Watch out, Regina — John Waters is coming to town

The city's Queer City Cinema is turning 25 this week, and they're celebrating with an especially special guest of honour.

The city's queer film and art festival is turning 25 with a very special guest of honour

The legendary John Waters will be visiting Regina for the first time as part of Queer City Cinema's 25th anniversary celebrations. (Greg Gorman)

Regina is about to get campy, filthy and dirty in the best possible way. Kicking off today and running until June 24th, Saskatchewan's capital city will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of Queer City Cinema, the city's annual celebration of LGBTQ film and performance art. And they're theming it around a most fabulous guest of honour: filmmaker and author John Waters, who will be making his maiden voyage to Regina next week.

"I've never been there, so I'm looking forward to it," Waters tells CBC Arts over the phone. "I did go to...where's Guy Maddin from? Oh! Winnipeg. I went there. But this is...even colder? No, but I'm really excited about it. I love going places I haven't been."

Waters has been to Canada more generally, of course.

"Well, they made [the musical adaptation of] Hairspray in Toronto, and it did look exactly Baltimore, which shocked me," he says. "And I've been to the Toronto Film Festival lots of times. I've presented movies there. And I've done my Christmas show in many cities in Canada. I mean, I'm not Glenn Gould. But I love him — he's my favourite Canadian."

Where's Guy Maddin from? Oh! Winnipeg. I went there. But this is...even colder?- John Waters on Regina

Waters will soon be able to add Regina to that list, inching him slightly closer to Glenn Gould levels of Canadianness. He's giving a 90-minute talk in the city on June 24 at Westminster United Church, followed by a VIP reception and book signing. It's part of a 10-day project entitled "Camp, Trash, Filth: John Waters Visits Regina" which includes many screenings of Waters work at the Regina Public Library Film Theatre, as well as special guests like Canadian filmmaker Bruce LaBruce and Canadian performance artists Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Milan — who, according to Gary Varro, executive and artistic director of Queer City Cinema, will "celebrate and provide a Canadian and international perspective on the outrageously imaginative themes and characters in Mr. Waters' films."

Director John Waters arrives at the 20th annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party in West Hollywood, California. (Gus Ruelas/Reuters)

"'Camp, Trash, Filth' is a unique extension of Queer City Cinema Film Festival itself, with a rare opportunity to present John Waters and other artists to Regina audiences and the Canadian film and performance art communities," Varro explains. "John's lecture will provide an extraordinary occasion for the Canadian film communities to hear one of film's most original and consistent visionaries and to gather insights into how non-mainstream unconventional artists test boundaries and social acceptability. Mr. Waters' visit and lecture sets the tone for the other components of this project which are meant to create a forum for an exchange of ideas and to appreciate provocative, playful and challenging Canadian independent film and performance."

Queer City Cinema began in 1996 as a biennial film and video festival, and over the years that followed, it evolved to program both film and performance art and now presents one festival annually. It's clearly a cornerstone of Regina's queer community, which John Waters predicts will not differ much from anywhere else he presents work.

I never trust people who say, 'Oh, I don't care if people like my work.' Well, somebody's gotta like it, besides your mother. And if your mother likes it, usually it's bad.- John Waters

"I could be in Paris or Arkansas, and my crowd looks the same," he says. "They look great! The girls have Bettie Page bangs, the boys have tattoos. There's all types — even lots of straight people that are really funny and crazy. I have a really great mix of an audience and they get younger as I get older, which is the most flattering thing that could happen."

While it remains to be seen whether Regina's attendees will fulfill Waters' expectations, he does offer some insight on what they can expect from his talk.

"It's a mental health show about how to triumph and be crazy and not give up what you want to do," he says. "How to get ahead. It's about crime, it's about fashion, it's about politics, it's about movies, it's even about religion."

John Waters' new book Make Trouble. (Algonquin Books)

The talk is tied into his latest book Make Trouble, a very Waters-ian call to arms for young people trying to pursue their dreams.

"I never trust people who say, 'Oh, I don't care if people like my work.' Well, somebody's gotta like it, besides your mother. And if your mother likes it, usually it's bad. So I think you have to be a little fearless and you have to obsessed and you have to think that you're never gonna not make it. When people say to me, 'How do I become a film director?' I say, 'Well, you won't be. Because I never asked anybody — I just kept trying to do it.'"

Camp, Trash, Filth: John Waters Visits Regina. Queer City Cinema. June 14-24. Regina.


Peter Knegt (he/him) has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and spearheading the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag, variety special Queer Pride Inside, and interactive projects Superqueeroes and The 2020s: 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 and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.


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