The Vancouver Queer Film Festival 2020 can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home this year because despite the global pandemic, they are, as this year’s festival theme proclaims, Still Here.
I had the lovely experience of interviewing the festival’s Artistic Director, Anoushka Ratnarajah; honestly, I could listen to her talk all day about art and social justice. When I asked her about this year’s powerful theme at the start of our conversation, she recounted how it transpired: “The films that I was seeing were really exploring themes of transformation, resilience and survival. It just made sense Still Here would be our theme at that time – and then it became even more poetic and true when the pandemic hit, especially as an arts festival that programs for live screenings and for live events.”
I think many of us have realized the importance of the arts during a time when we are focused not just on staying physically healthy but also on truly living. This was definitely noted by artists and creatives who made music, theatre, opera and more, accessible to all of us. “In times of crisis, we really turn to stories and artistic expression to provide comfort and catharsis and joy; we need the arts and we need storytellers now more than ever,” Ratnarajah agreed. And with the world turning its eyes toward human rights and social justice issues – the Black Lives Matter movement, trans rights, Indigenous rights – the intersectionality of this festival will continue to feed these important conversations.
“It is heartening to see that more people are waking up to the lived realities of so many of us who are most marginalized.” ~ Anoushka Ratnarajah
The VQFF is still here and bringing some incredible programming to you so grab your tickets, cozy up with the ones in your bubble and prepare for some diverse, touching and humourous films showing between August 13 and August 23, 2020.
The Opening Gala film is a documentary called Pier Kids which follows a group of Black, queer and trans youth who find family and community on the Christopher Street Pier (a historic space for marginalized people in NYC) made by a director named Elegance Bratton who was himself a Black homeless youth. Usually in documentary films, subjects don’t get paid but in this case, they did which is unusual and amazing. Aside from the wonderful content, this documentary celebrates a unique take on filmmaking.
The lineup includes the Centrepiece Gala film, Lingua Franca: an ambitious feature film that follows a trans Filipina migrant as she navigates being undocumented in a Trump-era America. The film is written, directed by and stars trans actress Isabel Sandoval, who will join audiences virtually to discuss the film in a digital Q&A.
Finally, this year’s VQFF will close with the heartwarming queer Muslim romantic comedy, Breaking Fast, directed by Mike Mosallam. Ratnarajah shared her perspective on this film as a brown person: “It’s so incredible to be able to see brown people on screen being funny and not being the butt of the joke, having supportive families and supportive friendship and community, and not being portrayed as isolated and miserable because they are queer. It’s funny and it’s romantic and it also doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations around race and faith when it comes to those two things intersecting with a queer identity.”