Montréal’s Image+Nation LGBTQ film festival turns 30

Richard Burnett

Image+Nation is Canada’s oldest LGBTQ film festival and will screen the best of queer cinema from around the world at its 30th annual edition, at various Montréal venues from November 23 to December 3.

Over 11 days, this year’s edition will screen award-winning features, powerful documentaries and acclaimed short films from such countries as France, Finland, South Africa and the United States, offering something for all cinematic tastes – from light-hearted comedies and love stories to deeper dramatic tales and social-issue works.

“Each year our selections represent what is on the forefront of LGBTQ culture and storytelling,” says festival director Charlie Boudreau. ”Although there may be a larger presence of LGBTQ characters on TV and in films, the stories that you discover at Image+Nation are created by and for queer people and represent our lives in all their complexities and sometimes human contradictions.”

In other words, a rare opportunity to see our lives reflected on the big screen.

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Lights! Camera! Action!

It’s true that Image+Nation has played a trendsetting role within the larger festival circuit in Canada, North America and internationally for many years. But Boudreau happily points out the festival also “showcases new and established Quebec filmmakers each year in our Queerment Québec series where we spend an evening at the PHI Centre in Old Montréal with filmmakers and their latest creations. It’s an opportunity for our audiences to discover local queer culture and our amazing homegrown talent.”

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Red Carpet at the Imperial Cinema

The opening and closing films will both be screened at Montréal’s gorgeous and historic Imperial Cinema.

Opening the fest on November 23 is the acclaimed feature film Call Me By Your Name, directed by Luca Guadagnino and written by James Ivory. It is based on Andre Aciman’s novel of the same name, about a young man named Elio in 1980s Italy who meets Oliver, an academic staying at Elio's parents' villa. They develop a passionate relationship and bond over their sexuality and Jewish heritage.

Another critically-hailed feature, God’s Own Country, directed by Francis Lee, about a young farmer who numbs his frustrations with drinking and casual sex until a Romanian migrant worker sets him on a new path, will close the festival on December 3.

Queer Icons on the Silver Screen

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

Award-winning filmmaker Dome Karukoski’s biopic Tom of Finland – about the life and work of one of the most influential and celebrated figures of the 20th century, Touko Laaksonen, who redefined masculinity and deeply influenced everybody from Robert Mapplethorpe and Freddie Mercury to Village People and Jean Paul Gaultier – has been selected as Finland’s official submission to this year’s Academy Awards to be considered for Best Foreign Film. 

Legendary Jamaican model-turned-singer Grace Jones is the subject of director Sophie Fiennes’ much-anticipated documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami which was filmed over the course of a decade and takes a look behind the masks and makeup of the style and New Wave icon.

Other films of note include After Louie starring Alan Cumming; Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall about the onetime American Idol semi-finalist and hugely popular YouTuber and guest judge on RuPaul's Drag Race; and the French lesbian love story Embrasse Moi!

The Importance of Queer Cinema

Thirty years after its launch, Image+Nation still plays an essential role.

“Image+Nation remains first and foremost a place to share our collective experiences, to get together with friends,” says Boudreau. “It is an “old-school” collective experience where we partake in a communal moment. Seeing representations of oneself on the screen remains crucial in creating and maintaining community and identity. There is power in coming together in a dark cinema.”

Image+Nation runs from November 23 to December 3, 2017, at various Montréal venues. For information and tickets, visit www.image-nation.org and www.facebook.com/image.nation.festival.

Richard Burnett

Richard Burnett, blogger

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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