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A new outlook on gay films

by admin October 27, 2009

Five young Quebecois filmmakers took the stage on Sunday as Montreal’s queer film festival, Image+Nation, put on its first ever interactive discussion panel about contemporary lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
The group consisted of three Concordia graduates, Etienne Désrossier, Dominic Goyer, and Ziad Touma, as well as two current Concordia students, Jasmine Gervais and Olivier Lessard.
“It’s rare that we get together,” said Touma, who moderated the session, as he asked fellow panelists to briefly introduce themselves before commenting on their personal and artistic coming out.
The question sparked some debate about what it means to be an LGBT filmmaker, as Goyer reflected on whether the definition is based on the artists’ sexual orientations or the content of their films.
“I don’t want all my works to be viewed through a gay lens,” he said. Even after he stepped out of the closet, he was reluctant to label himself as a gay film director. “I don’t want to be the person people call to talk to only about gay issues.”
Goyer then mentioned that he had received some negative feedback about Une Robe Blanche, his current entry in the festival, from people who felt that is was not gay enough.
Lessard, who believes that his personal coming out occurred through his work, echoed concern about what defines an LGBT film. “Is it possible to see a successful gay film without the overly present sex scenes?” he asked.
Désrossier also said it was necessary to demonstrate that LGBT films are not just softcore-porn, which can be seen in his film Miroir d’été, which took a different approach. “The birth of sexuality during adolescence happens almost like a dream and I wanted to capture that.”
Gervais, however, defended the sexually explicit nature of certain LGBT films saying that they were a rebellion to mainstream Hollywood censorship. What upsets her, and many within in the community, the most is that many of the oppressive hollywood censors are gay themselves. Gervais is frustrated that a group made up of so many LGBT individuals could impose such harsh censorship rules on those belonging to their own community.
Gervais claims she is not intimidated by the mainstream movie industry and makes films that please her. “I write about what I am. I can’t sweep that aside,” she said.
Yet Gervais was careful not to completely disregard the mainstream by catering to the LGBT community, since she knows change within the mainstream is a slow progression that needs to be nurtured. “Nobody ever changed society by slapping it in the face,” she said. “You need to infiltrate the mainstream to affect people.”
The five filmmakers agreed that contemporary LGBT film has finally started to focus more on the emotional over the sexual.
“I’ve seen millions of LGBT films and [theirs] struck me as having a special powerful voice,” said executive Image+Nation director Charlie Boudreau in praise of the chosen panelists. “[Their films are] rooted in the richness of Québec culture.”