Seven years ago, Toronto’s Inside Out LGBT Film Festival gave birth to a mini-version of itself in Ottawa. Conceived by former director of programming Jason St-Laurent (who now helms Ottawa’s SAW Gallery), the four-day event is jam-packed with some of the top film picks from the Toronto edition. Xtra chatted with current director Andrew Murphy to learn what makes this year’s fest a must for Ottawa queer audiences.
Xtra: What’s different about presenting queer film in Ottawa versus Toronto or another major Canadian city?
Andrew Murphy: Toronto is over 11 days with many more movies and a much larger queer community to draw from, so I suppose it’s different by default. Ottawa, with its reputation for being a government town, is a bit more reserved, very respectful. Or maybe our audience is worried about getting kicked out of the National Gallery if they raise their voices? Seriously, though, when I see the Ottawa audiences coming, you can tell they’re there to experience film and to experience it with their community. That makes me feel warm inside. Good movies find their audience, and if we can help in some way to connect the two, then my job is done. And if people meet people face to face and enjoy themselves rather than via mobile apps, that’s a bonus.
How do you select the works for the Ottawa fest specifically from the ones originally selected for Toronto?
Ottawa is only four days, so it’s that much more painstaking to whittle down only the best of the best from the films we have and present a top-drawer festival. I’m super stoked to get into the theatres to present them and gauge audience reactions. We kick things off with Toronto’s Audience Award winner, Reaching for the Moon, which follows a tempestuous love affair between American poet Elizabeth Bishop and Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares in 1950s Brazil. We also have the top French-language LGBT films that premiered in Cannes this year: Sara Préfère la Course [Sarah Prefers to Run], about a young female runner caught in a bisexual love triangle, L’Inconnu du Lac [Stranger by the Lake], a dark, sexy film noir with lots of dick, and the Palme d’Or winner that just had its North American debut at TIFF, Blue Is the Warmest Colour, about a sensitive 15-year-old girl whose desires are awakened when she meets an assertive art student.
Beside the films, what else happens at the festival?
We’re always looking for great hook-up possibilities in our nation’s capital. We’re hosting a sweet reception before the opening film at La Petite Mort on Oct 17 that’s free with the film ticket. This year we’re also partnering with a local group called Queer Mafia to co-present a party called Oh My Jam on Oct 19 at Babylon. I’m still studying up so I know what to pack. Leather? Tank tops? Suit?
Ottawa is a very queer but also often very closeted town. Does presenting a program like Inside Out work to promote queer acceptance or is it mostly about entertainment?
It’s definitely a combination of the two. As I learn more about our cities and the festival, I try to tailor-make them for the audience, to entertain, but at the same time challenge and expose them to something they might not otherwise have seen or heard of in their everyday existence. We have pure escapism, sexy fare, coming-of-age for those hopeless romantics, as well as more challenging fare. Seriously, take the four days off, buy a pass and just go to movies. It’s going to be awesome.