An invitation to the party

Whatever comes out of this year’s TIFF, Daily Xtra will be there

It’s big, it’s thrilling — and it’s as exciting as all hell. TIFF has landed.

And as gay, lesbian, bi and trans people, we can celebrate that we have an invitation to the party. Since its inception, TIFF has included films for and about the gay community. How we love, hate, date, have sex and build families have been offered up for reflection.

Last year’s hit Stranger by the Lake held up a looking glass for us to see how we cruise. It allowed the outside world a rare glimpse into a secretive, seductive and complex part of our world. Blue Is the Warmest Colour gave viewers a sensual and intimate look at lesbian love. While some bemoaned that it was directed by a straight man, it began a conversation. Like it or not, it defined us.

Benedict Cumberbatch will define us this year. His portrayal of Alan Turing in the highly anticipated film The Imitation Game looks at this brilliant mathematician who helped decode Nazi Germany’s Enigma codes. Turing helped the Allies win the Second World War but was later persecuted by British authorities for being gay.

The knives are out already. Critics are complaining that the “gay element” of the film won’t be at the forefront.

I haven’t seen the film, but I think we are in good hands with Cumberbatch. Last year, on the red carpet for the Julian Assange biopic, The Fifth Estate, we asked him about his decision to become a minister so he could marry his same-sex friends. Cumberbatch was taken aback by our brashness. In retrospect, we were doing our job. He’s a friend of the cause. We can go into the screening of The Imitation Game with our hackles a little less raised.

The red carpet is crazy fun. We will be there. I just want to see John Travolta in the flesh. Is that a bad thing? Will we get the brush-off from James Franco? Will Dan Savage give us a quippy clip? What will Jake Gyllenhaal wear?


Beyond the red carpet, there will be business deals and analysis by pundits and critics.

Film critic Ruby Rich famously coined the term “new queer cinema” while screening films at TIFF back in 1992. It’s a term that has helped define a generation of gay filmmakers. Will a new term be coined this year?

Greats of gay filmmaking such as Derek Jarman, Gus Van Sant, John Waters, John Cameron Mitchell and producer extraordinaire Christine Vachon have all had their films screened at TIFF. Each, in their own way, defining gay culture.

Canada’s Xavier Dolan, surely considered a wunderkind by even the harshest critic, has been given every chance for exposure at TIFF.

Will his latest film, Mommy, continue his mercurial ascent or signal the beginning of his downfall?

Toronto (and international) legends like Bruce LaBruce and John Greyson have also received an invaluable leg-up through the support of TIFF.

Will filmmaker Pat Mills (who will be on the cover of the Sept 4 issue of Xtra Toronto; you read it here first, folks!) live up to the promise that TIFF has been cultivating throughout the years? Will his film Guidance take him to the next level?

All this remains to be seen.

Will women finally break through a male-dominated industry? There is hope. There is a lovely film by Canadian Andrea Dorfman at this year’s festival. Heartbeat features queer actor, singer and songwriter Tanya Davis.

French actor Mélanie Laurent is taking a turn as a director in Breathe (Respire). It sounds like an intriguing look at a relationship between two teenaged girls. Perhaps we can define this year, and ourselves, by seeking out female directors, producers and actors.

Whatever comes out of this year’s TIFF, Daily Xtra will be there. We will be on the red carpets, at screenings and behind the scenes, pitching for interviews with the famous and infamous.

Help us make this a defining moment: wear something nice.

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