Vancouver Queer Film Festival (VQFF)

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

USA, 2018, Dir: Desiree Akhavan, 91mins

Date and Venue August 19, 2018 | Vancouver Playhouse, 600 Hamilton St

Reviewer Darren Cordeiro

The closing gala of the 30th annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival featured The Miseducation of Cameron Post, 2018 Grand Jury Prize winner for U.S. Drama at Sundance.

Set in the early 90s in less accepting times for same-sex relations than today’s climate, Cameron explores her sexuality with her teenage best friend Coley in her small town. When they are caught in the act, Cameron is sent to a gay-conversion therapy centre by her family to accept treatment to cure her from her ‘deviant ways’ – led by the conservative duo Dr. Lydia and Rick. Trying to resist their right-wing views and activities to conform to heterosexuality, Cameron eventually decides to see if there is truth behind what is being preached. Exerting an effort, she is torn between what society deems as right and what her natural urges continue to reinforce in her.

This coming of age dramedy had powerful performances from all casts, portraying believable characters and emotions that would be true to the gay conversion camps prominent in the 1990s. The plot explored themes of betrayal, isolation, acceptance and the power of friendship. The cinematography that was more dimly lit than what is used in a Hollywood blockbuster recreated that Indie feel that illuminated the quirky cast of Cameron’s friends in the centre as well as herself.

The closing gala is always a special event to watch the finale in a full-fledged auditorium with heightened energy. This marks the close to this year’s festival with the hopes of another 30 years to follow.


Call Her Ganda

Philippines, 2018, Dir: PJ Raval, 98mins

Date and Venue August 16, 2018 | SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, 149 W Hastings St.

Reviewer Darren Cordeiro

Call Her Ganda documents the chilling murder of Jennifer Laude, a Filipina transgendered sex worker who was killed by U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton who had a night out on the town with a few friends while on leave from the naval base. Pemberton met Laude at a Filipino nightclub where he paid for sex and when he found out she wasn’t completely female during the act, he strangled her to death and left her corpse on the bathroom floor.

The documentary showcases the impoverished lives of the Filipinos that are dependent on the money spent by visiting Americans, specifically military based, and the tragic effects of colonialism. Even more marginalized are the transgendered with no employment available apart from working in beauty salons or the sex trade.

The documentary is effective at capturing views of different audiences that pertain to the case, including national news clips, social media posts, interviews with Laude’s mother, friends, lawyers, and advocates. The quick interview clips kept the story moving at a good pace and camera angle close-ups caught the raw emotions of Laude’s loved ones.

While documentaries can be guilty of bias, I felt that the story was revealed through different lenses to give an accurate depiction of the situation and those that were affected. The injustice ensues for the Filipinos as Laude’s case was the first out of countless rapes to be tried where an American officer was found guilty in the Philippines, yet the U.S. overturned the ruling to allow time to be served on a naval base versus in the judge’s choice for the jail.

Ganda means beauty and while this story reveals an ugly truth, the solidarity of these people to fight for a transgendered woman’s justice is beautiful.


A Moment in the Reeds

Finland, 2017, Dir: Mikko Mäkelä, 107mins

Date and Venue August 15, 2018 | International Village Cinema, 88 West Pender St.

Reviewer Darren Cordeiro

A Moment in the Reeds chronicles a snapshot of a few reckoning days in the life of Leevi, a Finnish student returning home for a short break from his classes in Paris to help his elderly old-world father renovate their village cottage. It becomes evident early in the movie that there is tension between Leevi and his father Jouko, given the few words spoken and glistened with disdain towards his son’s homosexuality.

As Jouko’s elderly age impedes him from performing the cottage renovations, he hires help for Leevi – Tareq, a contract worker and refugee from Syria who fled his duties to avoid conscription into the military. The two young men work hard on the renovations and the early signs of a true bond blossoming appear. With Jouko heading into town overnight to attend to his transportation business, these two strangers from opposite countries are left alone to discover that they have more in common than they realize.

The plot speaks to Tareq’s strife as a gay Middle Eastern refugee in Finland, surrounded by the homogeneity of its residents whose stares make him feel like an outsider in his new home. The acting was raw and showcased the pain and loneliness of both young men. The cinematography was drenched in beauty with long rolling shots of the lakeside landscape, complementing the slow plot with no finite ending that is trademarked to Scandinavian cinema.

This realistic story speaks to themes of prejudice, tolerance, loneliness, and reminds us of everyone’s undying need to be loved, regardless of who you are.


Freelancers Anonymous

USA, 2018, Dir: Sonia Sebastián, 81 mins

Date and Venue August 12, 2018 | International Village Cinema, 88 West Pender St.

Reviewer Darren Cordeiro

This was the first movie I watched at this year’s 30th annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival and if this was a preview for the quality of performances in this year’s line-up, festival goers are in for a treat. Freelancers Anonymous is a fresh and quirky Indie movie about Billie, a lesbian struggling with the challenges of finding employment while planning and financing her upcoming wedding. She joins a support group for others who seek work and as a collective, they decide to forge their own path by developing an app. With the increasing financial pressures of the upcoming wedding, Billie realizes that she is quite dependent on the colourful cast of freelancers to make this tool a success and her dreams to come true.

The acting by the predominantly female cast was captivating – a light and humorous feel while serious in the right scenes. The engaged couple had good chemistry that shone through their acting, effectively portraying the stress that accompanies the planning of any wedding regardless of the sexual orientation. Billie also highlighted the elevated stress and uncertainty convincingly that accompanies seeking employment – a common feeling many unfortunately experience in North America.

The costumes and dimly lit lighting lent itself to an Indie audience, showcasing the urban feel of the city throughout the movie. The tone of the cinematography showcased the youthful artsy feel that resonates amongst artists and creative types.

Judging by the laughter from the engaged audience in the theatre, I wasn’t the only one who felt the festival is off to a great start!

©2018 Darren Cordeiro