What’s on at this year’s image+nation

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Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami

When image + nation began 30 years ago, it was almost undeniably seen as impossibly niche. Montreal’s LGBTQ film festival was among the first wave of such festivals in the world, but if you think it’s still catering to niche interests, consider this: its opening film this year is one of the most buzzed-about of 2017 and one of the few clear frontrunners for the awards race.

image+nation kicks off tonight with a screening of Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name. The film stars Timothée Chalamet as a teenager spending the summer with his family in France when he falls in love with an older man played by Armie Hammer.

Though Call Me By Your Name’s awards pedigree remains to be determined, image+nation features many other award winners on its program. Elizabeth Rohrbaugh and Daniel Powell’s Becks took top honours this year at the Los Angeles Film Festival; it stars Tony winner Lena Hall and Mena Suvari. Darren Thornton’s A Date for Mad Mary similarly took top prizes at the Irish Film & Television Awards and was considered by many to be one of the best Irish films of recent years. Arshad Khan’s Abu premiered at Fantasia earlier this year and has been making its way through the festival circuit, gathering prizes along the way. John Trengrove’s The Wound is South Africa’s official entry for the Foreign Film Oscar this year and is already attracting controversy for its depiction of traditional circumcision rituals.

Alan Cumming stars in After Louie, a drama about a man who remains consumed with the loss of a friend to AIDS years earlier. The Grace Jones documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami premiered at TIFF to mostly rapturous reviews; the film, directed by Sophie Fiennes, profiles the musical icon up close and personal. The documentary Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution showcases the queercore punk movement that came to prominence in the mid-’80s through interviews with subjects like Genesis P-Orridge, Bruce LaBruce and Lynn Breedlove. The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin profiles the prolific and well-respected gay San Franciscan writer of the same name.

Ernesto Contreras’s I Dream in Another Language premiered at Sundance earlier this year. It’s the story of a young linguist and a teacher who attempt to document a conversation between the only two living people who speak the Zikril language. Shaz Bennett’s Alaska Is a Drag is being billed as a drag/boxing coming-of-age (!) set in Alaska; Margaret Cho and Jason Scott Lee (!!) appear in supporting roles. In a similar vein, Signature Move pairs coming-of-age romance with Lucha wrestling (!) in Chicago’s vibrant immigrant communities. If you missed Marcelo Caetano’s Body Electric at FNC, image+nation gives you a chance to catch up!

There’s a lot more beating-people-up content than LGBTQ content in David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde, admittedly, but it’s the rare action blockbuster that deals with these issues. Its theatrical release has come and gone, but it’s part of a smattering of retrospective screenings (if you can call it that, since it came out a few months ago) that also include James Ivory’s Maurice and the pioneering 2001 indie comedy By Hook or by Crook, which screened at image+nation upon its initial release.

Eisha Marjara’s Montreal-shot Venus stars Debargo Sanyal as a transwoman who learns mid-transition that she’s the father of a 14-year-old boy, causing much strife in her traditional Indian family. Pierre-Yves Cardinal and Amber Goldfarb co-star. A hit at both Fantasia and Quebec City’s FCVQ, Tom of Finland is a biopic of the pioneering artist directed by award-winning director Dome Karukoski. There aren’t too many genre films on this year’s slate, but Joe Ahearne’s thriller B&B sounds pretty singular: it’s the story of a gay couple who return to a B&B where they were refused service by the devoutly Christian owner, only to get embroiled in something even messier. Hello Again is a musical adaptation of the classic Ophuls film La ronde, which explores the revolving pattern of people who fall in bed together and how they connect. Martha Plimpton, Rumer Willis, Audra McDonald and Cheyenne Jackson star.

Most of the feature screenings are preceded by at least one short, but there are also short-specific programs. The program titles, for once, completely speak for themselves; they’re split up as Queerment Québec, Mundocourts, Homocourts, Francocourts, Latinxcourts and Lesbocourts. ■

Image+nation runs from Nov 23 to Dec 3.

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