Starting this weekend and running through June 2nd is the 23rd edition of the Inside Out Film Festival in Toronto. Toronto’s LGBT film festival has grown to become one of the biggest and most attended film festivals in a city jammed packed with them. The festival this year features a diverse blend of narrative and documentary for audiences to enjoy, all hosted in the TIFF Bell Lightbox, many will cause discussion and debate while others strain to merely entertain.
Included here are 4 films, 2 documentaries and 2 features, that represent that spectrum. The narrative features are new films from the directors of cult classic ‘But I’m A Cheerleader’ and ‘Jawbreaker’ that aim to entertain while the documentaries will enrage with their raw emotions and is highlighted by one of the best documentaries in years.
For more information on the festival check out their website.
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Now on to the reviews.
Breaking The Girls
Breaking the Girls
Directed by Jamie Babbit
Sara is an ambitious twenty-year-old enrolled in her sophomore year at Browning College who works as a bartender to pay for her studies. When Brooke, a classmate, sees Sara steal from the tip jar, Brooke ensures that the gorgeous bartender is fired. On the same night that Sara loses her job, she meets rich bitch Alex, who offers Sarah a shoulder to cry on. As the girls become closer they commiserate over their enemies, and Alex half-jokingly suggests that they should kill off each other’s nemesis. Sara shrugs off the suggestion as a morbid joke, until someone turns up dead.
Directed by Jamie Babbit (But I’m A Cheerleader), Breaking the Girls is filled with multiple lesbian make out scenes, but no gratuitous sex, and is a film strives for intrigue and suspense. Though aimed as a better take on a “Wild Things” like story, Breaking the Girls gets bogged down in its own ambition and ultimately falls flat with a very predictable final act as apparently everything has to have a twist and the film leaves many plot holes unresolved.
Babbit’s “But I’m A Cheerleader” was a bold, experimental if uneven film that garnered her much notoriety and a solid fan base. So it was very surprising to see the very generic way that Breaking the Girls plays out. A inconsequential yet not completely terrible film, there really is not much to elevate this above the standard straight to video potboilers we have become accustomed to other than the cast, most of whom are very talented people who have done better work elsewhere.
God Loves Uganda
God Loves Uganda
Directed by Roger Ross Williams
God Loves Uganda uncovers the role of the American evangelical movement in Uganda, where American missionaries have been credited with both creating schools and hospitals while accused of promoting dangerous religious bigotry. The film follows evangelical leaders in America and Uganda along with politicians and missionaries as they attempt to eliminate the sin of homosexuality through the introduction of the infamous ‘Kill the Gays’ bill in Uganda.
Talking to religious leaders on both sides of the LGBT rights debate, God Loves Uganda takes an unwavering look at religious obedience and at the uses and abuses of God in modern-day politics. Simultaneously horrifying and touching, the film reveals the conflicting motives of devotion and greed, and belief and egotism that exist among Ugandan ministers, American evangelical leaders, and the foot soldiers of a religion that sees Uganda as ground zero in a battle for millions of potential souls.
As a film, God Loves Uganda does as well a job at remaining neutral in its documentation as it can, while opposing the views of most in the film. The issues faced in the film and the beliefs of the people would not be an issue at all if not for the resulting fanaticism that is causing lives the process. The sins that are committed in the name of God remind viewers of the many wars that have been fought and the many lives lost under the auspices of the church. Not every member of the community and church believe in the ostracizing of the LGBT community in Uganda, like Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, but they themselves are persecuted for believing so. As is many instances around the world it seems the church, not faith itself, becomes the root of the problem.
The film will stir up a lot of controversy and anger which will hopefully lead to level headed discussion that will win out in the end. It’s hard to believe that if “God Loves Uganda” that he would be very happy to see the persecution being executed there in his name.
Directed by Darren Stein
When a hook-up app mishap outs the unassuming Tanner (Michael J. Willet, The United States of Tara) as Northgate High’s first openly gay student, the uneasy truce between the school’s trio of clique queens dissolves into comic chaos as each battles to acquire the season’s hot new accessory, the Gay Best Friend.
Determined to cement yearbook immortality with the aid of the ultimate must-have accessory, the threesome – bitchy bombshell Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse, Pretty Little Liars); drama club diva Caprice (Precious’ Xosha Roquemore), and salvation-minded Mormon ‘Shley (Andrea Bowen, Desperate Housewives) – stage an outrageous tug-of-war for Tanner’s loyalty, sending his popularity soaring. Meanwhile, a mutual sense of betrayal threatens to make frenemies of Tanner and Brent (Paul Iacono, MTV’s Hard Times of RJ Berger), Tanner’s flamboyant but still closeted former bestie.
G.B.F. comes from the director of the cult classic “Jawbreaker”, a little film that succeeded in providing a teen comedy rich on satire but was uneven on the whole and only partially recommendable. G.B.F. fares a little worse as the performances and script are an uneven and inconsequential. The film attempts to have a serious message about how different cliques are misunderstood and how using people to accessorize and help your own cause can backfire immensely, yet it is told in such a superficial and non-committal way that the film becomes easily forgettable.
There is however some talented people here mixed in with the mess and they will keep the audience’s attention throughout the film enough that the final product is at least watchable.
Director: Marta Cunningham
The seaside town of Oxnard, California, was shattered in 2008 by the shooting death of Lawrence “Larry” King, a 15-year-old biracial, gay/transgendered student. Who was the killer? Larry’s 14-year-old classmate crush Brandon McInerney. The question became was this a hate crime, a retaliation against unwanted advance or something much more complex? Did flamboyant Larry, who liked to crochet, wear makeup and don heels, push his attacker, an emerging white supremacist, over the edge with his advances? It sure made for catchy headlines and drew attention to the plight of LGBT teens, as well as the overwhelmed educational and juvenile justice systems.
Valentine Road is easily one of the best documentaries in years. After its fantastic run at Hot Docs this year Inside Out gave Toronto audiences another chance to see this heart wrenching yet uplifting documentary again. The roller coaster of emotions that the film takes its audience on will leave them exhausted, enraged at parts and ultimately full of hope and faith in the children left behind. The tragic story of Lawrence ‘Larry’ King is one that can enlighten and educate many, and is also a harsh spotlight on how not to handle a tragedy like this as the teachers and townsfolk of Oxnard do almost everything wrong.
The one thing the film does not do, to its credit, is vilify the 14 year old Brandon. Despite the heinous act he commits we learn that the environment that he lived in at home as he grew up and his feelings of hopelessness when the events happened all play into his actions. Yet the film is quick to remind us that he did commit murder and deserves punishment for actions he clearly has taken all responsibility for.
Valentine Road is a must see. It’s near masterful film making and its story will captivate and engage all who watch it. And as you watch, know that you are not alone in wanting to storm a particular kitchen after a slightly misguided tea party.