The 30th annual INSIDE OUT FILM FESTIVAL kicks-off this week, running October 1-11, 2020. Showcasing 150 films and 9 episodic series. The Festival will go by a digital platform this year as we navigate the Pandemic. Programming will be made available via insideout.ca and also via Inside Out’s new AppleTV and Roku apps. This will allow INSIDE OUT patrons to customize their own schedules from home for the first time ever.
Headlining the Festival this year is a special conversation with talent from Netflix‘s upcoming Series BOYS IN THE BAND, adapted from the popular Broadway Play. The Series premieres on Netflix September 30, 2020.
Also Gabriel Range‘s David Bowie Biopic STARDUST, filmed in Toronto, will open the Festival with a special Drive-In Premiere at Ontario Place. The Premiere will feature Drag Queen and Drag King performances by: Drag Queens:
–Shada Jada Hudson
Acclaimed Festival favourites also will surface at INSIDE OUT this year including THE OBITUARY OF TUNDE JOHNSON, COWBOYS, NO ORDINARY MAN and TIFF ’20 fan favourite, SHIVA BABY.
Our George Kozera (@PartyG) had the pleasure of previewing some of the key titles at the Festival and here are some of his thoughts:
NO HARD FEELINGS
Parvis (Benny Radjaipour) has been sentenced to 120 hours of community service at a Red Cross refugee centre located in Hannover, Germany to be a Farsi translator. Though born in Germany to Iranian parents, he struggles with the various dialects, which affects him emotionally. As a happily-open young gay teenager, partying late nights at local bars and using apps for sexual hook-ups, he tones his image and mannerisms down somewhat when at the refugee camp as to not bring unwanted attention to himself from glaring homophobic eyes. After one frustrating translation session, Parvis sits on a stoop, wiping away tears, and is approached by the handsome, curly haired Amon(Eidin Jalali), with whom he shared furtive glances with up to this point, who offers a sympathetic ear (much to the chagrin of his fellow soccer playing buds). Amon is at the camp alongside his sister Bana(Banafshe Hourmazdi), both awaiting word on their immigration status. The three young people become great friends and Parvis and Amon fall in love with each other.
It is easy to see why NO HARD FEELINGS won the Teddy Award for Best LGBTQ film at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. The performances by the three leads are refreshing as they go about their daily lives chanting their mantra: “the future is ours”. Their optimism is intoxicating to watch, despite their feelings of not really belonging anywhere and coping with the racism and homophobia they frequently encounter.There are powerful scenes of many young adults in the refugee centre with looks of despair on their faces as they await their fates that was heartbreaking to see. But whatever the future has in store for the three main characters, we root for them as they approach their lives with hope and dreams to fulfill. NO HARD FEELINGS deserves to be seen.
BREAKING FAST fills a void that is sorely lacking: a charming, funny Rom-Com first date movie for gay men. It has it all…the two very attractive leads, the campy (but all knowing) gay best friend, the gorgeous exteriors (this time, it’s West Hollywood), fabulously decorated homes. Throw-in witty banters, a love of Musical Theatre, a Soundtrack that include songs from Lizzy, Sarah Vaughn and TLC, plates upon plates of sensually-photographed food as well as deep dark secrets and you have a classic movie for the ages!
Mo (Haaz Sleiman) is a gay Muslim doctor, out to his family, who gets dumped by his boyfriend Hassan (Patrick Sabongui, best known for his recurring role on TV’s “The Flash”) on the first day of IFTAR (the meal after sunset during the holy month of Ramadan) for fear of being outed by a family member. Fast-forward a year later, same time of the year. Mo is still aching the loss but grudgingly accepts the invitation to celebrate the nth anniversary of his best friend Sam’s 21st birthday. As Sam, Amin el Gamal illuminates the screen with panache, style and bitchiness! At the party, Mo meets Kal (Michael Cassidy) and the attraction is instant and eventually theirs is a relationship of sweeping romantic gestures as they celebrate Iftar together. Minus any intimacy between the two as those are verboten during Ramadan and Mo is a devout Muslim. After a contentious accidental meeting with Kal’s mother (Veronica Cartwright) that ultimately brings out secrets Kal has and with Hassan trying to reconnect with Mo, the relationship has hit an impasse.
Writer/Director Mike Mosallam has a deft hand, eye and ear and he navigates through the turbulent waters of being gay and Muslim with valid opinions on both ends of the spectrum with intelligence. I also admired how he portrays an interracial relationship without that being an issue. The chemistry between Sleiman and Cassidy is authentic and the Cinematography is sensual.
And, if you’re like me, the “Climb Every Mountain” scene at a karaoke bar will leave you all goosepimply and teary-eyed. BREAKING FAST is priority viewing.
Have you ever seen an undiscovered star miraculously burst through the galaxy and light up the heavens? Let me introduce you to one by the name of Matt Fifer, the Writer/Director/Producer/Editor of CICADA, a movie consummate on so many levels that it continues to resonate with me days after seeing it and will undoubtedly make my list of the best in 2020.
As this Movie opens with a “based on true events” disclaimer, it should come with no surprise that Fifer also plays the lead role of Ben. Once engaged to a woman, this mopey, handsome bisexual man having meaningless sex with anyone and everyone is portrayed provocatively and humorously in a series of vignettes. Then he meets an attractive black man in front of a used book store. Sam (Sheldon D. Brown) is easily charmed by Ben’s flirtatiousness and quick wit and the two hook-up. Set against a backdrop of a never more beautiful looking Manhattan and Greenwich Village, their relationship blooms and as they blossom together, they slowly reveal their inner fears and demons which range from the insecurities of admitting who they are to their family members to much more shocking revelations of sexual and physical violence, racism and homophobia. Their relationship has hit numerous stumbling blocks and we watch and hope they can survive as a couple. I know I am being deliberately vague about their many obstacles, but one of the powers of CICADA is the sense of discovery that sucker punches you in the heart. Like a great Documentary, Fifer and Brown (who also contributed to the Screenplay) expertly navigate the topics with finesse.
While on the topic of experts, Cobie Smulders (from the recently cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns TV series “Stumptown”) dominates the screen in her role as Ben’s psychiatrist and Neil Patrick Harris’ real-life husband David Burtka shines subtly in his role as a DILF who hires Ben as a House Painter.
Fifer is a powerhouse hyphenate. Taking his incredible acting chops talents aside, his vision is a fully realized accomplishment; from sweepingly-romantic scenes replete with too many laugh out loud one-liners to heartbreaking circumstances, CICADA must be seen. It’s cinematic gold.
A monster breakout hit at this year’s TIFF and already written about on this site by my talented colleague, Amanda Gilmore, I just want to quickly add how much I loved SHIVA BABY and I hope this Movie resurges Polly Draper’s career. Her comic timing is brilliant. I literally almost fell-off my chair when she accuses her daughter of being too thin by saying “You look like Gwyneth Paltrow on food stamps”. Hollywood Casting Agents: can’t get Oscar and Emmy winner Allison Janney? Hire the Divine Ms. Draper.
AHEAD OF THE CURVE
AHEAD OF THE CURVE is a Documentary Feature about Franco Stevens who, with grit and determination, printed the first lesbian lifestyle glossy Magazine. “Curve” was the first of its kind as the many talking heads in this Film (that include Melissa Etheridge and SAG and Obie winner, Lea DeLaria) expound what a significant impact it made on their lives. The Movie opens with the fear that the print edition of this iconic Magazine may be heading towards extinction and how an online version could successfully compete in an already over-saturated environment. I was fascinated with all aspects of starting and maintaining the many successes that was Curve magazine and the constant battles initiated by the readers over the use of the lesbian on the cover versus words like gay, dyke, queer, etc.
Where AHEAD OF THE CURVE falters with me is that it spends considerable screen time on many topics and issues that, though very important (homophobia, transphobia, legal inequities…the list goes on), had little to do with the Magazine itself or the life of Franco Stevens. Whereas earlier in the Movie, there are many theories, humorously depicted, as to why the magazine was first called “Deneuve”, these same women express shock and indignation when the magazine is sued by Catherine Deneuve for infringement. Much of Stevens’ personal life is glossed over. She married a man at 19 and after one class realized she was gay…that was a head scratching revelation. I found many aspects of AHEAD OF THE CURVE informative and interesting but, all in all, for me, it’s a noble misstep.
THE OBITUARY OF TUNDE JOHNSON
Written by then 19-year-old Stanley Kalu (now 23) then having its world premiere at TIFF ’19, THE OBITUARY OF TUNDE JOHNSON is, sadly, as timely today as when it was first conceived. The Movie opens with its Narrator saying “Tunde Johnson departed this life 9:30pm, May 28th, 2020 at the hands of police officers in Los Angeles, California”, the day he came out as gay to his wealthy Nigerian-born parents. His crime? Being black while driving. Using “Groundhog Day” as a template, we relive Tunde’s school day and his tragic fate over and over again, though the reasons for the death change as the story takes us along different paths. Nevertheless, death for sitting in an expensive car or walking alone in a prosperous neighbourhood or standing in front of a store smoking a cigarette is heinous and difficult to watch. Steven Silver (Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why”) gives a multi-faceted, intense performance in the lead role and is complimented greatly by all the Supporting Actors, which include David James Elliott. Director Ali LeRoi succinctly and eloquently depicts the movies many issues as racism, police brutality, LGBTQ acceptance, drugs and mental health. It is a searing commentary on the consequences of being black in America, made even scarier if you’re young and gay. THE OBITUARY OF TUNDE JOHNSON is a towering and powerful achievement.
NO ORDINARY MAN
NO ORDINARY MAN is a fascinating documentary that focuses on the life of Billy Tipton, a popular Jazz Musician in the ’40s and ’50s whose Trans identity was not publicly revealed until after his death in 1989. In a male-dominated Jazz scene from which women musicians were excluded, the talented Tipton found work and fame dressed as a man; he married a woman and together they adopted 3 children (from whom he continued to keep his gender a secret). After his death, the tabloid newspapers and TV shows (including Oprah and Geraldo) fixated on the salacious and a posthumous Biography, titled “Suits Me” added flames to the horribly-misinformed fire. I found NO ORDINARY MAN absolutely engrossing and illuminating as Trans men are sadly under-represented in the arts. TV shows like “Pose” and multiple Emmy nominated Laverne Cox shed positive portraits of Trans women but who gets more media attention: Chaz Bono or Caitlyn Jenner? Not only do Directors Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt employ Tipton’s photographs, music and personal tape recordings, the “talking heads” interviews shed insights into a world of Transmasculinity and gender versus sexuality. I particularly enjoyed sequences where Trans men were reading from a Script about a proposed Tipton Biopic and their unique and individual interpretations of how Tipton would react, intermingling with their own thoughts and experiences. NO ORDINARY MAN is groundbreaking and triumphant.
The handsome, charismatic and talented Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) is the centerpiece in the introspective, languidly-paced MONSOON from writer/director Hong Khaou. Playing Kit, he returns to the country of his birth, Vietnam, to scatter the ashes of his late parents. While there, he reunites with his childhood friend, Lee (David Tran), meets an Art Curator, Linh (Molly Harris) and has an online hook-up with Lewis (Parker Sawyers), the son of a troubled Vietnam War vet. The lush Cinematography of modern day Vietnam only accentuates the rich heartfelt performances by everyone in MONSOON.
When you’re a closeted gay teen attending high school in picturesque rural Ireland, life would be so much easier if everyone just thought you were in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Which is exactly what Eddie (Fionn O’Shea) and Amber (Lola Petticrew) do; they become each other’s’ beard. DATING AMBER takes us on their journey filled with uncomfortable hugs and kisses in public and awkward meetings with their parents as they individually deal with their own coming out processes.
Like Garbo, I rarely laugh but could not help myself guffawing throughout. The two leads are as supremely talented as they are photogenic. Writer/Director David Freyne infuses the screen with authenticity and charm, with letter perfect performances from all the supporting characters. DATING AMBER is a richly composed and executed movie and a must-see!
Troy kidnaps his child, Joe from his estranged wife Sally and the two travel on horseback through the wilds on Montana towards Canada. Flashbacks show us 11 year old Joe’s discomfort wearing a dress at a family picnic and the exceptionally close bond with Troy. When Joe tells Troy that she is not a Tomboy, but a boy trapped in a girl’s body, his total and complete acceptance of the news contrasts dramatically from how Sally reacts.
COWBOYS is a powerful and complex movie, tackling the subject matter of being a transgender child with grace and eloquence. Not only is this Steve Zahn’s (as Troy) best screen performance ever, young trans actor Sasha Knight’s accomplishment belies his age. As the police officer in charge of finding the two outcasts safely, the always great Ann Dowd adds another feather to her accomplished cap. Against the majestic backdrop of the Montana forests, COWBOYS resonates with compassion.