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Inside Out Reviews Part 3

May 26th, 2016     by Michelle Schwartz     Comments

For more than two decades, Inside Out has brought Toronto’s LGBT community together in celebration of the best queer film from Canada and around the world. The Inside Out Film Festival runs from May 26 to June 5. Tickets for all screenings are $11 for students with ID and $10 for youth under 18. Youth under 25 can attend all weekday screenings before 6:00PM for free. Read Part 1 and Part 2 of our series of reviews.

Still from Southwest of Salem, courtesy of Inside Out


Director: Deborah S. Esquenazi

2016, USA, 91 minutes

In 1994 in San Antonio Texas, four young Latina lesbians were charged with aggravated sexual assault on a child. The group of friends was accused of sexually assaulting two young girls, the nieces of one of the four women. Convicted and sentenced to between 15 and 37 years in prison, the women, known as the San Antonio Four, have steadfastly maintained their innocence. This documentary reviews the details of the case, the virulent homophobia in the Texas justice system that led police and prosecutors to use their sexual orientation against the women, and the strange and disturbing currents that ran through the collective consciousness of the United States in the Nineties. The title of the film, Southwest of Salem, is a reference to a finding by the doctor who examined the little girls of evidence of “satanic-related sexual abuse.” Indeed, there were more than a few similarities between the case against the San Antonio Four and the Salem witch trials, including misogyny, male jealousy, and societal panic over the shifting of women’s roles. The film spends a bit too much time dwelling on this sordid aspect of the case when it could have explored the much greater problem of how lesbian, queer, and trans women of colour are so often the victims of persecution by the law. Despite this, the film serves as a painful reminder of what it was like to be gay in North America in the Nineties, and is a perfect showcase for why we must continue to fight against the injustices being perpetrated against LGBTQ people of colour to this day.

Still from Oriented, courtesy of Inside Out


Director: Jake Witzenfeld

2015, UK/Israel, 86 minutes

Oriented profiles three young, gay Palestinian friends living in Tel Aviv during the lead-up to the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. The film works to unseat every possible stereotype, the first and foremost being that gay Palestinians don’t exist, or that they need to be “rescued” by the Israelis. The camera follows the young men, Khader, Fadi, and Naim, as they go to parties, visit their families, argue about politics, and discuss the difficulties of dating Israeli Jews. They describe the conflicts they feel in their own identities—as Arabs they face discrimination in Israel, but they also feel disconnected from fellow Palestinians living in the West Bank or Gaza. Their frustration at the marginalization, injustice, and state violence they see on so many levels in Israel leads them to create Qambuta, a group dedicated to promoting gender and national equality through the creation of videos they share on social media. While the film is structured more like reality TV than a documentary—the dinner party where they decide to form Qambuta, for instance, seems almost staged—there is no doubt to the truth of the experiences of these three men in the world. Oriented is an excellent antidote to the mainstream portrayal of Palestinians in the media as well as a window into the lives of three friends trying to do some good in the world.

Tags: media savvy, politics, queer

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