The Long And The Tall Of It.
Review of Queer City Cinema 3.

Aside from controversy, protests, and political debates, Queer City Cinema 3 delivered something else even more important to Regina, some strong film and video programming. Rather than dwell on all of the peripheral strife, I’d like to take a moment to comment on a few of the highs and lows of the work shown.

The week began with two nights at the RPL where curator Gary Varro had programmed four international feature films. In their compliance with the mainstream cinematic norms, these films proved that strong gay and lesbian stories can transcend their underground roots to work for general audiences. One of my favorites from these was Show Me Love by director Lukas Moodysson, a charming Swedish film about two sixteen year old girls struggling with their mutual attraction amidst the judgmental and intolerant world of high school. It is really a feel-good film, proposing that adversity can be overcome with honesty.

The short films, which made up the screenings from Wednesday to Saturday at the Cultural Exchange Society, came from every imaginable direction. Mary, Mary, by Annie Wright of the Netherlands, is an intense retelling of the chilling murders done by an eleven-year-old girl. The first person storytelling draws us in to the darkest side of the human mind making us simultaneously empathize with and abhor this cruel young woman. Ironically, this study of the inhumanity that we are capable of is illustrated using non-animated children’s dolls. The affect of the voice over, so powerfully written and performed, is to lead us to believe that the unmoving plastic figures are delivering award winning performances.

More abstract works such as Scratch by Dierdre Logue presented a different view of gay culture. These found or hand processed (Hoffman school) images flicker and jump from the screen. They remind us that the answers are not always easy to find but, as the film says, “it is through this that I know myself”.

Roy Mitchell, one of the guests of the festival, brought a humourous personal documentary he shot in his home town of Sault Saint Marie. I Know A Place is a portrait of a town from the viewpoint of a local boy who always felt like an outsider until he discovered the hidden community within the community. Interviews and photos are used in a relatively “straight” forward way to build this important portrait a series of people who proved that they could make a difference. This is outstanding and important cinema.
On the other hand, some of the films left something to be desired. Lez be Friends, excitedly awaited due to its notorious controversy, was disappointing to say the least.

The film, shot it a campy style with garish make-up and a rough 70’s exploitation look, failed to deliver on any level. Following a gang of lesbian bikers as they terrorize hippies and hets certainly had promise but it quickly regressed into a series of tiresome torture scenes. It lacked any of the irony or the heart necessary for us to either laugh at, laugh with, or sympathize with any of the characters.

The week ended with a delightful set of cartoons on Saturday night. Candy Kisses by Toronto’s Allyson Mitchell discusses monogamy and relationships by using the simplest techniques. Big-eyed greeting card characters speak in word balloons with tremendously funny results. Also of interest was Baby Cue by Hazel Grian of the UK. In this complex work, a baby toy doll embarks on an epic journey through a surreally constructed world in search of the father she never knew. Circus freaks, such as one constructed of a head atop a pair of Barbie legs, are made in the shockingly demented spirit of the James Whale classic. The film succeeds at creating a world which is both believable as well as beyond our imagination.

With over eighty works shown, Queer City 3 was an unforgettable experience. Although clouded by irrational protests, enjoyment for most people remained unmarred. I wish to thank Gary Varro for spearheading the project and hope that the controversy propel him to even greater heights.

Gerald Saul 2005