It may be surprising for some people to learn that Calgary’s 2nd largest film festival, in Canada’s conservative heartland, is queerer than a three dollar bill. The eleventh annual self-deprecatingly titled FairyTales International Queer Diversity Film Festival will showcase over 90 films and videos from somewhere over the international rainbow. Outlandish plot-lines, hair-wringing drama, and salacious- cinematic-same-sex soft-core can be found screening larger than life in Kensington’s Plaza Theatre over an ambitious ten days, amidst a covertly subversive counter-programmed serving of experimental short films and socially-relevant documentaries mixed in for good measure. Stephen Harper must be so proud!
Despite the dour omens of impending economic apocalypse, in the absence of Calgary Cares, and news of Calgary Pride moving from June to September, FairyTales is flittering full-force into the queer arena with its largest collection of independent queer films in its history, and a gung-ho attitude to keep queer Calgarians proud of their community, and happily entertained.
Festival Director Matt Salton isn’t oblivious to the trepidation and nervousness long-time sponsors are experiencing by choosing to play it safe and sitting this one out. “I’d so the same thing,” Salton says. “It’s the independents who normally support queer events that we want to ensure continue to thrive so if they need a year to be mindful of their spending, we understand and know they’ll be back next year.”
FairyTales is also remaining fiscally conscious when it comes to making a ten-day film festival affordable to the public. “Tickets run anywhere from $10 a screening to $15 for the opening and closing gala films,” Salton explains. “But we encourage everyone to purchase a membership to the society for ten bucks and that way you can buy a festival pass for $75 and go nuts.”
Salton shares with GayCalgary and Edmonton Magazine a sneak preview of some of the films you can expect to cozy up to with a large bucket of buttered popcorn next month. The full line-up will be announced online at www.fairytalesfilmfest.com on May 1st.
Opening Gala Film: The Baby Formula Thursday, May 28th, 7pm - The Plaza Theatre
Writer and Director Alison Reid will be in attendance for this amusing mock-u-mentary about an attractive, young lesbian couple who are test subjects for an experimental process based on factual science that could create female sperm out of stem cells. Salton says, “I don’t know why Canadians love their mock-u-mentaries, but we do them so well! This one reads like a lesbians-only flick, but it totally transcends the gender boundaries that so many of us can’t seem to get over when we go to gay film festivals. It has spirit, laughs and some surprisingly touching moments as well, and really nails home the common relationships we share with our families.”
The festival will also feature short films by local filmmakers including Salton himself who explains the ethical grey area of programming a film he wrote and directed. “The festival has a programming committee that rates our submissions and acts as an advisory board once the films are selected. In the case of Reality High, it was judged on its technical merit, queer authorship, and the fact that it was a locally produced film made by the SAIT Polytechnic Film and Video Production class of 2008. I don’t receive a dime from the artist fees that the festival awards every filmmaker whose film is selected. That money will go directly to the SAIT Film & Video fund which fosters future students’ film projects.”
Reality High was recently nominated by the Alberta Motion Picture Industry Alliance for Best Student Film and can best be described as a satire of reality television and Canadian/American relations. Or as Salton describes it; “If the plots of Heathers, The Truman Show, Degrassi High and Network were involved in a 4-way stop collision, you’d get Reality High.”
Albertan filmmaker Trevor Anderson, recipient of the Riley-Metzger audience award for Best Short Film at last year’s FairyTales festival, returns with The Island, an animated comedic meditation on what Anderson would conceive if the homophobic mantra of putting all gay men on an island to give each other AIDS were to come to fruition. The film was shot in Cold Lake, Alberta which is magically transformed through animation into a sunny, tropical paradise complete with a hungry volcano and a giant catapult. “I’m not telling you what the catapult is used for,” Salton laughs. “You’ll just have to come see for yourself.” The Island and Anderson recently returned from Berlin, Germany where the film was selected to play in the esteemed Berlinale International Film Festival. “The fact that The Island was selected to play in one of the most prestigious festivals in the world is a huge acknowledgement that we have one of the best and brightest filmmakers right in our backyard,” Salton says.
Other local filmmakers in this year’s festival include Sandi Somers’ The Artistic Taxidermist which also received international festival recognition and the illustrious honour of screening at Cannes last year. Queer activist and community champion, Kait Hatch recently had the opportunity to screen her 3 minute animated short, Affinity to the opening gala crowd for MILK back in December, and FairyTales will be rescreening her adorable story of queer pride in a collection of QueerToons at the EMMEDIA Gallery on Saturday morning (May 30th). Lastly, Diane Busuttil who can currently be seen in Theatre Junction’s On The Side of the Road continues to explore the weird and the wondrous with her film Dirt and Desire which will screen on Saturday, May 30th prior to Bruce LaBruce’s equally disturbing feature Otto; Or Up With Dead People, a gay zombie love story he filmed in Germany. Busuttil’s film was also shot in Germany and features Busuttil as the lovely hostess of a potato orgy that goes from weird to revolting in under 5 minutes. “When Diane asked me what the committee thought of her film, I told her we were all thoroughly disgusted,” Salton says. “She couldn’t have been more pleased!”
As usual, FairyTales places a larger concentration on Canadian queer film and video and this year is no different. Video artist Deirdre Logue (Why Always Instead Of Just Sometimes) and Documentary filmmaker Maya Gallus (Girl Inside) will both have works exhibited in the festival’s spotlight on women and beauty on Sunday, May 31st. Peter Kingstone’s philosophical arthouse porn The Astounding Adventures Of Strongman And Quickboy will screen along with Mexico’s sexually-potent Bramadero late night Friday, June 5th. David Geiss has created an excellent docudrama based on the life of queer activist Doug Wilson in Stubblejumper on Sunday, May 31st and can be expected to attend. Furthermore, talented young filmmaker Heather Tobin’s lesbian romantic drama To Each Her Own will screen on Saturday, June 6th. There will also be a cinematic smattering of Canadian short films throughout the ten days of the festival featuring works by both emerging and established queer Canadian film and video artists.
FairyTales will have special focuses on women in film and health and wellness, but their largest spotlight will shine on the work of Two-Spirit Canadian filmmakers. “Thanks to the generosity of the Canada Council for the Arts, we are able to assemble what we hope to be a stellar line-up of Two-Spirit artists and First Nations filmmakers who are allied to Two-Spirit visibility.” Salton explains. “There will be Two-Spirit films and videos shown throughout the festival and in addition, a three-day marathon that will include contemporary and classic Two-Spirit films with a televised panel discussion relating to the aesthetic of Two-Spirit film and video and how as an industry, we can continue to increase their visibility.” The project calls itself The Secret Weapons Manifesto based on the title of former Albertan resident Adam Garnet Jones’ latest video installation piece Secret Weapons which entreats marginalized groups, particularly Two-Spirited persons to stand up and be each other’s secret weapon. Other confirmed and unconfirmed guests include; Gail Maurice who is probably best known in front of the screen as the title character of Johnny Greyeyes which will be screened on its original 35mm format on Wednesday, June 5th – she is a dynamic force behind the camera as well. Saskatchewan video artist Thirza Cuthand continues to explore the political with a generous dollop of humour in You Are A Lesbian Vampire and Kent Monkman continues his series of colonialization satires featuring his alter-ego Chief Eagle-Testicle (think Cher in her half-breed phase) in Shooting Geronimo. Superb works from cinematographer/director Kevin Lee Burton, Winnipeg-based Marjorie Beaucage, Beric Manywounds and Lorne Olson will also be exhibited.
Next month, FairyTales will release its entire line-up of international queer film and video. Stay tuned!