TIFF Gay Guide 2016
TIFF has also been host to queer filmmakers for decades. This year’s roster of LGBT artists features newcomers like Milica Tomovic as well as established heavyweights like Pedro Almodóvar.
To help digest the overwhelming queer presence at this year’s festival, Yohomo has put together a list of the 10 must-see LGBT films at TIFF 2016:
Directed by: Pedro Almodóvar
Undoubtedly, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar is one of the driving forces in queer cinema globally. Since the early 1980s, the iconic filmmaker has gifted us with classics like Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, All About My Mother and Bad Education and influenced generations of queer artists in the process. His latest film Julieta draws its inspiration from three short stories by Canadian writer Alice Munro and is a milestone for the director, the 20th feature-length film of his storied career.
The Untamed (La Región Salvaje)
Directed by: Amat Escalante
Mexican film director Amat Escalante may be at the height of his powers. His follow-up to 2013’s Heli, which won him the highly-coveted best director prize at Cannes, is a witty, messy, bizarrely erotic film that straddles myriad genres simultaneously. The Untamed (La Región Salvaje) tells the tale of Angel and Alejandra — a straight married couple carrying out a mostly unremarkable existence in Mexico with their children. As it becomes clearer that Angel is having an affair with his wife’s brother, Fabián, their marriage begins to deteriorate and it’s here that The Untamed begins to blend horror, surrealism, science fiction and comedy in the strangest way imaginable.
The Handmaiden (Agassi)
One of the most popular working directors in South Korea today, Park Chan-wook lays claim to the highly influential Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance) and Thirst, among others. His latest venture, The Handmaiden (Agassi), is a lush thriller that was adapted from Fingersmith, Sarah Waters’ crime novel set in Victorian Era Britain. Park has retooled the original text and reset it in Japanese occupied Korea in the 1930s. At the heart of The Handmaiden is an exhilarating lesbian romance and highly-stylized piece that’s certain to be one of the most coveted tickets at the festival.
It’s Only the End of the World (Juste la fin du Monde)
Directed by: Xavier Dolan
Despite a maelstrom of competing criticism, It’s Only the end of the World (Juste la fin du monde) earned Canada’s wunderkind Xavier Dolan both the Grand Prix and Ecumenical Jury Prize following its premiere at Cannes. Calling to mind fellow queer filmmaker Francois Ozon’s 2005 film Time to Leave (Le temps qui reste) in which an ailing fashion photographer attempts to navigate the murky and punishing waters of a terminal prognosis, It’s Only the End of the World focuses on Louis, a dying writer who returns to his family after 12 years without contact to share the grim news. The film is an adaptation of the renowned play of the same name by French playwright Jean Luc Lagarce who died of AIDS in 1995.
Directed by: Barry Jenkins
Director Barry Jenkins delivers a stunning portrayal of black male queer identity in Moonlight. An adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s acclaimed play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, Moonlight is the coming of age story of Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) as he traverses three critical periods of his life and faces coming to terms with his sexuality in his impoverished hometown in Florida. Moonlight also features pop star Janelle Monae in a breakout debut role. Moonlight is Jenkins’ second feature after 2008’s celebrated Medicine for Melancholy.
Below Her Mouth
Directed by: April Mullen
Director and actor April Mullen’s second feature Below Her Mouth promises to be one of the sexiest and most provocative films at this year’s festival. Two women, both in transitional moments in their lives, find themselves in a stormy, precariously-timed romance. Shot in Toronto and filmed entirely by an all-female cast, Below Her Mouth is a highly engaging affair that examines the dissolution of relationships and the hope of newfound love.
Directed by: Chloé Robichaud
Quebec director Chloé Robichaud made waves with her feature-length debut Sarah Prefers to Run (Sarah préfère la course) which premiered at Cannes in 2013. More recently, she launched the short-lived, but well-received web-series Féminine/Féminine that followed the lives and loves of eight lesbian Montrealers. With Pays (Boundaries), Robichaud has shifted gears with a political film about the vulnerability of Canada’s natural resources. Located on the fictional island of Besco, Pays looks to be a sharp, character-driven satire from one of Canada’s fastest rising LGBT directors.
Directed by: Tom Ford
Iconic fashion designer turned director Tom Ford has followed up his sleek adaptation of gay writer Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man with yet another literary adaptation. Nocturnal Animals is based on Tony and Susan by the late American writer Austin Wright. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams and Laura Linney, Nocturnal Animals will no doubt be one of the most buzzed about Hollywood affairs at this year’s festival.
Directed by: Milica Tomovic
Of the more notable LGBT films featured in TIFF’s sprawling, 11-part Short Cuts Programme, is Transition (Tranzicija) from Serbian director Milica Tomovic. Transition is the richly written, superbly acted story of a trans man who leaves his family, band members and transphobic girlfriend to undergo gender-confirmation surgery in Michigan under the pretext of completing his post-graduate studies. In less than 22 minutes, Transition is more sophisticated in its character development and packs more emotional punch than most feature-length films. The future for Tomovic, a first-time director, is indeed bright.
Award-winning Portuguese director João Pedro Rodrigues first captivated queer audiences internationally with 2000’s Phantom (O Fantasma) — a homoerotic tour de force that defied all conventional form and blurred lines between traditional narrative and porn. The Ornithologist (O Ornitólogo) furthers that experimental trajectory in this courageous re-interpretation of the life of St. Anthony of Padua, a Portuguese Catholic priest. Rodrigues, formerly an aspiring ornithologist, shot the film in a remote region in northern Portugal and used the rugged, virtually untouched environment as a playground for this campy, queerly sacrilegious re-imagining of the Portuguese saint.
Head to tiff.net for a full list of movies and have fun out there!
Ryan English is a Toronto writer, music and movie lover and super gay. Thanks Ryan!