Th2 2023 Toronto International Film Festival screened many-a-queer films that ranged from an absurd musical about long lost identical twins to a hyper-focused cheerleader who strives for perfection, TIFF served lots of LGBTQ narratives. Leading the charge was A24’s Dicks: The Musical… a movie that is self-explanatory.
Directed by Borat‘s Larry Charles and written by and starring Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp, the film is A24’s first movie musical and is based on their off-Broadway musical Fucking Identical Twins. Featuring Bowen Yang, Megan Thee Stallion, Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally, and breakout stars The Sewer Boys, the film takes The Parent Trap concept and makes it the most deranged and delightfully inappropriate journey. After premiering at the fest, the film instantly drew valid comparisons to John Waters fare and won TIFF’s People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award.
Carlos López Estrada and Zac Manuel‘s Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero gave us a snapshot of the rapper’s life as he goes on the titular tour. With Lil Nas X in the audience, the documentary made its world premiere at the fest to a strong ovation as the film showed that the rapper is just living his best life while exploring who he wants to be.
Taika Waititi‘s Next Goal Wins, which is based on the true underdog story of the American Samoa soccer team, made its world premiere at TIFF. The film details the team’s attempt to make the World Cup after their well-publicized 31-0 loss in 2002.
In particular, there is a storyline following Jaiyah Saelua, the first trans person to compete in a World Cup game. Played by non-binary Kaimana, the movie gives a deserving spotlight on the real-life athlete and the fa’afafine culture in Polynesian society.
Colman Domingo was easily the MVP of TIFF. The Emmy-winning actor was honored with the TIFF Tribute Performer Award and was there to support the film Sing Sing directed by Greg Kwedar.
The film follows a theatre troupe that finds escape from the realities of incarceration through the creativity of putting on a play. Based on the real-life arts rehabilitation program founded at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, the movie includes real-life performers from the program — and it was recently acquired by A24.
Domingo shines in Sing Sing as he does in Netflix’s Rustin, which also debuted at the fest. Unfortunately, Domingo was not able to do press for Rustin because of the strike — but that doesn’t mean he didn’t do a spectacular job playing the titular civil rights and queer icon Bayard Rustin, who was the driving force of the historic March on Washington.
Elliot Page tells what seems like a very personal story in the Close To You directed by Dominic Savage. Page plays Sam, who apprehensively attends a family reunion. His parents and siblings have become estranged since his transition and the reunion turns into a raw, emotional journey. All the while, he also reunites with an old friend (Hillary Baack) that may or may not turn into something.
Non-binary music video director DW Waterson made their feature film debut with the intense sports drama Backspot (which is also executive produced by Elliot Page). Devery Jacobs delivers a incredibly committed performance as a wildly ambitious cheerleader who navigates pressure when she and her girlfriend (Kudakwashe Rutendo) are both selected for an elite cheer squad coached by a no-nonsense power lesbian played by Evan Rachel Wood.
Filmmaker Fawzia Mirza made her feature directorial debut with The Queen of My Dreams, a queer Muslim fronted narrative which stars Sex Lives of College Girls actress Amrit Kaur.
Also starring Nimra Bucha, Hamza Haq, Ayana Manji, and Gul-e-Rana, The Queen of My Dreams is stylistic multigenerational coming-of-age film that beautifully blends Pakistani culture within its narrative. As the film flashes back and forth with Bollywood flair, we see this heartfelt, touching mother-daughter story.
In Jen Markowitz documentary Summer Qamp, we are introduced to Camp fYrefly in rural Alberta. The camp is for queer, non-binary, and trans teens and provides them a supportive space to be kids.
The docu made its world premiere at TIFF and followed an endearing group of queer kids at Camp fYrefly, as they tell us their stories about exploring who they are freely.
Where was this when I was a kid? We need more Camp fYreflys.
Finn Wolfhard and Billy Bryk give us a different kind of camp with Hell of a Summer.
The slasher pic is reminiscent of classic horror movies that are set in cabin in the woods — but with just the right amount of comedy. Wolfhard and Bryk also star in the pic opposite Fred Hechinger, Abby Quinn, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, and Pardis Saremi. Special shout out to Matthew Finlan who fully embodies the role of “hella extra theater kid at camp”.
Sophie Dupuis tells a beautiful — and a little bit tragic romance in Solo. Actor Théodore Pellerin is incredible to watch in this story about Simon, an up and coming Montreal drag queen who develops a romance and double act with Olivier (Félix Maritaud). Simon tries to balance this with trying to reconcile his relationship with his estranged mother (Anne-Marie Cadieux). The results are a little messy.
Other prominent queer films at TIFF included Sally El Hosaini and James Krishna Floyd’s Unicorns, which follows an unlikely romance between blue collar guy (Ben Hardy) and a drag queen (Jason Patel) as well as Netflix’s awards season fodder Nyad starring Annette Bening as the titular athlete Diana Nyad.
In addition to films solely focusing on queer narratives, there were other films that included LGBTQ characters that were part of many films — and they weren’t just window dressing. This includes Ava DuVernay‘s Origin which features actor Leonardo Nam opposite the film’s star, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, who talked openly about her bisexuality while doing press for King Richard.
The Critic stars Sir Ian McKellen as a theater critic who goes toe-to-toe with a theater actress played by Gemma Arterton while a queer ballerina is part of the Chelsea McMullan-directed documentary Swan Song which spotlights the National Ballet of Canada’s 2022 production of Swan Lake. In addition, Sterling K. Brown plays Jeffrey Wright‘s fresh-out-of-the-closet gay brother in Cord Jefferson‘s American Fiction based on Percival Everett’s Erasure — a hyper-relevant satire about capitalizing off of creative voices from intentionally exploited communities.
Other queer films that screened at TIFF include Molly Manning Walker’s How to Have Sex, Héléna Klotz’s Spirit of Ecstasy, M. H. Murray I Don’t Know Who You Are, and Katalin Moldovai’s Without Air.