The first feature film shown at this week's Reel Pride film festival offers a window into an issue that has rocked Manitobans in the past year.
Geography Club is a pertinent drama about a collection of high school students of varying sexuality who form a semi-clandestine support group to back each other in their daily challenges.
For Winnipeg audiences, the film may illustrate the issues addressed by Manitoba's anti-bullying law Bill 18, the Safe and Inclusive Schools Act.
"We thought that, given the experience of Bill 18, and the discussion that's been happening throughout Manitoba about gay-straight alliances and bullying, that we wanted to open with a youth-themed movie," says Reel Pride board president Geof Langen. "It was very deliberate on our part."
That appeal to a younger audience may be particularly important to Reel Pride as it enters its 20th year... or 26th year if you count the Reel Pride predecessor Counterparts, and Langen does.
"At the 26-year mark, which is what we hold onto, it makes it the oldest GLBT film festival in Canada," he says.
As such, the festival has been shaken up with events that include art, music, and new media -- and even a beer tent outside the fest's epicentre at the Gas Station Arts Centre on River Avenue. The fest also offers a unique industry workshop series, giving prospective GLBT filmmakers a chance to learn from established local film talent, including director Gary Yates, casting director Jim Heber and producer Cam Bennett.
Reel Pride's film component offers a blend of genres, incorporating melodrama, documentary and raucous comedy.
"There really is a little bit of something for everyone," Langen says. "As a festival that primarily focuses on bringing in films that might not be seen in mainstream distribution in Winnipeg, there is an effort to see that we are balancing for the queer or gender-diverse community, for men's films, for women's films, comedies, dramas, a little bit of everything."
Notable films and events at the fest:
Reel Pride 10th Anniversary LGBTTQ Short Film Competition
Wednesday at 7 p.m.
This competition features work from filmmakers who either "identify as queer" or films with "queer content." This year, almost half the participants are local talent, Langen says.
Wednesday at 9 p.m.
A documentary about the famous (or infamous) Continental Baths in New York City, a gay bathhouse famed not just for being a hub of sexual freedom during its heyday from 1968 to '74, but for its Saturday night entertainment showcase. Bette Midler, Barry Manilow and Labelle all jump-started their careers at the Continental. "It's an extraordinarily charming movie," says Langen. (Director Malcolm Ingram will participate in a Skype Q&A after the screening.)
Who's Afraid of Vagina Woolf
Thursday at 7 p.m.
After her 40th birthday, an unsuccessful lesbian filmmaker, living in a friend's garden shed, makes a play for success by staging an all-lesbian production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, partly as a means of winning the affection of her designated star. Watch for '90s lesbian icon Guinevere Turner in a supporting role.
Pussy Fingers Goes to Paris
Friday at 5 p.m.
This world première of Winnipeg filmmaker Noam Gonick's documentary short looks at Gonick's trip to Paris to curate an erotic-themed art show featuring Winnipeg artists such as Diana Thorneycroft, Jordan Van Sewell, Guy Maddin and Sharon Alward. It's an unusual glimpse into the realm of erotic art, Winnipeg-style, and qualifies as one of the more risqué docs shot under the banner of MTS Stories from Home. It is also very much a product of Gonick's particular world view in the way he describes Winnipeg, "with its bedbugs, child poverty and sexy thugs." A reception with the director follows the screening.
For the full Reel Pride program, log onto reelpride.org.