#EDITORSNOTE: TEAM MR. WILL’S BEST OF 2019 FILMS
2019 was a remarkable year in Cinema. More than ever are we seeing Netflix and female Directors at the forefront and you will see this in the Team’s year’s best. Once again we are thrilled to share our favourites with you and would love to see how these align with your own personal faves. If you haven’t caught-up yet on your 2019 viewing, we hope the Team gives you some inspiration for your Holiday viewing!
Enjoy the rest of your Holidays and to an even more amazing 2020!
Team Mr. Will
L to R: Jonathan Godfrey, David & Alyssa Baldwin, George Kozera, Justin Waldman x Mr. Will
(There in spirit: Amanda Gilmore, Siobhán Rich)
A farewell to beloved Thompson Diner, where we held our 2019 Holiday Brunch.
AMANDA GILMORE (@GilmoreAmanda on Twitter)
In my opinion, this year has been one of the strongest years in Film for a VERY long time. We had amazing diverse creative talents in front and behind the camera who have worked together to make outstanding work, which is precisely why making this Top Ten list has been extremely difficult for me. I would love to write a Top 30 list if I was allowed, but sadly I’m not. Because of this, I have made my list according to my favourite films of the year that I could also re-watch multiple times for years to come. I have also added some honourable mentions because let’s face it, this year was flipping awesome!
DISCLAIMER: I have yet to see 1917 at the time of writing this list.
The Films below are listed in alphabetical order, they are not ranked.
The Peanut Butter Falcon: an extremely touching and unique coming-of-age story.
Ready Or Not: an inventive thriller with one wickedly funny and badass female lead.
Rocketman: I LOVE Elton John and this film was a knockout!
JONATHAN GODFREY (@FFCottage on Instagram)
Written in order the release, the following are my faves for 2019: winter began with If Beale Street Could Talk, a tale of struggle set to a mesmerizing score. Next, Alita: Battle Angel, a great anime adaptation with mesmerizing MOCAP (Motion Capture) work. Spring brought Toy Story 4, a 3D spectacle for the ages; and Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, another spectacular Script from Tarantino. IT Chapter 2 scared me silly this summer, and A Hidden Life was my TIFF ’19 darling. Fall brought with it a Trilogy of favorites: the powerful performance piece, Joker; the breathtaking animation of Frozen 2; and of course, a forever favorite, Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. Winter has returned, and with it, Little Women, a wondrous adaption to warm this holiday season. I have high hopes for 2020, including: Dune, Tenet, Mulan, No Time to Die and Bill & Ted Face the Music.
GEORGE KOZERA (@PartyG on Twitter)
2019 was a banner year for me, watching movies in a darkened theatre. I saw many impressive features from either first-time Directors or from established awards winners. Netflix, the little distribution company that could, released movies that were eclectic in genres and superior in quality and for the second year in a row, one of its offerings made my list as Number One. I saw movies that bored deeply into my skin and heart and mind and soul. It is with apologies to the Christmas releases that I have yet to see (Little Women, Bombshell, 1917, Uncut Gems) and too many Honorable Mentions to list that I submit my Top Ten of 2019:
1. Marriage Story
2. Jojo Rabbit
4. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
6. The Irishman
7. Knives Out
8. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
JUSTIN WALDMAN (@DubsReviews on Twitter)
2019 has certainly been an interesting year for movies. We saw the end of The Skywalker Saga, the warfare between Netflix and Distributors continues to grow increasingly-tense, Scorsese and Iger are teasing a conversation. Movies had more surprises this year, and there have been some genuinely heartwarming and enlightening movies this year. In alphabetical order here are my top 10 movies to end out the decade.
Olivia Wilde directing Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever may have been the most unexpected, most hilarious thing I have seen all year but this Movie is endlessly-fantastic. It is the only Movie I have seen countless times this year, it became an instant classic for myself, that will be adored for the ages.
Taika Waititi in my mind can do no wrong when it comes to filmmaking. Ragnarok, What We Do In The Shadows,and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Waititi constantly delivers genuinely heartwarming and hilarious movies. Jojo Rabbit is no exception to that, the WWII satire is everything I expected of it and more.
I love some brilliant Joaquin. I love me some Joker. I just love this Movie. It is haunting and ingenious, but please for everything that makes this great, do not make a Sequel.
This Whodunit was one of the biggest questions from this Agatha Christie-esque film. It was marvelously-acted, packs a punch, and let’s face it, were all obsessing about knitted sweaters now.
I couldn’t begin to tell you what I thought I was getting myself into when I went to see this. All I can tell you is that it is one of the strangest, brilliant movies I’ve seen all year and I still think about it all these months later.
Moment of truth, this was my first Little Women and what Greta Gerwig manages to do with it is nothing short of inspiring. However when you have Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep and Saoirse Ronan its also hard not to be delighted the entire time.
This was horrifying. Ari Aster still manages to haunt me with his brilliant Horror Film. The Director’s Cut is significantly better than the theatrical cut as well, as well as more haunting when you pay attention to the background. There is nothing else to say.
If you’ve seen it, you know EXACTLY why its on the list. If you have not, why are you waiting? Stop reading immediately and go see the Movie. There is literally no reason not to. It is brilliant and deserves all the acclaim.
Give Sandman everything. This Movie is neurotic, anxiety-inducing acid and you cannot look away. I felt dirty after watching the Movie, but I can’t shake it. Adam Sandler has never delivered a better performance.
This Movie broke me, is the easiest way to put it. It is beautiful, it is tragic, it is heartwarming, it is heartbreaking. This Movie launches a rocket right into the feelings and explodes on impact.
2020, you’re the start of a new decade, you better deliver as well as if not better than 2019.
DAVID BALDWIN (@DaveMABaldwin on Twitter)
2. Jojo Rabbit
3. Marriage Story
4. The Farewell
6. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
7. Honey Boy
8. Blinded By The Light
2019 will go down as one of the best years for Film this decade – maybe even the singular best one. There is so much to say about these ten brilliant Films, and even more to say about the multitude of films that did not make this list. Yes, many will remember this year for the end of The Avengers and Star Wars Sagas. But others will remember it for the magnificent new discoveries that were made, for the masters making some of their best work to date and for the actors we completely wrote-off giving us plenty of reasons to remember them again. I lived, breathed and loved so many movies this year. And know that with the impending birth of my first child, that so much about next year and the next decade of my filmgoing life is going to be so drastically different. So it might just be the nostalgia talking, but I doubt I will ever see another exquisite year of Cinema like this ever again.
Mr. Will’s 2019 Best-Of List is here.
(Photo credit: Netflix/Fox Searchlight/MK2/Mongrel Media/Sony Pictures/Mr. Will Wong)
#INSIDEOUT: 2019 INSIDE OUT LGBTQ FILM FESTIVAL PREVIEW
Now in its 29th year, the 2019 INSIDE OUT LGBTQ FILM FESTIVAL is set to take place May 23 to June 2, 2019 in Toronto with a variety of Special Presentations, Galas, Short Films and Special Events to celebrate the LGBTQ Community on an international scale. The Festival is comprised this year of 27 Narrative, 13 Documentary Features and 94 Short Films spanning 11 days. INSIDE OUT ranks third behind TIFF and HOT DOCS as the biggest Film Festival in Toronto.
The Festival is flashier than ever this year with Elton John Biopic ROCKETMAN opening the Festival and Sundance price-topper LATE NIGHT, written by and starring Mindy Kaling closing things out. Netflix also will present eagerly-awaited Armistead Maupin’s TALES OF THE CITY. It was just announced yesterday that Netflix has agreed to a four-year partnership to support LGBTQ Filmmakers, starting with the Festival. YOU DON’T NOMI, which chronicles the rise of critically-panned SHOWGIRLS to its cult status also looks to delight fans, among options to be highlighted below.
ROCKETMAN, directed by Dexter Fletcher. (UK/ USA) – Rocketman is an epic musical fantasy about the incredible human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years. The film follows the fantastical journey of transformation from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into international superstar Elton John. This inspirational story – set to Elton John’s most beloved songs and performed by star Taron Egerton – tells the universally relatable story of how a small-town boy became one of the most iconic figures in pop culture. Rocketman also stars Jamie Bell as Elton’s longtime lyricist and writing partner Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden as Elton’s first manager, John Reid, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother Sheila Farebrother. With Bryce Dallas Howard, Richard Madden, Taron Egerton.
LATE NIGHT, directed by Nisha Ganatra. (USA) – Canadian Premiere. Written by Mindy Kaling, directed by Nisha Ganatra (whose film Chutney Popcorn capped off Inside Out in 2000), and starring Emma Thompson, Late Night might seem too good to be true. When late-night talk show host, Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is accused of being “a woman who hates women,” she hires her first and only female staff writer, Molly (Mindy Kaling).This lack of inclusion is only the tip of the iceberg for the show, which is also suffering from low ratings and an unsupportive network. Wanting to prove that she is more than just a diversity hire, Molly sets out to help Katherine and to save her show, one punchline at a time. Late Night tackles misogyny and white privilege, while taking a closer look at the complicated working life of women with and without power. With Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, John Lithgow.
ARMISTEAD MAUPIN’S TALES OF THE CITY, directed by Alan Poul. (USA) – Canadian Premiere. Inspired by the books of Armistead Maupin, Netflix’s Original Series, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, begins a new chapter of this beloved story. Mary Ann (Laura Linney) returns to present-day San Francisco to celebrate Anna’s 90th birthday, and is reunited with her daughter Shawna (Ellen Page) and ex-husband Brian (Paul Gross), twenty years after leaving them behind to pursue her career. Fleeing the midlife crisis that her picture-perfect Connecticut life created, Mary Ann is quickly drawn back into the orbit of Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis) and the residents of 28 Barbary Lane. Spanning nine novels and multiple television series, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City for Netflix brings us back into the queer world of San Francisco where so much has changed. What has remained constant are Anna and her chosen family. The Centrepiece Gala will screen the first episode, followed by an onstage conversation with showrunner Lauren Morelli (Orange is the New Black), Murray Bartlett (Looking), and Paul Gross (Due South).
GOOD KISSER, directed by Wendy Jo Carlton. (USA) – International Premiere. What’s a girl to do when her girlfriend suggests a date with a very alluring stranger? This three-way fling is deliciously unveiled in Good Kisser, a new film by Wendy Jo Carlton (whose Jamie and Jessie are Not Together played at the Festival in 2012). Awkward Jenna reluctantly agrees to a threesome with her girlfriend Kate and a mysterious, sophisticated woman named Mia. Over the course of a sultry summer evening, sparks fly, games are played, promises are broken, and secrets are revealed. Nothing will ever be the same. Is Jenna in over her head? Will Jenna and Kate’s relationship survive the night? All bets are off when it comes to good kissers. Good Kisser lays bare a hot relationship in transition—and you will never look at a Popsicle the same way again. With Julia Eringer, Rachel Paulson, Kari Alison Hodge.
SELL BY, directed by Mike Doyle. (USA) – World Premiere. Sell By proves that love is a dangerous game for a group of self-absorbed friends who are trying to navigate their own romances. Nobody said love was easy. Adam (Scott Evans) and Marklin (Augustus Prew) seem to have the world in the palm of their hands, but their love life could use improvement. Marklin’s rise as a social media influencer, and Adam’s struggle to switch from ghost painting to creating his own work, has caused a rift between them. As their five-year relationship grows colder, they must decide whether to go all in or explore other options. Meanwhile, Cammy (Michelle Buteau) is failing to find her way in the world of online dating, and Haley (Zoe Chao) has to fend off an almost-legal student who’s hot for teacher. In this hilarious, heartfelt film, Sell By emphasizes that vanity, with all its problems, can also get in the way of love. With Scott Evans, Augustus Prew, Michelle Buteau, Zoe Chao.
YOU DON’T NOMI, directed by Jeffrey McHale. (USA) – International Premiere. You Don’t Nomi traces the redemption of director Paul Verhoeven’s film Showgirls, from notorious flop to cult classic. When it was first released in 1995, Showgirls was met by critics and audiences with near universal derision, which included thirteen record-breaking Razzie Awards nominations. You Don’t Nomi brilliantly draws on archival footage and thoughtful commentary to chart the film’s eventual rise to a more favourable notoriety. Leaving no stone unturned, we relive many memorable scenes from Showgirls, while digging deeper into the film’s darker side. It will not surprise anyone that many of the people interviewed onscreen are gay, including well-known super fan, Peaches Christ. Is it a masterpiece or pure garbage? McHale’s documentary answers the very important question: can’t it be both?
A DOG BARKING AT THE MOON, directed by Xiang Zi. (China/Spain) – Canadian Premiere. Unhappiness can become such a habit that we forget about its root cause. In her assured and lyrical debut feature, writer-director Xiang Zi introduces us to a family living with sorrow at its core, although the source of that sorrow may not be all that it seems. Ever since she was young, Huang Xiaoyu (Gaowa Siqin) has been cheering for her parents’ divorce, particularly in light of evidence that her father might be gay. Arriving home from the United States to have her first child, Western husband at her side, Xiaoyu already seems demoralized. Her father is cheerful but absent, and her mother, played by veteran actress Renhua Na, is a bundle of nerves and disgruntlement. As the curtain pulls back, we can see that secrets (although her father’s were less well kept) run in the family. Revealing the story over various time periods, Xiang invites the viewer to act as a fly on the wall, enticing them to watch as astutely observed moments unfold in the history of a family who have barely been able to keep up appearances. Teddy Jury Award, 2019 Berlin International Film Festival
ADAM, directed by Rhys Ernst. (USA) – International Premiere. Adam, the much awaited first feature from director Rhys Ernst (Transparent), brings Ariel Schrag’s unconventional boy-meets-girl novel to life, giving us a nuanced look at sexual identity in the early 2000s. Awkward high schooler Adam (Nicholas Alexander) does not have a way with women. When an opportunity arises to spend the summer in New York with his older sister Casey (Margaret Qualley), he seizes the chance to spread his wings, meet women and finally gain some experience. His plan is thwarted by the fact that Casey mostly attends L Word parties and marriage equality marches. When he tags along to a party with his sister’s queer friends, he meets Gillian and, hoping she likes men, strikes up a conversation. When Gillian mistakes Adam’s gender identity, he can’t quite bring himself to correct her error and the two grow closer. Before long, what began as a simple misunderstanding evolves into a complicated mix-up, proving how out of his depth Adam truly is. Ernst and Alexander carefully break down a complicated character and create an honest, engaging and raw coming-of-age story. Official Selection, 2019 Sundance Film Festival. With Nicholas Alexander, Margaret Qualley, MJ Rodriguez, Chloë Levine.
BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, directed by Hannah Pearl Utt. (USA) – International Premiere. When Rachel Gurner’s charming date walks her to her front door and asks if she has roommates, she quietly admits that she does. What she doesn’t admit to is that she lives above a small theatre with her father Mel, her sister Jackie (played by hilarious co-writer Jen Tullock), and her preteen niece, Dodge. It’s a real romance killer. The truth is Rachel has no time for relationships. She takes responsibility for almost every aspect of her family’s lives, from housekeeping to managing their upcoming theatre show. When Mel suddenly passes away, everything they know is put in jeopardy. If this isn’t enough, their father’s outdated will reveals that the mother they believed to be dead is, in fact, alive and is playing a lead role in a popular soap opera. Hannah Pearl Utt writes, directs, and stars in this family drama that gives us license to poke a little fun at life’s misfortunes. Official Selection, 2019 Sundance Film Festival. With Jen Tullock, Judith Light, Mike Colter.
BIT, directed by Brad Michael Elmore. (USA) – World Premiere. Desperate to get away from her small-town roots and find a like-minded community, Laurel hits the road for Los Angeles as soon as she graduates from high school. Sure, people in L.A. are different, but do these people seem extra different? Yes, they do, because they are vampires. On her first night out in the city, Laurel attends a warehouse party and befriends a mysterious group of punk feminist women, led by the intimidating Duke. Laurel is surprised to have met her people so quickly, but her luck turns when one of them feeds on her blood and leaves her for dead. Waking up and realizing she might have become a vampire, Laurel confronts the women who converted her and is given a choice: go back to a boring life or join an ultra-cool vampire squad. Could it possibly be that simple? Of course not. Starring trans actress Nicole Maines as Laurel, Bit is supernatural, super feminist, and super queer. Not to mention the most fun you’ll have at the movies this year.
THE BLONDE ONE (UN RUBIO), directed by Marco Berger. (Argentina) – Canadian Premiere. Things grow hot and heavy between roommates Gabriel and Juan in this steamy, heartfelt film from acclaimed Argentinian director, Marco Berger (Plan B; Absent; Taekwondo). Gabriel is attracted to his roommate and co-worker, Juan. But what chance does Gabriel have, given the number of women streaming in and out of Juan’s bedroom? Overcoming his shyness, Gabriel takes a risk and makes the first move. To his surprise, he finds Juan eagerly responsive. But as their relationship intensifies, Juan wonders if he can give Gabriel what he wants—to bring their relationship out into the open. Marco Berger sets the story in the characters’ everyday lives, and shows subtle signals of attraction as well as the pervasive homophobia and machismo that impacts Gabriel and Juan’s deepening love.
FROM ZERO TO I LOVE YOU, directed by Doug Spearman. (USA) – In this entertaining romantic dramedy, commitment-phobic Pete (Darryl Stephens, Noah’s Arc) and married-with-children Jack unexpectedly fall for each other, and life becomes suddenly complicated. Pete, a gay man living in Philadelphia, has a history of involvement with married men. Enter Jack, with a wife and kids in the suburbs. When sparks fly, Pete must ask himself if he can handle yet another relationship with a married man, while Jack will have to decide if he’s ready to leave his wife. As Pete nears his decision, an opportunity arises that causes him to question whether he is better off with, or without, Jack. Featuring strong chemistry between the leads, director Doug Spearman (Hot Guys with Guns) creates authentic characters in this highly engaging, obstacle-filled romance.
THE GROUND BENEATH MY FEET (Der Boden unter den Füßen), directed by Marie Kreutzer. (Austria) – Canadian Premiere. The Ground Beneath My Feet is a masterful thriller that looks at the intersection of mental health and womanhood through the experiences of Lola (Valerie Pachner), an ambitious workaholic on the verge of a nervous breakdown. A ruthless and skilled consultant, Lola is on the brink of her dream promotion. Everything is put in jeopardy, however, when her sister, who lives with paranoid schizophrenia, attempts suicide. Forced to balance work and her sister’s care while trying to hide family matters from co-workers, Lola is stretched beyond her limits. Exhausted and suspicious of everyone around her, including her boss and secret lover, Elise, Lola begins to lose her grip on reality. Marie Kreutzer’s nuanced portrait of Lola explores the very fine line between order and chaos, balance and instability.
KNIVES AND SKIN, directed by Jennifer Reeder. (USA) – Canadian Premiere. In Knives and Skin, Jennifer Reeder takes the classic American high school movie and turns it completely on its head, adding magical realism, pop-song choirs, and a feminist twist. At first glance, this rural Illinois high school seems like any other: popular football players and their cheerleader girlfriends, marching band nerds, the feminist loner, and the unassuming kid in the mascot costume. But when their peer Carolyn Harper goes missing, the students are forced to confront the cracks in the façade, along the way revealing their true selves and new, unexpected connections. The disappearance also exposes parent’s secrets and highlights the town’s overriding dysfunction. Part teen comedy, part musical and part thriller, Knives and Skin is the badass feminist high school movie we have all been waiting for. With Kate Arrington, Tim Hopper, James Vincent Meredith, Tony Fitzpatrick, Marika Engelhardt.
SAINT FRANCES, directed by Alex Thompson. (USA) – Occasionally things happen in life that make us feel as if the universe is enjoying a cruel joke at our expense. At the onset of a hot summer in Chicago, and having had no time to recover from or process a recent abortion, Bridget begins a job as nanny to stubborn six-year-old Frances. With Bridget’s life in disarray and Frances struggling to adjust to the birth of a baby brother, the two begin to form a bond. But as Bridget moves more deeply into the world of Frances and her moms, her personal relationships suffer and she loses sight of life outside of her job. Featuring standout performances across the board—most notably from six-year-old Ramona Edith-Williams—Saint Frances is a film about family in all of its forms.
SECOND STAR ON THE RIGHT, directed by Ruth Caudeli. (Colombia) – Young at heart and lost in life, Emilia is far from having it all figured out. She’s unemployed, in a relationship she won’t commit to, and the odd one out in her friend group in almost every way possible. As an actor whose theatre work is high in concept but low in attendance, Emilia teaches acting classes while she awaits her big break. When she is unexpectedly fired, she is forced to take a job working for her best friend Angelica. As Emilia sinks more deeply into a comfortable life, she grows further away from herself. If this isn’t enough to manage, she is also trying to figure out exactly what her relationship with Mariana is. Everything comes to a head at Angelica’s bachelorette party, where a few too many drunken truths are revealed. With clear vision, director Ruth Caudeli spotlights the highs and lows of female friendship, and masterfully answers the question: does growing up have to mean giving up?
A NIGHT AT SWITCH N’ PLAY, directed by Cody Stickels. (USA) – World Premiere. There’s something very queer happening at a bar in Brooklyn, and in the new film A Night at Switch n’ Play you are invited to come and watch. Switch n’ Play is a queer performance collective that stages fabulous subversive drag and burlesque shows. The ensemble explodes traditional gender roles, pushing the limits of what drag and burlesque can be. But more than that, they area tight-knit family of outsiders who welcome queer audiences into their world and create a safe, tantalizing space where everyone can be themselves. The film introduces diverse members of the collective and sprinkles in a generous helping of delicious live performances. If you spend just one night with Switch n’ Play, you’ll never want to leave.
CIRCUS OF BOOKS, directed by Rachel Mason. (USA) – Canadian Premiere. In 1976, Karen and Barry Mason fell on hard times and were looking for a way to support their three young children. An ad by Larry Flynt, who was seeking distributors for Hustler Magazine, became their unexpected saviour. The Masons soon found themselves owners of Circus of Books, a popular Los Angeles queer bookstore. Their establishment eventually became the biggest distributor of gay porn in the United States, which led to federal obscenity charges during the Reagan era. This fascinating documentary, directed by their daughter Rebecca Mason, looks at her parents’ unlikely story: how they kept the details of their work from their children, the impact of the AIDS crisis, and how their involvement with the LGBT community didn’t fully prepare them for having a gay son. Featured interviews include LGBT activist Alexei Romanoff, drag superstar Alaska (Justin Honard, a former employee), and porn legend Jeff Stryker.
GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH, directed by David Charles. (USA) – Canadian Premiere. The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus plan a tour of the Deep South in order to bring acceptance and love to many of those who live with discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Led by conductor Tim Seely and joined by the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, the Chorus begin their journey, skeptical of potential audience reaction. They learn, however, that their performances are bringing people together. The Chorus uses the universal language of music to give queer communities in the Deep South a safe and welcoming environment in which to celebrate their identities and orientations. Gay Chorus Deep South shows us that it is not as important who you love, but that you are capable of love, aiming to go beyond mere tolerance to a place where everyone can feel accepted and celebrated for who they are. With Tim Seeling, Chris Verdugo, Jimmy White, Steve Huffines.
HALSTON, directed by Frédéric Tcheng. (USA) – Canadian Premiere. Before Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford and Calvin Klein, there was Halston, a suave young man from Des Moines, Iowa, who took Manhattan by storm and defined 1970s style, designing everything from Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hat to Girl Scout and NYPD uniforms to a JC Penney clothing line. At the height of his career, when he wasn’t throwing tantrums over imperfect seams and wrangling his out-of-control lover, Halston was travelling with a pack of models known as the Halstonettes, and spending drug-fueled nights at Studio 54 with Bianca Jagger, Liza Minelli and Andy Warhol. In this comprehensive look at the designer’s meteoric rise and humiliating fall, French-born director Frédéric Tcheng, who has made documentaries about Dior, Vreeland and Valentino, proves he knows his Ultrasuede from his hot pants. Mixing candid interviews with archival footage that evoke the man and his era, Halston captures the spirit of a genius. Also, a warning: don’t believe your own hype.
SCREAM, QUEEN! MY NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (Special Sneak Preview), directed by Roman Chimienti, Tyler Jensen. (USA) – Actor Mark Patton is ready to scream. Thirty-four years after his first lead role in Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, the rising star experienced what became a real-life nightmare when the movie was dubbed, “The gayest horror film ever made.” Unbeknownst to the closeted actor, whose budding career was smack-dab in the middle of Hollywood’s AIDS-phobic ‘80s, his first big break turned out to be a gay panic film that earned him the title of first male scream queen. His career in ruins, Patton vanished from the spotlight. As it turned out, the true villain wasn’t Freddy Krueger at all, but screenwriter David Chaskin, who denied that he wrote any gay subtext and who instead blamed the young actor. Documentary filmmakers Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen document Patton’s pilgrimage as he attempts to make peace with this dark past, and confronts the entire film cast and Chaskin himself.
WE ARE THE RADICAL MONARCHS, directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton. (USA) – Canadian Premiere. “A group of tween girls chant into megaphones holding clenched fists high and showcasing colourful badges sporting the words, “Black Lives Matter” and “Radical Beauty.” Meet the first troop of Radical Monarchs, a group of young girls of colour who are standing at the front lines of social justice. Set in Oakland, We Are the Radical Monarchs documents, over a three-year period, an alternative movement to the Girl Scouts. Its members earn badges for completing social justice units that incorporate being an LGBTQ ally environmental activism, and disability justice. The group, started by two queer women of colour, is anchored in the belief that girls of colour need dedicated spaces and a foundation that is rooted in fierce, interdependent sisterhood, self-love and hope. This dynamic film follows the first troop of Radical Monarchs and chronicles the co-founders’ struggle to develop, expand and advance the organization and their mission to create and inspire a new generation of social justice activists.”
SPOTLIGHT ON CANADA – Supported by CBC
DRAG KIDS, directed by Megan Wennberg. (Canada) – Drag origin stories are overflowing with misfit kids who were bullied at school and at home because of their love of feminine clothes and cosmetics. But what if those kids were free to be themselves from an early age? Drag Kids introduces us to four fabulous youngsters who have been given that very opportunity. Stephen, Jason, Bracken, and Nemis, age nine to eleven, are already fierce drag queens. They come from different backgrounds but all share a love of fabulous frocks and glittery makeup. When the kids are brought together by their deeply loving, supportive parents, they bond over costumes, makeup and a love of drag. But do they have what it takes to perform and compete with adult queens? Drag Kids takes a joyous look at what can happen when parents support their children’s dreams of fabulousness.
DYKES IN THE STREETS, directed by Almerinda Travassos. (Canada) – World Premiere. Picture it—1981, a summer day in Toronto, 300 lesbians carrying signs and balloons, marching down Yonge Street and loudly chanting, “We are the D. Y. K. E. S!” The march that day was a triumph for pride and visibility. But how have things changed for queer women in Toronto since that protest? How has the movement changed? Who does it represent? And where is it going now? Almerinda Travassos’s new documentary, Dykes in the Streets, poses those questions to a variety of queer women in Toronto. Against a backdrop of remarkable archival footage of Pride from 1981, 1991, 1996 and 2016, the women talk about their experiences with queer activism in Toronto. As our LGBTQ2S+ communities grow and change, Dykes on the Streets raises many timely questions about what has been achieved and what still needs to be done. The screening will be followed by an extended Q&A.
QUEER COOLIE-TUDES, directed by Michelle Mohabeer. (Canada) – Toronto Premiere. In a reclaiming of the slur coolie, filmmaker Michelle Mohabeer’s creative essay documentary explores the experiences of queer Canadians from the Indo-Caribbean diaspora. Beginning with Mohabeer’s personal experience, the documentary moves through a series of interviews with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Instead of succumbing to pressure to find a shared narrative or common ground, the documentary embraces the complexities of how factors such as gender, age and mobility inform identity in nuanced ways. A powerful collection of testimonies, the film traces the intergenerational lives, histories, familial relations and sexualities of its interview subjects. Speaking to the limits of identity and the violence of mainstream categorizations, Queer Coolie-tudes is a documentary that, using intimate testimonies and experimental visual exploration, illustrates the importance of not accepting erasure.
QUEERING THE SCRIPT, directed by Gabrielle Zilkha. (Canada) – World Premiere. “I learned about myself through this show. I saw myself in this character,” explains an enthusiastic fan in Queering the Script, a sparkling celebration of queer fangirls and the shows they love. Queerness on television has moved from subtext, in series such as Xena: Warrior Princess, to all-out multi season relationships between women, as seen on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost Girl, and Carmilla. But things still aren’t perfect. In 2016, a record number of queer women died on fictional shows, which broke the hearts of queer fans and launched a successful fight for better, more diverse LGTBQ2S+ representation. Stars such as Ilene Chaiken, Stephanie Beatriz, Lucy Lawless and Angelica Ross join with the voices of numerous kickass fangirls in this fast-paced history of queer women’s representation of contemporary television. Queering the Script not only charts the evolution of queerness, but also demonstrates the extraordinary impact of activism on its many diverse fans, ensuring that they see themselves accurately portrayed onscreen.
BEING IMPOSSIBLE (YO IMPOSSIBLE), directed by Patricia Ortega. (Venezuela/ Colombia) – International Premiere. Finding your identity is difficult at the best of times, but what if a critical piece of your history has been kept from you? When Ariel has sex with her boyfriend for the first time she experiences intense pain. Her mother gives her strict instructions to visit a very specific doctor but will tell her nothing else. To make matters more confusing, Ariel has developed a strong attraction to her new co-worker, Ana. Everything comes to a head when Ariel discovers that she was born intersex, which affords a new understanding of who she really is and the opportunity to explore what she really wants. Being Impossible provides a sensitive, non-sensational way of looking at the complexities of gender and sex. With Lucia Bedoya, Maria Elena Duque.
BILLIE AND EMMA, directed by Samantha Lee. (Philippines) – North American Premiere. Set in the ‘90s, Billie and Emma explores the turbulent nature of young love and the importance of having someone to laugh with through it all. After getting into trouble, Billie finds herself exiled to the rural plains to live with her aunt. She decides to keep a low profile, determined to make it through the last year of high school incident free and return to the city. And her plan almost works, until she meets star student Emma. Emma coaxes Billie out of her shell and their relationship soon becomes more than friendly, which throws a wrench into Billie’s plan to leave, and threatens to tarnish Emma’s star reputation. Things become even more complicated when Emma finds out that she’s pregnant. Samantha Lee, a fierce advocate for greater representation of women and LGBTQ+ communities in cinema, delivers a heartwarming high school romance that is steeped in charm and expansive expression. With Gabby Padilla, Zar Donato.
BRIEF STORY FROM THE GREEN PLANET, directed by Santiago Loza. (Argentina/ Germany/ Brazil/ Spain) – Canadian Premiere. Winner of the Teddy Award at this year’s Berlinale, A Brief Story from the Green Planet follows trans woman Tania on a strange and surprising odyssey. When Tania receives the news that her grandmother has passed away, she returns to her hometown with two friends to take care of her grandmother’s estate. Tania realizes she has inherited more than she bargained for when she discovers a peculiar creature in the house. Her grandmother’s dying request is that Tania return this friendly companion to the place where it first appeared, led only by the help of a mysterious map. When the road gets rough, the travelers must overcome their fears and work together to complete their mission. An odd premise breaks open to reveal a heartwarming tale about chosen family and the power that outsiders wield when they stick together. With Paula Grinszpan.
CATAMARAN, directed by Swarnavel Eswaran. (India) – Catamaran is a gripping drama told from the point of view of a stoic but loving fisherman who finds out his niece’s true desires are not what he imagined. After a devastating tsunami shakes up Singaram’s family, he takes it upon himself to adopt his orphaned niece Anandhi and nephew Mani. Singaram’s simple plan is complicated by his niece’s refusal to marry. His traditional perspective causes a rift in the family, forcing Anandhi to tell her uncle about her love for Kavita, a woman who teaches at a nearby school. Singaram works to come to terms with her confession while the rest of the village insists that he find her a proper suitor. Complemented by beautiful scenery, the budding lesbian romance is set as the backdrop for a film about a society that is constantly breaking its own rules despite its firm footing in heteronormativity.
CUBBY, directed by Mark Blane, Ben Mankoff. (USA) – International Premiere. Creator Mark Blane has a knack for sensitively handling material that others might avoid. His 2012 book and play, The Rock & The Ripe, attracted controversy because of its theme of queer teen suicide, and his feature film debut, Cubby, also refuses to look away from uncomfortable moments. When scruffy man-child artist Mark Nabel (played by Blane) arrives in Brooklyn to begin an art gallery job that he’s invented to fool his mother, he’s forced to take a job babysitting a six-year-old in order to pay the rent. As Mark develops his nurturing side, doing his best to protect his charge from bullies, he comes to terms with his sexual and romantic interests, particularly his encounters with Leather-Man (Christian Patrick of Interior. Leather Bar and Kink.com fame), a fantasy figure he meets in a neighbourhood park. With humour that’s both gentle and acerbic, Cubby captures the difficulties, and the opportunities that come from being a complicated person in a complicated world. With Mark Blane, Lucy DeVito, Patricia Richardson, Pete Y. Kim.
FABIANA, directed by Brunna Laboissière. (Brazil) – Canadian Premiere. The life of a long-distance trucker isn’t easy, and proves especially challenging for Fabiana, a 56-year-old trans woman who spends her life crisscrossing the highways of Brazil. In director Brunna Laboissière meditative documentary, we follow Fabiana during her final days on the job as she prepares to retire from the road. Perched behind the wheel, cigarette in hand, Fabiana is both engaging and mysterious, speaking openly about her various sexual conquests and relationships. But she is also emotionally wary, afraid to show her deep feelings and fears. We watch as Fabiana struggles to reveal her lesbian identity to a female friend, hiding the truth from her, and later we witness Fabiana’s tense relationship with her girlfriend, Priscilla. Laboissière is a compassionate filmmaker who is not afraid to ask the tough questions. In the end, we are left with a poignantly tender portrait of a woman who embraces life and who lives by her own rules. With Fabiana Camila Ferreira.
THE GARDEN LEFT BEHIND, directed by Flavio Alves. (USA) – The Garden Left Behind traces the relationship between Tina, a young Mexican trans woman, and Eliana, her grandmother, as they navigate Tina’s transition, and strive to build a life for themselves as undocumented immigrants in New York City. As Tina begins the process of transitioning, Eliana struggles to understand Tina and fears that their life together in America is no longer what they bargained for. Tina finds camaraderie in a small but mighty transgender advocate group but, soon, also finds herself having to fight for the life that she’s meant to live—facing violent threats, insurmountable medical costs, questions about her legal immigration status, and increasing skepticism from the man she loves. This film touches on the very real threat of violence against trans women of colour in America and does include a scene with graphic violence. For more information, please visit our website at www.insideout.ca. With Carlie Guevara, Michael Madsen, Edward Asner.
JACK & YAYA, directed by Jennifer Bagley, Mary Hewey. (USA) – Canadian Premiere. Growing up trans in a rural community can feel isolating and lonely. But Jack and Yaya, who grew up with neighbouring backyards, had each other every step of the way. Years later, despite living in separate States, they remain best friends. Jack, only a few years into his transition, struggles to decide whether to move forward with gender-affirming surgery, while Yaya tackles the bureaucratic nightmare of legally changing her name in New Jersey, an eighteen-step ordeal. Through Skype calls and visits, Jack and Yaya are behind each other for every setback and every milestone. Drawing on home videos and conversations with their eclectic cast of friends and family, Jack & Yaya proves that hardships and distance are no match for a friendship that seemed destined from the start.
JOSÉ, directed by Li Cheng. (Guatemala/USA) – Canadian Premiere. Chinese-American director Li Cheng lived in Central America for two years interviewing gay and marginal youth, and learning about Guatemalan culture and history, in preparation for his second feature film, José. The film follows 19-year-old José, who lives at home with his religious mother in hardscrabble Guatemala City. He manages to sneak off for the occasional motel hookup, but when he meets Luis, a construction worker from the Caribbean coast, José is forced to make choices he would rather avoid making. Working in a gritty, realist style with an impressive cast of nonprofessional actors, José captures the thrill of love and sex in an environment that’s not conducive to either of them. The tender, loving care Cheng applied to the subject matter certainly paid off in this sweet and moving drama, which won the Queer Lion at last year’s Venice International Film Festival.
MEMORIES OF MY BODY (KUCUMBU TUBUH INDAHKU), directed by Garin Nugroho. (Indonesia) – North American Premiere. Political and social upheaval in Central Java forces a closeted young dancer out into the world. There, he meets remarkable people as he struggles to come to terms with his emotional impulses and sexual identity. Orphaned at a young age, Juno is drawn to dancing and joins a Lengger dance group. Lengger is a traditional dance form from the island of Java, where dancers play with fluid gender identity. In four beautiful chapters we follow Juno through adolescence into adulthood, witnessing his blossoming talent while exploring the more graphic nature of the dance’s origins as well as the men that surround him. Part political commentary, part dance film, part coming-of-age story, everyone that crosses Juno’s path steps into his narrative—his 1980s dance guru; a chiseled prizefighter engaged to be married, and a closeted politician. Inspired by the life of famed dancer and choreographer Rianto—who also narrates the film—Memories of My Body sheds light on the buried trauma and complex life of an oppressed gay man.
PAPI CHULO, directed by John Butler. (Ireland) – In the midst of a California drought and his own personal heartache, weatherman Sean (Matt Bomer) takes a leave of absence following an extremely embarrassing televised breakdown. What is a workaholic to do with so much unexpected free time? Deciding to focus his energy on home improvement instead of self-care, Sean gets to work but soon realizes just how handy he isn’t. On a whim he decides to enlist migrant worker Ernesto (Alejandro Patiño) to lend a helping hand and some vital expertise. When Sean realizes that Ernesto is also a great listener, Sean sees their time together as an opportunity to vent his problems, and the two become unlikely friends. Threatening their relationship is Sean’s unwillingness to deal with his life and, before he knows it, he has no choice but to face the truth. Sean, meet rock bottom. Papi Chulo blends comedy with social commentary and, in tender moments, shows how meaningful life can be when we take time to listen to others. With Matt Bomer, Alejandro Patino.
SOLACE, directed by Tchaiko Omawale. (USA) – Finding your own path when everyone around you wants you to be someone different can feel insurmountable. Solace examines these conflicting pressures and the toll they invariably take. When her father dies, Sole, a bright, politically engaged seventeen-year-old, is sent across the country to L.A. to live with her intensely religious and controlling grandmother (performed stunningly by Lynn Whitfield). Desperate to return to New York, Sole convinces her erratic neighbour and new friend, Jasmine, to join an art/activist group with the aim of winning a grant that will help Sole return home. But with Sole acutely drawn to Jasmine’s freedom and disorder, will all that chaos distract her from her endeavour? Solace is alive with heart-wrenching performances—most notably by lead, Hope Olaide Wilson—in this authentic and complicated coming-of-age story. With Hope Olaide Wilson, Chelsea Tavares, Lynn Whitfield, Glynn Turman.
TRANSFINITE, directed by Neelu Bhuman. (USA) – World Premiere. “Tranfinite is a multicultural, queer, genre-busting, sci-fi, omnibus film showcasing trans people as they come into their power. Nine different shorts from a multicultural collective of writers from across the gender and sexuality spectrum open up an empowering space for trans people to dream. Their dreams are of love and loss, revenge for childhood bullies, the wonder of one’s own language, a magical garden, earth and water protectors, important lessons from a trans elder, and a trans woman who possesses the power to change the world for the greater good. The shorts show trans people working together to create nurturing community spaces for working, loving, teaching, and, most important, for thriving. With outstanding performances and a lush score, Transfinite imagines a poetic space of infinite possibilities and tells unique stories about trans people by trans people themselves.” With Harmony Santana, Cooper Chow, Barnaby Falls, Liz Anderson.
VISION PORTRAITS, directed by Rodney Evans. (USA) – Canadian Premiere. What happens when visually impaired artists work in visual media? Vision Portraits introduces us to several artists who navigate that formidable challenge. Rodney Evans, director of queer classic, Brother to Brother, is slowly losing his vision and questioning what this will mean for his creative output. His soul-searching leads him to other artists (a photographer, a dancer and a writer) who are legally blind or visually impaired. Evans is eager to understand how they handle the constraints of creating work in traditionally visual media. What results is a quiet yet powerfully personal film where all four artists work through questions and answers about their identity, art, and vision. Vision Portraits introduces us to fascinating artists who confront their disability and create art imbued with a unique perspective on the world.
VITA & VIRGINIA, directed by Chanya Button. (Ireland/ UK) – Before film and TV screens featured queer women’s lives, we read love letters written by notable heroines such as Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf. In Vita & Virginia, filmmaker Chanya Button (2015 Inside Out’s Burn Burn Burn) brings writing to life, demonstrating how a relationship shaped two author’s paths and inspired one of Woolf’s most famous works. Before they met, charismatic socialite Vita (Gemma Arterton) decided that the famously elusive Virginia (Elizabeth Debicki) would be her next conquest. When Vita’s plan comes to fruition, the two forge an unconventional love affair that pushes social boundaries and tests the limits of their marriages. Virginia’s emotional struggles and Vita’s impulsiveness combine for a chaotic romance, which ultimately fuels Virginia’s creativity and empowers her to channel Vita’s persona into a novel, Orlando. Button’s modern take on this iconic relationship will satisfy longtime fans of Woolf and Sackville-West, while serving as a beautiful introduction to those who have yet to discover them.
ZEN IN THE ICE RIFT (Zen sul ghiaccio sottile), directed by Margherita Ferri. (Italy) – Canadian Premiere. Zen is a rowdy 16-year-old living in a small village on top of the Italian Apennines. Despite being a rising star on the local hockey team, they can’t seem to connect with anyone. The only time Zen isn’t alone is when being bullied at school or during hockey practice. In fact, they seem destined to make a high school career out of their loneliness, until Vanessa comes along. As the hockey team captain’s beautiful girlfriend, Vanessa seems to have it all, yet she shares Zen’s feelings of being misunderstood. But there just might be hope for them as they embark on what becomes an unexpected friendship. Ferri’s stylish and assured first feature follows two teenagers who are seeking the courage to explore their true selves. With Fabrizia Sacchi.
ANNE+, directed by Valerie Bisscheroux. (Netherlands) – Canadian Premiere. When it comes to queer women and dating, we often recognize universal rites of passage: first love, the older woman, the closeted—or the wild—one. In this smart, sexy new web series from the Netherlands, Anne is looking back on her liaisons with various girlfriends, as she moves into a new apartment. Each episode features one of Anne’s past relationships, from its swoony beginnings to the depressing, frustrating, or inevitable end. Along the way, Anne learns a great deal about herself and what she wants. This series takes an honest, funny look at what it means to be young and in love. And as Anne works her way through her past romances, you just might recognize some of your own ex-girlfriends. All six episodes of Anne+ will be screened in this program. With Hanna van Vliet, Eline van Gils, Sharai Rodrigues, Djamila Landbrug, Kirsten Mulder.
CAMP CHAOS, directed by Cory Krueckeberg. (USA) – World Premiere. A series that opens with a sex act while a voiceover provides a poetically erotic monologue can lead to some assumptions, but Camp Chaos is just as much a self-empowering makeover show as it is a raunchy fantasy. As the first episode unfolds, we learn that real-life social media hottie Matthew Camp is setting out to recreate some of his sultriest sexual memories. We watch him video chat with a series of guys about their sexual desires until one shows up in real life to help Camp with his project. And then there’s the reveal: a hardcore staging of the memory we’ve been hearing about throughout the episode. Sizzling stuff that treats sexuality both seriously and playfully. Matthew Camp and show creator Cory Krueckeberg are returning to Inside Out with a vengeance, having previously screened Getting Go, the Go Doc Project, which won the Special Jury Award in 2013. The first episode of Camp Chaos will screen in this program.
EASTSIDERS: SEASON 4, directed by Kit Williamson. (USA) – World Premiere. With the interconnecting plots of a soap opera, but ripe with dark, queer humour and just the right amount of gratuitous sex, the web turned Netflix series EastSiders is back for a fourth and final season. Created, written, directed by and starring Kit Williamson, who has appeared on Mad Men and The Good Wife, EastSiders also features Williamson’s real-life partner, John Halbach, as part of a strong ensemble cast. In its final season, Williamson’s character Cal and boyfriend Thom (played by As the World Turns’s adorable Van Hansis) have journeyed far beyond the anxieties about monogamy that launched the series. EastSiders delivers not only laughs and intrigue, but also offers wry observations on modern queer life, particularly among the denizens of Los Angeles’ trendy Silver Lake neighbourhood. The first two episodes of Season Four will screen in this program, followed by a panel. With Kit Williamson, Van Hansis.
THE FILTH, directed by Jamie Holt. (USA) – World Premiere. Life is messy and mettlesome for two muddle-headed best friends who are trying to make a go of life and love in L.A., in Jamie Holt’s hilarious half-hour comedy series, The Filth. Stella, a bisexual plumber who moonlights as a go-go dancer, is perpetually anxious and commitment-phobic. Max, an aspiring actor whose career has stalled, needs constant affirmation and is crazy in love with his allegedly straight roommate, Danny. Stella and Max bond when they realize how much of their lives seem to be mired in filth. But things begin to look up when Stella meets super cute fellow go-go dancer, Jocelyn. And Danny seems to be getting ready to finally leave the closet behind. Are things about to change for Max and Stella, or will they both find ways to sabotage their own happiness? Recalling tragicomic series such as Please Like Me, The Filth is a wickedly funny tribute to the chaos of modern life. All five episodes of Season One will screen in this program. With Christopher Cullen.
RAZOR TONGUE, directed by Rain Valdez. (USA) – World Premiere. A razor-sharp tongue is a great asset, but what happens when the people you cut are those closest to you? Razor Tongue deftly navigates the calling out—and the being called out. Whether sitting through a floundering Tinder date or a terrible job interview Belle calls out microaggressions and bad behaviour from men whenever she sees it. But when someone turns the tables on her in public, she begins to wonder about how effective public shaming actually is. There has been ample talk recently about the call-out culture, especially in LGBTQ2S+ communities, and Razor Tongue—anew web series from Rain Valdez of Transparent—cuts to the heart of the issue. All seven episodes of Razor Tongue will screen in this program. With Rain Valdez, Sterling Jones, Alexandra Grey, Carmen Scott.
VIDA: SEASON TWO PREVIEW & CONVERSATION, directed by Catalina Aguilar Mastretta. (USA) – Winner of the 2019 GLAAD Media Award for Best Comedy Series, the groundbreaking Vida is returning for an action-packed second season. Developed by showrunner Tanya Sarachoand an all-Latinx writers’ room, Vida burst onto the digital small screen in 2018 to critical acclaim—in particular from Latinx critics, praising its authenticity—and introduced us to a diverse, captivating and super queer cast of characters living and loving in the rapidly gentrifying world of East Los Angeles. Vida centres on sisters Emma and Lyn (Mishel Prada and Melissa Barrera),who return to their Eastside neighbourhood following their mother’s death, only to learn that their mother kept many secrets—including the fact that she had a live-in partner, Eddy (rising non-binary star, Ser Anzoatugui). In partnership with Starz, Inside Out is proud to present the first two episodes of Season 2, followed by an onstage conversation with guests that include Mishel Prada and Ser Anzoatugui. Word to the wise: Binge on Season 1 on Starz NOW!
We are living in the Golden Age of television and digital series, and this program brings a selection of queer and trans episodes to the cinema screen.
FEMME QUEEN CHRONICLES, directed by Ahya Simone Taylor. (USA). Chanel and her friends Eryka, Amirah, and Shevon all are just trying to make it through the day without getting clocked as trans women–or clocking someone else over the head.
I’M FINE, directed by Andrew Ceperley. (Canada). Jeff brings Zachary to meet his mom who is recovering after a health scare. While there, Zachary unearths some hidden insecurities that even Jeff isn’t ready to face.
MIGUEL, directed by Daphna Levin, Tom Salama. (Israel). Miguel is a heart-wrenching true story of a gay man’s determination to fulfill his dream of adopting a child.
THESE THEMS, directed by Jett Garrison. (USA). These Thems, a comedic digital series, follows four queer characters: a newly out lesbian and her gay best friend, a trans man who’s still in the closet at work, and a nonbinary educator.
More on the Festival and tickets here.
(Photo credit: Inside Out)