“It’s time to get OUT!” screams the Reelout Queer Film Festival. In its 18th installment, the festival brought nothing short of groundbreaking films to the Kingston community last week. Originally established in 2000 by OPIRG, Reelout is a collective arts project that seeks to celebrate gender and sexual diversity in Kingston. This year’s lineup hosted a wide array of genres from comedy to romance, and filmmakers from a variety of backgrounds, giving the festival an in-depth and intersectional approach to diversity. We reviewed a couple of films and shorts from the festival, some of which made us laugh, while others made us cry. Nevertheless, the films left us with a unique perspective into the LGBTQ+ communities.
De Chica en Chica, or Girl Gets Girl, directed by Sonia Sebastian, brings you abruptly into the world of Inés who, after nine years of slacking off and sleeping around in Miami, returns to Madrid on the day her ex-fiancé is throwing a ‘period party’ for her daughter. As Inés’ return comes nine years after leaving a pregnant Verónica at the altar, she doesn’t receive the fan-fair she was hoping for. All the friends and responsibilities she left behind come roaring back, including her lust for Verónica’s straight best friend, Lola.
This film is fast-paced and hilarious as it moves quickly around Verónica’s beautiful Spanish home and backyard, delivering well-crafted jokes that had the whole theater laughing throughout the film. The group of friends truly embody a dysfunctional family as yelling and accusations, directed primarily at Inés, quickly melt into forgiveness
The film is primarily light-hearted with a few genuinely tender moments between Inés and her could-have-been-daughter, Candela, that keep the film grounded and show there’s more to Inés than her reputation allows. Girl Gets Girl is a wonderfully funny portrayal of a homecoming to friends that feel like family.
- AJ Lockhard
The Mathematics of a Lesbian Kiss by Canadian filmmakers Sabine Lebel and Alison Taylor is a series of blurry, intimate videos taken in San Jose, Costa Rica and shot entirely on the couple’s iPhones. The two women contrast their experiences decades ago in Toronto’s dyke bar scene with the closeted reality of going out in present day San Jose. The short feels intimate, aided by the familiar quality of a friend showing you videos on their phone as they narrate the scene. The short contrasts the couple’s happy memories of falling in love with the sad reminder that not everyone has the freedom to love so openly.
- AJ Lockhard
Check It, Toby Oppenheimer and Dana Flor, gives a rare glimpse into the day-to-day reality for members of America’s first-documented LGBTQ+ gang. The documentary follows key members as they navigate their identities, teenagehood and the direction of their lives. The film isn’t easy to watch as the gang members are constantly on edge and ready to fight their oppressors, giving the film an unsettling overtone of violence.
The documentary felt personal and raw, as even though the members pride themselves on their fashion and makeup, they’re unable to conceal their emotions. Their overt anger at living in a world that perpetually marginalizes them, as well as the intimate love and affection that has formed between the gang members who’ve now become family, simultaneously brought me joy and sadness. In addition to identifying along the LGBTQ+ spectrum, all the gang members are black and from low-income households, with many having left home in their early teens and relying on prostitution to survive.
While watching this film, it’s important to remember that the directors, Oppenheimer and Flor, are both white, cis adults, allowing them to tell this story from a distinct position of privilege. This film left me emotionally-stirred and angry at the world for the way it treats people who’re different, while overwhelmed by the love and friendship that can form within a group that’s intent to resist.
- AJ Lockhard
Directed by Canadian filmmaker Miles McCraw, Josh follows a young Amish boy, who discovers the lively LGBTQ+ community in the city. Joshua trades in rural life for an urban romance, hoping to meet his love-interest, Austin, in this new town. But, when Josh finally sees Austin and has his first sexual encounter, he’s suddenly scared off by this vibrant community he has tried so hard to fit into — missing the comfort and safety of home. Tony Babcock, in the role of Joshua, delivers an emotional and yet awkward performance as he so perfectly captures the innocence and thrill of breaking Amish. The film in its entirety was shot in a surprising span of four days, nevertheless, it featured complex and emotionally-stirring cinematography as well as acting.
- Erika Streisfield
A little lust and a lot of laughter. Directed and produced by Italian filmmaker Veronica Pivetti, A Little Lust or Ne Giulietta, ne Romeo is set in Rome and follows 16-year-old Rocco as he tries to get laid and see his favourite pop star in concert. When an incident happens at school, Rocco is forced to come out as gay to his parents, who aren’t accepting of his new lifestyle. As a result, Rocco runs away with his two best friends, pilgriming across Italy to see his favourite singer, who is notably gay. Together, Rocco’s neurotic mother and hip grandmother follow after them, encountering exciting incidents that add some much-needed comic relief in the heat of this coming-out tale.
While the movie tackles themes associated with the LGBTQ+ community, such as coming out and heteronormativity, it does so in a humorous and entertaining light that had the audience laughing from beginning to end. From Rocco’s friends, to his neurotic mother and crazy grandmother, the audience could find themselves identifying with one of the characters as they embodied the friends and family in our everyday lives
While the film is in Italian with English subtitles, I felt myself enraptured in the heartwarming tale with vibrant characters and action-packed cinematography — I even caught on to an Italian word or two, especially since they were cracking ‘pene’ (penis) jokes the whole film.
- Erika Streisfield
While the sun comes up, two virtual strangers share more than just a bench while they wait for the bus to arrive.
This romantic film by British director Jake Graf leaves little to the imagination — except the main character’s face as she conceals her appearance for the entire 13-minute short. There are inklings of a romance as the two strangers chat, and the overall feeling was quite uplifting as you get the sense neither of them has connected with someone in a while. However, the mood shifts when the woman reveals her face and she sports a mysterious black eye.
Through interspersed flashbacks that immediately fill in the blanks, the viewer begins to see the duo as truly powerless. The strangers talk for a mere 10 minutes, but they share more than either is comfortable sharing with people they know personally.
Although the theme was romantic, the gestures were predictable. When they part ways, she grabbed his hand and scribbled her number on his arm in a display of interest, despite the man previously revealing he’s blind. They vow to see eachother again, as the rising sun backlights the countryside and the viewer is left wondering about both of their pasts and what brought them to this moment.
— Alex Palermo
Italian filmmaker Carlo Lavagna captures the confusion of 19-year-old Arianna as she discovers a missing piece of her past one summer at her parent’s home on the shores of Lake Bolsena. Arianna struggles with her body image, unable to see any parallels between her and her developed and sexually experienced cousin, Celeste. She struggles to feel feminine and ‘normal’, as she has repeated flashbacks to her early life which she barely remembers.The opening shot shows Arianna in all her nude glory, lying face up in a flowing river. Throughout the film, laidback European attitudes about nudity were highlighted, leading to some particularly graphic sex scenes which brought life to this coming-of-age story.
The continual suggestion throughout the film that Arianna wasn’t born female, made me wonder how she herself couldn’t know. Her innocence evokes sympathy as a viewer, and her parent’s dishonesty about her past seem to only accentuate the difficulty of her transition. As the film progresses, Arianna reconnects with her cousin, makes new friends and together they explore their sexuality, unsupervised. The stunning visuals this film offered complemented Arianna’s discovery of the truth about her body, and why it seems to be betraying her.
— Alex Palermo
Canadian filmmaker Chase Joynt follows a young family’s perception of what gender is over the course of four years in this documentary short. The film begins with three siblings, Benton (12), Madeleine (10) and Dexter (6), on a swingset being interviewed by Joynt. He asks them about gender identity, and what it’s like to be going through puberty. Their candid answers breathe life into the introduction of the film and their wisdom appears to reach far beyond their years. HIghlights were Benton describing puberty as “really bad” and Madeleine saying she often feels like “punching anyone in the face”.
Four years later, Joynt checks in again with a similar round of questions, which garner deeper and more meaningful responses. In an interesting twist, the camera ends up flipping around and the trio of siblings — still in their pyjamas — become the ones asking the questions about feminism and masculinity. The 15-minute saga was heartening, as you seem to watch the trio grow up over the course of its four-year timeline. The obvious candor made Genderize stand out in terms of comedy and without definite plot, it was whatever the interviewees wanted it to be.
— Alex Palermo
Fair Haven, directed by Kerstin Karlhuber and written by Jack Bryant, follows the story of James, played by Michael Grant, a 19-year-old high school graduate fresh from Christian conversion therapy. In the wake of his mother’s death, James has to learn to cope with his sexuality in a small Vermont town that rejects homosexuality in the name of God.
James’ grieving father is increasingly concerned with his interest in music, men and his indifference to girls. Interspersed flashbacks to his therapy sessions highlight the irony of the church’s harmful message, as James falls in love for the second time.
The warm, rolling hills of his family’s apple orchard makes the perfect backdrop for the romance that ensues. Although the film was set and released in 2016, the rural setting gave it a 1990s feel as hardly any of the characters used electronics, which turned out to be a refreshing touch.
Given the gravity of the subject matter you would think there wouldn’t be much room for comedy but Fair Haven still delivered on a more subtle type of humour. James’s love affair quickly gets him in hot water and when he finally fails to conceal it, all bets are off. The duo learn the ropes of what it means to love against the odds, and the value of proving oneself to those who are meant to love us unconditionally.
— Alex Palermo