August is here and for Vancouverites that means one thing: cramming in as much fun as possible before heading back to school and office routines (yes, we work in the summer but things are a little more lax, am I right?). If you want to fill your month with some out-of-the-box, expand-your-mind plans, don’t pass up the Vancouver Queer Film Festival! There are many VQFF events running throughout August 9-19 so you have plenty to select from.

Vancouver Queer Film Festival Celebrates 30 Years

VQFF is celebrating 30 years of spotlighting talented queer artists in an industry that is “gatekept by those with privilege,” according to Artistic Director, Anoushka Ratnarajah. “A lot of white people, a lot of cis men, a lot of heterosexual folks…so we really make it a priority to centre and platform, particularly, queer and trans marginalized voices in our festival.” Further to their commitment to raising these voices in our community, for the past few years VQFF has a dedicated spotlight on two-spirit and indigenous queer talent.

Ratnarajah and her co-artistic director Amber Dawn, along with a volunteer program committee, had the incredible task of reviewing film submissions to curate a festival worthy of a milestone for this under-represented artistic community. When asked about the submissions they received for the festival this year, Ratnarajah explained, “This year we’ve been really excited to see such an increase in trans representation on film, and we’ve actually been able to curate an entire spotlight that centres trans women on screen. Historically, stories about trans women have been performed by cis male actors, and there are a lot of really talented trans women out there. We have decided to make it an ongoing policy to not show films where cis men are playing trans women.”

It’s not just about being representative – the other criteria for the program committee: the films have to move audiences. And Ratnarajah and her team guarantee that audiences will not be disappointed.

VQFF, Vancouver queer film festival, amber dawn, anoushka ratnarajah

VQFF Artistic Directors: Amber Dawn and Anoushka Ratnarajah

Queer Artists Respond To World Events Through Films At VQFF

In 2018 alone, the bigotry deluging the queer community has been identified at local and global levels. But so has the outcry against these acts. Remember the Pride flag portrayed by people wearing soccer jerseys during World Cup in Russia where ‘gay propaganda’ is against the law? As well, Instagram was recently forced to apologize after removing an image of two men kissing when account users went instacrazy on the company. And there was public opinion voiced when a primary school in London, England had to shrink its Pride parade due to threats from parents.

This festival showcases narrative that springs from incidents such as these because, as Ratnarajah states, “We don’t live in a void or a vacuum. Everything affects our programming.”  These films tell the stories, the experiences that are uniquely queer.

Should I Go To VQFF If I’m Not Queer?


This was not a real question, by the way, but something I threw in there because I think it’s important to say what people might be thinking. The reason I don’t think it’s a valid question is because that would be like refraining from watching films set in foreign countries or starring a cast that looks nothing like you. We can’t expect to learn about and from each other when we don’t step out of what is typically our experience. It doesn’t mean it’s going to change who we are (except maybe for the better, if it helps give us perspective).

This film festival is an incredible opportunity to learn through art, to be moved by a medium that transcends whatever differences we think we have. Art removes the illusion that there is an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. There’s no escaping our shared humanity when it’s pouring out on screen, on stage, or on the page.

For More Information On VQFF

You can check out their website to select and buy tickets.

Follow them on Facebook or check their tweets on Twitter to stay updated or let them know you’ll be supporting them!

taslim jaffer writer