Entering its 12th year, the Regent Park Film Festival is a distinctive presence in Toronto’s film community, with its investment in education, accessibility and community growth. This year, the festival will be offering a Queer Perspectives Talkback, spearheaded by filmmaker John Greyson and featuring Kim Katrin Crosby and Michele Clarke. Interim festival director Elana Trainoff talked to Xtra about what viewers can look forward to this year.
Xtra: Tell me the motivation behind the new Queer Perspectives Talkback at the Regent Park Film Festival. Why was it created?
Elana Trainoff: We have always wanted to share the stories of the queer community through our programming, and we were very lucky to have the short film Dawn submitted to the festival. Dawn explores the intersecting lives of racialized gay men, and we were able to catapult Queer Perspectives from this. We solicited the film The New Black to program with it.
The New Black explores the gripping story of a group of African-American activists involved in the fight to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. By following them to the frontlines, the film examines the widespread homophobia present within the black community and how people from both sides of the fence grapple with their idea of family in a changing world that challenges their religious beliefs. Programming both a fiction and non-fiction film has allowed the festival to create a forum for discussion around queer identity in the racialized community — an important issue that resonates with those who our organization works to support. Our Queer Perspectives Talkback session has provided an open forum for discussion.
How does it fit within the larger mandate of the festival?
RPFF’s mandate is to provide programming that resonates with the challenges and issues faced by low-income and social-housing communities, no matter how taboo they may be. This type of programming is a key intersection in our hope to reach those in isolated communities, dealing with issues of discrimination and homophobia as they relate to race and religion.
Who will be speaking at the talkback, and what is their relation to the LGBT community?
We will be joined by Kim Katrin Crosby (Milan) and Michele Clarke. Kim is an award-winning multidisciplinary artist, activist, speaker, facilitator and educator whose work has taken her across North America to speak on issues of equity, liberation and care. Michele is a media artist whose work explores queer and diasporic longing and loss predominantly through photography, film and video. A celebrated filmmaker, she currently serves as a board member with two arts organizations and is pursuing an MFA in documentary media studies at Ryerson University. The talkback will be moderated by Kiana Eastmond, an award-winning entrepreneur, facilitator and recent graduate of MaRS’s Studio Y fellowship.
Issues of representation are incredibly important to both people of colour and the LGBT communities. How is this specific program pertinent to members of the Regent Park Community and their desire for representation?
We recognize that Regent Park is an incredibly diverse community, and our Queer Perspectives program endeavours to explore issues that will provoke critical thought and inspire responsible dialogue amongst the audience. The content of the program reflects narratives and subject matter that lack representation and visibility, both within the mainstream and queer communities. Many people from Regent Park and its surrounding communities can and do identify with these narratives. As a result, we feel obligated to provide a platform for their context to be addressed in a manner that is interesting, thought provoking and revealing. It is no secret that homosexuality is a sensitive topic when paired with race and religion, and the festival sees great value in addressing the various cultural experiences of its community members through the less frequently told stories and perspectives that will be shared.
How do you hope to see this particular program grow in the years to come?
It is our sincere hope that the Queer Perspectives program becomes a staple in our festival programming in years to come, that we can continue to search across the globe for stories to share that help members of the communities we strive to support find a place to connect with others facing similar challenges and triumphs. The LGBTQI community in Toronto and beyond is one that we hope to engage, entertain, enlighten and even educate with our programming both in the festival and throughout the year.