Toronto
4 min

Lavender independence

Images agog with poofs, Carrie & masturbation

IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME. Art Dyke 2001 contestants Lex Vaughn, Martha Newbigging and Nas Khan rev up the power tools for the closing night gala. Credit: Paula Wilson

The Images Festival Of Independent Film And Video is at it again: In and among this year’s exciting programming, there’s a streak of lavender sure to satisfy the pinkest of cinephiles.



And as if that wouldn’t suffice, last year’s madly successful Art Fag 2000 pageant is followed up by Art Dyke 2001, which closes the fest. You won’t want to miss the crowning of the millennium’s first lauded lezzie.



Queer film highlights include Chris Chong’s Let Me Start By Saying (in the Inventions of Desire program, Fri, Apr 20 at 7pm), which tackles that terrifying and confusing gay man’s dilemma – falling in love with a woman.



In Barbara Hammer’s Devotion: A Film About Ogawa Productions (Sat, Apr 21 at 3pm), the celebrated documentarian and historian works her usual magic to create an unsettling portrait of influential Japanese director Shinsuke Ogawa.



Michael Balser’s Rocket skewers lifestyle television, while Michael Caine and Louise Liliefeldt’s Hamartia invokes Brian DePalma’s Carrie (Thu, Apr 19 at 9pm). Thirza Jean Cuthand’s Through The Looking Glass (Thu, Apr 19 at 7pm), looks at race from the perspective of an aboriginal lesbian.



Art Fag 2000 Benny Nemerofsky-Ramsay is onto a good thing with Forever Young (Thu, Apr 19 at 9pm), a multi-rendition of the Alphaville hit, which looks like somebody with some style sense took over the dreadful CP24. One “box” features Benny droning along to the soundtrack; another, a woman translating the song into American Sign Language. German, English and French subtitles of the lyrics run along the bottom of the screen, while satellite images and other newsy ephemera take up the rest of the image.



It’s interesting to see how distracting this arrangement of signals is, even when the majority of them signify the same message, but something’s missing: The piece doesn’t have the power it should. Well worth a look, though, as Ramsay develops his singular style.



I want to love Sarah Abbott’s Rug (Fri, Apr 20 at 7pm), but I just can’t. Her camera pulls focus in and out, rhythmically displaying what’s near and far, while the soundtrack presents a thunderstorm, a cat’s meow and an unidentifiable sex act that, given the relentless in-and-out of the image, one assumes is fucking.



Abbott draws from cinema’s minimalist history – Warhol and Michael Snow come to mind – an admirable, but dangerous, move. What she’s trying to do is quite apparent; it’s disappointing that it doesn’t work.



In a sense, Jes Benstock and Graeme Kennedy’s Poof (also on Fri, Apr 20 at 7pm) is pointless – which is just the point. On a London train, three Brit punks and a fellow they’ve just met shoot the shit, drink and generally terrorise the passengers around them. You can cut the sexual tension in the air with a knife, but when the topic of homosexuality rears its head, that same air quickly turns blue with invective.



At times hilarious (it’s a scream to hear a weak, anti-gay rant in a nearly unintelligible Cockney accent), at times threatening, the film is finally a meditation on what it’s like to face up to this sort of nonsense (one of punks calls the rest bigots). In our minds, when we stand up to our oppressors, the world changes; in reality, the moment of triumph kind of fizzles out.



Live Nude Girls Unite! (Fri, Apr 13 at 9pm) is a warm and wonderful documentary tracking the efforts of a group of San Francisco strippers to unionise their workplace. At the centre of the story is Julia – lesbian stand-up comic by night, peep show stripper by day. Subjected to racist and sexist employment policies by their cheapskate, profiteering employer, Julia and her co-workers decide to fight back.



The fight gains such a profile that Julia eventually has to come out – as a stripper – to her feminist mother, a celebrated prostitutes’ rights activist and physician in New York City. Personal and political collide and the impact is stunning, inspiring and uplifting.



Imitations Of Life (Thu, Apr 19 at 9pm) by Mike Hoolboom is an insightful and rather beautiful rumination on the somewhat terrifying notion that we, as a society, have forgotten how to imagine the future.



Hoolboom suggests that the banal futures of such contemporary sci-fi flicks as The Matrix are, in fact, our own present. But distracted by the images churned out by the Hollywood machine, we don’t notice. We recycle history, call it style, sit and stagnate. Not a new message, certainly; those who lament the drab mainstreaming of gaydom are all too familiar with this idea. Hoolboom’s film drives the horror home with a force seen not nearly often enough.



Finally, there’s Sad Disco Fantasia (Sun, Apr 22 at 3:30pm), another bit of cleverness by the always brilliant Steve Reinke. Wry, witty, personal yet distanced, Reinke’s work is extremely precise, but comes across as casual – conversational, even. Opining on death, Los Angeles and dead cartoonist Charles Schultz, Reinke makes us feel strangely comfortable in a world where dislocation is the norm. “The best thing that can be said about men,” Reinke tells us, “is that we masturbate continuously.” Ain’t it the truth.



And if that truism isn’t enough, check out the free site-specific installation series of video loops curated by RM Vaughan. The likes of Ian Jarvis (whose Cocktails Cure Fags is shown at This Ain’t The Rosedale Library on Church St), Allyson Mitchell (Video Killed The Rodeo Star, at Akau Framing on Queen St W), and Michael Achtman (Organics, at Essence Of Life Natural Food), to name only a few, show their stuff for the run of the festival, from Thu, Apr 12 to 22.



IMAGES FESTIVAL.

$7 per screening. $10 gala. $65 pass.

Thu, Apr 12-22.

Innis Town Hall.

2 Sussex Ave

(416) 971-8405.



Richard Fung is the winner of the Bell Canada Award for outstanding achievement in video art. The $10,000 Canada Council prize will be presented to Fung during a special reception and screening at Images, from 4:45pm to 6:15pm on Thu, Apr 19.