We take a look at the best bets for the 25th annual Inside Out Film Festival.
In 1991, a group of queer artists known as the Inside/OUT Collective came together to organize Toronto’s first annual Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. While major festivals like the Toronto International Film Festival and Hot Docs are flush with LGBTQ content (Blue is the Warmest Colour, anyone?), the collective described representation of queer people in popular media at the time as “infrequent and marginalized” in its first program.
Twenty-five years later, the Inside Out Film Festival is still providing an alternative platform for queer artists and filmmakers—what director of programming Andrew Murphy has called “a time to reflect on all we have accomplished in the past quarter-century.” Inside Out has grown to curate events in both Toronto and Ottawa, and this year the festival will feature more than 140 films from 35 countries, 28 of which will make their Canadian debut.
Last week, Inside Out hosted a launch party to kick off its 2015 Toronto festival, which runs from May 21 to 31. Here’s a sneak peek at this year’s must-see films—tickets go on sale Thursday.
Opening night is not one to be missed for Lily Tomlin fans. The 75-year-old actress (Nine to Five, Nashville) returns to the big screen as a leading lady for the first time in a decade with the international premiere of Grandma. The film follows Tomlin, whose character must come to terms with the loss of her long-time partner, and her pregnant teenage granddaughter (Julia Garner) as they set out on a day-long road trip to the abortion clinic. Directed by Paul Weitz (About a Boy, In Good Company), this dramedy also stars Laverne Cox, Judy Greer, and Marcia Gay Harden.
For those familiar with the lesbian cult classic But I’m A Cheerleader, Fresno is a much-anticipated (and needed) addition to the queer lady film canon. Director Jamie Babbit (Itty Bitty Titty Committee, Popular) teams up once again with Orange is the New Black’s Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall for this dark comedy about two sisters faced with the task of covering up an accidental murder at a California hotel. The film, which makes its international debut at the Inside Out, will screen at this year’s Women’s Gala.
Tab Hunter was the Zac Efron of the 1950s—the dreamy teen heartthrob who got a young start in Hollywood. Hunter long hid his sexuality, feigning romance with many of his on-screen lovers, such as Natalie Wood and Debbie Reynolds. In Tab Hunter Confidential, director Jeffrey Schwarz (I Am Divine, Vito) reflects on the now-83-year-old actor’s life in Hollywood’s closet. Hunter will also be in attendance for a special presentation of the film.
Since the close of last year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, coverage of LGBTQ rights in Russia has taken a backseat. But the Canadian premiere of To Russia With Love at Inside Out this year seeks to bring the issue back to the forefront. Oft-controversial figure skater Johnny Weir, along with other out LGBTQ athletes, provides a glimpse into the harsh realities of being queer in a country known for its widespread homophobia in this Noam Gonick (Guy Maddin: Waiting for Twilight, Hey, Happy!) doc. The film is also narrated by everyone’s favourite Glee coach and The L Word lawyer, Jane Lynch.
Inside Out has long sought to “challenge attitudes”—so it’s no surprise that Bessie serves as the festival’s 2015 international showcase. Starring Queen Latifah, the docudrama looks at the life of legendary blues singer Bessie Smith. Though she reached the height of her career in the 1920s and ’30s, Smith was known for experimenting with her sexuality. Director Dee Rees told The Huffington Post Smith “had relationships with both men and women…. She loved who she wanted to love.” Backed by an excellent supporting cast (Oliver Platt, Mo’Nique, Michael Kenneth Williams), the film explores Smith’s life and the intersection of race, sexuality, and gender.
Images courtesy of Inside Out