The Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival is back for its 26th edition and it’s always one of my most anticipated events of the year.  As a lover of film and a member of the LGBT community myself, I look forward to seeing the newest and best of gay cinema from around the world.  To help narrow down the offerings, here are my Top 5 picks that I recommend catching at this year’s event.  Each of these resonated with me for a variety of reasons and are all guaranteed to be enjoyable crowd-pleasers.

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Holding the Man
Based on the best-selling memoir by Timothy Conigrave, this Australian love story became a symbol of the struggles faced by the gay community between the 1970s and 1990s, in particular with the AIDS crisis.  It humanized people who faced oppression and misunderstanding in every aspect of their lives.  At its core is a universal story of devotion and commitment that allowed people outside this world to understand that gay people were just like everybody else.  The film adaptation beautifully captures the essence of this story and transports the viewer through a journey of joy and happiness, sadness and sorrow.  The film is an incredibly emotional experience through one of the community’s most tragic times and is surely destined to become a classic of gay cinema. MORE INFORMATION

Strike a Pose
I caught this film at this year’s Hot Docs Film Festival and I fell in love with it the moment I saw it.  It became my favourite of the festival immediately.  When I saw that it was going to be part of the lineup at this year’s Inside Out Festival, I knew it had to be on my list of top picks.  It’s an incredibly touching story of self-expression and finding self-acceptance amidst the regrets you face. It’s an emotional journey of healing and redemption that reminds us that even if our lives don’t end up the way we thought they would, we still have purpose and value. MORE INFORMATION

Read our review of Strike a Pose from Hot Docs 2016
Read our interview with the directors of Strike a Pose

strikeapose
Strike a Pose

Closet Monster
This film is one of my personal favourites of the past year.  I originally caught it at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, and watched it again several months ago as part of TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten Festival.  It’s an unusual combination of family and personal drama, body horror lightly reminiscent of David Cronenberg, and magic realism with a talking hamster but somehow it all blends together brilliantly to tell an emotional coming of age story about a teenage boy struggling with his sexuality.  It concludes with a breathtaking climax that will leave you on edge long after it’s over.  It’s been months since I’ve seen it and it still sits strongly in my mind. MORE INFORMATION

Read our review of Closet Monster from TIFF 2015

Other People
Opening this year’s festival, first-time writer/director Chris Kelly has crafted a wonderfully complex and nuanced story about loss, death, and learning what’s really important in life.  In the face of his mother’s terminal cancer, David’s sexuality becomes a catalyst for the family to repair the damage that has been done and bond together in a way they’ve never had before.  Molly Shannon continues to impress in her selection of dramatic roles, Jesse Plemons turns in a complex and nuanced performance as David that gives humanity to the character that is still too rare in gay cinema, and flamboyant young newcomer J.J. Totah continues his rise to stardom stealing every scene he is in.  Using dry humour to counteract the sadness, the film is an emotional journey that has a universality to it that can connect with us all. MORE INFORMATION

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Other People

Same Difference
A damning condemnation of a school district that failed its students, and is continuing to do so, Same Difference is a heartbreaking look at the wave of teenage suicides that hit the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota between 2009 and 2011.  For any LGBT person, young or old, who has ever felt alone and scared or was bullied, this film will leave you devastated and outraged.  It clearly lays out the damage the parents and school officials are inflicting on the students of this community by holding on to their homophobic and close-minded beliefs with all their might.  Denial of the existence of LGBT youths and their problems will not make it go away.  What’s also so wonderful about this film is that it presents clear and concise solutions that work to a problem afflicting many schools around the world. MORE INFORMATION

The 26th Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival runs from Thursday May 26th to Sunday June 5th at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. We will have ongoing film reviews and event coverage in the days to come.

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