5 min

Lucky 13

Hot flick picks

CAN CON CRAZY. There are a surprising number of Canadian features on offer at Inside Out this year, including the energetic romp from Montreal, Saved By The Belles, starring Karen Simpson and Brian C Warren. Credit: Xtra files

No time to waste. Tickets are now on sale for the 13th annual Inside Out Lesbian And Gay Film And Video Festival, running Thu, May 15 to 25. Need help navigating the almost 300 offerings? Try these 13 hot picks. Of course, there are more must-sees than this, but it’s a start.

1) One of the best Canadian flicks in a long time, and certainly the most chilling, The Nature Of Nicholas is the answer to anyone who says there are no new ways to tell a coming out story. The film opens with what looks like a realistic drama set on the Canadian prairies in the 1950s. But something is askew in this picture, and not just the quiet, sensitive kid, Nicholas. For sure, the slow pacing is not for everyone. But the more you watch, the creepier the film gets. It’s an unsettling rumination on coming of age, where hauntings are carried out by more than just the dead. A bold and unique feature debut by Winnipeg’s Jeffrey Erbach, who’ll attend the local premiere (at 7:15pm on Sun, May 18 at the Cumberland 1).

2) Rise Above is the kind of film that makes you say, Thank God for documentaries. Tracy Flannigan (who’ll attend the Canadian premiere) spent four years creating this intimate and engaging look at the groundbreaking queer punk band Tribe 8. These women are amazing; they have a wonderfully wacky way of tackling serious issues.

Tribe 8 is infamous for its stage shows, featuring everything from “forced” blowjobs from male audience members to self-castration (of dildos, silly). Band members (including Torontonian Tantrum, who left the band in 2000), have had to endure women picketing their shows for supposedly promoting violence.

Lead singer and writer Lynnee Breedlove always has outrageous things to say: “There’s nothing wrong with penises – as long as they are detachable – and they all are.” The footage with her mother is heart-breaking (9:30pm, Fri, May 16, Bloor Cinema).

3) “We may be freaks, but we are your family.” A trio of deranged girl pirates in men’s pants set off on a perilous adventure to rescue the queen’s “koilus.” Made on a wooden nickel, the Canadian feature Girl King is a swashbuckling, oyster-shucking adventure packing a tickle trunk of laughs, wit and cahones. Cheesy cutaways to stock footage of palm trees, parrots and old pirate flicks lets this low-low-budget epic inhabit a large, surreal stage.

Having her way with butch-femme divide, writer/director Ileana Pietobruno cuts an entertaining swath through the women’s community’s internecine battles. And the very sexy cast manages the campy dialogue and stagy set ups with panache. Even Judy Garland fans will like this flick. Oh, Macoco (3pm,Fri, May 23, Cumberland 1).

4) Sad but never maudlin, the Aussie dramatic feature Walking On Water gives us a finely wrought portrait of grief’s aftermath. The botched euthanasia of a friend dying of AIDS has surprising repercussions. With a top notch cast, this honest, bittersweet tale from director Tony Ayres won last year’s Teddy Award for best feature at the Berlin film fest (10pm, Tue, May 20, Cumberland 2).

5) Leaving Metropolis is a strong adaptation of Brad Fraser’s hit play from 1996 Poor Superman, with Fraser again writing and directing. A straight couple running a diner has their world turned upside down after hiring as a waiter a gay artist, who brings in his tow a newspaper columnist friend.

There are some flaws: the pacing of the drama and the use of simultaneous action seems a little off at times, a little too stage-like. But Fraser’s tell-tale humour and sexiness survive. And great performances abound, especially from Fraser’s Outrageous star Thom Allison as the ailing transsexual Shannon. Also, the paintings of Kirsten Johnson, who has a hilarious cameo, look stunning. The local premiere will be a celebratory opening gala for Inside Out; shown with Mirha-Soleil Ross and Mark Karbusicky’s Allo Perfomance (8pm, Thu, May 15, Paramount).

6) If you can’t afford a trip to Montreal – on the right drugs – then check out the energetic and stylish feature Saved By The Belles, a big-budget, wonderfully art-directed, great sounding exploration of the underground bar scene in Montreal. A drag queen/singer about town Sheena Hershey (played by co-writer Brian C Warren) and an enigmatic fag-hag VJ Scarlett (Karen Simpson) adopt a beautiful young amnesiac. Mindless adventure ensues.

Featuring improvisations by a cast of real, thwacked-out, Montreal club kids – many really annoying – this comedy drama from Ziad Touma, a feature debut, is elevated by the presence and charisma of real entertainers, Warren and Simpson. The pair’s relationship is the beating heart (at 180bpm) of the film.

Have you, like Scarlett, ever said: Oh my God, I think it’s day out? Then this flick’s for you… especially since the director and guests will be in attendance at the late night screening. Warning: Bring a bump for the miscalculated serious climax (11:30pm, Sat, May 17, Cumberland 1).

7) If your girlfriend accidentally killed your asshole mother, what would you do? Benzina is an Italian drama that sees a sexy, young dyke couple dealing with ghosts, macho jerks and a dead body. They embark on what looks like the worst date in history. If they survive together, they’ll be that much stronger, right? Monica Lisa Stambrini confounds expectations in this intriguing feature (9:45pm, Mon, May 19, Cumberland 2).

8) The Gift is an infuriating documentary, both for its methodology and its subject matter: Guys who purposely contract HIV/AIDS. Filmmaker Louise Hogarth wants to answer the challenge of rising HIV rates among young gay males in the US. But two of her main interviewees – young men who, through the Internet, get sucked into the bug-chasing, sex-party scene in San Francisco – don’t offer satisfying answers. One is sad, quick to blame others, and the other is just plain stupid.

The doc places too much emphasis on safe-sex campaigns and on opinions from people in the street. When some interviewees tackle grief, depression and anxiety, the film gets more deep and interesting.

The Gift is sure to spark furious debates after its Canadian debut – and that makes it a must-see (the AIDS Committee Of Toronto hosts a discussion after the screening; 5pm, Mon, May 19, Cumberland 1).

9) In some ways, You 2 is the classic coming out tale, this time looking at a young woman working in her mother’s hair salon. But this is a fresh and exuberant 30-minute film that even makes its clichéd disco soundtrack sound new again. Set among Surinamese Dutch, the film lovingly portrays community and familial ties.

10) Another gem, DEBS, is a campy action flick from the US brimming with humour and sexy girls in angora sweaters (both shown in the Heart-Shaped Box program; 7pm, Sun, May 17, Cumberland 2).

11) Starring Sky Gilbert, Ian Jarvis’s Jane Meets The Catholic Church makes last summer’s interminable World Youth Conference almost seem worthwhile.

12) An enigmatic, unassuming little video that has surprising depth is Allyson Mitchell and Lex Vaughn’s Pink Eyed Pet (both in Quirky Queers; 10pm, Wed, May 21, Cumberland 2).

13) Though not available for preview, curator Pamila Matharu has lined-up a tasty master baker’s dozen of Toronto queers for Inside Out’s celebratory program of original works, 13, including Andrew Hull, Shaan Syed, bh yael, Graham Hollings, Michelle Mohabeer and my boss, Xtra publisher David Walberg (7pm, Thu, May 22, Cumberland 2).


$10; $15-$25 for galas.

2pm-8pm. Mon-Fri. Noon-6pm. Sat & Sun.

Till Wed, May 14. 491 Church St, 2nd floor.

(416) 925-XTRA ext 2229.