Toronto
2 min

Where else but ImagineNative?

One sexy cowboy meets a half-breed dyke

LOVE & A GOLDFISH. Little Gold Cowboy, the first film directed by Michael Reinhana, a Maori-Pacific Islander, is one of the queer offerings at the ImagineNative fest. Credit: Xtra files

Since 1998, the ImagineNative festival has been presenting film and video works by Canadian and international aboriginal artists – and judging by what’s on the agenda this time around, it’s going to be a strong year for the fest.



In terms of queer work, there isn’t a huge amount on offer – must be one of those years – but what is available to pique the homo mind is well worth a look (two were available to preview).



One is Love And Numbers, a new video by Thirza Cuthand, who is well known to Toronto audiences and has long since been a celebrated artist on the queer film scene. This latest piece is lovely – a look at a two-spirited woman suffering through, among other things, love and psychiatry.



The video is structured along some fairly conventional experimental lines – slow-motion shots of lights moving, close-ups on the body, slippers shuffling along the ground make up the images, intercut with lists of binary code, while a voiceover muses quietly but deliberately about sundry ideas.



It’s due to this musing that the work succeeds. Its first lament is that everything is coded – language, movement, DNA – and that’s fine, until you run into code you don’t understand or that others refuse to acknowledge, or code that only works once. With great elegance, Cuthand pulls together these crippled codes to examine her experience as a “wry, young, half-breed dyke” in a nation that doesn’t understand indigenous peoples, the hell of unrequited love and the confusion of manic depressive disorder. Eventually, these unintelligible codes come together under the roof of psychosis.



Equally pleasing is Little Gold Cowboy, the first film directed by Michael Reinhana, a Maori-Pacific Islander who has been working in the US for the last few years. A mix of video and Super 8 make up this strange, dark tale of one sexy cowboy.



When a letter addressed only to Little Gold Cowboy is pushed under his door, our hero takes one look and figures he’d better get dressed (leather pants, red codpiece, a harness and wings – an outfit any sheriff would die for) and get himself, his heart and his goldfish to town. The journey is wonderfully expressed through stop-motion film work, taking us across a beach and through the fields to the streets of a small town, where the cowboy confronts true love, who turns out to be his doppelganger – except he’s missing a golden sheriff’s star.



There are innumerable themes to unearth here – narcissism, the violence of love, fear of the Other, I could go on – and this is the cleverness of the work: Its tale is remarkably simple, but the journey and the telling are complex, tight and just plain absurd fun. It’s also rather beautiful and touching – a favourite moment is shots of an inscription in ages-old calligraphy on a tombstone that reads, “The flowers fadeth because God bloweth upon them.” True love indeed.



* Love And Numbers and Little Gold Cowboy are showing in the festival’s Sharp Shooters short film program, a co-presentation with Inside Out, on Thu, Oct 21 at 7pm at the Al Green Theatre (750 Spadina Ave).



IMAGINENATIVE.

$100 pass; $5 reg screening.

Wed, Oct 20-24.

(416) 585-2333.

Imaginenative.org.