Queer Becoming Series: TIFF focuses on “coming into” rather than “coming out”

TIFF’s LGBTQ+ Community Cluster, is a diverse group of queer staff from various departments who came together to curate this month-long incredible series of screenings and digital events with a theme of Queer Becoming. Keith Bennie, Director of Audience & Community, tell us the committee wanted to shift the focus from the common “coming out” trope present in a lot of queer cinema and instead highlight stories about the process of “coming into” queer identity, queer community, or queer family.

“Coming out stories are important, but we wanted to show audiences different sides of queer self discovery, which focuses more on the queer protagonist and their journey through identity,” said Bennie. “We want these selections to represent diverse LGBTQ+ communities, so we gravitated towards films that showcase intersectional identity and demonstrate queer self actualization at every stage of life, from childhood to late adulthood.”

Queer Becoming
Cowboys. Image courtesy of TIFF

So how did they make their selections? “Lots of movie watching and collaboration!” said Bennie. “There are ten members within TIFF’s LGBTQ+ Staff Advisory Committee and we all suggested films for the programme. We compiled a list of over 40 films from around the world, each with a special meaning to us. Collectively, as we developed a theme that resonated with what we wanted to say, we cut down the list to a group of titles that we think best articulates the idea of Queer Becoming. One of the key components for us was for each film to have either an LGBTQ+ director or screenwriter, or an LGBTQ+ actor with lived experience playing an LGBTQ+ character on screen, like Sasha Knight in his breakout role in Cowboys.”

TIFF’s Programming team curates films and audience engagements both year round and for the Festival. Bennie tells us it’s a highly specialized team that works hard to bring impactful stories from all over the world to our audiences in Canada. With this specific programming the staff changed the formula slightly this year, empowering staff from all departments who are part of underrepresented groups to consult on choosing films that more accurately reflect their lived experiences. TIFF brings LGBTQ+ films to audiences every year, however this is the first time staff outside of the Programming team came together to curate the film lineup for Pride Month.

Of course, showcasing Canadian talent is always front of mind when it comes to selecting films. No Ordinary Man, a documentary about revered jazz musician Billy Tipton was directed by Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt and was a stand out Canadian title from TIFF’s Festival last year. For this programme, Bennie tells us the focus was on selecting films that showcased diverse representation, but also to highlight queer talent in front of and behind the camera. Films like Tongues Untied, The True Adventures of Wolfboy, Pariah, and The Heiresses were created by LGBTQ+ artists.

Spa Night. Image courtesy of TIFF

Films that will be screening include:

Cowboys (Anna Kerrigan, 2020)
No Ordinary Man (Chase Joynt & Aisling Chin-Yee, 2020)
The True Adventures of Wolfboy (Martin Krejčí, 2019)
Rafiki (Wanuri Kahiu, 2018)
The Heiresses (Marcelo Martinessi, 2018)
A Fantastic Woman (Sebastián Lelio, 2017)
Pariah (Dee Rees, 2011)
Tongues Untied (Marlon T. Riggs, 1989)

Digital Talks + Events include:

Ahead of the Curve Q&A (June 2 at 7 PM ET)
Free on TIFF’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channel

With a fistful of credit cards, a lucky run at the horse track, and chutzpah for days, Frances “Franco” Stevens launched the bestselling lesbian lifestyle magazine Curve. The documentary Ahead of the Curve traces the power of lesbian visibility and community over the past three decades through the story of the publication’s foundation, development, and expansion. Tune into the TIFF channels for a Q&A with Franco Stevens, Jen Rainin, and Rivkah Beth Medow, Kim Katrin, and Andrea Pino-Silva

Deep Focus: Poetic Becoming with Syrus Marcus Ware (June 24 at 7 PM ET)
Live on Zoom

TIFF Community Impact hosts artist, activist, and scholar Syrus Marcus Ware for a free interactive workshop inspired by the themes of TIFF’s Queer Becoming programme and Marlon T. Riggs’ Tongues Untied (1989). Explore poetry as a vehicle for self-expression, community building, and activism.

Registration will open June 9. Space is limited, with priority for registrants who self-identify as LGBTQ+ and BIPOC.


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