What’s Queer at TIFF This Year?
Last year was a stellar year for queer representation at TIFF, and this year the content keeps on coming. What’s different about recent LGBTQ+ character portrayals is that they are becoming more diverse and complex in nature, providing a truer context of what it means to be queer in these current times globally.
Below are several new titles out this year that are having their premieres at this year’s festival, many of which will be followed by a theatrical release later in the year. Take a look over, and click on the links for more information, then take yourself OUT to the movies!
Close To You directed by Dominic Savage, Special Presentations, World Premiere. Sam (Elliot Page) has a chance encounter with an old friend (Hillary Baack) on his way home to a dreaded family reunion that forces him to confront long-buried memories.
Rustin directed by George C. Wolfe, Special Presentations, International Premiere, George C. Wolfe brings Bayard Rustin’s story to life, with a joyous performance by Colman Domingo as the activist who organized the 1963 March on Washington while being forced into the background because of his sexuality.
I Am Sirat directed by Deepa Mehta and Sirat Taneja, TIFF Docs, World Premiere. Caught between duty and self-determination, Sirat Taneja is a transgender woman who must act as her mother’s son when at home in New Delhi, but can be the woman she really is with her friends and at work with the Government of India. A collaboration between director Deepa Mehta and Sirat, the film has been constructed around Sirat’s lens. Shot on smartphones, Sirat controls her narrative and makes it accessible to us.
Summer Qamp directed by Jen Markowitz, TIFF Docs, World Premiere. At Camp fYrefly in rural Alberta, queer, non-binary, and trans teens get to just be kids in a supportive space, surrounded by counsellors who can relate to their experience ― and help them toast the perfect marshmallow.
National Anthem directed by Luke Gilford, Centrepiece, TIFF Next Wave Selects, International Premiere. A young construction worker accepts a job with a group of queer rodeo performers and discovers formerly dormant parts of himself, in photographer Luke Gilford’s captivating feature debut.
Backspot directed by D.W. Waterson, Discovery, TIFF Next Wave Selects, World Premiere. Page Boy Productions. A driven cheerleader (Devery Jacobs) struggles to handle the pressure when she and her girlfriend are both selected for an elite cheer squad, in Toronto’s D.W. Waterson’s feature directorial debut.
Dicks: The Musical directed by Larry Charles, Midnight Madness, World Premiere. Larry Charles (Borat) conducts an uproarious musical-comedy riff on The Parent Trap that follows a pair of identical twins who conspire to reunite their divorced and disturbingly deranged parents (Nathan Lane and Megan Mullally). Also starring Bowen Yang and Megan Thee Stallion.
Days of Happiness (Les Jours heureux) directed by Chloé Robichaud, Special Presentations, World Premiere. A young orchestra conductor faces a crossroads in her life and career in this ambitious drama that reunites writer-director Chloé Robichaud with actor Sophie Desmarais.
Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero directed by Carlos López Estrada and Zac Manuel, Gala Presentations, World Premiere. Watch superstar Lil Nas X transcend genres and defy expectations in this revealing, jubilant, and inspiring musical documentary.
The Critic directed Anand Tucker, Special Presentations, World Premiere. Gemma Arterton and Ian McKellen star as adversaries forced to take desperate measures to save their careers, in this scintillating tale of ambition and deceit in the theatre world.
Chuck Chuck Baby directed by Janis Pugh, Centrepiece, International Premiere. A film of love, loss, music, and female friendship, set in and around the falling feathers of a chicken processing plant in industrial north Wales.
Orlando, My Political Biography (Orlando, ma biographie politique) directed by Paul B. Preciado, Wavelengths, Canadian Premiere. In Orlando, My Political Biography, theorist, critic, and curator Paul B. Preciado takes Virginia Woolf’s classic novel as a starting point for a bold, joyous reflection on the nature of contemporary trans life and a celebration of queerness.
Toll (Pedágio) directed by Carolina Markowicz, Centrepiece, World Premiere. Carolina Markowicz returns to the Festival with Toll, a film about a Brazilian mother who falls in with a gang of thieves in an attempt to keep her family afloat.
Solo directed by Sophie Dupuis, Gala Presentations, World Premiere. Set in Montreal’s vivacious drag scene, this tender character study from writer-director Sophie Dupuis (Underground) focuses on a talented young performer whose past and present merge in unexpected ways.
NYAD directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, Gala Presentations, International Premiere. Annette Bening and Jodie Foster dive into the dangerous waters of the Florida Straits, in this film based on the true story of the woman who, at the age of 64, became the first person to swim from Cuba to the US without a shark cage.
I Don’t Know Who You Are directed by M. H. Murray, Discovery, World Premiere. After a sexual assault, a Toronto musician spends a weekend trying to find the money for HIV-preventive treatment, in this ferocious debut from writer-director M. H. Murray and writer-star Mark Clennon.
Without Air (Elfogy a levegő) directed by Katalin Moldovai, Discovery, World Premiere. In her absurdist debut feature, Hungarian filmmaker Katalin Moldovai takes on the administration of conservative Hungary in her depiction of a high school teacher accused of promoting homosexual values to her students.
The Queen of My Dreams directed by Fawzia Mirza, Discovery, World Premiere. Fawzia Mirza’s stylish feature debut mashes up the textures of Indian cinema and a Canadian coming-of-age picture, tracing key moments in the lives of a mother and daughter born three decades apart.
Unicorns directed by Sally El Hosaini and James Krishna Floyd, Special Presentations, World Premiere. Unicorns stars Ben Hardy and Jason Patel as two people with a undeniable connection despite their very different lives.
Frybread Face and Me directed by Billy Luther, Discovery, TIFF Next Wave Selects, International Premiere. A preteen sent to live on his grandma’s homestead on the Navajo Nation has his life changed with the help of his remarkable cousin, in Billy Luther’s funny and touching debut, executive produced by Taika Waititi.
Your Mother’s Son (Anak Ka Ng Ina Mo) directed by Jun Robles Lana, Centrepiece, World Premiere. The relationship between a hard-working mother and her layabout son is challenged when she invites one of her students into their home, in the latest from prolific director Jun Robles Lana.
El Sabor de la Navidad directed by Alejandro Lozano, Special Presentations, World Premiere. From producer Salma Hayek Pinault comes this Mexican dramedy following three separate groups as they navigate that most emotionally fraught of seasons: Christmas. Mariana Treviño and Andrés Almeida star.
Hell of a Summer directed by Finn Wolfhard & Billy Bryk, Midnight Madness, TIFF Next Wave Selects, World Premiere. A masked killer terrorizes the counsellors of a summer camp in this sardonic slasher-comedy, the feature directorial debut from actors Finn Wolfhard and Billy Bryk.
How to Have Sex directed Molly Manning Walker, Discovery, TIFF Next Wave Selects, North American Premiere. A blurry ― and almost out-of-body ― night in Crete leads 16-year-old Tara, who is on a wild holiday with her best friends, on a mission of self-knowledge, to the best of her ability.
Next Goal Wins directed by Taika Waititi, Special Presentations, World Premiere. Michael Fassbender, Elisabeth Moss, and Oscar Kightley star in Taika Waititi’s comedy about the American Samoa soccer team’s attempt to make a World Cup — 12 years after their infamous 31-0 loss in a 2002 World Cup qualifying match.
Thank You For Coming directed by Karan Boolani, Gala Presentations, World Premiere. At 32, Kanika Kapoor has never had an orgasm… until last night. Now she needs to find out who got her there.
The Human Surge 3 (El auge del humano 3) directed by Eduardo Williams, Wavelengths, North American Premiere. Eduardo Williams picks up where 2016’s The Human Surge left off, this time following three groups of friends from Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Peru as they traverse a shapeshifting landscape rooted in our present reality but alert to alternative possibilities.
Monster (Kaibutsu) directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda 是枝 裕和, Special Presentations, North American Premiere. Acclaimed Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda returns to his homeland with a powerful yet delicate story of love and humanity, a moral tale about school bullying, scored by the late Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Strange Way of Life directed by Pedro Almodóvar, North American Premiere. Two lovers (Ethan Hawke, Pedro Pascal) reunite after 25 years apart, but secret ulterior motives threaten to spoil the relationship, in this emotional western from Pedro Almodóvar.
Meteor directed by Atefeh Khademolreza, Part of Short Cuts 2023 Programme 01. Combining a stunning visual aesthetic and acutely personal reflections, Atefeh Khademolreza delivers an expression of grief and defiance in the face of the repression suffered by women and the LGBTQ+ community in Iran.
A Bird Called Memory (Pássaro Memória) directed by Leonardo Martinelli, Part of Short Cuts 2023 Programme 05. In Leonardo Martinelli’s lyrical and captivating film, a trans woman’s poetic quest for a missing bird helps transform an urban space from treacherous to transcendent.
Toronto International Film Festival takes place Thursday, September 7th – 17th, 2023. Tickets are on sale at tiff.net.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.