The 2021 InsideOut Film Festival featured some of the best LGBTQ+ films of the year, with highlights including A Sexplanation and Beyto.
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With just eight months between the 2020 and 2021 InsideOut Film Festival, it’s not too much of a surprise that this year’s edition had slightly slimmer pickings. Aside from some of our favourites from BFI Flare — Boy Meets Boy and My First Summer — the standout of the festival was the SF doc A Sexplanation, while titles like Can You Bring It: Bill T Jones & D-Man in the Waters and Beyto were interesting if disappointing entries. Still, Canada’s largest LGBTQ+ film festival, and one of the largest in North America, is always a highlight of the June film calendar, and it was a treat to have the festival available digitally across Ontario.
A Sexplanation – Canadian premiere at 2021 InsideOut
How do you undo 30+ years of Catholic (and heteronormative) sexual repression and oppression? If you’re gay San Francisco director Alexander Liu in A Sexplanation, you travel across the US (and into Canada) to talk to sex researchers, psychologists, and even a priest, about what sex is, why we don’t talk about it, how we should talk about it. Along the way, Liu illuminates how cultural silence around sex has been harmful to him (and why he’s not alone). He also shows how people are changing the conversation — all with the aim of educating viewers and helping us engage in a dialogue.
With occasional animated penises and general good humour, the film is a fun romp through San Francisco, up to the Kinsey institute where Liu donates an orgasm, and beyond. The film culminates in a fascinating conversation between Liu and his parents where they talk about their sex lives for the first time in an honest dialogue. You may not leave wanting to have the same conversation with your parents, but it does remind you that such a thing is possible and part of teaching kids about having healthy romantic relationships should mean talking about sex.
Can You Bring It: Bill T Jones & D-Man in the Waters – Canadian premiere at 2021 InsideOut
The subtitle of this DocNYC Audience Award Runner Up is a bit of a misnomer, as the film is neither really about choreographer Bill T. Jones nor his landmark piece, D-Man in the Waters. Instead, the film follows a group of undergraduate dance students as they prepare to remount a performance of D-Man in the Waters, with occasional guidance from Bill T. Jones. Along the way, directors Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz offer some background behind the piece and Jones’s career through a few interviews with Jones, interviews with his former company members, and archival footage.
The focus of the doc is more on what it means to perform a piece of choreography from the past that was created for different bodies. How do you cast such a production, and how true do the performers need to be to the original body types for which the movements were crafted? How does passing down movements from one generation to the next create an emotional connection between what was expressed then and our experiences now? There is discussion in the film about how the piece, made during the AIDS crisis, was a statement about falling bodies and the physical support of the community. The dancers today must find their own personal connection to the piece. As such, the film is a bit of a curio: a challenge to interested audiences to learn more about Bill T. Jones without really offering much to start, and a reflection on choreographed movements as documents of a particular time.
“Gitta Gsell’s Beyto, based on the novel Hochzeitsflug by Yusuf Yesilöz, is more admirable for what it attempts to explore than how successful it is at achieving this. With clunky dialogue, a romantic relationship that’s too vague to root for as true love, and a central character who can be frustratingly dense, it’s not without problems. But the film’s exploration of the complexities of being a gay immigrant from a homophobic culture feels new and thoughtful, and the challenges the film raises make its flaws worth enduring…” Read the full review
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