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Queer film experts baffled by detention of Inside Out films

Out on Film ED & documentary director Aerlyn Weissman weigh in

FILM CENSORSHIP. "There's no transparency in the system," says Vancouver-based documentary director Aerlyn Weissman. Credit: aerlyn.com

Gays involved with the film industry are weighing in on Inside Out’s spat with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Their verdict?

“What we’re able to see in the queer community is at the whim of someone who hasn’t a clue what they’re looking at; it’s outrageous,” says Aerlyn Weissman.

Weissman is a Vancouver-based documentary director. Her films include Fiction and Other Truths, about lesbian novelist Jane Rule and Kink, a documentary about people in the SM community.

In 2002, Weissman released Little Sister’s, Big Brother, a film about the censorship of gay and lesbian work at the Canadian Border.

“It’s so arbitrary,” she says. “Books, films, even exchanges of ideas can be completely forbidden.”

What’s worse is that it’s impossible to tell what’s happened to the films or why they are targeted by the CBSA.

“There’s no transparency in the system,” she says.

Drew Dennis is the executive director of Out On Screen, Vancouver’s queer film festival. Dennis says that it’s “unfortunate” that CBSA detained the films destined for Inside Out, adding that it’s rare for films being couriered to get flagged by CBSA.

“We get the occasional bumper of something being held a couple days but it’s never prevented a film from being screened,” says Dennis.

The dust-up with Inside Out reminds Dennis of a battle Out On Film had over Weissman’s Little Sister’s vs Big Brother.

“We had problems with British Columbia Film Classification office in 2002. Ironically, it was a film about censorship. We definitely had issues then, but none since.”

Folks directly involved are also baffled, including John Lambert, the head of distribution for Regent Releasing. Regent handles films in behalf of Here, the company that has rights to all three contested films.

“We were very surprised with this because it never happened to us before. All three films played at other locations in Canada. They aren’t of a shocking nature,” says Lambert. “Fortunately, the festival had a screener they were able to show. It had a branding watermark, but at least people were able to see the film.”

UPDATE: As of Nov 25, officials with the Canada Border Services Agency have approved three films they flagged at the border on their way to Inside Out’s Ottawa festival. I Can’t Think Straight, Clapham Junction and Patrik, Age 1.5 have been released but the films have not yet made it to their destination, organizers say. The festival ended Nov 22.

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