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Queer picks for Vancouver International Film Festival 2016

This year’s lineup tells queer stories from around the globe

The Ornithologist. Credit: Courtesy VIFF

Founded in 1982, the Vancouver International Film Festival has grown to become one of the five largest film festivals in North America. With films from over 70 countries being screened, VIFF 2016 is packed with a variety of queer content. We asked festival programmers for some of the top queer picks at this year’s festival. Here’s their selection:

Being 17

Set in the French Pyrenees, André Téchiné’s (Wild Reeds) latest charts the coming-of-age and sexual awakening of two lads — one the son of farmers, the other a brainy kid from town. Initially enemies after meeting at school, Tom (Corentin Fila) and Damien (Kacey Mottet Klein) develop a profound connection that is both moving and unsentimental.

Growing Up Coy

Eric Juhola’s inspiring documentary profiles an undaunted family as they campaign tirelessly for their child’s rights in small-town Colorado. An elementary school bathroom becomes the flashpoint for a heated legal battle after the family’s transgender daughter, Coy, is banned from using the bathroom that matches her gender. Her parents take their case to the court of public opinion only to be branded child abusers and incur fierce backlash.


Set in Florida, Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age tale eschews tired tropes in favour of an urgent, deeply felt take on what it means to be a black man in America today. Jenkins masterfully traces the life of Chiron (played as an adult by Trevante Rhodes) through three defining stages in his life, from schoolyard bullies in a 1980s Miami crack epidemic to an adulthood grappling with his own sexuality, shattering stereotypes along the way.

The Ornithologist

João Pedro Rodrigues returns with a provocative and highly personal modern reading of the life of St Anthony of Padua. Fernando (Paul Hamy) idyllically pursues his love of birdwatching until a canoeing mishap causes his boat to capsize. A decidedly strange encounter with two (female) Chinese pilgrims bends the films genre and marks the turn into queered up allegorical territory.

Our Love Story (Yeon-ae-dam)

Lee Hyunju’s debut serves as a healthy corrective to other lesbian stories from Korean film, keenly observed and emotionally truthful. Art student Yoonju, who has never liked boys, but never thought of herself as a lesbian either, is surprised to find her herself attracted to the self-confident Jisoo. The two begin dating only to face pressure from friends and family to find husbands and their relationship begins to suffer.

Staying Vertical

Alain Guiraudie (Stranger by the Lake) rejects the heteronormative with this provocative and offbeat almost-fairy tale about a sexually fluid would-be screenwriter, Léo (Damien Bonnard). After fathering a child with a shepherdess, Léo finds himself raising the baby alone in the French countryside surrounded by foul-mouthed farmers and dangerous wolves.


Young French star Pierre Niney, teams up with writer-director François Ozon (Young & Beautiful, Under the Sand) for a gorgeous post-World War I period piece. Niney plays Adrien, a mysterious Frenchman visiting the graveside of his friend Frantz, a German soldier killed in the war. Adrien’s arrival causes passions to run high in the small German town where Frantz is buried. Among the most affected is Frantz’s fiancée, Anna (Paula Beer), who decides to learn more about the new stranger.


Navigating the nebulous world of teenage sexual identity has left 16-year-old Tim (Mommy’s Antoine Olivier Pilon) isolated and afraid. A bright student and gifted athlete, he finds himself walking on eggshells in a suburban high school festering with bullying and intimidation. To cope with his anxiety, Tim throws himself back into competitive running, a sport he’d previously abandoned. In Yan England’s dramatic thriller, bullying and peer pressure are the catalysts for a dramatic change in attitude and a redefinition of what makes Tim, Tim.