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Caribbean Tales Film Festival: Queer programming

September 7th, 2016     by Lauren Pragg     Comments

Illustration by Beena Mistry

The Caribbean Tales Film Festival (CTFF) is presenting its 11th collection of films this year in Toronto from September 7-17th at the Royal Cinema (608 College Street). The films featured focus on those that represent Caribbean content and creativity from the region and the diaspora.

This year, there are 5 films that take on queer realities, identities and experiences. They are: My Silky Blue Frog Shortz by Lezlie Lee Kam (Trinidad/Canada); Cold by Salvador Sol Valdez (Canada); Dying Swan by Christopher Laird (Trinidad and Tobago); Pieta by Melanie Grant (Barbados); and, Rainbow Revolutionary by Kaneal Gayle (Jamaica). I had the pleasure of watching 3 of these films before the festival starts.

My Silky Blue Frog Shortz is a short film that’s playful and a bit silly, in the best way imaginable. It’s rhythmic in its narrative in a way that keeps the viewer hooked. The film tells the story of a queer Trinidadian woman’s experience with health and her experience of desire. It comes out of a research project - “Through Thick and Thin” conducted last year by Rainbow Health Ontario and other partner organizations - that looked at the way queer women relate to their bodies, health and sexuality. My Silky Blue Frog Shortz is an excellent representation by and of an older queer woman. So often the lives of our queer elders are shut out from community spaces and this film was a fun reminder of why we should commit to giving room to those stories.

Cold is a film that offers representation to another often overlooked reality of queer women - femme for femme attraction. It’s a haunting, sentimental, and artistic short film with little dialogue but a lot of sensuality. The film’s aesthetic, including its soundtrack, is minimal and adds richness to the narrative of love and loss. The film also lends itself to an important conversation on the common experience of femme invisibility within queer communities along with mainstream society.

Poster for Cold.

Finally, Dying Swan captures the behind the scenes moments of an important performance at this year’s Trinidad Carnival. The legendary artist Peter Minshall staged a piece titled The Dying Swan, Ras Nijinsky in Drag as Pavlova. To get a better sense of the layers of the portrayal check out this link. For now, what is key to know about the film is that it captures the moments leading up to a performance that was a disruption of the expectations for Carnival mas. The performance itself is beautiful and full of what we might understand as queer depictions. The figure of the swan is a play on a traditional Carnival figure - the moko jumbie. Just a little bit of curiosity will tell you that this figure is sacred and one of the many anti-colonial elements of Carnival. I also think the film, and Minshall’s piece, help to show how the Caribbean already exists in a way we might understand as ‘queer’ despite western conceptions of ‘backwardness’ and violence that have their roots in racist colonial ideas.

If these 3 films are any indication, CTFF will have another line-up with meaningfully diverse representation of identities, content and film. If you can’t make it to Toronto in September to attend the festival, here’s hoping you can find some of these films online or in your town! Hope to see some of you there!

Tags: art, queer, review, sexuality, violence