While I got to enjoy a couple of fantastic features last year during the Inside Out festival, I didn’t have time to do a full coverage. With it being online again this year, I was lucky enough to sit back and experience some amazing queer storytelling from some great up and coming voices in the industry. Not only did this line up have more than a few absolutely incredible films, but two of which became some of my all time favourites; that being Heidi Ewing’s I Carry You With Me and Alex Liu’s documentary A Sexplanation. I’ve already done lots of talking about both of these films so I will not be mentioning them further in this coverage, but both full reviews are up on the site and live already to be viewed, and I cannot recommend either of these films even more than I already have. Let’s move on to some other highlights.
How To Fix Radios (Directed by Casper Leonard, Emily Russell)
Taking place in rural Ontario, How To Fix Radios follows Evan, a teen boy who starts a summer job cleaning up a run down shop being sold for land. There he meets Ross, a queer teen with pink hair that makes him stand out amongst the conservative community. As Ross and Evan grow closer, Evan’s views and world is looked through a different lens than before as he navigates this new friendship.
I remember seeing a tiktok earlier this year promoting this film for it’s incredibly small budget and the fact that it was made by two very young filmmakers, Casper Leonard and Emily Russell. As someone who strives to bea writer in the industry as well and crafting new queer voices in storytelling, I had a huge amount of respect for anyone involved with this and the product that came out of this production is extremely admirable. It’s carried by beautiful scenery and the questions it poses surrounding being queer in a small town community. When asked why he still lives in this community even with all the berating, Ross explains that he loves the quietness of the area and is in love with nature; so why would he let a few dickheads push him out of a place he admires.
While the script and characterization struggles at first to let the two leads connect and have chemistry, it’s improved once they’re thrown into an environment cut off from the rest of society. It ultimately feels like a love letter to rural Ontario in a way that not only showcases the small mindedness of locals but also the strong bonds you can make in these tiny communities that make it all worthwhile.
Beyto (Directed by Gitta Gsell)
Being the only son of a highly respected Turkish migrant family, Beyto carries an abundance of pressure on his shoulders. Even though having a dream of being a successful and professional swimmer contradicts his parents’ wishes of him marrying as soon as possible and keeping up with their business, it’s his hidden sexuality and his love for his swim coach that’s the real kicker. Being stuck between a rock and a hard place already, Beyto is then forced into a marriage with an old friend of his and must go through with it or else his father will burn his passport and leave him stranded in the country they’ve already migrated from.
Tonally, Beyto was sort of odd to me. The conversations and themes were just so heavy but the overall film sort of had this light hearted soapy touch to it. The chemistry between Beyto and his coach was excellent and they’re both adults who are around the same age which was refreshing to see because of how many teacher/student and coach/student romances have been uncomfortably glamourized. While I do think most of the characters were nicely fleshed out, there was one character who I wanted so much more from and that I already liked a lot that just didn’t get the screen time and characterization she deserved; and that was Beyto’s arranged wife and childhood friend Seher. The way she was thrown into this marriage as well and wanted to make the best of it even though her dream was to go to school, graduate and probably not be married to a gay man while also then being thrown into a different country with Beyto and his family and not even knowing most of the language. She had such a sad and fascinating story that added so much more depth to the second half of this film, even if we should have gotten so much more of her.
All in all Beyto is a solid feel good (eventually) film with a great cast; and even if it’s first half lacked the flair of the second half, it’s still all around enjoyable.
Dawn, her Dad & the Tractor (Directed by Shelley Thompson)
After her mother’s death, Dawn (a transgender woman) returns home to her father’s farm where he, her sister and her sister’s fiancé reside not knowing that Dawn has transitioned since leaving five years prior. Living in a small Nova Scotian community of small minded people, her family is shocked by the appearance of Dawn and must all come together no matter what to cope and get past their mother’s funeral.
It’s always nice to see fresh Canadian voices come through in the industry, especially from Nova Scotia where I was born and have countless family members who live there. It really is a beautiful place so I enjoy when films come out that highlight the great aspects of the province. This film itself feels a lot like a hallmark film in a lot of ways; it’s cheesy, the acting is somewhat over the top and the characters are pretty animated, but I actually loved that about this film. I quite enjoy the feel of hallmark films but have little to zero interest in them because of how white and heterosexual they are. So having a film like this with trans representation that isn’t completely rooted in pain and trauma was refreshing and sweet. It’s a cheese fest all around but one that I enjoyed quite a bit.
Boy Meets Boy (Directed by Daniel Sanchez Lopez)
I always find films centred around an intimate portrayal and discussion on modern dating super fascinating. Because of social media/online dating playing a huge part in this discussion due to the age that we live in, we constantly have other people seemingly looking for the “same thing” at the tip of our fingers; but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to connect.
Boy Meets Boy follows Johannes, a man from the UK on his last day in another country where he meets Harry. The two form an instant connection that is seemingly strictly sexual until they realize that each other’s companies compliment each other extremely well. Spending Johannes last day together, the two set off across the city where they discuss what it means to be single, in a relationship, confident in one’s own queerness and what sex means or doesn’t mean to each of them.
A lot of what was presented in this film felt heavily inspired by Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, and I say that as a compliment to the film itself. The central two performances were incredibly strong and their chemistry carries this film with both characters presenting something different that everyone can relate to in some way, shape or form. I enjoyed Johannes look on sex positivity, he explains that even if someone enjoys lots of sex with many different people and struggles to relate or enjoy ones company after a sexual transaction, that doesn’t completely mean he’s incapable of falling in love. It’s a film that poses lots of questions for the audience to think about and dissects what it means to connect with and love someone in different forms. At least that’s what I took from it.
Poppy Field (Directed by Eugen Jebeleanu)
This film was easily the most stressful of the festival. The film starts off with Cristi greeting his boyfriend who’s just arrived from France to visit him for a few days. The first fifteen to twenty minutes are filled with beautiful moments of the two men enjoying each other’s company, telling stories with pure love just completely present before Cristi’s sister enters the picture. It’s a very hostile few minutes with her in their presence and there’s clear tension between the siblings before she makes a homophobic remark towards Cristi, and then departs. I knew nothing going into this film, as I watched these two men and their relationship I just fell in love with them. It was calm, teasing and their chemistry was just out of this world; but this didn’t last because Poppy Field is actually centred around closeted cop who is called to a theatre with his squad to take care of an anti gay protest happening at a showing for a queer film.
As saddened as I was realizing that the relationship that was set up in the beginning was really just a set piece for all that would unravel, I still enjoyed every second of this and just wanted so much more. There’s so much homophobia riddled throughout his squad already and with Christi’s character clearly shown as dark and repressed outside of his own home, I was just waiting for the blowup. And when that blow up happened, it just got incredibly harder and harder to watch as Christi’s character spiralled.
Poppy Field is intensely and passionately directed and acted, with a stellar lead performance from Conrad Mericoffer. The biggest issue with this film is that while it was only made to highlight the events that took place at the screening, I wanted to know more about Christi’s life, his relationship, how his squad takes to finding out about his sexuality and his rocky past with his family and sister. There’s so much that was set up in this film that it really would have been an incredible mini series. But that wasn’t the case and instead we’re left with a great film that just feels too short for my liking.
A Distant Place (Directed by Park Kun-young)
Ending my festival with A Distant Place was maybe one of the highest points I could have ended on. The film follows Jin-Woo, a quiet man who has moved himself away from society to a ranch in Hwacheon, South Korea to raise his young niece as his own. He lives a peaceful life with a family who has become his own, until it’s disrupted by the arrival of his boyfriend Hyun-min and his sister who has been gone without a trace for five years and now wants her daughter back.
The whole film is shot, directed and acted beautifully from beginning to end. It’s one of those films where you feel complete comfort in the silent moments and during its intense heated scenes there’s still this safe feeling as you’re watching. The film never misses a beat and every moment feels necessary. Kang Gil-woo and Hong Kyung’s performances as Jin-woo and Hyun-min were nothing short of amazing, their relationship throughout the film brought so much joy to me and I wanted nothing short of the happiest ending possible for them. Director Park Kun-young has crafted a beautiful modern classic queer love story that ties self love, familial love, romantic love and most importantly a love for your chosen family that can be just as strong as the rest. It’s truly worth every second of its runtime and I’m happy I saved it for last, it was worth the wait.
Those are some of the films I have watched during the Festival and I had to talk about. What about you, what have you seen if you went to the Festival?