Pretty and Witty and Gay

The Old Fire Hall in downtown Whitehorse will host the second annual Out North Film Festival on the weekend of April 19-21.

Buoyed by last year’s successful debut of the only Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,Transsexual (LGBT) film festival North of 60, organizers Fiona Griffin and Debbie Thomas have assembled a package of five features and six short films that are designed to appeal to a broad variety of viewers.

There’s even live stand-up comedy from local activist Brenda Barnes, music from Brenda Lee Katerenchuk and a showing of one of Arlin McFarlane’s award-winning short films — all on the opening night on April 19.

The festival’s opener on Friday night is a delightful comedy entitled Gayby. That’s a term used for a baby raised by gay parents.

In Gayby, Jenn, a thirty-something straight Brooklyn yoga instructor who feels her biological clock is running out, resolves to have a baby with her longtime gay college friend Matt. They decide to eschew turkey basters and conceive their offspring the old-fashioned way. There are a lot of comic moments between their initial decision and Jenn’s pregnancy, as she and Matt struggle with the complications of their respective orientations.

The runaway hit for the festival might be its closing film, the Canadian-made Margarita. It tells the story of a yuppie couple in debt up to their ears. When they decide to cut back on their commitments, one of their first moves is to fire their longtime nanny. Margarita is like one of the family, and a companion for the couple’s 14-year-old daughter. She’s also a lesbian, and in the country illegally. Her dismissal sets off a chain of events involving the immigration department, and a crisis for Margarita and the family.

Margarita has won Best Feature awards at France’s Womens’ International Film Festival last year, as well as at Barcelona’s International LGBT Film Festival.

Festival organizer Debbie Thomas feels that Whitehorse is a good match for Out North’s unique programming.

“We just seem to have hit the right formula at the right time,” she says. “I think this town is very receptive, and I don’t for anything want the festival to become any kind of a political agenda, because it’s not, beyond the fact that merely showing queer films is a political statement in itself. We try and distance ourselves from the political arena.”

However, she feels the festival is a positive force, especially in light of recent local events.

“You just have to look at what’s going on with Vanier right now,” says Thomas. “I think that one of the more important messages that’s come out of the whole Vanier-thing is that… we’re all people, we all go shopping, we all like to love the person we love, there’s very little difference between us in that sense.”

The festival has good relationships with film distributors, enabling the organizers to secure top-quality content.

“We’re screening films that all of the major festivals across North America wound up showing, and in some cases, just from the timing standpoint, we happen to have them first… picking films that are resonating with people across North America and internationally,” Thomas says.

In recent months the Yukon Queer Film Alliance has become a registered non-profit society, with its own board of directors, volunteers and Facebook site.

The future looks bright for the Out North Film Festival — an ideal opportunity to showcase some extraordinarily fine films.

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