Montréal’s Image+Nation LGBTQ film festival

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

Image+Nation has played a trendsetting role within the larger festival circuit in Canada, North America and internationally for many years. Over eleven days, this year’s edition will screen award-winning features, powerful documentaries and acclaimed short films from such countries as Brazil, France, India and South Africa, offering something for all cinematic tastes – from light-hearted comedies and love stories to deeper dramatic tales and social-issue works.

Red carpet at the Imperial Cinema

The opening film will be screened at Montréal’s gorgeous and historic Imperial Cinema.

Opening the fest on November 22 is director Christophe Honoré’s French feature film Plaire aimer et courir vite (Sorry Angel) which earned positive reviews at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. It is a romance about an HIV-positive writer, Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps), and a college-age reader, Arthur (Vincent Lacoste). What will they do with the time they’ve been given? In French, with English subtitles.

Another critically-hailed feature, Un couteau dans le cœur (Knife + Heart), will close the festival on December 2 in the downtown Hall Building Alumni Auditorium (H110) at Concordia University. 

French director Yann Gonzalez’s Un couteau dans le coeur (Knife + Heart) stars Vanessa Paradis as a gay-porn producer trying to figure out who is killing off the cast and crew of her latest production. Set in 1979, the murder mystery explores desire and sexual repression, with a throbbing score by electro rockers M83. Following its screening at Cannes this year, Variety described the film as “Cruising as directed by Brian De Palma.” In French, with English subtitles.


Lights! Camera! Action!

Here are some choice must-see films at Image+Nation:

Based on Emily M. Danforth’s coming-of-age novel, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a 2018 American-British drama directed by Desiree Akhavan and tells the story of teenager Cameron Post, who is caught by her boyfriend having sex with another girl in the back seat of a car during prom night. Cameron’s devoutly Christian aunt Ruth then sends Cameron to a gay conversion therapy centre for teenagers called God’s Promise. The movie won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

Director Kevin Kerslake’s documentary Bad Reputation follows the trajectory of trailblazing rock star and feminist icon Joan Jett, founder of the all-female rock band The Runaways and frontwoman of Joan Jett and the Black Hearts. The film also features Jett’s first-hand accounts of what it was like to pick up the guitar at a time when girls weren’t supposed to, not giving a damn, and surviving all that came with it. As Joan Jett herself once told me, “I love rock’n’roll, but the business – it’s like any business. It definitely qualifies more and more under ‘show business’ as this ‘reality’ mentality takes over the world. It’s not great. They still don’t give girls in rock any recognition. All these years after The Runaways and the business still hasn’t changed.”

The Happy Prince is a 2018 biographical drama about queer icon Oscar Wilde, written by, directed by, and starring British actor Rupert Everett – a witty author and raconteur in his own right – in his directorial debut. A superb cast with Everett in a (ahem) Oscar-worthy star-turn.

The 2018 award-winning Paraguayan drama Las Herederas (The Heiresses) tells the tale of two wealthy Paraguayan women – Chiquita (Margarita Irun) and Chela (Ana Brun, who won Best Actress for her role at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival) – who lose it all. So Chela begins taxiing around elderly ladies in her neighbourhood and falls for a fiery younger woman, Angy (Ana Ivanova), who employs her services. Spanish with English subtitles.

The Swiss-German drama Mario is about two European professional footballers and teammates (Mario and Leon) who fall in love. How will team management and the other players react? Will Mario and Leon submit to the toxic masculinity of the dressing room or will the sport accept two star players falling in love? In Swiss German and German with English subtitles.

Riot is Australian director Jeffrey Walker’s dramatization of historic events — based largely on the true-life experiences of queer activists Lance Gowland and Marg McMann – that culminated in the first Sydney Mardi Gras street celebration in 1978, which, despite police brutality and arrests, became the now famous Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Love, Scott is a pensive and elegiac NFB documentary about Nova Scotia gay musician and choral conductor Scott Jones, who was stabbed in the back and throat slashed outside a New Glasgow club in October 2013. Nineteen-year-old Shane Edward Matheson was charged with attempted murder, pleaded guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison. Meanwhile, the stabbing severed Jones’ spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. The road to recovery has been a difficult one for Jones, who recently told me, “Making the film changed my life and contributed to my healing. I also hope that the queer community feels like it is being represented onscreen. We just don’t see enough stories about queer disabled people on the big screen, so this is a big accomplishment.”

Director Caroline Berler’s 2018 documentary Dykes, Camera, Action! chronicles the history of queer women’s cinema from the mid-twentieth century through today, including Barbara Hammer’s Superdyke, Rose Troche’s Go Fish and the TV series The L Word.

Mapplethorpe is a 2018 American biopic written and directed by Ondi Timoner, and stars British actor Matt Smith – best-known for his roles as the Eleventh Doctor in the BBC series Doctor Who and as Prince Philip in the Netflix series The Crown – as Mapplethorpe. The film chronicles the photographer’s rise to fame in the 1970s to his untimely death from AIDS in 1989.

Filmmaker Tristan Aitchison’s breathtaking 2018 documentary Sidney & Friends was filmed over three years and follows the struggle for daily survival of a group of intersex and transgender young people in Nairobi. The film’s centre is Sidney, who fled rural Kenya when his family tried to kill him. In Nairobi, he meets a group of transgender friends, and together they fight discrimination and discover life, love and self-worth. A deeply moving film.

The life and career of Terrence McNally, the prolific Tony-winning playwright who gave us such classic hits as Ragtime, Love! Valour! Compassion! and Kiss of the Spider Woman, gets the red-carpet treatment in director Jeff Kaufman’s star-studded documentary Every Act of Life, whose talking heads include Nathan Lane, Christine Baranski, Rita Moreno, Angela Lansbury, Chita Rivera and McNally himself.

The Importance of Queer Cinema

Thirty-one years after its launch, Image+Nation still plays an essential role. Says festival director Charlie Boudreau, “There is power in seeing oneself up on that movie screen, made all the more empowering by getting together in a nice dark cinema with friends, family, colleagues and queer allies of all stripes.”

Image+Nation runs from November 22 to December 2, 2018, at various Montréal venues. For information and tickets, visit and

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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