      "This portrait of the influential writer and public intellectual somehow manages to do justice to both the breadth of her work… as well as the ins and outs of her personal life… That director Nancy Kates manages to hit so many important pivot points in Sontag’s life and career in a cinematically engaging way feels like a small miracle."— Winner, Special Jury Mention, Tribeca 2014.

      Something Must Break

      (Nånting måste gå sönder)

      Sweden, 2014

      While identities and genders are alluringly fluid in Ester Martin Bergsmark’s narrative debut, the desire for connection is unrelenting. Initially trepidatious to explore a feminine side, Sebastian—who sometimes prefers to be called Ellie—falls hard for Andreas, a straight man. But when Andreas proves a fast friend but reluctant lover, Ellie rushes to the fore. Winner, Hivos Tiger Award, Rotterdam 2014.

      The Sun, the Moon and the Hurricane

      Indonesia, 2014

      Rain falls in love with the enigmatic Kris when they’re both high-school seniors and is devastated when Kris abruptly goes abroad. Several years later he gets an invitation to visit his former crush, now married and living in Bali. But what does Kris really want? Andri Cung’s debut feature is sexy, seductive and emotionally intense.—Tony Rayns

      Two 4 One

      Canada, 2014

      Maureen Bradley’s debut feature is a bittersweet romantic comedy with a transgender hero in an unimaginable predicament. Oddball couple Miriam and Adam have an ill-advised and pivotal one night stand that sees them both wind up pregnant. Engagingly shot by Amy Belling, the film features standout performances from Gavin Crawford (This Hour Has 22 Minutes), Naomi Snieckus (Mr. D) and Gabrielle Rose.

      Uncertain Relationships Society

      (Aimei buming guanxi yanjiu xuehui)

      Hong Kong, 2014

      Hong Kong pop meets art in Heiward Mak’s latest feature, a rich, moving, dazzling, and deeply, sympathetically savvy look at the amorous and professional lives of six twenty-something Hong Kongers. Their complex, ambivalent lives play out over six years in fascinating, interlocking stories. Mak’s fiercely contemporary sensibility creates an essential snapshot of Hong Kong’s hopes, anxieties and pleasures today.—Shelly Kraicer

      White Bird in a Blizzard

      USA, 2014

      Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars) plays the insecure suburban daughter of a seriously disturbed mother (Eva Green, unforgettable) who disappears without a trace in Gregg Araki’s skewed and provocative 80s-set drama. "Araki… seizes on White Bird as a chance to explore familiar issues of body image, sexual awakening and extreme family dysfunction with his trademark mix of uneasy seduce-and-repel tactics."—Variety

      Yves Saint Laurent

      France, 2014

      Jalil Lespert creates a monument to one of the most creative proponents the world of fashion has ever known. Saint Laurent’s innovative creations revolutionised haute couture, fusing art and contemporanity with wearable elegance and are still regarded as the epitome of French lifestyle. This chronological portrait of an extraordinary personality caught between his meteoric career and his self-destructive inner struggles also reflects the spirit of an era. At 21, Shooting Star Pierre Niney is the youngest member of the Comédie Française. – Berlin Film Festival

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      Elizabeth Ward

      Sep 7, 2014 at 12:17pm

      I'm very much looking forward to the new film by Terrence Odette after enjoying his previous ones tremendously. It sounds like a challenging topic tackled by an outstanding cast