Kate Johnston knows her films. As a seasoned filmmaker and performer, she’s proven her worth on both sides of the camera. And to her, the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival is something special.
“It’s like being in church without the religion,” she says.
Johnston thinks the festival is more supportive of local artists than most other fests that she’s been to. And the Torontonian knows this from firsthand experience, with her film Tru Love winning Audience Best Feature at Inside Out 2014. But as a juror on this year’s Bill Sherwood award, she’s broadening her lens and taking a look at films from outside the city.
The award, named in honour of the American director of the cult classic Parting Glances, is an international prize presented to a first-time feature director.
“The job of film is to elicit emotion and take you on a journey,” she says. And it’s this impassioned odyssey that will be one way she’ll evaluate which of the 19 international films make the cut.
Joining her on the panel are two other queer film heavyweights: Brittani Nichols, known for her on-screen appearances on Transparent and her award-winning film Suicide Kale; and acclaimed Korean-American filmmaker Andrew Ahn, whose first feature Spa Night premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and won the Bill Sherwood Award for best first feature in 2016.
Ahn also sees magic at Inside Out that is hard to find other festivals.
“I was so in awe of the audiences,” he says of his inaugural attendance last year. “The screenings were sold out and people were so engaged in the films and really loved talking to the filmmakers.”
In particular, the inclusion of a category for specifically-international films presents a rare and valuable opportunity to see new perspectives.
“For any film festival, it’s so exciting to bring in films from all over the world and to be able to showcase a range of stories,” he says.
And the stories at this year’s festival are indeed varied, with topics ranging from LGBT homeless and queer refugees to transgender firefighters and lovestruck linguists.
The inclusion of often nuanced perspectives in film is not restricted only to queer cinema. Programs like Inside Out might very well serve as a guide for the mainstream.
As the jurors prepare to take on the important task of selecting the most moving of all 19 international film submissions, they too are showcasing that cinema presents an important window into LGBT communities.
As Andrew Murphy, director of programming for Inside Out writes in the program guide, we’re entering new territory for queer film. And that’s exciting.
“Queer paths travelled may no longer be as clearly defined as before, but this makes our experience no less interesting or important.”