Still Not Over It: 70 Years of Queer Canadian Film

And here we have a sampling of queer Canadian cinema. Some great, some puzzling, some that kind of left me cold but I did appreciate for their historical value. Because every single one is a little window into a particular time and place, another piece of the puzzle that is our LGBTQ+ family. One of the questions raised in the Q&A is whether we really are one community; whether, e.g., a white gay male animator in 1940’s Winnipeg is kin with an Asian closeted gay male in 1970’s Vancouver, a white lesbian in 1980’s Montreal, all us lovely people sitting in a theatre in 2015, and whoever’s reading this blog post in the future?

I think the answer is, sometimes. Not always, that’s for sure. But if the answer were a hard “no,” then we wouldn’t even have this festival, am I right? There’s got to be something we all have in common, some little thread of shared culture, shared experiences. And maybe that’s one of the purposes of the VQFF, to shine a light on all our diverse lives, and make the word “we” just a little bit bigger every time.

That’s what I think anyway.

On to the shorts.

Boogie Doodle, by Norman McLaren (1940). Some very pretty and abstract nonsense with a catchy soundtrack. No story that I could see, let alone any gay themes. McLaren himself was gay, though, so here it goes.

60 Unit Bruise, by Paul Wong (1976). Oh, this one. I’ve seen this short before, and I absolutely couldn’t understand it. What was the point of filming yourself receiving someone else’s blood to make a bruise? Fortunately, the director (and bruise receiver) was there to answer questions. The blood exchange was not meant to be homoerotic; rather, it was a bonding practice between two needle-sharing partners. And they filmed it this one time, since that’s what amateur filmmakers do. So that’s the story: Wong and his partner were just bros, doing work. Mind you, they also happened to be lovers at the time. And now their work is being reread, reinterpreted, as part of a long lineup of historical works.

So… When Did You Figure Out You Had AIDS?, by Vincent Chevalier (1996). A weird little home video starring Chevalier as an AIDS patient, and a friend of his as the talk show host interviewing him. The humour ranges between random and tasteless, but hey, they were kids. And the movie’s kind of prophetic, because Chevalier did later both get diagnosed and go into acting.

L’usure by Jeanne Crépeau (1985). Hey, Jeanne Crépeau‘s been doing lesbian drama for a while, apparently! This little short about two women sorta-kinda breaking up, and then not, is all right, but not really that engaging. It was nice to see her name, though.

Gayblevision, 1982. A few clips from the Gayblevision show, which ran in Vancouver from 1980 to 1986. Some lovely black-and-white vignettes of gay & lesbian life in our fair city.

1919, 1996. A silent-movie-style retelling of the Winnipeg General Strike, focused on Sammy Wong’s combination steam bath and barbershop. Come for a good trim, stay for a little companionship, leave infected with communism.

Cornet at Night, by Stanley Jackson (1963). From the rolling farmlands of Saskatchewan comes the story of a boy who meets a young trumpet-playing man from the city, who briefly charms his family. This is a lovely black and white film with awesome music (both natural and man-made), artfully dealing with coded gay affection and identity.