Inside Out 2011—Diverse, Because What Else Would It Be?
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Inside Out 2011—Diverse, Because What Else Would It Be?

Still from We Were Here.

Now in its 21st year, Inside Out stands as one of Toronto’s most consistently wide-ranging film festivals. Representing the L, the G, the B, the T, and everything in-between, Toronto’s annual LGBT film and video festival returns in 2011 for 10 days of galas, parties, and, yes, films. Criss-crossing the city, with screenings at the Lightbox, in the Village, and as far east and west as the Fox and the Revue, Inside Out is also one of Toronto’s most accessible film fests. Even if the festival may not address recent changes in the landscape of Toronto’s gay community in the past half-year in a way that we might hope, Inside Out 2011 still represents a fairly broad palette of films. But what about the quality of those films?

Well, let’s start with the stuff we’ve already seen. A couple of the documentaries screening at this year’s Inside Out festival recently premiered at Hot Docs. One of which is Bill Weber and David Weissman’s great We Were Here ( 4 STARS ). The film looks at the outbreak of AIDS in San Francisco’s gay community in the late ‘80s, focusing as much on the ensuing panic as the manner in which the crisis helped to galvanize both the local community and the larger gay rights movement throughout America. Less impressive is Kerthy Fix’s Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour ( 2 STARS ). Though the members of feminist dance-punk outfit Le Tigre all seem fairly nice, their self-consciously goofy antics and camera mugging wears thin pretty quickly. Though, granted, it’s bound to be of more interest to the group’s fans.
More confrontational than Le Tigre’s bopping brand of electro-feminism are the antics of the radical feminist performance group in Much More Pussy ( 3½ STARS ). This French/German “sexumentary” (quoth the copy) follows a touring group of sex-positive performance artists as they trek across France indulging in myriad of sex-related acts on stage, often to the dismay of theatre management. And, if a few flashed cervixes and some nipple-play wasn’t enough to get asses in the seats, director Emilie Jouvet turns up the heat with some hardcore porn scenes, spliced in for what seems like no reason other than to mimic the in-your-faceness of the troupe’s stage show.

Still from Miss Tacuarembo.

Fiction-wise, Inside Out’s programming proves no less eclectic (or hodgepodge, depending on your perspective). From Sundance comes Madeline Olnek’s curious Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same ( 1½ STAR ), which is kind of like You’ve Got Mail except Tom Hanks is an alien and both the leads are lesbians. So, both Meg Ryan. So it’s exactly like You’ve Got Mail if You’ve Got Mail starred two lesbian Meg Ryans, one of whom was an extraterrestrial. It’s also a pretty self-conscious nod to the campy-crappy films of Ed Wood, which hews a little too closely to Wood’s standards of (non)quality.
Much stronger is Miss Tacuarembo ( 4 STARS ), Uruguan filmmaker Martin Sastre’s sendup of star-searching talent shows and organized religion. Beyond parody, though, Tacuarembo’s a nice reminiscence on childhood friendship. And choreography. And there’s a Biblical theme park including dancing 10 commandments tablets, a game where you can win prizes by firing at Judas. It’s the kind of stuff that’s always kind of funny, especially if you’ve ever met a real-life nun.
A perennial favourite at Inside Out is the Hogtown Homos shorts program, which zooms in on Toronto’s home-grown queer filmmakers and artists. Lesley Loski Chan and Dilia Narduzzi’s Making Ladies
( 3½ STARS ) is, despite its twitchy and abrasive soundtrack, a fun look at Allyson Mitchell, an artist whose mammoth handcrafted sasquatches and other monster models challenge notions of the feminine body. Kent Monkman’s Dance to Miss Chief ( 4½ STARS ), a spooftastic music video exploring the world’s fascination with North American native cultures, is another highlight. And makes Lady Gaga’s Third Reich aesthetics look flatly inoffensive by comparison. (Which is good. You know, in a boundary-pushing way.)
Still courtesy Ingrid Hamilton/GAT.
Inside Out, Toronto’s LGBT film and video festival, runs from May 19 to 29 at venues all over the city. For more info, visit their website.