Queer as TIFF

Posted by on Sep 11, 2014

With the Toronto International Film Festival TIFF in full swing with a number of gay theme films making the headlines, it’s an opportune time to look back at two seminal Canadian films in the cannon of queer cinema – Outrageous and Winter Kept Us Warm.

Outrageous, directed by Richard Brenner and starring actor/female impersonator Craig Russell, was produced by TIFF founders Henk Van der Kolk and William Marshall and released in 1977. The film explores the relationship between two outcast roommates – Robin Turner, a female impersonator and schizophrenic Liza Conners – and was based on the short story “Making It” by Canadian writer Margaret Gibson, who lived with Russel in the early 1970’s. Outrageous was the first queer film to have a wide North American theatrical release and Craig Russel was awarded the Silver Bear for best actor at the Berlinale in 1978.

Winter Kept Us Warm, a ground breaking film by David Secter, was shot in 1965 at the University of Toronto.   In the film, two young freshmen explore their unrequited, and un-named attraction for each and eventually fall in love.  The romance and queer theme was covert; nevertheless Secter faced resistance from campus authorities when he sought permission to shoot on the University College property.  The film was released in 1966 to international acclaim and was the first Canadian English language film to be screened at Cannes.  David Cronenburg, Secter’s UofT classmate, cites in his autobiography that it was Winter Kept Us Warm, which sparked his interest to create films.

Short docs about Outrageous and Winter Kept Us Warm are included in the free Queerstory locative history app which maps over 30 locations in Toronto.


TIFF runs till September 14th. A selection of queer themed films at this years fest include:

The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as brilliant Cambridge mathematician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing, who spearheaded the Enigma code-breaking operation during World War II and was later persecuted by the British government for his homosexuality.

In 1984 Britain, a ragtag band of activists from London’s queer community form an unlikely, anti-Thatcherite alliance with striking Welsh miners, in this hilarious and inspirational comedy-drama.

Do I Sound Gay
Director David Thorpe and columnist Dan Savage discuss Thorpe’s frank and funny documentary about the cultural history of the gay voice.

Cut Snake
The past catches up with an ex-con who has rebuilt his life in a small town, in this incendiary noir drama by Australian director Tony Ayres.

Billy, a middle-aged disabled man, is a classical music lover and well-liked Value Village worker who longs for intimacy. Director Martin Edralin creates an honest portrait of a quest for human connection.

Stories of our Lives
Created by the members of a Nairobi-based arts collective — who have removed their names from the film for fear of reprisal — this anthology film that dramatizes true-life stories from Kenya’s oppressed LGBTQ community is both a labour of love and a bold act of militancy.

The hotly anticipated new film from Québécois wunderkind Xavier Dolan shared the Special Jury Prize at Cannes.