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Previewing the Inside Out Film Festival

May 22, 2014

By John Corrado

The Way He Looks Poster

A showcase for the best of LGBT cinema, the 24th edition of Inside Out launches tonight with the Canadian premiere of the beautiful Brazilian romance The Way He Looks, fresh off of winning the Teddy Award for Best Feature at the Berlin Film Festival.

Throughout the next eleven days, Inside Out will premiere such high profile films as Ryan Murphy’s highly anticipated HBO drama The Normal Heart with Mark Ruffalo, as well as the French comedy Me, Myself and Mum which recently won Best Picture at the César Awards.

The Sundance hit Love is Strange starring Alfred Molina and Jon Lithgow will also be playing as a Centrepiece Gala, and the festival will culminate on June 1st with the Australian film 52 Tuesdays.

The powerful and important documentary The Case Against 8 is also making another stop in Toronto after premiering at Hot Docs last month where I reviewed the film, with a special screening next Friday evening.

Below are my capsule reviews of four other documentaries and two narrative films that are playing at the festival, including the opening night selection, and you can find the complete schedule and get tickets right here.  Enjoy!

The Way He Looks: Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) has been blind since birth, navigating through high school with his best friend Giovana (Tess Amorim) always by his side.  But their friendship changes when Gabriel (Fabio Audi) joins their class, and Leonardo finds himself developing deeper feelings for this charming new boy who immediately takes him under his wing.  This leads to jealousy between the teenage friends, as Leo struggles to reveal his true feelings for Gabriel.  Directed by Daniel Ribeiro, The Way He Looks is one of the most tender and touching high school romances in recent memory, providing a beautifully acted and deeply relatable look at self discovery and the search for independence.  With gorgeous cinematography and some great uses of music, this is something truly special.

Thursday, May 22nd – 8:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine: Matthew Shepard had just moved to Wyoming to study in the fall of 1998, when he was brutally beaten by two homophobes who dragged him into a field and left him to die, a hate crime that attracted the attention of people across the world.  Directed by his former classmate Michele Josue, Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine uses a mix of archival footage and interviews with his parents as well as other close friends to create an intimate time capsule of his tragically short life.  The result is a powerful portrait of Matt Shepard as the caring young man that he clearly was, a disturbing account of his brutal murder and the ensuing trial, and a moving reassurance of the profound meaning that his life continues to have.

Saturday, May 24th – 1:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Kidnapped for Christ: When young Christian filmmaker Kate Logan found herself in the Dominican Republic, she was granted access to film at Escuela Caribe, an evangelical school offering behavioural modification programs for American students.  But what she discovered was a place where teenagers are taken against their will, some of them struggling with mental health issues and others who are being reprimanded for their sexual orientation, who are forced to comply through degrading rituals and even physical abuse.  Among them is David, a gay teen from Colorado who was literally dragged to the school and is being forced to stay, even as he reaches eighteen.  Both fascinating and disturbing, Kidnapped for Christ is a searing documentary that provides a fearless look at the abuse that takes place behind the walls of these residential programs.

Sunday, May 25th – 2:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Last Summer: Luke (Samuel Pettit) and Jonah (Sean Rose) have been together throughout high school, but Jonah plans on leaving for college in a few weeks, and this might be the last summer that they have together.  We watch as they spend quiet and sleepy summer days cuddling in bed, and taking walks through their small Arkansas town, and in the wrong hands this could have felt mundane.  But director Mark Thiedeman films these characters through an artistic and compassionate lens, and Last Summer is a naturalistic film that finds beauty in everyday moments, with the painterly cinematography matched by poetic narration.

Tuesday, May 27th – 7:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

The Dog: After holding up a bank to try and fund his partner’s sex change operation, John Wojtowicz became a celebrity in his own right, and was unforgettably portrayed by Al Pacino in the 1975 classic Dog Day Afternoon.  Through interviews with the man himself and those closest to him, The Dog documents the events around that fateful day in New York, from his spot at the forefront of the gay rights movement, to the aftermath of his attempted robbery that became the point of media fixation.  Directors Allison Berg and François Keraudren have put together a remarkable account of this fascinating true story, and The Dog is a compelling and entertaining documentary that packs a surprising emotional punch.

Saturday, May 31st – 4:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

American Vagabond: When James Temple and his boyfriend Tyler leave their small town for a brighter future in San Francisco, the two runaways find themselves homeless and struggling to find work.  But James is faced with even greater challenges when they return home.  At 85 minutes, American Vagabond is sometimes slow moving and takes a little while to find its focus, aside from just being a vérité portrait of life on the street.  But the film is more engaging when things take a different turn in the last act, becoming a somewhat affective portrait of characters who keep being denied their own piece of the American Dream.

Sunday, June 1st – 2:45 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

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