This year’s Out North Film Festival takes a transgender focus

Fiona Griffin and Debbie Thomas never set out to beat any kind of drum when they organized the Yukon's first queer film festival in 2012. "We don't have a political mandate or anything like that," Thomas said.

Fiona Griffin and Debbie Thomas never set out to beat any kind of drum when they organized the Yukon’s first queer film festival in 2012.

“We don’t have a political mandate or anything like that,” Thomas said.

“We’re all about screening excellent films that no one else is showing. We just have an appreciation for good filmmaking and good stories.”

This year marks the fifth anniversary for the Out North Film Festival, the only one of its kind North of 60.

And like they say on their website, who’d have guessed?

Sitting in a downtown cafe, both Griffin and Thomas are proudly wearing their festival T-shirts, adorned with a bright pink porcupine.

Every year the festival logo is a different northern animal. In the past it’s been a moose, a beaver, a wolf and a raven.

A few years ago the venue for the festival moved to the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, which has more seating capacity and a better sound system than its predecessor, the Old Fire Hall.

The organizers are hoping to attract a larger audience and a broader demographic this year, they say.

To do so, they’ve picked (albeit somewhat reluctantly) more mainstream films than they normally would.

Among the Hollywood hits screening this year is Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, a film about a forbidden love affair between two women set in the 1950s.

“It’s unusual for us to have such high-profile films in our lineup,” Griffin said.

“We’re a bit edgy about moving towards more mainstream films because as a queer film festival, I like to support indie queer filmmakers.”

“And that’s basically our mandate,” Thomas added.

Through no planning of their own, three of this year’s six feature films have a transgender storyline.

That includes The Danish Girl, a film loosely based on the lives of two Danish painters, one of whom underwent one of the first sex change surgeries.

Alicia Vikander received this year’s Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the film.

The New Girlfriend, a French film, “tackles transitioning from a two-sided perspective,” Thomas said.

“It has brilliant acting and cinematography, and it shows a lot of gender fluidity from both characters,” she added.

There’s also A Womb of Their Own, a film described as “six articulate, charismatic and diverse masculine-identified people who discuss their pregnancies and chest-feeding experiences, demonstrating the non-binary nature of gender.”

Over the years, the organizers have been lucky. Some distributors have basically donated the screening fees for certain films. Others have been more expensive, they say.

But funding from the Royal Bank of Canada and the Government of Yukon Arts Fund has helped a lot, they added.

“We have a lot of community support from local businesses, non-profits and individuals,” Griffin said.

For the first time this year, the festival features a contest for youth.

Griffin and Thomas approached schools and youth groups around the territory to encourage students to put together a film of their own, using smartphones and tablets.

The only stipulation was that it had to be under five minutes in length and feature the Out North logo.

The winning film will be screened during the festival, with the winner receiving a brand new iPad and a $200 donation towards their school or youth group.

“We’ve had a lot of interest so far, so it’ll be interesting to see what we get,” Thomas said.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, March 25. Full contest details are available at

The Out North Film Festival runs from Friday, April 15 until Sunday, April 17.

Tickets are only available at the door.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, has an address-to-riding tool

Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read