The Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival is taking its mandate to increase youth involvement to the next level, starting with a new free matinee for high school students.
The award-winning documentary No Look Pass will screen at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on May 25. It is the story of Emily “Etay” Tay, an athlete and first-generation gay Burmese immigrant. Tay struggles to find her place in the worlds of Harvard University, professional basketball and a traditional family — all while coming out as a lesbian.
Organizers say more than 100 students are slated to attend the screening, with some coming from as far away as Hamilton.
For Scott Ferguson, executive director of Inside Out, the film is an opportunity to get kids talking about queer issues in a way that isn’t tokenizing.
“There’s such a broad range of subjects addressed and brought up in film,” he says. “The things they’re talking about might not necessarily be outright about bullying or anti-homophobia, but most of them are just raising awareness of what it’s like to be queer — and the normalcy of LGBT identity.”
It’s just one part of the three-pronged Inside Out Reach initiative, which festival organizers hope will fight youth homophobia and groom a new generation of film buffs along the way. Organizers also plan to start screening films in schools later this year. In addition, the festival has taken on youth reporters, who’ll be given all-access passes to the films and events. They will then upload video and document their experiences.
The queer film festival’s demographic “tends to be a little bit older,” says Diana Khong, Inside Out’s marketing and education coordinator. But youth reporter Matt Hoffman, 17, is ready to change that. “I want to get people more aware and expand their horizons when it comes to film,” he says.
Hoffmann is a Grade 12 student at Thornhill’s Westmount Collegiate. He says that while his own school is generally gay-friendly, friends tell him their schools are more homophobic. “People are being told by movies and TV” that homophobia is normal, he explains. His focus is drawing his peers’ attention to alternative media — and letting those stories fight bigotry.
“Everybody loves films,” he says. “One of the biggest issues is that people go to the same kinds of movies and they’re not exposed to different kinds of film . . . I’m hoping people who get exposed to different kinds of movies will have different outlooks on the way they see things.”
Leanne Iskander, a Mississauga gay-straight alliance activist who has often been in front of the cameras because of her school’s lack of support for its gay students, took a turn as a youth reporter at the Inside Out launch party on April 26.
“People spoke about their favourite parts of Inside Out,” Iskander says. “It was great to hear different perspectives and what they liked at the festival.”
After the festival, organizers want Inside Out’s screening tour to bring challenging movies into high schools throughout Toronto. Khong says the move out of downtown and into kids’ neighbourhoods is an important one.
“I don’t want it to be preaching to the choir,” she explains. “Inside Out does have a great library of films and it’s a great resource.
“Wherever you lie, wherever your politics are, just sit down and maybe you will learn something through film.”