Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Inside Out Toronto kicks off May 19

Festival highlights include UK focus and 24 Hours in the Middle East

Carlo Ljubeck as Ismail in Burhan Qurbani's Shahada.

The opening gala for the 21st annual Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film and Video Festival is set for 8pm tomorrow (May 19) with a screening of Ferzan Özpetek’s film Loose Cannons. Xtra will have new material on the festival every day as it unfolds. Check back daily for updates.

Highlights this year include a focus entitled 24 Hours in the Middle East.

“People make their ideas based on what they see on TV,” says Inside Out director of programming Jason St-Laurent. “That had us thinking of doing something special because the flip side of those cultural perspectives rarely find a place at our festivals.”
Films screening to that end are A Few Days of Respite (Quelques jours de répit), a drama by director Amor Hakkar about two gay men who flee to France from Iran, where gay sex is punishable by death. There’s also Jafar Panahi’s 2006 film, Offside. Pahani is serving six years in an Iranian prison because of his work.
“Burhan Qurbani’s film Shahada is probably my favourite in the entire bunch,” says St-Laurent. “It’s four interlocking stories set in Germany. One of those is about an out Muslim in Berlin trying to reconcile his faith with his sexuality.”
A pivotal part of the 24 Hours in the Middle East focus is With Love from Le(z)banon and Pa(lez)tine, a program of film and video shorts at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Immediately following the screenings is a master class seminar with author Samar Habib. It’s exciting to have her coming to Toronto.

For tickets and showtimes visit

Xtra‘s Peter Knegt caught up with St-Laurent earlier. Check out his report below. 

When St-Laurent told Xtra about the opening film gala of last year’s festival, Howl, he mentioned how, with so many competing festivals in the city, the competition to get films to screen can be fierce. But one of the big changes for Inside Out this year is a shift to new screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox. It’s an amazing, modern, accessible venue and dedicated home to many of the city’s festivals. And that there is a dedicated festival venue, says St-Laurent, is one of reasons Toronto has become such centre in the film world.
“It took me a while to realize that the competition for films was actually a good thing for Toronto,” says St-Laurent. “Now we have a base of cinephiles that we rely on. We can bring a film by an obscure film maker and there are actually followers of that director’s work in the city because of the work done by all the other festivals. They contribute to Inside Out in a way because cumulatively they make people are very film literate in Toronto. That really helps us overall.”


Xtra is a proud founding media sponsor of the Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film and Video Festival. Among awards and prizes being inaugurated this year are two brought to you by Xtra’s publisher Pink Triangle Press (PTP).
The HARDtv Hot Shorts Award is a cash prize ranging from $500 to $1,000 going to one or more films that address queer sexuality or erotica in a unique way. HARDtv is PTP’s gay porn digital specialty channel. Winners will be selected by the festival’s Canadian Awards Jury and announced on Sunday, May 29.
The other new addition is the Inside Out OUTtv Fiilm and Video Post-Production Fund. PTP is a minority partner in OUTtv and the post-production fund will provide financial assistance to Canadian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender filmmakers whose work is consistent with the goals of Inside Out. Grants range from $500 to $3,000. Applications aren’t due until August 1. Contact Inside Out to apply
Video by Peter Knegt.