Vancouver’s 31st annual Queer Film Festival (VQFF) theme is See For Yourself, and festivalgoers are invited to give themselves over to the beauty and complexity of queer film.
BeatRoute spoke with Artistic Director Anoushka Ratnarajah about her hopes for the festival, having curated it for the first time on her own after two fruitful years with co-director Amber Dawn.
“I want to encourage audience members to engage with programming they wouldn’t necessarily engage with at first glance,” Ratnaraj says. “To take a risk and see something challenging.”
The 11-day extravaganza, which includes movies, multidisciplinary performance art, an exhibition, and workshops expands the definition of a film festival and challenges audiences with stories often pushed to the periphery.
“A lot of the films we screen you won’t see anywhere else in Vancouver,” Ratnarajah says.
VQFF is one of the city’s largest and longest running film festivals. Ratnarajah points to this as evidence for a “thirst for queer, trans, and two-spirit film, not only from within our queer communities but from people who are just interestested in seeing film and engaging with stories that are not necessarily representative of their own individual experience.”
VQFF stands as a bastion for misrepresented or underrepresented voices, bodies, experiences and perspectives. “There are a ton of queer people who live in this city,” Ratnarajah says. “It’s important for us to be able to go to a film and feel seen.”
Beyond building a sanctuary for and celebration of queer experiences, the festival strives to foster positve relations with the Musquam, Salaiwatooth and Squamish Nations in an attempt to decolonize the screen. This year, Metis filmmaker Justin Ducharme has put together an indigenous spotlight, Projecting Brilliance: A Two-Spirite Showcase; a shorts program, All Our Relations: Explorations of Indigiqueer Kinship; an evening of queer indigenous performance with Anthony Hudson and Beric Manywounds; and a new and retrospective short term exhibit in collaboration with the artist Zachary Longboy, Running Running Trees Go By.
VQFF offers a chance for all members of the Vancouver community and beyond to come together in an exaltation of local and global artists at the forefront of queer, trans and two-spirit filmmaking.
To learn more about the Vancouver Queer Film Festival visit queerfilmfestival.ca
SIDEBAR – PICKS OF THE FEST
This beautifully shot documentary builds an intimate portrait of Swedish hip-hop artist Silvana Imam as she risks everything to tackle a slew of social justice issues through her music. Silvana draws upon her experiences as a queer, mixed-race immigrant woman living in diaspora to speak out on the refugee crisis, misogyny in the music industry and zeonophobia. “It’s very feminist, it’s very queer, it’s very anti-racist,” says VQFF Artistic Director Anoushka Ratnarajah.
Friday August 23 at 9:00 pm – SFU Goldcorp
This web-series based on the lives of its creators Bea Cordella and Daniel Kyrl follows Jo and Carter, a young trans-woman and queer black man, as they search for lasting love in Chicago’s queer community. The best friends and ex-partners contest with their past and present adversaries, asserting their self-worth in a world that would have it otherwise.
Friday August 23 at 9:00 pm – York Theatre
An experimental coming of age story about a teenager whose regimented New York life gets turned upside down when she’s sent to live with her estranged grandmother is Los Angeles. Told with a nuanced understanding of the history of black bodies and stories on screen, and tackling underrepresented issues of mental health and disordered eating, Solace invites audiences closer to embodied experiences of black queerness. Debut director Tchaiko Omawale will be in attendance for a Q&A.
Thursday August 22 at 7:00 pm – International Village
Dung Thunderbolt, an embittered debt-collector with a penchant for throwing punches, falls for the star of a local folk opera troupe in 1980s Saigon. Their relationship inspires Dung to reconnect with the creative and sensitive boy he once was, and to reconcile with a long line of damaged relationships. Director Leon Le’s operatic first feature film pays tribute to Vietnam’s most iconic city and the life-changing potential of new love.
Thursday August 15 at 7:00 pm – Vancouver Playhouse
Wednesday August 21 at 7:00 pm – International Village
GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH
In response to the increased descrimintory legislation against LGBTQ people being passed since the 2016 election, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Choir and The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir set off on a tour of the American Deep South. There, they confront ghosts from the past and venomous bigotry, but through it all foster deep dialogue with different communities about resilience, celebration and healing. “Music is a kind of language,” says VQFF artistic director Anoushka Ratnarajah. “And when people have a collective experience of listening to music together it creates this really intense connection.” Director David Charles Rodquigues and San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus Conductor Dr. Tim Seelig will be in attendance for an artist Q&A.