What to See: The Vancouver Queer Film Festival

The Vancouver Queer Film Festival has just begun, so now is as good a time as ever to scour the festival listings and find the films that speak to you. To help you do that, we've compiled a list of suggestions. But the fantastic cinema doesn't stop here! To check out the rest of the VQFF program, follow this link.

Director Thirza Cuthand

Director Thirza Cuthand

Thirza Cuthand: New and Retrospective
Saturday, August 11 at 4:30 PM
SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts

“For over 20 years Cuthand has been producing videos that take up issues of sexuality, madness, youth, love, and race. Cuthand’s innovative and prolific DIY practice blends an incomparable wit with incisive critique while tackling issues at the intersection of queerness, Indigeneity, and living in Canada’s settler colonial society. Artist In Residence Thirza Cuthand shares a program of her earlier and most recent films that will leave you alternatively howling with laughter and questioning how you think about and live in this world.” This screening consists of 10 short films by Cuthand—worth it!

Film still from  Miss Rosewood

Film still from Miss Rosewood

Miss Rosewood
Directed by Helle Jensen
Monday, August 13 at 7:00 PM
International Village

“Worried that queer art has become too mainstream? Too safe? Miss Rosewood is here to push the envelope and remind us how intense and explicit queer art can be. Hailing from New York City, she is one of the only trans women performers at The Box, the Lower East Side’s legendary and controversial theatre nightclub frequented by celebrities like Rihanna and Leonardo DiCaprio (Miss Rosewood may have emptied a condom onto Leonardo DiCaprio’s head during a show). A mixture of performance footage, documentation of her gender-affirming journey, and candid interviews with family and friends make Miss Rosewood a well-rounded and riveting documentary.”

Film still from  ...and the unclaimed

Film still from ...and the unclaimed

...and the unclaimed
Directed by Debalina Majumder
Tuesday, August 14 at 7:00 PM
VIFF Vancity Theatre

“…and the unclaimed delves into the aftermath of Swapna and Shucheta’s deaths, as well as the social conditions that led to their choice. “The unclaimed” refers both to the fact that neither of their families came forward to claim their bodies, but also to the tenuous state of existence of queer and trans folks in India. Interviews with Swapna and Shucheta’s families and neighbours are interspersed with the stories of ordinary Indian queer and trans people, as well as activists and advocates, all of whom are dealing with their own experiences of the label “unclaimed”, while fiercely fighting for their rights to live and love.”

This film is the first of a two-part series by Majumder, screening at the VQFF as a double feature.

Film still from  If You Dare Desire

Film still from If You Dare Desire

If You Dare Desire
Directed by Debalina Majumder
Tuesday, August 14 at 9:00 PM
VIFF Vancity Theatre

“If You Dare Desire imagines the life Swapna and Shucheta could have had together, as they travel far from their village into the unknown. A departure from the “happily ever after” story; the girls endure poverty and fear the constant threat of being found out. Still, their determination and the kindness from the people they meet on their journey offers them the chance to carve out a small world for their love and survival. Gorgeous shots of lonely landscapes and suffocated cities are juxtaposed with scenes of tenderness between the two lovers, tempering grief with hope.”

This film is the second of a two-part series by Majumder, screening at the VQFF as a double feature.

Film still from  White Rabbit

Film still from White Rabbit

White Rabbit
Directed by Daryl Wein
Wednesday, August 15 at 7:00 PM / Thursday, August 16 at 9:00 PM
Vancouver Playhouse / International Village

“Sophia (comedian Vivian Bang) is a struggling artist living in LA, trying to make meaningful work and pay her bills while working as a “task rabbit” doing other people’s errands. Reeling from a recent break up and wondering if her work matters to anyone beyond herself, Sophia stubbornly performs wherever she can: in supermarkets, malls, parks, on the side of the road, and in front of her computer screen. Her public performance work mostly engages with her uncomfortable and incomplete thoughts around the heightened racial tensions between African Americans and Korean Americans after the 1992 LA riots, sparked by the death of Rodney King at the hands of police.

One day she has a messy encounter with another woman, Victoria (Nana Ghana), who she then begins to see everywhere. The two strike up an unlikely and intimate friendship. Victoria is a photographer and artist herself, ambitious, funny, and insightful. She pulls Sophia out of her own head and into conversations about race, gender, art, and family. But when Victoria leaves on a trip to follow her own artistic dreams, Sophia’s feelings for her intensify. Will she be able to hold it together, in love and her own creative work?”

Film still from  Beauty  (directed by Christina Willings)

Film still from Beauty (directed by Christina Willings)

The Coast is Genderqueer
Various: Shorts Program
Friday, August 17 at 5:00 PM
SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts

“The Festival is proud to present our first short film program that showcases local transgender, genderfluid, and non-binary stories. With an emphasis on youth on screen and emerging filmmakers behind the camera, these BC-made shorts depict expansive expressions of gender through animation, experimentation, and artful documentation. This program is as visually alluring as it is critically engaging, demonstrating the powerful overlap between art and activism.”

Flash Flood (2017), directed by Alli MacKay (6 min)
Polymorph (2017), directed by Mike Hooves (5 min)
The Decision of Riley (2017), directed by Yue Xie (4 min)
Hole (2018), directed by G Goletski (6 min)
Beauty (2018), directed by Christina Willings (24 min)

Film still from  Shakedown

Film still from Shakedown

Directed by Leilah Weinraub
Monday, August 13 at 9:00 PM
International Village

“Shakedown was a series of underground parties created by and for Black women in Los Angeles that featured go-go dancing and strip shows for the Black lesbian community. Inspired by trans woman Mahogany, the mother of the ball scene in 1980s LA, and run by charismatic butch Ronnie Ron, these parties were a rare place for lesbians and communities of colour to gather, celebrate and experiment. The Shakedown Angels are represented in all their gender bending, high femme, studly, and acrobatic glory by director Leila Weinraub.

Weinraub captures a moment in time, using archival footage and interviews from 400 hours of footage captured over years as a Shakedown family member. This film is a look at female desire and performance rarely seen in cinema.”


The Vancouver Queer Film Festival runs from Thursday, August 9 to Sunday, August 19 at various venues across the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations (Metro Vancouver)


SAD Mag is an independent Vancouver publication featuring stories, art and design. Founded in 2009, we publish the best of contemporary and emerging artists with a focus on inclusivity of voices and views, exceptional design, and film photography.