Arts & Entertainment
4 min

Top five films not to miss at Inside Out 2016

Canadian talent graces the silver screen

Our top picks for the year.

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Inside Out has always been a platform for international cinema, but it’s always supported Canadian talent as well. In 2005, the festival launched an annual programming stream centred on filmmakers from different parts of the globe. Germany, France, Latin America, Scandinavia and East Asia have all received special attention. This year, the program’s focus turns inward, putting the Great White North in the limelight. While there’s never a shortage of Canuck talent on display, there are more Canadians than ever in the 2016 program. Here, we’ve assembled a few festival highlights from our nation’s own.

Almost Adults
May 28, 2016
7:00pm

The BFF coming out story usually follows a standard formula. Gay friend tells straight friend they’re queer. Straight friend struggles to accept them. Everything works out in the end. But Toronto director Sarah Rotella’s feature debut puts an unlikely twist on this familiar narrative. Ambitious perfectionist Cassie (Natasha Negovanlis) and tomboy semi-slacker Mackenzie (Elise Bauman) are college seniors, itching to take their first steps into adulthood. Pals practically since birth, they’ve shared love, mourned loss, and seen each other at their best and worst moments.

But when Mackenzie finally takes her first steps out of the closet, Cassie can’t handle it. Her discomfort has nothing to do with her friend’s sexuality, however. It’s the intense hurt she feels that Mackenzie hasn’t been able to share her secret sooner. Chock-full of millennial witticisms and dark humour, Almost Adults offers a fully rendered picture of the challenges of coming out, beyond simply being accepted for who you are.

And Still We Rise
June 5, 2016
2:15pm

Being gay is still a crime in more than 70 countries around the world. Among the most stringent in their legislated homophobia, gay sex carries the death penalty. But there’s probably no place that’s received more international attention for its “Kill the Gays” stance recently that Uganda. The country has had sodomy laws on the books since it fell under British colonial rule in the mid-19th century. But a recent surge of attention from local faith leaders and international anti-gay zealots like Scott Lively, who saw the East African nation as a testing ground for enacting such policies, have placed it squarely in focus of global human rights organizations.

Co-helmed by activist Richard Lusimbo and Canadian director Nancy Nicol, the film charts the battle leading up to the legislation being passed, through its overturning, and ultimately to the nation’s first Pride parade. Told through the stories of local people and activists involved in the cause, And Still We Rise is a reminder that openly proclaiming your queerness while marching through the streets was an act of defiance, long before it became a big party.

Closet Monster
June 1, 2016
7:30pm

“Original coming out story” has become a gay oxymoron. But director Stephen Dunn’s first feature succeeds in being just that. Oscar (Connor Jessup) dreams of leaving his small East Coast town to study special effects make-up in NYC with his best gal pal, aspiring actress Gemma (Sofia Banzhaf) in tow. His burgeoning sexuality is no secret to him, but his brutally homophobic father Peter (Aaron Abrams) is wilfully blind to his son’s identity, constantly aiming to butch him up, while his mother Brin (Joanne Kelly) remains largely absent. The only one who seems to understand is his hamster Buffy (voiced by Isabella Rossellini).

Though complex, his life seems to have found a rough equilibrium until he meets Wilder (Aliocha Schneider), a handsome stranger who’s spending the summer in his seaside hamlet. Equal parts blood-soaked horror film, poignant family drama and voyage of self-discovery, Closet Monster puts a genuinely unique twist on a well-worn tale.

North Mountain
May 30, 2016
5:15pm

Now that gay cinema has existed long enough, much of the field’s output fits into neat genre boxes. North Mountain, however, is a film that resists all categorization. It centres on Wolf (Justin Rain), a young Mik’maw man residing in a remote area of Nova Scotia. He lives a simple life, dedicating most of his time to hunting and looking after his aging grandmother. But his reality is shattered with the arrival of Crane (Glen Gould), a mysterious stranger he finds lying in the woods, bleeding from a gunshot wound and carrying a suitcase full of cash.

What follows is an entirely unexpected work that melds the gangster film, the thriller and the coming out story, all viewed through an aboriginal lens. Combining strong performances from its leads with a steady directorial hand, Bretten Hannam’s debut feature succeeds in an unusual feat; being a film that resonates on many familiar levels while being unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things
June 3, 2016
5:30pm

For most Canadians, our northern frontier is a land of conflicting stereotypes. On one hand, it’s a dizzying panorama of spectacular and unspoiled wilderness, populated by a rugged people who’ve developed a unique way to survive over thousands of years. On the other, it’s a dark and dismal wasteland, with a deeply troubled population, struggling with countless health and social issues.

Mark Kenneth Woods and Michael Yerxa’s documentary cuts through all this with a look at the often forgotten reality of Nunavut’s LGBT population. The piece examines the experiences of local activists trying to facilitate greater cultural acceptance of queerness and those who’ve fled to the south as a means of survival. The resulting film provides a both a handy guide to the Canada’s colonization of the north and its continuing effect of the Inuit. But despite its dark underpinnings, Two Soft Things provides a surprising portrait of our country’s northern-most queer population; a small but resolutely optimistic group committed to making change, one small step at a time.