Pride Month kicked off in Greater Sudbury on June 1 with the reveal of Queer North Film Festival’s program.
The festival is currently the only queer film festival in Northern Ontario. It celebrates the diversity of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, and two-spirited communities through quality cinema.
Queer North spans four days, drawing crowds from across the region with film premieres, artist talks, and parties that focus squarely on queer-themed films and videos from Canada and around the world.
“Happy Pride Month to you,” said the festival’s director, Beth Mairs, who’s also indie cinema’s executive director and lead programmer.
“It’s a time of year that we really look forward to. And I think with Queer North, what we're looking to do is to be a bit of a respite, that will be a restorative place and an inspiring space.
“Indie Cinema and all our programming, we aim to be a progressive space. And so we look at underrepresented groups and we try to get those voices and perspectives on the big screen.
“So to have a festival that is speaking the stories of gay, LGBT and trans people, most of those key creators being queer people, is really unique, and it's really powerful. I’m so excited that we're going to experience that together again here.”
Mairs said Queer North has expanded its programming by 40 per cent over last year. It is actually now 30 per cent of the size of the Inside Out Festival in Toronto.
“There's really no sound fiscal decision (behind this),” she said. “It's just like, you go to a smorgasbord, and you like all the stuff. So we just kept picking and picking and picking, and we now have up to nine features, and as of this morning, another 40 shorts. So we're at 50 films.”
Mairs said there is a wide selection of quality, queer-focused and female-centred films coming out because the film industry seems to be gaining an awareness of “stories that are outside of the mainstream, typical scenario of a white male straight perspective.”
“I think that that could be it, that the industry is shifting a little bit to be a little bit more inclusive and liking stories from the margins,” she said.
Because the festival has grown so much, Queer North Film Festival is not only screening films this year at Sudbury Indie Cinema, but at Greater Sudbury Public Library’s main branch, which is just down the road from the cinema’s Mackenzie Street location.
Asked if Queer North’s audiences have grown since the festival was first introduced in 2016, Mairs said that’s a hard question to answer due to the interruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. Queer North was cancelled outright in 2020, and ran with reduced capacity in 2021 and 2022.
“It's sort of easier for us to talk pre-pandemic, and then compare that to this season,” she said. “And so when we see how our numbers are for this one, we'll see. That'll be a better comparison I think.”
Tickets to Queer North and the full program are available online here.
Queer North Film Festival feature program:
Soft (screens June 15 at 7 p.m.)
Roaming wild on the streets of Toronto, three queer adolescents hone their survival skills and scheme to run amok in a gay club. Julien (Matteus Lunot), a brash runaway, serves as pack leader, with timid Otis (Harlow Joy) and buoyant Tony (Zion Matheson) following in his wake. When some impetuous petty crime admits them into the promised land (and ushers in exhilarating depictions of beat-driven youthful abandon), it also imperils Dawn (Miyoko Anderson), Julien’s de facto guardian. Once Dawn fails to return home, the guilt-ridden kids form a search party that ultimately uncovers darker realities.
Blue Jean (screens June 16 at 6:45 p.m.)
One of the year’s finest debuts, Georgia Oakley’s riveting drama follows a young teacher balancing work life with her sexuality as Thatcher’s draconian Clause 28 comes into effect. Jean is a PE teacher living in the north-east of England, at a time when the Conservative government fostered renewed aggression against queer people. Despite carving a vibrant social life for herself, Jean is closeted at work and must temper her identity in the face of growing hostility. But this is compromised when Lois appears in her class. Awkward, troubled and bullied by the duplicitous Siobhan, Lois’s vulnerability shines a dangerous light on Jean’s own – not least when she shows up at a bar one night. Here, Oakley’s narrative transforms into a subtle portrayal of how power, fear and vulnerability can distort the truth and imperil the deepest part of ourselves.
Passages (screens June 16 8:30 p.m.)
Passages is a 2023 French romance drama film directed by Ira Sachs starring Franz Rogowski, Ben Whishaw, and Adèle Exarchopoulos. It depicts a long-time male couple one of whom has an affair with a woman.
This Place (screens June 17 at 1:45 p.m.)
In Canadian director V.T. Nayani’s feature debut, starring Devery Jacobs and Priya Guns, is a queer love story about two young women — one Iranian and Kanienʼkehá꞉ka, the other Tamil — living in Toronto and dealing with difficult family legacies. Kawenniióhstha and Malai, both daughters of refugees, find one another in a Toronto laundromat. With a spark and a missing notebook, their love story begins. However, big life events involving their respective fathers threaten to keep them apart. With dialogue in Mohawk, Persian, Tamil, French, and English, This Place is a unique love story with universal elements that will resonate beyond language and communities.
Golden Delicious (screens June 17 at 3:15 p.m.)
Everyone wants something from high school senior Jake: his father is pushing him to try out for the basketball team – an abandoned dream of his own – and his girlfriend wants to take their relationship to the next level. But it’s not until Aleks, an openly gay teen with a love for basketball, moves in across the street that Jake begins to struggle with his own desires. To get closer to Aleks, Jake devotes himself to making the basketball team – only to realize it’s not basketball he really wants. Meanwhile, Jake finds out that his father is having an affair, which leaves him questioning his entire family foundation. Distraught and confused, Jake pulls away - until he’s finally outed as gay. With the truth in the open, Jake and his father come to terms with the reality of their relationship and expectations for each other. At last able to find the courage to be himself, Jake is ready to face the future with his family and friends by his side.
L’Immensita (screens June 17 at 7 p.m.)
Clara (Penélope Cruz) and her emotionally distant husband Felice (Vincenzo Amato) relocate to Rome to raise a family. Even though the paint is fresh, and the appliances are new, the crushing expectations around marriage, desire, and gender in the early 1970s remain as traditional as ever. Their children Andrew (played by newcomer Luana Giuliani), Gino, and Diana are likewise poised at a precipice, on the verge of adolescence, with nothing but their imaginations to defuse family tensions. The eldest child, Andrew (nicknamed Adri by his parents), yearns for another life – an outsized, vibrantly-realized vision of a world where he gets to live as the boy he knows himself to be. Without an accepted vocabulary for talking about his transgender identity, Andrew tells adults that he’s an alien from another galaxy and makes a habit of running away to pursue a local Roma girl who accepts his boyhood at face value. As an outsider ostracized for her own eccentricities, Clara instinctively strives to protect her son despite not fully understanding him. An effortlessly moving film about growing up, fitting in, and breaking the mold, L’immensita is as freewheeling and creative as its central characters, mixing genres and staging musical numbers out of thin air.
Monica (screens June 17 at 8:45 p.m.)
Monica marks a major first foray into North American theaters for filmmaker Andrea Pallaoro, a fresh new voice in Italian cinema who has been making a stir with audiences overseas. A collaboration between breakout star Trace Lysette (Transparent), Academy Award Nominee Patricia Clarkson, and Emily Browning, the film stood out at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, where it competed for the Golden Lion, Queer Lion, and won the Arca CinemaGiovani Award for best Italian Feature bfeore eventually competing in competition at major film festivals in Chicago, Annecy, and Warsaw. Monica is an intimate portrait of a woman who returns home after a long absence to confront the wounds of her past. Reconnecting with her mother and the rest of her family for the first time since leaving as a teenager, Monica embarks on a path of healing and acceptance. The film delves into Monica's internal world and state of mind, her pain and fears, her needs and desires, to explore the universal themes of abandonment and forgiveness.
1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture (screens June 18 at 1 p.m.)
1946 is a feature documentary that follows the story of tireless researchers who trace the origins of the anti-gay movement among Christians to a grave mistranslation of the Bible in 1946. It chronicles the discovery of never-before-seen archives at Yale University which unveil astonishing new revelations, and casts significant doubt on any biblical basis for LGBTQIA+ prejudice. Featuring Commentary from prominent scholars as well as opposing pastors, including the personal stories of the film's creators, and original music by Grammy winning artist Mary Lambert, 1946 is at once challenging, enlightening, and inspiring.
Orlando: Ma Biographie Politique (screens June 18 at 5:15 p.m.)
Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando” tells the story of a young man who grows up to become a 36-year-old woman. Almost a century after its publication, Paul B. Preciado speaks to Virginia Woolf to tell her that her fictional character has become a reality. The transition of Orlando’s body now lies at the root of all non-binary bodies and there are Orlandos all over the world. Through the authentic voices of other young bodies undergoing metamorphosis, Preciado retraces the stages of his personal transformation through a poetic journey in which life, writing, theory and image merge freely in the search for truth. Every Orlando, he says, is a transgender person who is risking his, her or their life on a daily basis as they find themselves forced to confront government laws, history and psychiatry, as well as traditional notions of the family and the power of multinational pharmaceutical companies. But if “male” and “female” are ultimately political and social fictions, Orlando, My Political Biography shows us that change is no longer just about gender, but also about poetry, love and skin colour.
Heidi Ulrichsen is the associate content editor at Sudbury.com. She also covers education and the arts scene.