Winnipeg’s LGBTTQ* film festival in review

Soongava: Dance of the Orchids

Winnipeg’s LGBTTQ* film festival, the largest of its kind between Toronto and Vancouver, is run entirely by volunteers. Additional support from the people of Manitoba who attend the festival as well as proud sponsors—Assiniboine Credit Union has been on board since the time when people told financial institutions not to support this community—is enabling the festival to grow.

The power inherent in Winnipeg’s REEL PRIDE film festival goes beyond great art and supporting the LBTTQ* community. This year, the festival raised awareness about breast cancer in conjunction with the The LuLu Sessions, a documentary about the last months in the life of a woman with breast cancer, directed by S. Casper Wong.

Highlighted by the attention given to women’s experience with cancer, REEL PRIDE has a vast scope: last year was the first time films about queer women of colour were shown; this year, for the first time, the festival included a series of short films about trans men of colour. Organizers want to represent films about and by Aboriginal people, Canadians, international communities, and many more groups.

As much as REEL PRIDE is about great films, programming committee members David Wyatt and Kevin Maguire point out that in a LGBTTQ* event, everything is political.

Walking out of the mesmerizing 2012 film Soongava: Dance of the Orchids, written and directed by Nepalese artist Subarna Thapa, a patron breathed a sigh of relief.

“It makes me glad we live here.”

The film depicts two young Nepalese women played by Deeya Maskey and Saugat Malla who choose to live together. They are shunned and abused by their families, employers, neighbours, law enforcement officials, and others. Nepalese culture is depicted as antagonistic towards same-sex relationships for challenging traditional family bonds. A murder scene in the film begins as an apparently loving embrace between siblings and becomes an act of suffocation.

Soongava includes stunning choreography, cinematography, acting, set design, and more talent than can be enumerated here, and yet this art does not shy away from the harsh realities experienced by many.

Anna Margarita Albelo directed the semi-autobiographical 2013 film Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf? Her character deals with a mid-life crisis by trying to create a lesbian version of Mike Nichols’ 1966 drama Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

The frank imagery of the vagina asks questions about vulnerability, with which the protagonist struggles while pursued by beautiful women. The film grapples with beauty, whether the vagina is a gorgeous member of the body, and whether the main character and other women see their bodies as alluring.

When one character says amiably to Anna, “You’re a walking vagina,” is this statement a compliment, insult, joke, or something else? The main character wears a vagina-shaped body suit at the beginning of the work, with rhinestones and a tiara, and commences crafting a slick remake of Nichols’ film. The finale finds her dressing and creating art in a radically different style.

Hot Guys with Guns, by writer-director Doug Spearman and starring Marc Anthony Samuel and Brian McArdle, is a slick black-guy-white-guy buddy comedy about an actor who takes a private investigator course to prepare for a role and uses his classroom skills to solve a series of robberies in the community of high-class gay sex parties. But as Wyatt and Maguire said, everything is political.

In this excellent story full of laughs and brief glimpses of some of the tightest buns you’ll ever see is the harsh reality of date rape. The rich elites of Los Angeles strive to cover up their crimes and punish their victims, who have returned for vengeance. The instructor for the PI class (Alan Blumenfeld) offers advice which everyone should take when engaging in sexual encounters: Keep your wits about you, research is key, and protect yourself and your equipment.

The selection committee for next year might be able to use your help, and volunteers aplenty are needed to make this great event possible. Get in touch through and Facebook at REEL PRIDE Winnipeg to become a part of this amazing festival!