4 min

Hot & Buttered

Don't miss out on all the treats!

MUJER! Chabuca La Grande entices you into the glamour and passion that is Toronto's Latin queer community in Latin Queens, one of more than 300 offerings at Inside Out. Credit: Xtra files

The 10th annual Inside Out Festival Of Lesbian And Gay Film And Video is about to transform a theatre near you.

From Thu, May 18 to 28 the normally straight and narrow halls of the Cumberland and Paramount Theatres will be teeming with media-hungry queers of every description. The screens will be as transfigured as the audiences; for the run of the fest we will be able to live in a cinematic world where boy meets girl is not necessarily a happy ending (unless, of course, the girl was born a boy).

With more than 300 offerings, ticket buying can seem a daunting task. To help get your feet (and other body bits) wet, here’s a list of must buy tix and festival staff picks. Remember that gala and other popular screenings sell out fast; the advance box office is now open (at 2 Carlton St).

The fest kicks off on May 28 with an 8pm gala screening of Punks, written and directed by Patrik-Ian Polk. Already a hit at Sundance, this is Punks’ Canadian premiere.

Punks is a slick and sexy romantic comedy set in a black, gay, affluent West Hollywood social world. At the centre of the film is Marcus, successful fashion photographer by day and hopeless romantic by night. His longing for love is hampered by crippling fears of HIV infection and emotional paralysis. When the dashing straight-but-not-narrow Darby moves in next door, Marcus is smitten despite warnings from his friends and the appearance of Darby’s leggy girlfriend, Jennifer.

The romance between Marcus and Darby proceeds somewhat predictably, but the heart of this film is not Marcus’ search for Mr Right, but the intense friendship circle that surrounds him: There is Hill, on the rebound and drowning his sorrows with casual sex, Chris/Crystal, a lip-sync diva at the local club, and Latino rich kid Dante.

Punks is a light and unsurprising love story. What’s new is that it’s the first film of its genre with an almost entirely black, gay cast of characters.

The director and Seth Gillman, the extremely good looking star, will be in town for screening.

If frothy romance is not your cup of celluloid, don’t miss the Canadian premiere of Johnnie Greyeyes on Wed, May 24 at 7pm. This locally produced feature film provides a rare glimpse into the life of First Nations women in prison.

The film tells the story of Johnnie Greyeyes (convincingly played by Gail Maurice), a woman in her early 30s institutionalized since the age of 15. Tightly weaving together fragments from Johnnie’s last year in Kingston’s maximum security Prison For Women, this low-budget film gracefully conveys a life story fragmented by addiction, abuse and oppression.

Johnnie’s life revolves around her mother Leona (local musician and actress Gloria May Eshkibok), her brother Daytona Clay and her lover Lana, a new inmate whose strong and confrontational nature makes her a target of guard aggression.

Jorge Manzano wrote and directed this film. He skillfully uses the play of light, shadow and colour to evoke a multi-textured reality – the harsh and drab grey-blue lines of prison, the blurry, chaotic orange and red churning of street-life in Toronto and the rich green, claustrophobic atmosphere of a reservation.

The script is occasionally hampered by wooden and didactic dialogue, but the authenticity of the story still comes through. Johnnie Greyeyes is a feature film, but it began as a documentary project four years ago that travelled to prisons across Canada and interviewed native women inmates. Manzano’s script was born from those interviews and it remains believable.

Shorts are always a mainstay at Inside Out. Tran’ce Romance (Fri, May 26 at 7pm) is a program “for, by and about transexual, transgendered and intersex love and those who have been involved in it,” curated by Cat Grant and Boyd Kodiak.

There are quite a few animated shorts in this program – all of them highlights. The medium lends itself well to discussing transformation, transcendence and other trannie issues. Adam, by US artist Andrea Stoops, uses bright, mutable claymation figures to illustrate the story of a nine-year-old’s transgendered playground adventure.

In the poignant and charming La Différence, by Swiss animator Rita Küng, evocative line drawings tell a wordless story of kinship between an FtM bartender and MtF patron while a chameleon looks on from a chandelier overhead.

One of the most moving selections in this program is a tiny three minute doc called Emma, created by Francine Shaw. It’s a peek into a suburban UK home where Linda and Martin have been happily married for more than 20 years. Martin is about to transition into living as Emma full time, but hopes to leave the marriage intact. Linda accepts the decision, claiming that she will grieve for Martin, but hopes for an equally fruitful union with Emma.

Over its illustrious 10 year history, Inside Out’s popularity has made it something of a glam event, but at its heart it is still a community festival. This year will feature a number of home-grown creations like Latin Queens: Unfinished Stories Of Our Lives by Anton Wagner (Sun, May 27 at 7pm), which documents Toronto’s Latin queer community.

Queers To Watch Out For is a program that takes community access one step further. Ten queer youth were mentored by Inside Out workshops and supplied with equipment to shoot and edit their first videos, which will be screened Sat, May 27 at 4pm.

From transcendent animation in Tran’ce Romance and the shiny glamour of Punks, to the shadowy power of Johnnie Greyeyes and local community-based productions, this year’s Inside Out promises to be bigger, better and more eclectic than ever before.

“Diversity,” says programming coordinator Shane Smith, “is what makes a festival vibrant.”

Inside Out.

$8 per screening; $50 for 83; $20 galas.

Advance box office till Thu, May 18.

2 Carlton St (mezzanine).

(416) 925-XTRA xt 2229.

The opening and closing night galas are at the Paramount (corner of John St and Richmond St W). All other screenings are at the Cumberland Cinema (159 Cumberland Ave). Look for festival programs out now.