I don’t believe in the concept of “boredom” so much as I believe in “laziness.” At the risk of sounding old school, I have to admit that Roz Russell as Auntie Mame’s line about life being a banquet comes to mind. I think of it every year at this time, when festival season gears up.
For the next five months, drowning in ennui is your own damn fault. Not every festival is huge and obnoxiously crowded, many are free, and all of them carry the unspoken promise of summer. Get drunk off the warm night air or off the alcohol we’ll soon be able to carry around everywhere.
The Toronto Jazz Festival brings us a legend the evening of June 24 at Metro Square — one Miss Aretha Franklin. Um, hello. I will take Aretha anyway I can get her: fat or thin, she delivers. Free shows tend to bring out the eccentrics among us, and I predict we’ll see more than a few downmarket copies of her iconic inauguration hat in the audience. Her vocal elasticity may be a bit less elastic, but the power, beauty and truth of that voice still shines.
What else? You can binge on theatre, music, cultural pride or food. The 26th Annual Vegetarian Food Fair in September is good for free samples, recipes and picking up cute granola queers.
Queer Toronto will be repped by 88 Days of Fortune’s Abstract Random, fresh off their successful Limin’ on the Island event. This collective means business and has been impressing audiences with their flow, but if the flow you’re after is of the alcoholic kind, go for a caipirinha with a samba chaser at International Brasilfest, or a beer with a beer chaser at the Honda Indy.
If grease, oil and revving motors get you a bit too hot and bothered, stick to a theatre seat and fan yourself with your program at the Toronto Fringe Festival, which always has plenty of queer content. Bil Antoniou’s Operation Impervious is a sure bet for comedy; he’ll soon step into Harvey Fierstein’s old rags as Edna Turnblad in a local production of Hairspray, but for now, check out his knack for skewering pop culture, zippy banter and screwballing.
Pretty much everything else happening this summer is dwarfed by big mommas Pride and Caribana. Excuse me — the Scotiabank Caribbean Cultural Festival. The endless Pride saga and the-party-formerly-known-as-Caribana’s renaming and financial woes have caused ripples through the city and elsewhere, but this isn’t a negative. The fact that these two events can make front-page news for days says I’m not alone in my festival lust. We need and want the good times they provide, the chances for romances and the memories we rely on all through winter. Until hibernation comes round again, I’ll be banqueting like my Auntie Mame.
But you know that already, don’t you? Did I see you at Inside Out? Maybe at Hogtown Homos, the local filmmakers’ showcase? This year, I loved Mark Pariselli’s Frozen Roads; calling it “indirectly autobiographical,” Pariselli’s skill at telling a rural Ontario story might surprise his downtown audience.
“I’d rather see a different setting. I don’t want to see a mirror of my everyday of life.”
As a fan of Pariselli’s aesthetic, I admire his ability to tell a gay story without it being a tragic coming out or gaysploitation. It’s stark filmmaking, tense and dark. His cast are “real-looking actors; I’m not interested in clichés. Much of this film is unspoken and ominous, and part of the experience is not knowing.”
Inside Out also offered a chance to check out Bell Lightbox, the King St theatre complex Pariselli calls “a cathedral of cinema. What an honour to screen there!” While thinking ahead to the day he can do features, he credits Inside Out with much of his development:
“Spending a week completely immersed in film with international filmmakers is an awesome exchange. I’m glad they program alternative voices and include films like mine in the conversation.”
Frozen Roads will screen in Calgary and Lisbon next, but Toronto festival-goers got it first!