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The State of LGBT Film in 2015


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Vice has a preview of the upcoming Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival, which has been going strong for twenty-five years. Indicative of the civil rights gains made by LGBT folks in some countries in recent years, this year’s festival has fewer coming-out narratives and more “post-gay” films:

Whereas New Queer Cinema celebrated the outsider and marginalized communities, in the last few years, Murphy says, “post-gay” films have moved to the forefront.

“You have films where the LGBT story or the character, it’s all part of—it’s not a coming-out story any more. Even if there is a coming out within that, the film isn’t seen as a movie about coming out,” he explains.

In many queer films today, sexuality and gender identity are reflected as just one aspect of a character’s life. “It is not like, ‘I work in the gay store, and have gay friends and I’m gay 24 hours a day,’” says Ferguson. Murphy adds that while those stories used to be celebrated within the queer community, “Now it’s like, ‘No, we’re all part of a larger picture here.’”

Of course, for some, “coming-out stories” are still vitally important and need to be told, say Murphy and Ferguson. Because, depending on who is telling these stories, or where they’re from, coming out can still be an extremely dangerous decision. In North America, transgender women and queer people of color face much higher rates of hate violence than the white queer community, for example. The latest National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) annual report on hate violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities in the US found that there were 18 anti-LGBTQ murders in 2013. Of these homicide victims, 89 percent were people of color and 72 percent were transgender women. And in other countries around the world, queer filmmakers are still struggling for their rights. For example, the art collective behind Stories of Our Lives, a film from Kenya playing at this year’s festival, has been prohibited from exhibiting, selling, or distributing their film in Kenya because of its queer content.

Overall, activism still plays an important role in queer cinema, but as many countries creep toward a more equal society, the issues in queer films are changing. “A lot of the same things that were prominent or important back then are still important today, it’s just we’ve diversified in terms of what’s being produced, how the stories are being told, how we’re representing our selves and our identities and our lives, but within all that, activism [still] plays as big a part,” says Ferguson. "You see just as many films about whatever issues are topical at the moment. In the States right now it’s gay marriage. You see a lot of documentaries coming out about that. In other parts of the world it’s about human rights struggles.

Image: From Guidance. Photos courtesy Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival