What should be included in Canada's online archive of queer film?

A new online database wants to take Canada's LGBTQ cinema out of the archives and onto accessible screens, whether in someone's living room or part of a community event. And they want your help to push it further.

The database's organizers want you to tell them

A still from Stanley Jackson's 1963 film Cornet at Night, included in the database. (QMDCQ)

Imagine iMDB if it were exclusively cataloguing Canadian LGBTQ film and video, the people who made it and the institutions that support them. The Queer Media Database Canada-Québec Project is an extensive and interactive online database of those very things — though there's more to it than that.

Since launching last June with a screening series at Toronto's Buddies In Bad Times theatre, QMDCQ has toured Canada with programmes of films found in the database. In October, for example, they headed to both Edmonton and Winnipeg with a programme called "Take It All: Groundbreaking Canadian Queer Films."

The following month, they teamed up with Montreal's Image+Nation Film Festival to present a programme of 18 short films and clips from between 1966 and 2009 that dealt with the relationship between policing and Canadian LGBTQ communities. All of the events were free.

The QMDCQ's essential mission is to take Canada's LGBTQ cinema out of the archives and onto accessible screens, whether in someone's living room or part of a community event. But as the database heads into its second year of existence, it needs your help.

A still from Wayne Yung's 1999 film Search Engine, included in the database. (QMDCQ)

Thomas Waugh's 2006 study of Canadian LGBTQ film and video The Romance of Transgression initially formed the backbone of the database. Waugh's years of research alone make the database an incredible tool for researchers, students, curators, academics, critics or those simply interested in the history. It currently contains some 402 artists and 1250 moving image works. But Jordan Arseneault, the database's project co-ordinator, knows it's not as inclusive as it could be.

"We know we have overlooked some makers and works that are considered fundamental," Arseneault said. "There are missing parts whenever you make any kind of archive."

His solution? Take it to the people. On Jan. 28, he'll be teaming with Western University research creator Patricia Ciccone to host "PUMPing Up the (data)Base: Who + What is Missing from the Queer Archive," a salon inspired by Wikipedia's edit-a-thons. Held at Toronto cinema and performance lab videofag, Arseneault and Ciccone invite anyone interested to come by and help brainstrorm where to take QMDCQ in 2016. 

A still from Nickolaos Stagias' 2015 film Drag on a Fag, included in the database. (QMDCQ)

"We want to have an intimate and friendly evening to hear about who are your treasured artists,"  Arseneault said. "We know ours, but we don't necessarily know yours."

The salon will also feature what Arseneault calls a "Vimeo party," in which attendees are encouraged to share links in a sort of cinematic show and tell. And keep in mind when considering your options that the QMDCQ's definition of "film and video" is as open as you want it to be. As Arseneault lists off: "Experimental, documentary, hybrid, actvist, sexy, crazy, sardonic, offensive..." 

Arseneault encourages anyone who can't attend the salon to head to the website and submit their suggestions.

"There is a Canadian queer canon, and we want to see who is interested in hacking that canon with us," he said.

PUMPing Up the (data)Base: Who + What is Missing from the Queer Archive. Thu, Jan. 28. videofag, 187 Augusta Av., Toronto. 7:30pm.


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