Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Queer highlights at ImagineNative film fest

Too-spirited film fest

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. Lesbians in Alice.

There’s something special to most ImagineNative screenings; the fest truly lives up to its name. It’s hard to remember that the largest concentration of natives in Canada is in Toronto. Like native history and issues, generally, Toronto Indians are often overlooked. So chances to come together as a community, like ImagineNative, are wild: the artists and audiences are so diverse — young and old, urban and reserve, men and women, gay and straight — yet connected. The energy is palpable.

This year’s fest, running Wed, Oct 17 to 21, offers some very queer, strong highlights.

The new feature doc Water Running Together is a wonderful look at gay dancer Jock Soto, the stunning New York City ballet star of 24 years who retired in 2005.

Soto’s family lived a nomadic existence, selling crafts at powwows across the county, too poor to live in New York City. So, at 14, Soto left family and school to study dance in NYC. By 16, George Balanchine had selected him to dance for his company and he quickly rose to be one of the most celebrated dancers in North America.

Soto’s life, his world, was dance; it’s a strange, glamorous and insular world brought to life by the choreographers and dance partners who’ve worked with Soto over the years.

Soto’s parents — exuberant, lively characters — are constants in a film where family and heritage play a complex role. His mother is Navajo and his father is Puerto Rican. Gwendolyn Cates’s feature-length film cuts a wide swath, journeying back to the reservation in Arizona where Soto was raised and to Puerto Rico to meet grandparents.

There are great dance sequences intercutting archival and concert footage with rehearsals and backstage moments that really communicate the energy and uniqueness of Soto’s art.

The doc is built around Soto’s impending retirement from the stage, an agonizing moment for any dancer, especially for someone like Soto who’s been on his own for so long. Moving stuff. Water Running Together screens at 7pm on Thu, Oct 18 with Soto in attendance.

Destiny in Alice is a hilarious new mockumentary from Australia. Narrator Destiny Attenborough (Tricia Moreton-Thomas) assumes the posture and ponderous intonation of an aboriginal Richard Attenborough hosting a nature documentary on a rare species: the Alice Springs lesbian.

For such a funny romp, Sonja Dare’s 30-minute film tackles some weighty topics: the intersection of feminist and queer history (dating back to the 1960s and women’s protests against a nearby US air force base), class differences among lesbians (red wine versus beer) and the minefield of interracial dating. A winner. Destiny in Alice anchors the True Romance program of queer shorts at 1pm on Sat, Oct 20.

Toronto’s Kent Monkman unleashes his alterego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle on the Royal Ontario Museum, performing a “séance” with 19th-century colonial artists like Paul Kane and George Catlin, in the lobby of the new Lee-Chin Crystal at 7pm on Fri, Oct 19 (for more queer ROM see page 42). The premiere of Monkman’s latest film Robin’s Hood is part of the experimental shorts program at 5pm on Oct 18 and his Shooting Geronimo short is part of the The Double Entendre of Re-Enactment program at 3pm on Oct 20.