Inside Out is about more than just screening films

A pioneer in showcasing queer film, Inside Out's 34th year could be it's best

This content was created by Xtra’s branded content team alongside Inside Out Film Festival, separate from Xtra’s editorial staff.

Annual event showcases 2SLGBTQ+ representation, including works by Canadian and Toronto filmmakers

Lu Linares remembers attending their first Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival as a newcomer to Canada nearly a decade ago.

“It was the first time I saw a queer film in a public space,” said Linares, who immigrated from Peru.

Linares, who went on to be a volunteer with the Toronto-based festival and is now its programming coordinator, said Inside Out—which is now in its 34th year—has been a space where they can feel safe and see content that reflects who they are.

“At the festival, I could connect with other people who looked like me, or that I wished I could be like at that point in my life,” they said. “Inside Out is important to me to this day. And it’s important to a lot of people. It is a space where they can be whoever they are.”

Taking place May 24 through June 1, this year’s Inside Out festival will see the screening of 30 feature-length films and 76 shorts spread over 11 programs.

“Queer festivals play a vital role in the ongoing quest for positive representation and visibility for folks that want and need to see themselves reflected in the media they consume,” said Jenna Dufton, Inside Out’s director of festival programming.

“While mainstream cinema and television have made significant strides in representing queer characters and stories in recent years, there remains a need for spaces where these narratives are specifically curated by and for members of our communities.”

The 2024 festival opens with the screening of the coming of age movie “My Old Ass,” where 18-year-old Elliott comes face-to-fact with her 39-year-old self, and closes with the Toronto-based music film “We Forgot to Break Up,” which is directed by Karen Knox and stars Lane Webber.

Credit: Inside Out Film Festival

More than 30 Canadian filmmakers will be highlighted this year, with the screening of eight feature films and two short film programs—Local Heroes and Stories We Tell.

Those feature films include the world premieres of two documentaries. “Bulletproof: A Lesbian’s Guide to Surviving the Plot,” charts the ups and downs associated with lesbian representation on screens by Toronto filmmaker Regan Latimer, while “Unusually Normal,” directed by Colette Johnson-Vosberg, follows three generations of queer women who are part of what is known as Canada’s gayest family.

Other Canadian film highlights include the screenings of “nanekawasis,” a documentary about Indigenous artist George Littlechild, and the comedy-thriller “Mother Father Sister Brother Frank.”

The Local Heroes program—a favourite among audiences and festival staff—spotlights emerging talent from Toronto. This year it will feature Teyama Alkamli’s “I Never Promised You a Jasmine Garden,” which tells the story of a queer Palestinian woman trying to suppress her emotions during a phone call with her best friend. Alkamli is an alumna of DocNomads, the European Mobile Film School, Hot Docs Emerging Filmmaker Lab and the Canadian Film Centre’s Director Lab.

Also screening is “being queer here,” directed by Chloë Gordon. This short documentary looks at Toronto through the lens of its queer residents and the local spaces they cherish. Chase Lo’s “Something’s Phishy,” which was the winner of the Queer Your Stories competition that inside Out supports with outACTRA Toronto, is also being screened as part of Local Heroes.

“The programing changes every year as we learn from community feedback and identify the stories we need to amplify further,” said Linares. “We strive to reflect the world we live in and the experiences our communities are undergoing, whether those entail celebratory moments in history or disheartening changes to our rights as human beings.”

Credit: Inside Out Film Festival

Inside Out doesn’t only give 2SLGBTQ+ filmmakers a place to screen their films. It also plays a major role in funding their stories so they can get made said Claire Jarvis, the festival’s guest relations coordinator.

Inside Out’s International Financing Forum is the only fund of its kind in the world. It gives 2SLGBTQ+-identified producers, writers and directors who are creating 2SLGBTQ+content professional development and mentorship opportunities, and a platform where they can pitch their projects directly to top international industry decision-makers.

There is also Pitch, Please!, where selected filmmakers can pitch their proposed short film projects in hopes of receiving funding, and Inside Out’s RE:Focus Fund. Established in 2018 through a lead gift from Martha McCain, the fund aims to address industry inequities by providing direct financial support to women, non-binary and trans filmmakers telling 2SLGBTQ+ stories. To date it has distributed more than $250,000.

This year’s RE:Focus gala, which will screen a film supported by the fund, will feature Toronto filmmaker Susie Yankou’s “Sisters.” It is a warm-hearted comedy about a young woman who, after her father’s passing, unexpectedly discovers she has a half-sister.

“If you attend the festival year after year, you will see filmmakers screening a short film one year, then maybe their first feature a couple years later, and then they will come back with an even bigger movie,” said Jarvis. “I think it is really rewarding to see how Inside Out can play a role in filmmakers careers, not just by showing their films, but by supporting them.”

“The space created at Inside Out, both in the cinema and at festival events, provide opportunities for networking, connection, celebration and reflection, all in an inclusive and welcoming environment—which queer folks do not get every where,” she said. “That remains one of the most important elements of the work we do at Inside Out,” said Jenna Dutton. To learn more about the films at this year’s Inside Out festival, see its full lineup, find screening times or purchase tickets, visit