Top 8 queer films to see at Hot Docs Festival 2018
Well. It has been a shit show outside, hasn’t it? I enjoy how every year around this time we, the people of Toronto, act absolutely blindsided by one more final fist of winter. “Are you kidding me?!” scream the moms in Thornhill. “This is so stupid!” moan the business people on Bay Street. “Oh, this weather is homophobic,” mutter the frozen fruits of Church Street. But like every year it will pass and we will have our Bambi moment where we poke our heads out from our boroughs and discover spring. Or winter will shoot again and end us like Bambi’s mom … Either way, Hot Docs is coming!
What better way to stick the middle finger to climate change than enjoying fantastic documentaries in a well-heated theatre? The lineup of films in this year’s festival is outrageous! I was combing through, opening new tabs on the ones I thought were interesting, only to realize that my Chrome had a solid 60-plus windows running. Needless to say I, like many others, have a hard time sorting through and picking the ones that tickle my fancy the most. That said, we here at Yohomo have picked out some of the finest queer-centric documentaries that are screening this year.
Director: Don Argott, USA, 101 minutes
Although I’m personally not a huge fan of Imagine Dragons, Believer was so interesting! Not for a moment was I disinterested. Actually, I found myself becoming more and more interested in learning more about the bands involved with this project.
"Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds has it all: a hugely successful career, a beautiful family, fame and fortune. But as the devoutly Mormon musician learned about the increasing suicide rate amongst LGBTQ youth in Utah, often as a result of church policies, he realized his faith and his beliefs were at odds. Teaming up with openly gay Mormon performer Tyler Glenn, lead singer of Neon Trees, they created LoveLoud, a music festival designed to build bridges and spark dialogue between the church and the LGBTQ community. Believer drops us into the intense lead-up to the event, filled with frantic planning sessions, roadblocks thrown up by external forces and heartbreaking meetings with the youth affected by the church's unwavering objection to their sexual orientation. A powerful story of standing up for what you believe in and using your voice to amplify those unheard, Believer reminds us that through listening, learning and collaborating, acceptance and change are possible."
- Shane Smith
Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution
Director: Yony Leyser, Germany, 88 minutes
Oh hell yeahhhh! This movie ticked all the boxes for me. Punk films/zines: check. 1990s punk style: check. Canadian queer history: check. Feminist queercore: check. I can’t recommend this film enough. It has fantastic interviews, a story that hasn’t been told before, and just some of the best one-liners.
"In the pre-internet 1980s, Bruce LaBruce and G.B. Jones invented the Toronto queercore scene with their scrappy homemade zines and films. No one knew their subversive fusion of punk and queer aesthetics was a lark, an inside joke, a fantasy that counted just two adherents—its creators! Or that their creation was going to spread beyond their basement bedrooms to the radical underground and spawn a real-life subculture. Speaking to a growing gang of outsiders rejected by the gay and punk scenes, the queercore ethos inspired an anarchist identity, humour and sense of spectacle that didn't involve membership as much as belonging—something less like church and more like a circus. Challenging both mainstream gay and homophobic punk scenes, queercore became a self-fulfilling prophecy that circled the globe and changed the world in true DIY DGAF fashion, influencing everything from music to the riot grrrl movement to the Queer Nation zine."
- Angie Driscoll
Director: Laura Marie Wayne, Canada, 76 minutes
Excuse me while I cry all the tears. Love, Scott pulls so hard on the heart strings that I basically had to gather all my pillows and build a soft comfort fort to protect myself. Honestly you have to see the damn thing. This film is a victim to victor story unlikeany others.
"One night outside of a club, musician Scott Jones was stabbed twice in the back and slashed across the throat because he was gay. The brutal attack left him paralyzed from the waist down and forced him to confront a new reality with limited mobility. His assailant was never prosecuted with a hate crime. As both filmmaker and close friend to Scott, Laura Marie Wayne crafts an intimate, poetic and deeply moving story of transformation. Moving compassionately between their shared past and present, the conversations between the filmmaker and her subject are honest and healing. Scott's resilience in returning to the places he holds dear and sharing his musical talent with audiences shows that fear has no place in his life. He courageously shares his journey with the hope that his life can be a positive example for others facing their own challenges and reassures them they're not alone."
- Alexander Rogalski
Director: Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui, USA, 111 minutes
I know what you’re thinking. “Do we need another McQueen documentary?” The answer is always yes. A thousand times yes. Like, what else do you want in a film? Fashion that is gag-worthy, stunning interviews, amazing visuals, a solid story. McQueen is a stand out film for this years Hot Docs. I highly suggest getting a ticket to it ASAP cause they are going to sell out fast.
"A job tailoring men's suits on Savile Row introduced a working-class lad from East London to the world of fashion. For Lee Alexander McQueen, a spark was struck, resulting in the rise of one of the most famous and provocative designers of the 21st century. McQueen took to fashion with a passion that burned bright and hot; his success was fueled by raw talent, enabled by money and drugs, before he inevitably, tragically burned out. Crucial to his meteoric rise was Isabella Blow, his champion and muse, the ultimate fashion insider who devoted herself to his success before a falling out indelibly altered them both. McQueen's rags-to-riches story is vividly captured in this bold, cinematic film, an authentic celebration of the iconoclastic designer. Featuring rarely seen archival footage and new interviews with many of McQueen's inner circle, directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui have crafted a uniquely artistic take on the legendary couturier and fashion maverick."
- Shane Smith
Director: Michael Del Monte, Canada, 78 minutes
Such an intensely interesting story and a well-thought-out film to match with it. After watching Transformer I found myself on YouTube checking out as many of Janae Marie Kroczaleski’s bodybuilding competitions as possible. Transformer tackles questions about received notions of gender stereotypes and what it is to be not only a transwoman, but a transwoman in a world of bodybuilders. Such a thoughtful and captivating film, a for-sure must-see.
"Matt 'Kroc' Kroczaleski was a world-record weightlifter with lucrative sponsorships. As a US Marine and bodybuilder, he was a poster boy for masculine body image. But in the summer of 2015, he was publicly outed as transgender—and quickly dropped by sponsors, banned from competing and renounced by his parents. Matt's dual life came to an end as she made the decision to transition to Janae. Wearing makeup while pumping iron and looking for outfits that complement her muscular 250-pound frame, Janae is surrounded by her admiring sons and supportive friends. But it's her emotional, rather than physical, transformation that's truly the heart of this film. Her vulnerability is balanced by strength, her confidence tempered by concern for others. Her openness to documenting the sometimes painful process of letting go captures a timely story of finding acceptance for being who you are."
Director: Sam Pollard and Melissa Haizlip, USA, 102 minutes
I don’t even know if I can put to words how much I enjoyed this film. For one thing, the music is just out of this world. If I owned a car with a CD player (or a car in general) I would for sure be playing this soundtrack over and over. Mr. SOUL!, whose story I hadn’t heard about before watching this film, is the perfect character to watch: he’s funny, clever, trend-setting, but most importantly himself.
"Premiering in 1968, SOUL! was the first nationally broadcast all-Black variety show on public television, merging artists from the margins with post–civil rights Black radical thought. Visionary producer-turned-host Ellis Haizlip—openly gay and committed to charting new aesthetic territory—brought the avant-garde into the mainstream by foregrounding poetry and politics. Debuting icons like Patti Labelle, Ashford & Simpson and Arsenio Hall alongside early legends such as Toni Morrison, James Baldwin and the Last Poets, Haizlip's keen ear for talent propelled a cultural shift so powerful it pushed Nixon into action. Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Kathleen Cleaver and more reflect on this lost chapter of pop culture history and revisit their time on SOUL! With original music by Robert Glasper, take a deep dive into these unseen yet urgent archives and learn about the complex man who was the SOUL! of it all."
Matangi/ Maya/ M.I.A
Director: Steve Loveridge, USA, 97 minutes
Yes. Yesss. Yasssssssss. This film was the one we here at Yohomo were most excited about. We love M.I.A., and this doc did nothing but make us love her more, showcasing the life of an artist not often featured in media in a visually stunning and tender way. I believe this will be one of the stand-out films at this year’s festival, so make sure you go see it!
"Mathangi Arulpragasam started out with a yearning to make films. As a teenaged immigrant in London, she was fascinated by her family history and the political turmoil of her homeland of Sri Lanka. As the years went on, her artistic expressions would shape her into the genre-bending music star M.I.A. Her unique sound, bold style and controversial, outspoken activism made her into a worldwide sensation. Admirers and critics latched on to lyrics, videos—and a single finger that caused a multi-million-dollar lawsuit. Through it all, she maintained her rebellious spirit, much to the delight of her fans and the scorn of her detractors. Assembling countless hours of M.I.A.'s own footage alongside music videos, interviews and concert performances, her lifelong friend Steve Loveridge has created an exhilarating mash-up that showcases the many forms of a polarizing and fascinating pop culture figure."
- Gabor Pertic
Director: Evangelia Kanioti, France and Greece, 60 minutes
Just like…ughhhhhh. Obscuro Barroco is just like butter spread on velvet, smooth. After watching this film I wanted to turn off the subtitles and watch it again from the beginning and just get lost in the visuals and the sounds of this documentary. Telling the story about Brazilian trans* icon Luana Muniz, Obscuro Barroco is one of those moments when a fantastic filmmaker meets their muse and boy did that pay off. I feel my small review here does it a total disservice, so please go watch this.
"Brazilian transgender icon Luana Muniz (1961–2017) serves as narrator and guide in this mesmerizing impressionist poem that takes us to the heart of Rio de Janeiro's festive nights. A sumptuous tribute to the city's queer subculture, Obscuro Barroco introduces the viewer to a land of excess and metamorphosis, where the body can both privately and publicly reinvent itself through the ecstatic gender-bending power of carnival. As the country falls back into another conservative and authoritarian period, pressing political struggles meet a desire for self-transformation that Muniz embodies with melancholic sensuality. Following her feature debut, Exotica, Erotica, Etc., Greek director Evangelia Kranioti delivers another wandering reverie that's as much a feast for the eyes and ears as it is a declaration of love to the nonconformists of the world."
- Charlotte Selb
And that is our little list of big films! Make sure to check out the Hot Docs page for more listings and locations the films screening. Also, make sure to let us know which ones out of our list you liked or which ones we didn’t mention that really stood out to you! I’m off to listen to some Cardi B while doing Cardi O-i.e. walk through slush to get coffee- later days!