Friday, June 28, 2013

Stephen Harper's Conservatives take away victims' rights by passing pro-hate speech bill

While few were looking, Stephen Harper's Conservatives have succeeded in using the weaselly option of a backbencher's private member's bill to quietly gut the Canadian Human Rights Act to remove victims' rights to fight back against hate speech in Canada.

A no-name Tory MP's private member's bill passed the Senate this week and received Royal Assent. When the bill is fully implemented within a year, Section 13 of Canadian human rights law that permitted rights complaints to the federal Human Rights Commission for “the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet” will be history.

Now victims of hate speech over the internet or over the phone will have no recourse except to wait for police forces with little or no hate crime budgets to go after hate mongers in Canada. And even then charges can't be laid until Attorneys General give approval, which usually dissuades police from seriously pursuing the criminals.

Anti-hate provisions in the Human Rights Act empowered victims to fight back for themselves against the bigots. Those guilty were frequently found guilty, unlike in the criminal courts where convictions have been much more difficult to achieve.

By taking away this option for victims under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and at the same time ignoring the demand that police themselves should be given the ability to lay hate speech charges instead of relying on Attorneys General, the Conservatives have shown their true priorities.

Conservatives are siding with the bigots.

By passing this bill, the Conservatives have taken away victims' rights and made it easier to get away with (hate) crime in Canada. Yes, you read that correctly. It's shameful.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

2nd Toronto Pride Week LGBT Short Film Festival launches Monday

After a very successful inaugural run in 2012, I'm very proud to be organizing the Canadian Media Guild's 2nd Toronto Pride Week LGBT Short Film Festival, which starts tomorrow. I've been working with other CMG volunteers to select a collection of great recent short films with LGBT themes, contact filmmakers or distributors to arrange to receive screening copies and working with CBC colleagues to make it happen. Again, it's been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.

The festival highlights a number of excellent short films from recent years, including some award winners. The diverse 107-minute program will play continuously on a DVD loop in the Graham Spry Theatre in Toronto between 9 am and 9 pm from Monday June 24th to Friday June 28th (with an extra screening on Saturday June 29th from 12 pm to 5 pm.) The theatre is located near the Wellington Street entrance of the CBC Broadcast Centre.

And most important: ADMISSION IS FREE!


Monday, June 24, 2013 to Friday, June 28, 2013 from 9 am to 9 pm.

Saturday, June 29, 2013 from 12 pm to 5 pm.

Graham Spry Theatre, 1st floor of the CBC Broadcasting Centre

250 Front St. W., Toronto, Ontario

If you are in the Toronto area this week and want to check out some great LGBT short films, please consider dropping by!

Here's our Facebook event page for more information on the films selected.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Inside Out film festival wraps: My favourite flicks this year.

The 23rd Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival wraps today. I've been a patron of the festival since I moved to Toronto in the 1990s. This year was a great success on many fronts with many good films getting a Toronto or Canadian premiere.

I took in seven programs which included a handful of short films and five new feature films. I missed the opening night feature, 'In the Name of,' and also the Centrepiece gala feature, 'Pit Stop,' due to schedule conflicts and the steep price for tickets. I'll get a chance to see both in the future, I'm sure.

But here's my take on what I did see:

My favourite feature film in the festival: 'The Go Doc Project,' by director Cory James Krueckeberg. This mockumentary about a cute, young New Yorker who concocts his own fake documentary film to get closer to the object of his obsession, a hot go-go boy, charmed me with its technical ingenuity and solid story telling, not to mention the charming and surprising love story between the boys. The title is a play on the two lead characters' names, Go, the go-go boy, and Doc, the socially awkward soon-to-be college graduate. The two lead actors, Tanner Cohen and Matthew Camp (who is a real life go-go boy), are adorable and deliver surprisingly decent performances. The film is by the same team who brought us the wonderful 'Were the World Mine' a few years back, which also starred Cohen.

For an independent gay feature, 'The Go Doc Project' delivers everything one wants: cute boys, an engaging love story and beautiful imagery, including a very hot sex scene and much nudity (see the hot pic on the right). It was shot entirely using low-end cameras by the actors themselves, but still looked terrific! I especially loved the long montage of the boys kissing in several famous NYC locations, obviously filmed in guerrilla style and probably without the usual permits. This sends a delightful message to other independent queer filmmakers: get a good concept, hire some talented and adorable leads and you can make a hit film for pennies compared to Hollywood's big budgets and still find an audience. You can find out more about the film here.

I also saw and loved director Alan Brown's latest 'Five Dances.' (pictured below). It's a close second place in my estimation of the features I saw this past week.

This film concerns a young man, played by Ryan Steele, with zero support from his family struggling to make it as a dancer in New York City. Not out of the closet, he gets hired to take part in a five-person show where he meets a fellow male dancer with whom he begins a hot affair. It, too, was remarkably romantic and sweet, themes I definitely noticed in several films at Inside Out this year.

I saw and enjoyed the German feature 'Free Fall,' about a cop trainee who falls in love with another gay man on the force despite having a pregnant wife. The two male leads were exceedingly easy on the eyes, and the story was compelling if not overly original. Also interesting was the Spanish film, 'Animals,' about a troubled 17-year-old boy who can't seem to let go of his childhood fears. The Donnie Darko ripoff was beautifully shot and well-acted, but left me confused and disappointed. Perhaps my own need to see troubled characters find some kind of redemption or resolution is clouding my feelings about this interesting failure of a film. But I can't say that I recommend it.

I also finally got to see James Franco's hybrid drama-documentary 'Interior. Leather Bar,' (pictured.) Written and co-directed by Travis Mathews, it was a fascinating experiment that explored issues around homophobia in general, and in Hollywood in particular, using the re-enactment of 40 minutes of censored footage from William Friedkin's 1980 homophobic classic 'Cruising' as a launching pad. Franco's film isn't so much concerned with actually re-enacting the missing footage that was apparently cut from 'Cruising' because it was too risque. Instead, Franco and Mathews are more concerned with emphasizing the anxieties of their recruited group of handsome, mostly-straight actors, led by sexy Val Lauren (playing the Al Pacino character), about playing it gay in a film containing explicit gay sex. Some of the scenes in the film were apparently scripted, others completely improvised. In one key scene between Lauren and Franco, the director explains that he's trying, with this project, to turn around the despicable homophobia on display in the original 'Cruising' into something that is instead "beautiful" and positive. On that score, Franco and Mathews largely succeed. The result is an interesting statement and wonderful antidote to the original film which inspired it. Although I'm sure this film won't be to everyone's liking.

I also saw a number of short films which impressed me. 'For Dorian' by Toronto director Rodrigo Barriuso, about a single father who discovers that his adolescent, developmentally-disabled son is gay, was unbelievably beautiful. Director Alyssa Pankiw's 'Her With Me', about a young lesbian who picks up a Hollywood actress, was charming and sexy. F-T-M director Chase Joynt's 'I'm Yours' featuring himself and M-T-F transsexual activist Nina Arsenault answering a series of identical, personal questions was fascinating and illuminating. Director Ryan Levey's moving short 'The Closest Thing To Heaven' about an older gay man's reminiscing about his late partner was stellar and beautifully told. And Toronto director Steven Bereznai's 'Let's Get Soaking Wet' was a delightful exploration of gay male anxieties around participating in group sports, something I can relate to. I'm hoping to program all of these shorts into the Canadian Media Guild's 2nd annual Pride Week LGBT Short Film Festival later this month. Stay tuned for more on that soon!