4 min

Love is in the air

Take a whiff of standouts & stinkers

Kyle MacLachlan and Jimi Mistry star in the charming comedy A Touch Of Pink. Credit: Xtra files

Spring blossoms mean it’s time to get ready for the Inside Out queer film fest (running Thu, May 20 to 30); the catalogue is done and the advance box office opens Sat, May 8 (and for the first time, you can buy tickets on-line). Here are some tantalizing whiffs – standouts and stinkers – to get you nosing through the festival’s pungent offerings.

Let’s start with the standouts. The opening gala this year is a winner. A Touch Of Pink by former Torontonian Ian Iqbal Rashid is a charming and witty comedy starring Jimi Mistry as Alim, an Ismaili Canadian living in London with his Brit boyfriend (played by Kristen Holden-Reid). Alim is trapped by two lies: He has an imaginary best friend in the shape of Cary Grant (Kyle MacLachlan) and he’s not out to Nuru (Suleka Mathew), his smothering mother back in Toronto. Alim’s world implodes when Nuru arrives on his doorstep demanding he get married. Rashid’s sophisticated take on generational and cultural conflict is worlds away from the TV charms of Mambo Italiano. Hilarious and heartwarming. (The film opens in Toronto later in July.)

Hungering for something completely original? Then check out Superstar In A Housedress, a straightforward documentary on the fascinating Jackie Curtis, a transgendered theatre artist who became part of Andy Warhol’s star factory (along with Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn). Craig Highberger’s feature-length doc contains a wonderful array of old footage, from Curtis performing in his own plays and clips from Paul Morrissey films, to Curtis’ TV appearances on the David Susskind Show. Comments from the likes of Harvey Fierstein and Lily Tomlin (who narrates) help bring this unique creature to life.

Unlike Superstar, the Swedish documentary Don’t Worry It’ll Probably Pass takes a stale subject, coming-out, and does something fascinating with it. When she was a teenager, director Cecilia Neant-Falk took out a classified ad that asked: “Are you there? A girl who is attracted to both boys and girls?” Hundreds responded. Fifteen years later, she takes out the same ad, this time posted in an Internet chat room. Again, she is swamped. Neant-Falk follows three respondents for four years. She gives each girl her own video camera. The self-shot footage has all the intimacy and directness of first-time films, without the often tedious pacing of first-time editing. The three subjects shine through as feisty, angry adolescents, still walking a lonely road to self-acceptance and blaming their parents along the way. Loved it.

Does John Greyson’s interracial prison love story Proteus sound too daunting? Though it disappeared after its premiere last year, this historical drama is a stirring piece of filmmaking. Greyson and co-director Jack Lewis are able to raise political questions – to tease out the elusive nature of power – without sacrificing the passionate (true) love story between a Khoi herder and a Dutch sailor, both prisoners in Cape Town’s Robben Island. Greyson and Lewis are even able to throw in some fun, like the incongruous 1950s secretaries valiantly trying to transcribe court proceedings into and from English, Dutch and Afrikaans. This is the kind of moving, thought-provoking work you’ll only find at Inside Out and the gala screening is a fundraiser for the Stephen Lewis AIDS Foundation.

Not sure where to place Same Sex Parents, a French drama about the teenage daughter of a somewhat closeted lesbian and a gay dad. Well written and strongly acted, this engaging film proves you should never have teenaged children – and if you do, please talk to them.

I’m very ambivalent about the Spanish feature Bulgarian Lovers. Opening strongly, with neat visuals, a funky score and a good fucking, the film looks at reasons other than love bringing together a successful, middle-aged lawyer and a poor Bulgarian immigrant on the hustle. You could say the hustler robs the lawyer blind – but everyone has their eyes open and the two develop a passionate relationship of a kind. But the undeveloped nuclear smuggling storyline and the cavalier ending soured the whole thing. Maybe you’ll think differently; the actor playing the Bulgarian is worth obsessing over.

Sliding into the miss category is The Child I Never Was, a German docudrama on Jürgen Bartsh who tortured and killed four youths in the mid-1960s beginning when he was 15. Beautifully done, the film is comprised of harrowing reenactments of Bartsh’s crimes, scenes from his sad, disturbing childhood and direct address monologues – all based on Bartsh’s confession. But why bother? Though illuminating the particular shape of his mental illness, the film still doesn’t get at why this one particular boy went so terribly wrong. Perhaps asking viewers to try and invest this monstrous character with humanity is justification enough.

Unambiguously in the stinker category is the Irish comedy Goldfish Memory. Looking good on paper, Goldfish Memory reads like Queer As Folk meets The L Word. But there are not enough laughs to brighten the tedium of terribly underwritten characters behaving erratically. Every romantic permutation is served up and spat out. The film has nothing to say other than we have three-second memories when it comes to love – if only.

Good bets (unavailable for preview) include DEBS. The short version from last year was a scream and writer/ director Angela Robinson is back with a feature-length comedy about hapless secret agents with a penchant for sweater and pearl sets.

The specially commissioned TAIS Queer Cartoon Show includes first-time animators Margaret Moores, Roy Mitchell, Barb Taylor Coyle, Richard Fung and Tim McCaskell. The Video Virgins program has first-timers paired up with seasoned veterans; see what Kevin Hegge comes up with after working with Peter Kingstone, S Kate Moore with Alec Butler or Clinton Walker with Suzy Richter. Talk about queer blooms.


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