Arts·Here & Queer

Joseph Amenta imagines a world where queer kids are free in their new film Soft

The Toronto filmmaker wanted to see what their own childhood would've looked like if they'd embraced queerness, and they stopped by Here & Queer to talk about it.

The Toronto filmmaker wanted to see what their own childhood would've looked like if they'd embraced queerness

Joseph Amenta sits down with Peter Knegt on the set of Here & Queer.
Joseph Amenta sits down with Peter Knegt on the set of Here & Queer. (CBC Arts)

Here & Queer is an interview series hosted by Peter Knegt that celebrates and amplifies the work of LGBTQ artists through unfiltered conversations.

With their feature film debut Soft, filmmaker Joseph Amenta wanted to revisit their own childhood.

"I think for a lot of queer people, their childhood is muddled with repression or disassociation," they say. "I wanted to see what that would look like if I wasn't resentful of being queer but wanted to be a part of it."

We had the pleasure of having Amenta stop by the set of Here & Queer to talk about how the film evolved from those roots — and the very real dangers of being a queer youth. You can watch the full episode below:

Soft premiered at last fall's Toronto International Film Festival, and is now available to rent or buy on-demand at home. It's a great film to watch as August winds down: it follows three queer Toronto kids whose friendship is tested over one pivotal summer. 

In Amenta's own life, they spent the summers of their youth growing up in the suburbs outside of Toronto with an immigrant family.

"I didn't really have the same experience with camaraderie at that age [as the characters in the film]," Amenta says. "The discovery and adventure of the city was not something that I knew, but perhaps something I wanted."

"I don't really remember much of my own childhood. As I mentioned, I was just trying to get through it. I think a lot of people are just trying to get through it. So I wanted to rediscover what that would look like by seeing these kids now."

A scene depicting three kids from Joseph Amenta's film Soft.
A scene from Joseph Amenta's Soft. (TIFF)

Amenta says they like to think of the characters in Soft as a group of kids "who know exactly who they are but not how the world works."

"It's this idea right before you understand the way the world works and the dangers within it, where you feel invincible, fearless," they say. "And to revisit that fearlessness, that invincibility, especially when the kids are together, is really the beginnings of this film. It's really focusing on allowing for these characters to fall in love with each other and allowing for the audience to realize that they are connected intrinsically."

Ultimately, Amenta says the story itself is "an amalgamation of their experiences, experiences I've witnessed, experiences from the community that have been shared with me." 

"So it's an amalgamation of a mosaic, which I think is really telling for our community," they say. "It's not just my own story — it's a story that kind of has a piece of all of us. "

Soft is available to rent or buy at home via Apple, Amazon Prime or Cineplex.


Peter Knegt (he/him) is a writer, producer and host for CBC Arts. He writes the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and hosts and produces the talk series Here & Queer. He's also spearheaded the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag, variety special Queer Pride Inside, and interactive projects Superqueeroes and The 2010s: The Decade Canadian Artists Stopped Saying Sorry. Collectively, these projects have won Knegt four Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films, the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights and the host of the monthly film series Queer Cinema Club at Toronto's Paradise Theatre. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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