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Horror at Vancouver’s Queer Film Festival

And other films on the program director’s personal favourites list

Among the many highlights anticipated at this year’s Queer Film Festival, “Still Not Over It: 70 Years of Queer Canadian Film” presents an extensive program of shorts capturing decades of queer existence. Credit: Vancouver Queer Film Festival

With more than 70 films from 21 countries on the program at this year’s Queer Film Festival opening Aug 13 in Vancouver, Shana Myara has a few personal favourites that she is especially excited to screen, including a double-header of queer horror films.

The festival’s programming director points first to Lyle, starring Gaby Hoffmann (Girls, Transparent) as a Brooklyn mother in an increasingly nightmarish existence.

“We are extremely excited to have gotten our hands on that one,” says Myara, who describes the film as a nod to Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby “but luckily without anything to do with Roman Polanski.”

The Blue Hour is a completely different take on horror,” she continues. “It’s much more supernatural. The incredible sound design really accentuates what you can’t necessarily see. The spirits sort of coming out of the woodwork and making life very difficult for these two young boys who are just trying to have an affair at the pool.”

A different kind of suspense permeates Naz and Maalik, a fictional account of a phenomenon all too real in the lives of many Americans who are members of minority communities.

“It’s an incredibly timely story of two black, Muslim youth in Brooklyn, and it takes on the feel of a Before Sunrise sort of film,” Myara says. “It speaks so much to the realities of state control and the levels of scrutiny that the young people of colour are exposed to, especially now in the United States. It’s an interesting story of two young men sort of living on the down-low in the community, but also a story of what it’s like to be young, black and Muslim in the United States post-9/11.”

An inspiring story of an outsider who pushes her way in is Feelings are Facts: The Life of Yvonne Rainer. Rainer is a highly celebrated American contemporary dancer.

“The reason I find her story so exceptionally compelling is that she starts out early in her career saying that she just doesn’t fit in to dance, she’s too gangly, her hips are too wide, her feet are too big,” Myara says. “She just doesn’t fit the mould. And then what happens is she just cracks open the mould and creates a whole new form of dance. It’s fascinating to see how one woman, instead of being deterred by these impossible standards set out for especially women dancers, changes the form.”

Director Jack Walsh will be at the screening for a question-and-answer session.

Another must-see film for Myara is A Girl at my Door, starring Doona Bae (Cloud Atlas, Sense8) as a lesbian cop who is banished to a rural Korean village after being outed in her bigger city.

“There, she leads a sort of fish-out-of-water existence where she keeps trying to insert law and order into a town that already is functioning in some sort of order but it’s a very unjust order,” Myara says. “So she kind of takes on the whole village and particularly the plight of this one young girl who is being terribly abused by her father. It’s an exceptional story.”

Director July Jung will join the festival audience for a question and answer session after that film’s screening.

“Still Not Over It: 70 Years of Queer Canadian Film” offers a series of documentary, experimental, performance, animation, and fiction shorts from across seven decades of moving images. Guest programmers Jordan Arseneault, Alan Kollins and Thomas Waugh will be there to discuss the collection, which is part of an effort to assemble a database of every known Canadian film with queer subject matter.

“It’s an exceptional glimpse into how film has mirrored our lives and societal changes in that time,” Myara says.