Founded in 1976 as a small-scale opportunity to introduce Hogtown residents to cinema from around the globe, TIFF has become the largest publicly-attended film festival in the world. And this year’s edition may have more queer offerings than ever. Daily Xtra scoured this year’s program to find a few of the fest’s gay bests.
Below Her Mouth
After a pair of box office stinkers (2012’s zombie/demon hybrid horror-comedy, Death Before Dawn 3D and 2015’s clichéd revenge thriller, 88) the announcement of Canadian director April Mullen’s latest is being greeted with some skepticism. Starring fellow Canuck Natalie Krill as a straight fashion editor who falls for an androgynous roofer (Swedish model Erika Linder in her big screen debut) the film aims to offer a sizzling look inside an accidental lesbian love affair. But while her last few flicks have been poorly received, could this be a turning point for the Niagara Falls native? Featuring a solid team of actors backed by an all-female crew, Below Her Mouth just might end up being 2016’s most improbable film success story.
From The Talented Mr Ripley to American Beauty, there’s no shortage of films about gays crushing on straight dudes with disastrous results. But stories of gay/straight friendships without sexual tension are a relatively new phenomenon. Set in the deeply macho and highly homoerotic space of a rugby-crazed boys boarding school, Handsome Devil tells the story of Ned (Fionn O’Shea), a music-loving, sports-hating social outcast who ends up rooming with Connor (Nicholas Galitzine), a hunky athlete with a checkered past. Despite their initial repulsion, the pair strike up an unlikely friendship, much to the chagrin of Connor’s teammates. Equal parts laugh-out-loud comedy and poignant coming-of-age story, Irish director John Butler’s second feature makes a much needed contribution to a fledgling genre.
It’s Only The End of the World
Coming out to family is a struggle for every queer. But for gay men who are also HIV-positive, that’s a whole other level of complexity. Based on French playwright Jean-Luc Lagarce’s Juste La Fin Du Monde, Québecois wunderkind Xavier Dolan’s latest follows one man’s struggle with how to reveal his status to a family he’s all but ignored for more than a decade. Shot in an intensely claustrophobic manner with a team of top-notch actors including Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, Dolan’s film reminds us that no matter how much societal acceptance grows, some conversations will always be hard to have.
The Last Leatherman of the Vale of Cashmere
The plethora of websites and apps available to gay men makes hooking up easier than ever. But while using an app to find a lunch break shag less than 500 metres away is a great modern convenience, the shift to digital technologies has meant a sharp drop in the number of guys hooking up in public spaces. Greg Loser’s short looks at the life of an aging leather daddy as he revisits the Brooklyn park where he fucked his way through most of the ’70s and ’80s. Unfolding mostly through voice-over, the film follows his ponderances about his own attractiveness, the decline of public cruising and what to make of all the Park Slope couples on bird watching excursions in his former stomping grounds.
If you’re not well-versed in the story of Saint Anthony of Padua, a quick glance at Wikipedia will help you make some sense of Portuguese director João Pedro Rodrigues’ latest. The tale of a sexy (and frequently underwear-clad) ornithologist (French actor Paul Hamy) who gets lost in a remote area is loosely structured around the life events of the 13th century friar. From a pair of sadomasochistic Chinese tourists to a group of Bacchanalian revellers to a trio of Latin-speaking Amazons, its winding plot is tough to make sense of. But the unlikely combination of elements provides an unexpectedly satisfying cinematic experience. Part thriller, part gay love story, part wildlife documentary, The Ornithologist functions like a queer twist on a National Geographic special directed by David Lynch.
As trans people gain greater public visibility and stories of their lives appear on the big screen with increasing frequency, many of these films generate frustration from some corners of the trans community. Concerns include poor and limiting portrayals of trans folks, a lack of trans actors in trans roles, and trivializing the reality of trans experiences —among many others — for which (re) Assignment has already come under scrutiny. The film has already prompted its own hashtag, #BoycottReAssignment and several articles have criticized the film. So what exactly are we to make then of a revenge thriller about an assassin (Michelle Rodriguez) who undergoes forced gender reassignment at the hands of a diabolical surgeon (Sigourney Weaver)? We’ll have to wait and see.
Santa & Andres
Although Cuba officially decriminalized homosexuality in 1979, queers there have continued to face persecution even in present day, often under the guise of being political agitators. Set in 1983, Havana-born director Carlos Lechuga’s second feature tells the story of a dissident gay writer (Eduardo Martínez) being kept under semi-house arrest by a young revolutionary woman (Lola Amores) from the countryside. While her initial task is to keep him from speaking at an upcoming political event, the pair develop an unlikely rapport. Set against the backdrop of rural Cuba, the film tackles one of the central questions in the politics of tolerance: why do we hate people we’ve never met just because they think differently?
From the first inklings that your body doesn’t match the person you know yourself to be — and subsequent surgeries, changing legal documents, and finding acceptance in the world for your new self — transitioning genders is a complex, sprawling endeavour. But Serbian director Milica Tomovic’s short doesn’t provide a comprehensive examination of the process. Instead, Transition offers a tiny snapshot of a critical moment every trans person will recognize; the point between realizing who you really are and starting the process of sharing that discovery with those around you.