Vancouver Queer Film Festival

An Almost Ordinary Summer

Date and Venue August 25, 2019, 7pm | Vancouver Playhouse, 600 Hamilton St.

Italy, 2019, Dir. Simone Godada, 100 min.

Reviewer Darren Cordeiro

Another annual queer film festival stuffed with rich content, breathtaking cinematography and multicultural vibrant casts, has come to an end, closing with this year’s feature An Almost Ordinary Summer.

Set in the countryside of Italy, this rom-com presents the lives of Carlos and Toni, two elderly men who have fallen in love and seek to announce their forlorn relationship and upcoming wedding to their shocked, protective children. Raised in a conservative, heterosexual setting, their children remain confused about this new, controversial union and are vocal about their concerns.

Hilarity ensues as the siblings of both families conspire together with the common goal of breaking the upcoming nuptials. The acting was well done as this zany cast capitalized on their provided stereotypes, such as the bigoted, uneducated son or the artsy, cultured, flamboyant silver-fox. Despite English subtitles, the cast’s body and facial expressions brought this hysterical drama to life.

The cinematography highlighting the serenity and beauty of the Italian countryside made the audience yearn to be invited to a European wedding overseas. The soundtrack was upbeat which lent itself nicely to this light comedy filled with chaotic scenes.

This film was a light and comedic viewing with the audience erupting the venue with laughter and joy. When the film ended, I found myself counting the days until next year’s 32nd Vancouver Queer Film Festival.


Song Lang

Dates and Venues August 15 and 22, 2019 | Vancouver Playhouse, 600 Hamilton St. and Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinema, 88 West Pender St.

USA, 2018, Dir: Leon Le, 101 min.

Reviewer Darren Cordeiro

This compelling drama presents a passionate storyline vocalized through song and dance from the Vietnamese opera folkstyle Cai Luong. With poverty woven throughout Vietnam, many labourers and small business owners resort to loan sharks to stay afloat. Dong, a debt collector known for being ruthless in obtaining late payments, lives a life of solitude as his line of work doesn’t allow him to forge strong friendships. When he shakes down the elderly women running the local opera troupe, Linh, the male lead of the production, intervenes to forcefully demand an extension on their payment. Dong and Linh’s lives then proceed to become intertwined through a series of catalytic events, creating a mutual respect and a budding unspoken romance.

This film explores themes and issues of abandonment, social classes, retribution and forgiveness. The Cai Luong opera story that trickles down into the lives of the leads harkens similarities to past epic classics like the The King and I and Farewell My Concubine.
The haunting melody from the opera rings throughout the film, creating a powerful melancholic tone that reinforces the despair of the poverty stricken and the dark pasts of the lead characters.

The cinematography was beautifully shot to show the hazy slums of Vietnam set against the beautiful colourful landscape of the region. The opera scenes zoomed in on close-ups of the cast’s exaggerated make-up and glitzy detail within their sequined costumes.

The acting of both male leads was powerfully strong as they showed their affection and raw emotions subtly without theatrics, common to current LGBTQ conditions in countries where being openly proud Is still abhorred and often illegal.


Solace

Date and Venue August 22, 2019 7pm | Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinema, 88 West Pender St. USA, 2018

USA, 2018, Dir. Tchaiko Omawale, 81 min.

Reviewer Darren Cordeiro

This film, loosely based on the director’s experiences, chronicles the coming of age for Sole, a queer obese teen sent to live with her estranged grandmother in Los Angeles after her father passes away. With strict rules from her new take caregiver and no friends in this foreign city, Sole forges a bond with the young rebellious neighbour Jasmine who introduces her to drugs, nightclubs and relentless self expression. Abusing her food intake to fuel growing pains, she spirals out of control in which she is forced to decide the type of person she wants to become.

The videography was effective in exposing the pain the cast endured, including that of her grandmother and friend. Close-ups of Sole’s face and figure demonstrated her raw emotions against the body issues she struggled to keep in check. Artistic transitions between scenes showed her nude body wrapped in foil, exemplifying her internal rage struggling to break free from the cocoon to emerge as a transformed self.

The soundtrack helped define the plot’s moments of intensity coupled with serenity. The music was subtle and didn’t detract from the acting and performance.

The memoir highlighted themes of loss, addiction, self-worth and acceptance. While Sole struggles with overeating, the audience sees the importance of a support system for someone who is struggling with addiction.

This was a powerful film to watch, not only for queers, as addiction affects society as a whole. The director makes you want to root for Sole’s recovery while at the same time shines a light on what can cause an addict to continue over-indulging.




Queer Fear

Date and Venue August 16, 2019 7pm | Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinema, 88 West Pender St.

Reviewer Darren Cordeiro

Nite Ride Canada, 2018, Dir: Danni Black & Olivia Marie Golosky, 12 min.
The Pain Within Us Canada, 2018, Dir: Dylan Murray, 14 min.
Jeremiah USA, 2018, Dir: Kenya Gillespie, 10 min.
Little Boy Blue Sweden, 201, Dir: Andreas Samuelson & Nader Ryan Pah, 14 min.
Pop Ritual Brazil, 2018, Dir: Mozart Freir, 20 min.

Queer Fear, a collection of short thrillers under 15 minutes, kicked off the 31st annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival with a shriek!

Nite Ride (Canada): Four friends head on a midnight bike ride through dark streets and alleys until they meet up with an unexpected stranger in the chilling park. The trance music along with the neon camera filter created an eerie environment and while there was no deep plot, the film was successful at providing a cheap thrill that was fun for the audience.

The Pain Within Us (Canada): A woman grieves the loss of her wife who died in a tragic accident as her ghost appears throughout the night. The actress was effective in portraying her raw emotions and mourning for her deceased wife through the use of facial expressions with no script. The storm with the close-ups of falling rain created suspense at parts with cleansing in others.

Jeremiah (USA): A young man asks his secret lover to come over to protect him from an urban legend of a troubled ghost his mother used to warn him about. This film shows the toll it was having on this man for being closeted, and how the ghost might be a metaphor for his own personal fears and insecurities.

Little Boy Blue (Sweden): A young boy, living with his two fathers, is told a story of a witch who appears at night. Long behold, once the boy falls asleep, the witch comes to life. The suspense was on point; however, the plot was weak making it difficult to stay focused.

Estigma (Spain): A boy’s lover insists on coming to spend time with him and while hesitant, he allows him in. While intimate, the boy is stung by a creature and wakes up with the virus full-blown – making him face his own mortality. This was the most effective film to develop a meaningful plot with a smart twist that horror enthusiasts crave.

Pop Ritual (Brazil): A priest holds a sexual vampire captive and despite the torturous acts performed on him, it appears he is developing feelings. The plot was the weakest out of the collection, making it difficult to appreciate the other aspects of the cinematography.

This collection of horror films under 15 minutes are short but anything than sweet, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats for gleeful fright!

© 2019 Darren Cordeiro