Crazy for lovin’ you

Of electro-shock therapy & inversion

If The Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival conjures up visions of therapeutic documentaries and 12-step confessions, banish them now, because this year’s event offers a diverse slate of award-winning works, many of them Toronto premieres, designed not only to challenge and enlighten but also to stimulate discussion and, above all, entertain.

Mental health and addiction are relevant issues to many in the queer community and the festival this year offers several works of interest. Three of them are included in a program titled, appropriately, Oppression: The Roots Of Madness, presented by Pleasure Dome at 4pm on Sun, Nov 19.

Jason McBride’s Stargaze takes us back to the 1960s and follows a young man as he endures electro-shock therapy in an attempt to be cured of his homosexual “inversion.” A low-key, accomplished short, Stargaze is based on a story by Derek McCormack and was an award-winner at the 1999 Inside Out festival.

In the moving and tender video The Wash, acclaimed visual artist Eve Sandler re-imagines a conversation with her deceased grandmother that touches on issues of incest, denial, silence and love. And James Diamond’s The Man From Venus takes a smart, funny look at queer culture and the pressure it places on a man who just doesn’t fit in.

Bound to be a conversation-starter among gay viewers at the festival is the feature Scorn, directed by Sturla Gunnarsson (The Diary Of Evelyn Lau). Based on the true story of Darren Huenemann, a privileged BC teenager who had his mother and grandmother murdered for the inheritance, the film explores Darren’s intense narcissism and rampant ego as he manipulates everyone around him to achieve his twisted goal, including his unwilling boyfriend.

A darker-hearted version of The Talented Mr Ripley, Darren becomes obsessed with his title-role in a school production of Camus’ play Caligula, adopting his new hero’s Machiavellian ways. Using his charisma to keep his hands clean by coercing others into doing his dirty work, it is Darren’s blind arrogance and false sense of superiority that lead to his eventual downfall.

Although a fascinating story beautifully shot and acted, the film is hindered by the casting of Eric Johnson as Darren, who looks way too old to play a 17-year-old, and by a lack of insight into how Darren became the delusional egomaniac he is.

The film, screened at 6:30pm on Sun, Nov 19 is followed by a panel discussion with the director.

All screenings are at the Workman Theatre (1001 Queen St W). Admission is pay-what-you-can, with a suggested donation of $8; call (416) 583 4606 or check the website

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TV & Film, Culture, Arts, Toronto

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