Arts & Entertainment
10 min

Five queer picks at Vancouver International Film Festival 2015

From Taiwan to the 1960s Hollywood gay scene to a Syrian hoax, and more

Vancouver’s annual Queer Film Festival may be over for another year, but that doesn’t mean our 2015 film festival days are behind us. In recent years, the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) has also boasted a strong LGBT-film contingent and this year is no exception.

Here is a list of five queer films to catch at VIFF this year, selected to provoke, titillate or testify to audiences.

Vancouver’s International Film Festival runs Thursday, Sept 24 to Friday, Oct 9. For a full schedule, venue and ticket information click here

Thanatos, Drunk (Taiwan)

The Taiwanese film Thanatos, Drunk starts out with very little hope and a whole lot of dysfunction. A teenager named Rat is forced to live out his dreary day-to-day life in a most desperate way: attending to his hate-filled alcoholic mother’s needs. Rat’s life starts to find more hope upon the prodigal return of his older gay brother Shenghe (who previously left the family chaos to find his way in America), as well as Rat’s idol, a cool, tough dude named Bro’ Shuo.

Part mystery, part misery, yet also sexy and enigmatic, Thanatos, Drunk is a journey filled with an off-kilter — but still compelling — charm. 

The film won several awards at the 2015 Taipei film festival: Grand Prix, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and a press award.

North American premiere: Wednesday, Oct 7, 6:45pm, International Village, 88 W Pender St, Vancouver.
Second screening: Thursday, Oct 8, 11:30am, International Village.

Summer of Sangailé (Lithuania/France/Netherlands)

Sangailé is obsessed with heights — both literally and metaphorically. While on summer vacation, she meets young Austé, a photographer who chooses the shy Sangailé as her muse. And so Sangailé begins to climb and fall: she is titillated by her crush but ambivalent about her family.

Sullen and longsuffering are Sangailé’s default emotion, but that angst falls away when she dreams her greatest dream: to learn how to fly an airplane.

Summer of Sangailé is a compelling snapshot of the intensity of youth, the excitement of first love and the fears that can arise when chasing one’s true passion.   

Sunday, Oct 4, 11am, International Village, 88 W Pender St, Vancouver.
Wednesday, Oct 7, 6:30pm, International Village.

Hockney (UK/USA)

“I’m interested in ways of looking . . . everyone does look. It is just a question of how hard, isn’t it?” — David Hockney

Abstract expressionist painter David Hockney wasn’t strictly a creator of colourful paintings, he also lived a very colourful life, steeped both in the Hollywood gay scene and its art scene, throughout the ’60s, ’70s and beyond. A one-two punch of oddball and self-engaged artiste, Hockney handed over his sizeable personal movie archives to the film’s director, Randall Wright, making this film as much of a documentary of the Hollywood gay art scene in its genesis, as it is about Hockney himself. 

North American premiere: Monday, Sept 28, 1:15pm, Vancouver Playhouse, 600 Hamilton St, Vancouver.
Tuesday, Oct 6, 10am, VanCity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St, Vancouver.
Thursday, Oct 8, 8:45pm, SFU Woodwards, 149 W Hastings St, Vancouver.

Nasty Baby (USA/Chile/France)

This one’s a head scratcher. The film that I personally had the highest hopes for from this year’s queer VIFF batch, in terms of star and storyline perspective, is in fact the least compelling of the bunch.

On paper, this film has so much potential: Polly (played by Kristen Wiig of SNL, Bridesmaids) and her best friend Freddie (Sebastian Silva) want to make beautiful babies together. Freddie’s boyfriend Mo (played by Tunde Adebimpe, lead singer for the group TV On The Radio) has mixed feelings about the idea. With Wiig’s casting and the sweetness of the story’s description, my hope was that this film would centre around a ‘new’ New York family equation: two men + one woman = one baby.

But the plot is rarely positive, and in fact gets much darker than that. It is a curious choice of film for Wiig to star in — she is imminently expected to rock the all-female Ghostbusters remake. But Nasty Baby will likely, and rightfully, be quickly forgotten by her fans.

Saturday, Oct 3, 1:30pm, International Village, 88 W Pender St, Vancouver.
Wednesday, Oct 7, 8:45pm, Vancouver Playhouse, 600 Hamilton St, Vancouver.

The Amina Profile (Canada)

This documentary’s premise is compelling: a lesbian from Syria makes a bold, courageous move to write a blog about her experiences living in a country where being gay is not only illegal but life threatening. Her blog — which spread rapidly through not only the LGBT community worldwide, but also the mainstream press — offered people a difficult and disturbing view of life through a young Syrian woman’s eyes, encouraging a global audience to not only respect her, but fall in love with her. Sounds compelling so far? Yes, but here’s the first of many plot twists: Amina was an invention, a cruel hoax that not only misled people around the world but broke the heart of Montrealler Sandra Bagaria, on whom the movie is largely based.

Rarely is a documentary film filled with so many draw-jobbing plot twists and turns that one can only imagine it to be a work of fiction; such is the case with The Amina Profile. This Canadian / Syrian tale of mystery — which premiered in January 2015 to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival — will stay with you long after the theatre lights rise and the crowds go home.

Monday, Sept 28, 8:45pm, Rio Theatre, 1660 E Broadway, Vancouver.
Wednesday, Sept 30, 10:30am, International Village, 88 W Pender St, Vancouver.