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Edmonton International Film Festival is understated and rich with queer content

Edmonton International Film Festival is understated and rich with queer content

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23rd annual film fest screens the best of international and local work
As the buzz and gossip coming out of this year's Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has died down, what is a prairie-locked, queer cinephile to do?

Hot off the heels of Toronto's mega film festival is the ever-growing, down-to-earth Edmonton International Film Festival (EIFF). Steeped in plucky can-do spirit and without the slickness of TIFF, Edmonton's film fest is a study in understatement. In the celebrity-driven pop culture world, EIFF is kind of queer.

"Really, we are about the filmmakers. We want the people who are working it in the trenches, those not interested in glitz and glamour," explains Kerrie Long, EIFF producer. This approach suits Edmontonians, who are often shy at trying new things, says Long. "They are not always sure if a new film by Pedro Almodovar is going to be worth seeing."

Almodovar's newest film Broken Embraces is just one of the world-class films that will be projecting onto Edmonton screens during the nine-day festival — now in its 23rd year. Among the selections is a healthy dose of queer content, including the documentary Outrage, which condemns the hypocrisy of closeted politicians who actively campaign against queer communities.

Long and EIFF programmer Guy Lavallee picked this year's films with an eye for thought-provoking content. Long mixes queer films with non-queer films in the popular Our Own Backyard packages that bring together the best of made-in-Alberta film for hometown audiences.

This year's features include Ryan Halun's On The Way To The Videostore and Josh Rimer's Not My Type. Both are gay filmmakers originally from small towns in Alberta and both received funds from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. They're excited that their work will reach beyond queer audiences as part of EIFF.

Rimer's short film, which will premiere at EIFF, follows a guy coming to terms with his sexuality through a series of relationships. "When I applied for money to make the film I wanted to create something to be seen by non-gay Alberta audiences," says Rimer.

Halun's film, On The Way To The Videostore, tells the story of a young bear who runs into his favourite porn star one day. The cub almost loses hope after his many failed attempts to sleep with the star.

"For most of society my life seems pornographic and may even view my film that way, but for me I don't find it pornographic," says Halun. "I could show the film to my niece."

The diversity of stories and opinions is part of the EIFF experience, says Long. Unlike previous years when screenings were scattered throughout central Edmonton, all of this year's films will be hosted at the downtown Empire Theatres. The nearby 100 Bar + Kitchen will act as schmooze central for after-film discussions.

So while there may be no A-list stars or daily Globe and Mail coverage, EIFF does promise to deliver on conversation. "Films cause discussions," laughs Long. "Whether you are straight or not, what a better way to learn to learn than through stories."
Buy tickets to the screening of Halun and Rimer's films.

For more info on EIFF go to Edmontonfilmfest.com.

Learn more about Josh Rimer at
Joshrimer.com.

Read about Ryan Halun's adventures in filmmaking at
Vueweekly.com/article.php?id=13149.
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