Film & Video
2 min

Queer picks at VIFF

From survival in Uganda to addiction in the US

The 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival features more than a dozen queer films among its 380 screenings from all over the globe.

To check out the full list, go to and type “queer” in the search box. Here is a sample of this year’s offerings.

Call Me Kuchu

“They kept on saying we are not here. But of late . . . we are here.”

In a country whose polls suggest that 95 percent of its population does not support homosexuality, the oppression is not just stifling; it feels nearly insurmountable.

In 2009, the Ugandan parliament introduced a bill demanding that gays and lesbians be turned in and put to death. Filmed in the thick of this oppression and its resistance, Call Me Kuchu captures firsthand the heroic actions of a handful of queers who made a conscious decision to stay in Uganda and fight for their human rights — even though it meant putting their own lives at huge risk.

The filmmakers initially followed Uganda’s first openly gay activist, David Kato — until he was murdered in his own home.

Although at times deeply painful to watch, this film is important to witness, especially for anyone under the impression that advocates of a gay genocide are people of the past.

Check out our interview with the filmmakers:

(USA/Uganda, 87 min)
Thurs, Sept 27, 9:30pm, Empire Granville, 855 Granville St
Mon, Oct 1, 3pm, Empire Granville, 855 Granville St
Fri, Oct 5, 5pm, Empire Granville, 855 Granville St

The Invisible Ones

The Invisible Ones is not a conventional documentary. Rather than focusing on a moment of historical significance or a specific individual, the film is intended to be a reflection of the everyman. More specifically, it offers a brief glimpse into the average, ordinary lives of queer seniors in France who share their lives and loves.

With the bittersweetness of a Chaplin film, the dozen or so interviewees remain nameless for the most part, sharing detailed accounts of gay and lesbian oppression, secrecy, wonderment, love and lust.

In the words of a 60-something woman recalling her homophobic upbringing, “From the polymorphous sexuality so dear to Freud, our parents shaped us into perfect little conformists who knew how to suppress our desires. It took me years to realize that.”

An especially nice touch — though all too brief — is the film’s archival snippets of French gay gatherings in the 1960s, further moving the “plot” away from it from being a literal tale to a more visceral one.


(France, 115 min)
Fri, Oct 5, 8pm, Empire Granville, 855 Granville St
Sun, Oct 7, 9:15pm, Empire Granville, 855 Granville St
Fri, Oct 12, 11:45am, Empire Granville, 855 Granville St

Keep the Lights On

Keep the Lights On took the shiniest awards at Los Angeles’s Outfest 2012, receiving both Best Screenwriting and Best Film.

The film opens with a glimpse of innocence, its first 15 minutes buoyant with light and joy as young lovers Erik and Paul find a tender place in each other’s arms. Then the rest of the couple’s decade together unravels, coated in a thick residue of crack addiction.

The plot — seemingly well intended, with its addiction-hurts-everyone message — becomes almost entirely focused on the should-he-stay-or-should-he-go quandary, as Erik is repeatedly drawn into Paul’s toxic web.

As a result, the film’s one likeable character becomes unlikeable, relinquishing most of his dignity and rights to his partner’s dysfunction.

Though clearly heralded by many, this film oozes desperation and downfall much in the same way that Drugstore Cowboy did, making it a tough emotional haul for those looking for a tender night out.

(USA, 103 min)
Wed, Oct 3, 9:15pm, Empire Granville, 855 Granville St
Thurs, Oct 4, 11:30am, Empire Granville, 855 Granville St
Filmmaker Ira Sachs in attendance.