Film industry still unfriendly place for LGBT people, says Vancouver Queer Film Festival artistic director

As the Vancouver Queer Film Festival celebrates it's 30th anniversary, the festival's artistic director says there is still more work to be done in terms of providing opportunities for LGBT filmmakers.

Many stories 'still not told by actual queer filmmakers,' says Anoushka Ratnarajah

Yen Tan's 1985, the first film to be shown at the 30th VQFF, looks back to the year Ronald Reagan publicly acknowledged the AIDS crisis for the first time — after it had already killed more than 5,000 people. (Courtesy of Vancouver Queer Film Festival)

The artistic director of  the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, says the film industry still has a long way to go in terms of providing access and opportunities for marginalized people in the business. 

The presence of LGBT actors and storylines in mainstream film has increased in the last decades, with films such as Call Me By Your Name and A Fantastic Woman winning awards and gaining international attention, said Anoushka Ratnarajah 

However, Ratnarajah, who has screened work by LGBT filmmakers since the festival's inception nearly 30 years ago, said the industry is still an unfriendly place for LGBT people.

"Unfortunately a lot of those stories are still not told by actual queer filmmakers,"  Ratnarajah​ told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's  The Early Edition.

"Queer, trans and two-spirit actors, like filmmakers, directors and scriptwriters, have very little access to opportunities to perform. When they are given parts they're often put in these tokenizing roles that don't explore the full nuance of who we are as people."

The festival was formerly known as the Vancouver Lesbian Film Festival.

A program from the festival's inaugural event in 1989 promoted it as a place to "examine race and class issues and recognize how doubly difficult it is for lesbians of colour and working class lesbians to work as filmmakers because of the frustrating inaccessibility of resources."

Ratnarajah said that goal rings true today.

"Film is traditionally quite an inaccessible art medium," she says. "It's very expensive. Marginalized people like women, queer people, trans people, people of colour, have often been kept out of the film industry by gatekeepers, mostly straight white men."

And, while LGBT stories are being told in popular movies, there are still filmmakers whose works are being missed by the general public. According to Ratnarajah, this is why the film festival remains vital.

Call Me By Your Name was nominated for four Academy Awards, including best picture. (Mongrel)

"Festivals like ours offer opportunities for artists who don't have as many opportunities to show their films at festivals. A festival showing is really meaningful in the CV of a filmmaker."

The festival runs from Aug. 9 to 19.

With files from The Early Edition

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