Image+Nation is Canada’s first and longest-running film festival devoted to LGBTQ filmmaking, now in its 32nd year. Charlie Boudreau, Image+Nation’s executive director, has been on-board for “most the festival” and is devoted to a line-up in keeping with the current cultural moment, one that eschews “conventional LGBTQ narratives” for a wave of New Queer Cinema.
Boudreau took a moment to speak to what this cinematic wave looks like, broadening the scope of the festival itself and about some favourites from this year’s programming, including a take on Mexico City’s’ 80s underground punk and new wave scene that resonates as oddly contemporary.
Nora Rosenthal: Have you noticed any particular shifts over the years in the kind of films that you show?
Charlie Boudreau: Well that’s what’s interesting about having been there for so long and been so close to the history and the evolution of queer storytelling. Our focus this year is new voices and the points of view of many stories are not the traditional ones we’re used to seeing — which is of coming-out or the difficulty of being gay or LGBT or queer — they’re very empowering stories that are not traditional in the sense that you don’t necessarily end up with the girl or the boy but you end up with self-fulfillment, of being good with yourself at the end as what you are. And that’s a message for everybody. There’s a lot of universality in other words in the stories that we’re seeing this year in particular.
NR: When you’re talking about these unconventional queer narratives, can you think of a turning point or a particular film in the past where you noticed the development of a different kind of queer cinema?
CB: There have been spikes. At one point about 15 years ago, there were a lot of ensemble pieces where you would have queer people in there and that’s when films started being not about being queer but being part of a larger story. But at that point the queer character still had to be underlined as being queer.
NR: When you say New Queer story telling what do you mean exactly?
CB: Stories that touch the human condition more than they do specifically LGBT related issues and that is new in LGBT filmmaking or story-telling. A really excellent example of this is a web series that we have at the imperial on Saturday. It’s called ANNE+, a web series from the Netherlands. It’s about being young, going out in the world, discovering love, having heartbreaks all of the things [that] are shared by everyone and I was chatting with them and they were saying straight guys come up to them and say ‘Yeah I felt that’. People can really identify with these stories. They have in this case a lesbian character but the fact that she’s lesbian is less important than the fact that she’s going through life. She’s being a young 20-year-old like every young 20-year-old. And this is new. It’s not a negative story, nobody’s mad at her because she’s a lesbian. I hate this word but it’s important to use it sometimes, it “normalizes” queer lives… we stop being outside.
NR: When you’re developing your programming and when you’re trying to get these new voices and maybe voices who are a bit more on the periphery, what kind of outreach do you do to make sure those people submit their films in the first place?
CB: There’s going to festivals across the globe. We’ve expanded our festival outreach and now I’m going to a lot of Eastern European film festivals. We’re going to more locally to try and find people and that also expands our network so that means that people who live in regions will maybe have a film and let us know about it. It expands the possibility of discovering new works that are really under the radar instead of just shopping in other festivals’ catalogues through what they’ve selected.
NR: What are some films that have particularly caught your attention this year?
CB: One that I really love is called This is Not Berlin. It’s a film based in Mexico in the 80s and its basically the underground art and culture movement of Mexico City and very queer. it’s a very music-based film where you [can] rediscover these C sides of bands – the hidden gems. It’s very vibrant, very young. very fitting with the times. It’s a film of resilience and all that we are living through right now except it was 40 years ago. It’s beautiful. It’s one of my favourite films of the festival.
NR: Do you have any sense of how you want to see the festival growing in the future?
CB: I love the festival format as it is because I still think it’s important for humans to get together and share a room together and even…talk and meet strangers. Conversation, discussion, partager nos emotions. It’s super important and we have to strive to keep that but at the same time the reality is people don’t necessarily do that anymore. To answer your question what we’re moving towards is online screenings also. It’ll work like a festival. It’s not Netflix. You’ll [be able to] watch a program for let’s say a week or a month and then it’s gone. It’ll be like going to the movies in a way.
We’re also working on outreach, working on trying to participate in the development of story-telling and story-making so next year [we’ll be] starting pitch sessions and mentorship. I don’t want to do it just in film. I want to work with VR people, I want to work with social media people. I like the idea of non-traditional story-telling, on reaching the most people possible. I adore film festivals, I adore films, but we’ve grown into a model that’s really closed and it can’t move forward because it’s elitist in some degrees. I’m all about people seeing stories as much as possible. That’s why a filmmaker made their film. ■
Image+Nation continues until Dec. 1. Look here for a list of venues. $10–$14.50; Anne+ screens at the Imperial Theatre (1430 Bleury) on Saturday, Nov. 23, 7 p.m.; This is Not Berlin also plays at the Imperial Theatre on Friday, Nov. 22, 7 p.m., both $14.50