First Times at the Film Festival

To start the summer off right, I’ve been getting to know my adopted city better. Over the last two weekends I checked out a dozen buildings in Doors Open Toronto, traipsing from Union to Queen West and to Wellesley to see inside some of the oldest, biggest, wildest and secret-est buildings of Toronto. This week, I decided to check out the Inside Out Film Festival, which I happened to discover at Doors Open quite by accident during a Lightbox Tour. Back home in Carleton Place, or even Ottawa for that matter, there isn’t much in the way of LGBT culture and events, nor would I have been ready to go to any event. It seemed to me that this would be a good event to start with, more individual and quiet than Pride.

As much as I enjoyed Doors Open, the last few days have far surpassed it. I’ve seen six movies over four days – some of these were shorts, some focused on lesbian relationships, some of them were foreign language; all of them hit me hard and taught me something. I saw four feature-length films, called Animals, Monster Pies, The Go Doc Project and Bridegroom, varying from really creepy and weird to sad and tragic indie flicks. I never really expected movies to be so powerful until I came to a festival that was off the mainstream… my plans for TIFF later this summer seem likely to be screwed up now, because I really doubt I will see anything as special or relevant to my life there that will live up to these movies.

Hitting up Starbucks between every movie, cuz that's just how I do

Hitting up Starbucks between every movie, cuz that’s just how I do

Thing is, though I came out several months ago, I haven’t played much of role in the LGBT community. It’s been a mixture of not wanting to be and not really knowing how to be – I haven’t really wanted to include myself in the crowds of flag-waving people at Pride parades or at protests, or anything along the lines of this. Problem was that I didn’t just choose to not participate – I was happy to (quietly and not-so-quietly) judge some of the people who were involved in the community as being too flamboyant, too out there. I think much of this has to do with fear, the continued fear I have of judgement, the terror of being left alone with no one around me, the worry of the pain that I could experience. Is it not easier to just come off as a straight person in all but the fact that in my own time I’m interested in men over women?

One of the movies, The Go Doc Project, seemed to read my mind. Besides tracking the growth of a relationship, it pitted one gay guy very much like me, more quiet and reserved and shy of the gay scene, with a gay go-go dancer. It might not be what everyone else got from the movie, but this movie really pushed me to re-evaluate how I think of the culture I’ve found myself part of.  The dancer, a real dancer from New York, had such character, honesty and purity despite being part of something I didn’t think I would ever see value in. There was a human side behind all the outwards sexuality, something I’ve always felt unable to find when I see a gay club or a parade. It turns out I’ve been blind the entire time.

The area around the LightBox

The area around the LightBox

Many of the other movies I saw were filled with pain and sadness. Pretty much every movie I saw had me tearing up at some point – counting it all up, it’s understandable considering I saw all but one couple break up, four people die or commit suicide, and countless taunting. These are the stories, the experiences, that I knew everyone sitting in that theater with me had experienced at some point or another, whether first hand or through their friends. There is so much pain, so much suffering in this community, something I can only begin to understand. My journey was far from difficult; I can’t imagine going through or experiencing what many of these people did; but I know that I would be there to support them at any cost.

I think the movies highlighted something else really important, too – how short are time with people can be. With so many of these movies focused on fleeting moments between the characters, and many of the romances ending so abruptly, it really makes me thing: do I really want to sit on the sidelines and not get involved with all the things other LGBT people are doing? It would be like not going to Canada Day fireworks or skipping Christmas. These are some of the most exciting, best times of our lives, and by not participating I’m passing out on the chance to experience those times. Regret is one thing I don’t want to look back and have.

The Canadian LGBT Archives, something I probably should have paid more attention to on tour.

The Canadian LGBT Archives, something I probably should have paid more attention to on tour.

So I’m left with a very changed perspective on my community. I understand much better why there is so much exuberance, so much celebration – because the very fact that we’ve made it this far, that we’re still breathing, that we still have a heart, can be in many cases a miracle. This is a community that I really want to start growing in to, because I’m learning the more I grow and mature that the support and answers I need aren’t going to come from my straight friends, from my girl friends. That’s not saying I’m not grateful, at all (many of these people have helped me through some of my worst times), but it’s part of my truth that I need to grow with people who share my struggle and goals as me, who I can become more than friends with if that’s the direction things head.

I underestimated exactly the power having a community can be. I’ve usually found myself considering my community as Glendon, or as with my coworkers. As great as these communities are, they can’t match the strength of one made up of a bunch of people who have experienced the same discrimination, the same confusion, the same process of acceptance, and the same joy of falling in love, one almost more powerful because of the process required to get to that point. I don’t really understand fully what my role will be here, but I know that I want to start becoming a more active LGBT person and I’m working with some friends to start learning the ropes a bit. I don’t think it’s going to change how I act or who I am entirely, but I think I’m going to find myself happier, more relaxed and more accepting the more I spend time with other people like me.

Shane, on the left, is becoming a crusader for equal rights. He was there after the screening.

Shane, on the left, is becoming a crusader for equal rights. He was there after the screening.

My next steps will be Pride at the end of the month. I think I’ll be going with a great group of people, and I’m excited to experience it. I have a feeling I’ll always prefer the Inside Out festival, because I usually prefer things like that, but I see no harm in trying. If you want to see any of these movies, the links are below; some will be coming to theaters in the next few months, others I’m hoping will end up online at the very least.

Bridegroom: Tears. Just tears.

The Go Doc Project: A budget of $10000 doesn’t make this movie seem cheap – in fact, it was more touching than all but Bridegroom. The amount of skin might make some people uncomfortable, though.

Monster Pies:  An indie movie from Australia – the end was really sad, and despite some of the acting this was hard to leave from after. 

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