Out on Screen

The territory’s first queer film festival, OUT North, is coming to Whitehorse March 24 to 25.

The festival features two days of award-winning films, and local, national and international filmmakers.

The goal, say OUT North producers Debbie Thomas and Fiona Griffin, is not only to bring together the Whitehorse queer community, it is to enhance the larger community as well.

“Because we are integrated, and because Whitehorse is a small community, we don’t have access to the same kind of opportunities as people down south to see our stories on screen,” says Thomas.

“Anybody, regardless of race, religion, culture background, sexual identity, wants to see their stories, so this is a way for us to bring our stories to our community.”

Among the selection are four 2011 feature films, and a mixture of shorts.

Saturday evening opens with Cloudburst, directed by Thom Fitzgerald, which explores a road trip taken by an elderly lesbian couple heading to Nova Scotia to get legally married after 31 years together.

Following the feature, a series of three Canadian shorts (coined as a “bonus screening” for feature ticket holders), includes 5 Dysfunctional People in a Car (Pat Mills, 2009), about a complicated whip over to the retirement home to drop grandma off, Student Body (Brett Ashley, 2010), which looks at the double life of a straight-A student who does online hookups, and Falling for Caroline (Christine Chew, 2009), about overcoming an awkward crush.

Gun Hill Road stars Esai Morales (right) as Enrique, and Harmony Santana as Michael, his sexually transitioning son Credit: STILLS: Provided by Yukon Queer Film Alliance

Later, Gun Hill Road, directed by Rashaad EmestoGreen, looks at family dynamics as a teenager goes through a sexual transformation while his father servers jail time and his mother has an emotional affair.

Sunday evening starts off with a French film, Tomboy, directed by Céline Sciamma.It follows a 10-year-old faced with discovering her sexuality in a new town.

Similar to the previous evening, a series of shorts will break things up. Included is the screening of three US films: Buttery top (Catherine Crouch and Kelly Hayes, 2009), Domestic Shorthair Underground (Kevin Kwan, 2009), and Delphinium: A Childhoood Portrait of DerekJarman (Matthew Mishory, 2009).

The evening concludes with Private Romeo, directed by Alan Brown, which is a twist on the Shakespearean drama as eight cadets roam the halls of a military school.

But the festival doesn’t stop in Whitehorse. On May 12 and 13, the same film selection will be showing in Dawson City at the Odd Fellows Hall at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture.

It will be less of a party than in Whitehorse, the producers say, as the Whitehorse event will be catered with appetizers by The Birdhouse, but they look forward to sharing the films with the wider Yukon audience.

“Regardless of the content matter, these are great films,” says Thomas, “It has an education component, and all the better. But we are not out to beat any drums, we just hope that people come.”

The idea for the festival was formed six months ago, as many ideas are, over beers in a bar.

“[A queer film festival has] been in the back of my mind, swirling around,” says Griffin, “The two of us coming together made it happen.”

The event signifies a step forward for the Yukon queer community. Whitehorse, unlike many larger Canadian cities, does not have a pride parade.

And though Whitehorse is acknowledged as accepting and open place to be queer, many people travel south to be a part of pride celebrations.

“We decided the time had come for Yukon,” says Thomas. “We have a big enough community, we have the support of the community, so, let’s have our own fest.”

The organizers look forward to making the festival an annual event, and an event where more Yukon filmmakers can exhibit their work.

The festival begins at the Old Fire Hall at 6 p.m. on Saturday. For information about purchasing passes and to see the full schedule visit www.queeryukon.com.

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