Visionary milestone: Rainbow Visions film festival celebrates fifth year with stellar lineup

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If it seems as though Rainbow Visions artistic director Guy Lavallee has been holding his breath for the last five years, it’s because he has.

“When we first launched back in 2015 I remember saying to the board members that we were treating this as a startup,” Lavallee recalls during a quick phone chat. “One thing to keep in mind with any new venture is that if you survive to year three the outlook is positive, but to get to year five is a tangible milestone.”

It only dawned on Lavalee and the board when prepping for this year’s edition of the LGBQT festival that they were at the half decade mark, with all of the attendant good things you would hope to find when getting there. Growing visibility in the city, new sponsors hopping on board, and perhaps most importantly, a marked increase in audiences, including a large number of new faces. Oh, and have we mentioned how impressive the lineup is for this year?

“One thing I’ve noticed in the last while are the number of LGBTQ-themed films that have crossed over, so to speak,” says Lavallee, who also helms the documentary festival NorthWestFest. “The range of stories have expanded so incredibly, and one of the goals of the festival is to showcase them.”

Like Scream, Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street, a documentary about actor Mark Patton’s time on the set of Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, which one publication called “the gayest horror film ever.” Since Patton was then still in the closet, and the screenwriter later admitted to pumping up the subtext to ludicrous extremes, it’s hard to deny the charge. The film itself got mixed reviews at the time, but has since became a cult classic; Scream, Queen, meanwhile, has done very well for itself at several horror and LGBTQ festivals.

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“It’s so charming and crowd-pleasing, a redemption story for the actor, and it’s crossed over like the documentary You Don’t Nomi, also playing at Rainbow Visions, which is a documentary about the movie Showgirls. These are incredible stories, and the mainstream has really come to accept them.”

Winnipeg filmmaker Matthew Rankin is making his way to town with his movie The Twentieth Century, which Lavallee describes as a “sly, satirical commentary on the Canadian psyche.” The deliriously oddball bio-pic of William Lyon MacKenzie King, which garnered Rankin a Best Canadian First Feature Film at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, is closing out the festival on Sunday night. It’ll be paired with Docking, the latest effort by homegrown director Trevor Anderson, who also features in The Twentieth Century as Mr. Justice Richardson. Both Rankin and Anderson will be in attendance at the screening.

“Matthew has actually been looking to get the film here because he absolutely adores Edmonton,” Lavallee notes. “He was here a few years back doing a residency at FAVA and he fell in love with the place. Everything worked with this one, it all just clicked into place.”

Lavallee, who also hails from Winnipeg, notes that critics have been comparing Rankin’s work with that of another Manitoba cineaste, Guy Maddin.

“I can see it because the film is very absurd and surreal, grainy and shot on 16 mm, but there’s more of a comparison with John Paizs’s Crimewave. There’s something in the water there that makes us weird, and I say that lovingly.”

The festival, which runs from Nov. 7 to 11 at the Metro Cinema, boasts a range of films, like Sauvage/Wild, an intense French film about the life of a sex worker played by Félix Maritaud, the self-explanatory Gay Chorus Deep South, and The Garden Left Behind, about a young Mexican trans woman rebuilding her life in New York City. Intriguing films all, though it’s the documentaries Changing the Game (Sunday) and Are You Proud? (Saturday) that Lavallee seems especially hyped on.

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“Changing the Game follows three trans athletes and their challenges in the sports they want to compete in,” Lavallee says. “It’s very timely, a subject that’e been in the news a lot lately.  After I saw it I looked up all of the festivals that it had run in, and no kidding, in every single one it either won or was runner-up for the audience favourite award. You get so wrapped up in their lives, and just want to see them succeed. It’s as close to a guarantee as I can give when I say that you’ll love this movie.”

Finally, admittance to the Saturday afternoon presentation of Ashley Joiner’s UK documentary Are You Proud?, which traces the beginnings of the Pride movement and asks questions about where it’s going, is by donation.

“We want as many people as possible to come to this, so if you have limited means or you want to bring the kids this is the film for you. The film is really refreshing because it doesn’t take a stand; it just presents different perspectives and allows you to make your own decisions. It’s an important, and like Changing the Game, timely story for us, especially with what’s been happening with Pride in Edmonton.”



Rainbow Visions

When: Thursday, Nov. 7 to Monday, Nov. 11

Where: Metro Cinema, 8712 109 St.

Tickets: $49 early bird festival pass, available until Oct. 22; after that it’s $59, available from the website. Individual tickets are also available.


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