Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Homegrown homos

Six of the best Local Heroes shorts

The Inside Out LGBT Film Festival has always celebrated and nurtured the talents of Toronto filmmakers with its Local Heroes program. This year the festival has programmed 11 short films from local fruits; Xtra has chosen six favourites.

Rodrigo Barriuso’s For Dorian manages to drum up more character and heart in its brief 15 minutes than most feature-length films are capable of in two hours. The film tells the poignant story of a single father coping with his son Dorian’s coming of age. When Dorian, who is living with Down syndrome, begins spending most of his time with his classmate Marco, who is also living with the condition, suspicions mount and test the limits of the father-son relationship. More importantly, the film treads new territory by drawing attention to the intersection of ability and queer sexuality.

Mariko Tamaki’s Happy 16th Birthday Kevin is a sweet, funny film about an ostentatious goth boy coping with the nightmare of a surprise 16th birthday party. Coven (David Tomlinson) is the lovable and pitiful character that many former angst-ridden teenagers will relate to. The film is so well crafted that it begs to become a series, or a feature length.

Her With Me is a modern fairy tale that tells the story of a young starlet, played by Amy Groening, visiting Toronto from Los Angeles. Groening is the real-life niece of Simpsons mastermind Matt Groening. When paparazzi spot the star in a borrowed vehicle with another woman, played charmingly by Aimee Bessada, the two make a getaway. Chaos and romance ensue. The film also features a killer soundtrack courtesy of Army Girls.

With Stormcloud, writer-director Kate Johnston has crafted a sexy and Sapphic rom-com that is as bleak as it is funny. Vi, an artist facing an existential crisis after her lover vanishes, is visited by an Evangelical couple at her beachfront property. As the religious zealots preach the promise of end times and the everlasting love of Jesus, Vi pours the remains of mystery liquor into coffee mugs for her guests. Before long, she’s drinking straight from the flask and quoting Jean-Paul Sartre. The film is perfectly cast and the deadpan delivery of Stormcloud‘s humour make such one-liners as “Tell your mom that in front of every silver lining is a dark fucking cloud” hard to forget.

I’m Yours is a confessional-style film that explores trans identity from the perspective of two subjects. It features Chase Joynt, who also directed and edited the film, and local artist Nina Arsenault. Shot in black and white, I’m Yours crosscuts between the two as they answer the banal questions often asked of people with trans experience. The simple yet clever editing juxtaposes the vast difference in their stories, thereby underscoring the diversity and fluidity of gender identity.

Shawn is a coy and playful comedy that underlines the enduring stigma surrounding bisexuality – inside and outside the queer community. Director and editor Mark Zanin sets up a vignette with two friends, one gay, one straight, standing over the casket of their deceased lover. Just feet away from the requisite platter of triangular egg-salad sandwiches they reminisce on the mild-to-wild sex they enjoyed with the title character. Whoever said we shouldn’t speak ill of the dead clearly had no sense of humour.