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The Latest from VQFF

  • What to watch: Holi-gay Edition
    December 23, 2020

    As we close this incredibly difficult year, many of us without our usual celebrations or gatherings, we’ll be looking to stories to affirm our experiences and connect us to the world and our communities. While we stay safe at home, here are a few films to get you through the last few days of 2020, that whether you’re looking for a cathartic cry, a gut-busting laugh, or a journey in a world different from your own surroundings.

    Evening Shadows

    Set in a village in South India, Evening Shadows follows Kartik, a young gay man in a happy relationship who has yet to come out to his family. When the prospects of an arranged marriage become more real, Kartik must figure out how to tell his family who he really is. Yes, this is another coming-out story, but it’s one which still needs screen time. For many queer folks of colour, the decision to come out is fraught with the fear of losing not only familial support, but also cultural connection. In tight knit South Asian communities, mutual support from family and community is essential to survival, and an integral aspect of culture. Evening Shadows illustrates these complexities with warmth and humour, making it a lovely family film to watch with your household or your family as you distance together.

    Where to watch: Netflix

    The Queen

    This 1968 documentary is a precursor to Paris is Burning, and captures the antics, drama, intimacy and artistry of the Miss All America Camp Beauty Pageant. Audiences will be introduced to many a queen, including the legendary Crystal LaBeija, founder of The House of La Beija, and the contest’s Mistress of Ceremonies, Flawless Sabrina. In between rehearsing and performing, the contestants discuss relationships, drag, draft boards, race, class, sexual and gender identity, and creating space for elegance, art, and community. This glamourous time capsule is perfect viewing for the New Years parties we will not be having this year!

    Where to watch: Netflix


    When this film premiered in 2016, it was considered a phenomenon for the way it was shot (entirely on an Iphone), but it’s legacy also represents a milestone moment for trans representation on screen. The film stars Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in their breakout roles as Sin-Dee and Alexandra, and their Academy Award campaigns for best actress were the first ever in the history of the awards for trans actors playing trans characters. They also played critical roles informing the work behind the camera, knowing that films about Black women, trans women and sex workers continue misrepresent what are complex and dynamic stories of resilience, resourcefulness and humanity.  In the four years since Tangerine came out, trans representation behind and in front of the camera has only grown. And though it’s set during the holiday season, Tangerine is really a Christmas film because at its heart it is about family, the kind of family that Black trans women and sex workers create despite the ways in which the world maintains brutal repression on thier lives and bodies.

    Where to watch: Rent on Google Play, Youtube

    Happiest Season

    What to say about this film that hasn’t already been subject to a truly deep dive analysis on every queer women’s wesbite on the internet? Clea Duvall’s return to film has prompted quite the passionate shipping of Aubrey Plaza and Kristen Stewart, and spawned a million memes, but more importantly, it’s given many queer women the holiday rom-com they’ve been waiting for.

    Where to watch: Prime

    Mucho Mucho Amor

    This 2020 documentary is dedicated to the life of Latinx astrology icon Walter Mercado, who brought insight, comfort, laughter and high fashion into the lives of millions. Though not openly queer, Mercado’s style and gender-bent presentation was a light and inspiration to many Latinx folks throughout the world longing to see themselves represented in public. His kindness, opulence and charisma shine through in the film, an ode to a man who brought hope to many, and paved the way for Latinx queer and trans folks craving self-determination, optimism and community. Mucho Mucho Amor is a much needed loving balm to the end of an extremely difficult year.

    Where to watch: Netflix


    Carol’s stylish, isolated melancholy might feel a bit on the nose during this winter quarantine, but it’s also one of the best queer films of the last decade. Directed by Todd Haynes, whose 1991 film Poison is considered a seminal work of New Queer Cinema, Carol beautifully explores the ways in which patriarchal gender expectations isolate queer women, and the lengths we will go to in order to feel and explore connection and identity. 

    Where to watch: Prime

  • Thirteen trans-focused films to watch in honour of Trans-Awareness Week and TDoR
    November 20, 2020

    This week was Trans-Awareness Week and ended with Trans Day of Remembrance. Though trans representation and storytelling has yet to be equitably represented on screen, recent years have seen a welcome and much needed boost of trans folks both on-screen and behind the camera. Here are a few of my favourites from the past few years that are available to watch on various online platforms. Trans stories are for every day and week of the year, and I hope this list will help you start your own to watch and love!

    In solidarity,

    Anoushka Ratnarajah, Artistic Director

    1. Disclosure

    This monumental documentary from Laverne Cox provides an eye-opening look at depictions of trans people in film and television, revealing how Hollywood simultaneously reflects and manufactures our deepest anxieties about gender. With interviews from leading trans thinkers and creatives, including Laverne Cox, Lilly Wachowski, Yance Ford, Mj Rodriguez, Jamie Clayton, and Chaz Bono, Disclosure is an expansion to 1995’s “The Celluloid Closet”, a moving challenge to both storytellers and audiences. 

    Where to watch: Netflix

    Disclosure | Sam Feder | USA | 2020 | 108 min | English

    2. Lingua Franca

    Screened as VQFF 2020’s Centrepiece Gala, Lingua Franca is both a unique take on a love-story, and the American Dream narrative, demonstrating the similarities between a trans and immigrant experiences by telling an intersectional story of a woman whose body carries the weight of both of those experiences. This film is a feat for trans director, writer and star Isabel Sandoval.

    Where to watch: Netflix

    Lingua Franca | Isabel Sandoval | USA, Philippines | 2019 | 95 min | Tagalog and English

    3. Alice Junior

    This totally delightful teen rom-com follows teenage Alice as she navigates her new harsh Catholic highschool and aches for her first kiss. Played by Brazilian YouTube star Anne Celestino Mota, Alice is fierce and unabashed in her insistent right to be who she is. This is the trans girl coming of age rom-com we all need!

    Where to watch: Netflix

    Alice Junior | Gil Baroni | Brazil | 2019 | 87 min | Portuguese

    4. XY Chelsea

    This documentary is a look at the life and career of Chelsea Manning, a trans woman soldier in the United States Army, who was sentenced to serve 35 years at an all-male military prison for leaking information about the country’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shot over two years and featuring exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes verité with Manning, the film picks up on the momentous day in May when she leaves prison and follows her through her journey of discovery, while also examining her place in the conversation on national security and the fight of the transgender community for rights and visibility.

    Where to watch: Crave

    XY Chelsea | Tim Travers Hawkins | United Kingdom | 2019 | 90 min | English

    5. Transhood

    Filmed in Kansas City, Missouri over the course of five years, “Transhood” focuses its lens on families and kids in America’s heartland. Intimate and heartfelt, this film gives space to complex and difficult conversations between parents and children, without ever losing focus on the strength and vulnerability of the young people to have to advocate for themselves beyond their years. During a time when trans rights have been consistently under attack, “Transhood” is a vital record of what it’s like to grow up trans in Trump-era America. This film is particularly a great watch for allied parents of trans children.

    Where to watch: Crave

    Transhood | Sharon Liese | USA | 2019 | 96 min | English

    6. Man Made

    This documentary takes audiences on a journey with four trans men (Rese, Dominic, Kennie and Mason) who are all striving to compete at Trans FitCon the only all-transgender bodybuilding competition in the world, held in Atlanta, Georgia. All four men are in different places in their journeys and lives, yet they face similar struggles as they create a masculinity that makes sense to each of them. This film is a honest and intimate look at body and gender politics, as well as a heartbreaking and uplifting story of relationships and self-love. All audiences will be able to connect to the stories shared here, as we see that these men are not really in the contest for the winning, but to be seen. 

    Where to watch: Prime

    Man Made | T Cooper | USA | 2018 | 93 min | English

    7. Call Her Ganda

    In 2014, Jennifer Laude, a Filipina trans woman was found dead in a motel room, killed by a US Marine stationed in the Philippines.  PJ Raval’s moving documentary follows three women intimately involved in Jennifer’s case; her mother Julita, who is relentless in her pursuit of justice for her daughter; American-Filipina trans journalist Meredith Talusan; and the family’s lawyer Virgie Suarez, who is faced with the daunting task of not only proving a murder case, but also taking on the Visiting Forces Agreement, which dictates that the U.S. government retain jurisdiction over military personnel accused of committing crimes in the Philippines. This riveting film shows the ways in which American imperialism and the violence against women like Jennifer are inextricably linked, and raises complex questions about sovereignty, justice, and the right to self-determination.

    Where to watch: Prime

    Call Her Ganda | PJ Raval | Philippines | 2018 | 80 min | Tagalog and English

    8. Gun Hill Road

    This first feature film from Raashad Ernesto Green was a Sundance smash and successfully toured many film festivals throughout the world. Enrique is an ex-con who returns home to the Bronx after three years in prison to discover his wife estranged from him and his child exploring a gender transformation that will put the fragile bonds of their family to the test. Gun Hill Road is a story of transition, and how gender, sexuality, race, and culture intersect in one family, who struggle to be their true selves within the expectations of community and society. Starring Harmony Santana in her first role, this film is a tender testament to the love between parents and children.

    Where to watch: Itunes

    Gun Hill Road | Raashad Ernesto Green | USA | 2011 | 86 min | English

    9. Drunktown’s Finest

    Sydney Freeland’s 2015 premiere at Sundance with Drunktown’s Finest, garnered her numerous acclaim. The film follows three young Navajo peo ple as they strive to find connection,  validation and opportunity in an authentic and sensitive coming of age story. The late Carmen Moore shines in her first feature role as Felixia, and Freeland crafts her setting and characters from her own experiences as a trans indigneous woman, and creates a film that is as complex as it is empathetic. 

    Where to watch: Itunes

    Drunktown’s Finest | Sydney Freeland | USA | 2015 | 95 min | Navajo, English

    10. Free CeCe

    On June 5, 2011, Cece McDonald was brutally attacked. While defending her life, her attacker was killed. CeCe was incarcerated in a men’s prison in Minnesota. An international campaign to free CeCe garnered significant support from media and activists, including trans activists Kate Bornstein, Leslie Feinberg and Laverne Cox. The documentary’s focus follows CeCe’s trail, but above all it shows the months after her release as she calls upon a circle of support from caring friends and family, and demonstrates her invaluable leadership as an activist and educator. Her leading voice resonates throughout the documentary and will surely remain in the minds of everyone who sees Free CeCe. This film was VQFF’s Centrepiece Gala in 2017.

    Where to watch: Vimeo

    Free CeCe | Jac Gares | 2016 | USA | 100 min | English

    11. Beauty

    Beauty explores the lives of five gender-creative kids, each uniquely engaged in shaping their own sense of what it means to be fully human. Whether it’s dealing with bullies, explaining themselves to their parents, or navigating the uncharted waters of relationships, Bex, Lili, Fox, Tru and Milo talk about their experiences and struggle to live in authenticity. This film screened at VQFF 2018 and won our Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film.

    Where to watch: NFBBeauty | Christina Willing | Canada | 2018 | 24 min | English and French

    12. Do I Have Boobs Now?

    In 2015, Victoria-based trans activist Courtney Demone launched the viral online campaign #DoIHaveBoobsNow, in which she posted topless photos of her transition on social media while undergoing hormone replacement therapy. One year later, Courtney revisits the global conversation she catalyzed on social media censorship policies and the sexualization of feminine bodies, and reflects on the impacts of being thrust into the critical spotlight as a visible trans activist and queer feminist. This local short film screened at VQFF 2017.

    Where to watch: NFB

    Do I Have Boobs Now | Joella Cabalu & Milena Salazar | Canada | 2017 | 7 min | English

    13. Niish Manidoowag (Two-Spirited Beings)

    Four youth travel Bebamikawe Trail on Wiikwemkoong Unceded First Nation Territory. Two of the youths are Two Spirited and discuss the confrontations and acceptance that they have encountered within their community and how it has affected their ability to experience and learn their culture. Long before the settlers arrived to Turtle Island, Two Spirited people were revered and treated with respect and equality. Niish Manidoowag speaks to these histories, identities and cultural roles as they are being reclaimed by generations of queer indigneous people.

    Mino Bimaadiziwin | Shane Mcsauby | Turtle Island | 2018 | 10 min | Anishinaabemowin & English

  • Welcome to the 32nd Vancouver Queer Film Festival!
    July 27, 2020

    The Vancouver Queer Film Festival (VQFF) is a vibrant space for queer arts, culture, and community. It showcases dynamic and thought-provoking films from British Columbian filmmakers as well as other Canadian and international directors and storytellers. 

    As Western Canada’s largest queer arts event, the Festival curates films which contextualize and celebrate queer lives and experiences and prioritize foregrounding diverse identities in our communities, including narratives from trans people, queer people of colour, and Indigenous people. 

    Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 32nd annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival has adapted to an online format in order to offer at-home audiences the best in independent queer cinema along with workshops, artist Q&As, panels, parties and – most importantly – the feeling of gathering with friends and kin. Out On Screen is working hard to ensure this year’s Festival is accessible and safe for community members who are immunocompromised or part of another vulnerable sector.

    Curated by Artistic Director, Anoushka Ratnarajah, the theme of this year’s Festival is “Still Here”.

    “VQFF is on this August, and will feature films and interdisciplinary programming from queer filmmakers and artists whose work shows the many ways we fight for the fullness of our lives, for what and who we love, and for our shared futures. Our theme this year is ‘Still Here’, because our survival is an inevitable miracle. Nothing can stop us from taking root; we will always reach for the light and sky.” – Anoushka Ratnarajah

    Welcoming its presenting sponsor RBC once again, this year’s Festival will open on August 13th with Pier Kids followed by a virtual celebration of our local queer community. Pier Kids is a vital participatory documentary about the lives of homeless Black queer and trans youth who frequent the Chelsea Piers in New York City, and offers a type of intimacy that’s rare in documentary films. It’s goal is to shrink the distance between the concepts of racial/gender marginalization by making the experience personal and specific. It an act of resistance to traditional storytelling forms.

    The Festival’s Centrepiece Gala film is Lingua Franca, an ambitious feature film that follows a trans Filipina migrant as she navigates being undocumented in a Trump-era America. The film is written, directed by and stars trans actress Isabel Sandoval, who will join audiences virtually to discuss the film in a digital Q&A.

    VQFF will once again feature a variety of youth focused programming, including a Youth Gala screening of the inspirational documentary Changing The Game, which follows three boundary-breaking young trans athletes changing the face of sports in their communities and across the United States.

    Finally, this year’s VQFF will close with the heartwarming queer Muslim romantic comedy, Breaking Fast, directed by Mike Mosallam.