Queer Spaces take to the silver screen

From city streets to a far-off beach, LGBTQ2S+ destinations can be a film’s character in their own right

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

Between May 26 and June 5, Toronto’s LGBTQ2S+ film festival, Inside Out, is back in person at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and online in the IO screening room for another edition. Still Canada’s largest event of its kind, catch films hailing from Cameroon, Portugal and the fest’s hometown alike, with showcased styles that are as broad as the talent playing in them. This year, you can see a variety of depictions of queerness offered up in the screened documentaries, features, shorts and episodic stories. As the world changes quickly, with varying degrees of acceptance of people who don’t fit cis-het norms, many of the spaces once devoted to these communities are disappearing or morphing. Though safe spaces are ever important and necessary, their former versions sometimes exist only on film. Here are three of the festival’s selections that put LGBTQ2S+ haunts at the centre of their tales.

Friday I’m In Love, directed by Marcus Pontello

Credit: Marcus Pontello

Dubbed Houston’s CBGB, Numbers nightclub opened in 1978 at the beginning of the local gay rights movement. The hub has a long history as a gathering spot for the Texan city’s music-loving gay, queer and trans crowd looking to let loose. From disco to post-punk and new wave, this iconic spot was known to be a melting pot for people of all walks of life who want to catch local acts like Mydolls, as well as bands that went on to become superstars, including The Cure and Nine Inch Nails. This documentary, packed with original footage, zeroes in on the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and how it decimated the space’s crowd and crew, in a difficult climate where hate groups proliferated too.

Ripples, directed by Dylan Mitro

Credit: Dylan Mitro

All too happy to leave the CN Tower and hot city far behind, plenty of locals make a summer habit of beating the heat by hopping onto a ferry and escaping to the Toronto Islands. The little oasis surrounded by the waters of Lake Ontario is home to Hanlan’s Point, a sandy beach that started out as a resort destination in the 1800s and eventually became the site of the city’s first Gay Pride celebration, before becoming a go-to for beachgoers looking to bare it all. In this sun-bleached short fictional story full of whimsical summer fashions, we also find a spot of darkness as four friends spending a beautiful day out are forced to confront the role the historic spot has played in their individual lives.

Gateways Grind, directed by Jacquie Lawrence

Credit: Jacquie Lawrence

London hasn’t always been the gay-friendly city we now know, and for years, the lesbian community found refuge from peering eyes and the advances of men by going underground. The Gateways bar in Chelsea had an easy-to-spot green door that opened onto a set of stairs leading to a cellar where women were free to dance, drink and flirt away from prying male eyes. Opened back in 1931, the bar became women-only in 1967, until the institution’s 1985 closure due to noise complaints, as the area became more gentrified. Though discrimination is still a fact of gay life, former patrons highlight that, in their youth, being a lesbian could get them fired from their jobs, harassed or worse. In this feature-length documentary, the bar’s regulars plunge us into their world—a safe gathering place where people met those who would become their chosen families.