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Queerement Quebec: Young queer stories at Image+Nation

Concordia students were particularly well represented at Queerement Quebec

Queerement Quebec is always a favourite among the public of Image+Nation. The Montreal LGBTQ+ film festival has been organizing the Quebec short film night for 19 years now. This year’s edition was held at the Phi Centre, on Nov. 26.

Out of the eight filmmakers who presented their work that evening, six were Concordia students or alumnae.

“Thank you, Concordia,” said Charlie Boudreau, the director of the festival. “Every year this school produces great filmmakers who end up having a well-deserved place either here at Image+Nation, or in the wider Montreal festival circuit.”

Boudreau mentioned that Image+Nation received four times more submissions than the number of films they were able to show at Queerement Quebec. “This proves that Quebec cinema is very much alive, and that every year there are new queer voices which we try to put out there,” she said.

The last film of the evening, Delphine, by Chloé Robichaud, was probably the best directed. Ever since Robichaud graduated from Concordia 10 years ago in film production, she has become one of the most prominent queer directors in contemporary Quebec cinema, having directed two feature films and many television series episodes, in French and English.

Her last picture won the best short film prize at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) earlier this year. Inspired by the play Delphine de Ville Saint-Laurent, it tells the story of Delphine, a Lebanese immigrant who arrives in Quebec at 10 years old. She starts going to a Montreal elementary school, very shy, not knowing a word of French. Her difficulties are told through the narration of Nicole, a classmate, who seems more at ease with her environment. The last scenes of Robichaud’s short, situate her characters years later, in high school, where Delphine appears as a changed girl, fearless, almost aggressive, as she begins to have to embrace her homosexuality.

“It is one of those films which are queer and feel queer, but don’t explicitly mention their characters’ sexuality, and rather let them be,” said Robichaud. 

As the director stood on the Phi Centre stage to talk about her film, she also talked to Zachary Ayotte, who is currently studying at Concordia, and also presented a film that evening.

The two generations of Concordia filmmakers presented very different pictures. Mon père travaille de nuit is Ayotte’s very first film. He made it two years ago in a film production class. While it was not made to be a comedy, it was the funniest film of the selection. Depicting a teenage boy’s strange relationship with a fellow student whom he meets in swim practice, it was awkward yet very entertaining. Ayotte showed skillful cinematography, considering that it was his first attempt at filmmaking.

“I learned so much in the process of making this film,” said the young director. “I am also very moved by the reaction of the audience tonight, I never would have thought such a personal story could have an impact.” Ayotte said his main character’s experience of sexual discovery had been inspired by his own, a few years back.

While this year’s selection didn’t always showcase the best quality films, compared to last year, for example, it still felt important. Not only did it represent the first film festival experience to many of the feature filmmakers, it also gave the Montreal public the chance to see how the young are portraying queer issues and relationships on screen

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Image+Nation brings new voices of queer cinema to Montreal

The LGBTQ+ festival stands out with its quality Canadian and Latinx programming

Turning 32 this month, Image+Nation is the oldest still-running LGBTQ+ film festival in Canada. Every year, they aim to explore new themes and ways of filming queer stories.

This year’s edition marks a special turn. They brought back their animation film selection after 10 years of absence, added a selection of Canadian short films, and put forward nine Latinx feature films – the most they have ever had.

“These are all films that center on self-acceptance,” said Kat Setzer, the programming director.

In today’s context of diversity and inclusion in cinema, one could think that a queer film festival in Montreal would have lost its necessity, political power and relevance. Charlie Boudreau, the director of Image+Nation, defended her festival at the opening night on Thursday Nov. 21. She said that this year’s films bring to Montreal exclusive screenings that embody the constant evolution of queer cinema, putting forward new directors, new parts of the world and new issues.

In that regard, Image+Nation helps redefine queerness and its relationship to national cinemas and their political ramifications.

For its opening weekend, it brought to the forefront surprisingly high-quality filmmaking.

And then we danced marked the opening ceremony last Thursday.

“This film is my love letter to Georgia,” said director Levan Akin, in a video directed to the Montreal public prior to the screening. It was shown in a Montreal theatre for the second time after its Quebec premiere at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (FNC).

The Swedish-Georgian film depicts the love affair of Merab, a dancer training in the National Georgian Ensemble, with a new rival in the team, Irakli. In a conservative Georgia and dancing ensemble, where masculinity is “the essence” of the dance, their relationship is fraught and forbidden. Their love is subtly and gently told, mostly unsaid but very much felt.

Filled with enticing Georgian music, warm golden lighting throughout the film, and dynamic choreography, it was a wise choice for the opening of Image+Nation.

And then we danced also very much connects with the political relevance of such a festival. When it premiered in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, on Nov. 8, it was welcomed by hundreds of anti-LGBT protesters, blocking the entrance to the film. Despite the scandal forcing Georgian theatres to stop showing the film after three days, it still sold an estimated 6,000 tickets.

Proving the necessity of queer storytelling worldwide, And then we danced was well received by both the public and critics, and deserved the spotlight.

Adding to the films that kicked off the festival, This is not Berlin and José, presented one after the other at l’Impérial on Friday Nov. 22, were particularly good. They were both part of the Latinx programming of the festival.

“This is one is superb, one of my top five of this year,” said Setzer, when talking about the Mexican feature film This is not Berlin.

 

Directed by Hari Sama, it tells the story of two high-school students as they dive deep into the Mexican underground punk arts scene. Because, as the title says, this is not Berlin, things get complicated when they try to make art and fall in love the way they want.

José, by Li Cheng, was probably the best film of the entire weekend and the most underrated. It was the first Guatemaltecan movie in the history of Image+Nation and turned out to be a naturalistic and poetic gem. Unlike many movies that tackle the hookup culture among some modern gay men, this film avoids clichés and touches people with its beautiful yet believable and relatable love story. It has to have more screenings in Montreal, or at least be available to stream in Canada.

With even more events coming in the course of this week, including short film programs of Quebec and Canadian films, as well as documentaries about LGBTQ+ issues and award-winning feature films, Montreal has not seen the last of Image+Nation this year.

The Concordian will follow their activities and review some of their featured films next week.

For more information about the festival’s history and programming, visit https://www.image-nation.org/

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Telling and sharing stories: coming together as a community

Ira Sachs’ drama Keep the Lights On is screening at this year’s Image+Nation film festival. Press photo.

Montreal’s international film festival, Image+Nation, opens this Thursday, marking its 25th year of sharing films that reflect the realities of the international LGBT community.

As a part of the queer movement that swept across the western world in the ‘80s, Image+Nation was born in 1987 from a small group of volunteers who wanted to tell their stories and see themselves represented on screen.

According to Katharine Setzer, the festival’s programming director, “[The festival] is about telling stories and sharing stories [and] coming together as a community to see yourself on the screen and be among like-minded folks.”

Image+Nation, along with other North American queer film festivals, has evolved from a small volunteer-run festival to a corporately sponsored organization. For 25 years, the festival has supported a growing history of queer cinema that has developed into a mature and sophisticated filming practice.

“Queer cinema is moving away from the typical coming out story to talk about different aspects of identity and being,” said Setzer.

The festival selects films that are interesting, well-made and, most importantly, have a strong message. Setzer said when selecting films she considers, “What is [the film] saying? What is the intention and how well has the intention been resolved or put out?”

Dee Rees’ Pariah is one of three films opening the festival. Press photo.

Image+Nation opens with three critically acclaimed films: Ira Sachs’ drama about drug addictions, Keep the Lights On; Dee Rees’ coming-out and coming-of-age story, Pariah; and Paul Émile d’Entremont’s documentary about queer refugees in Canada, Une dernière chance. The festival closes with Matthew Mishory’s Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean which re-imagines the Hollywood icon’s sexual relationships.

International feature-length film screenings at the festival include: Oliver Hermanus’ Beauty, winner of the Cannes Queer Palm, the story of a self-loathing man’s struggle with his repressed sexuality; Bye Bye Blondie by Virginie Despentes, the tale of Gloria (Béatrice Dalle) and Frances (Emmanuelle Béart), who try to rekindle their 30-year-old romance; and Negar Azarbayjani’s drama Facing Mirrors, the first Iranian film to deal with transgender issues.

The Image+Nation’s documentary series includes Yariv Mozer’s The Invisible Men, highlighting the plight of political-asylum-seeking queer Palestinians along with the collaboration between Louis Bouchard, Richard Bradley, and Guy Tay Tremblay, La face cachée des bars de danseurs nus de Montréal, a historical portrait of Montreal gay strip clubs.

Once again, the festival presents its series of international short films Lesbomundo and Homomundo as well as the short works of Montreal filmmakers in the program, Queerment Quebec.

Image+Nation’s Vanguard series pays homage to activists of the queer movement. The lineup this year includes: Les invisibles, about gays and lesbians born between the two World Wars; Call Me Kuchu, the protest of an anti-gay bill led by David Kato, the first openly gay man in Uganda; and Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984-1992, a documentary on the visits made to Berlin by activist, essayist and poet, Audre Lorde.

The Image+Nation film festival takes place from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2 at Cinéma du Parc and Cinéma Beaubien. Tickets are $11.75 ($8.75 for students with ID). For showtimes and more information visit image-nation.org

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