Whitehorse is queer friendly.
“So there’s never been the need for any queer activism and being really out there,” said Fiona Griffin.
There’s no annual gay parade, no gay bars.
“And I had been thinking for awhile of what to do to bring the gay community together,” she said.
So when Griffin pitched a queer film festival to Debbie Thomas over beer in November, she jumped at the chance.
“Whitehorse is a great place for anyone to live because anyone can do anything here,” said Thomas.
This wasn’t the case in Vancouver, where Griffin used to live.
Even on Commercial Drive, Griffin was hassled and faced discrimination because of her sexual preference.
This has never happened in Whitehorse, she said. “The community is so integrated. We’ve had events in the queer community and they just fade again.
“So this festival is something we hope the queer community can take pride in – as a rallying point in terms of showing who we are.”
Thomas and Griffin knew nothing about putting together a film festival.
So they decided to start small.
“We’re only showing four movies and we tried to pick films that would appeal to everybody,” said Thomas.
The two women watched lots of trailers, scanned other festival websites and, after picking four-award winning films, started calling around for the rights to show the movies.
“It was a steep learning curve,” said Thomas. But the distributors were really helpful.
“They thought it was great the films were coming to Whitehorse,” she said. “They loved the idea of a new festival anywhere.”
The four films the women chose all have some queer content, but are also “family friendly and should appeal to anyone who likes quality alternative cinema,” said Thomas.
Cloudburst is Thelma and Louis meets Grumpy Old Men, she said. It features two lesbians in their early 70s, one of whom has a “potty mouth.”
“I was brought back on my heels by this senior citizen with an unabashedly profane mouth,” said Thomas. “It’s hilarious, it will bring the house down.”
Tomboy is a French film about a 10-year-old girl whose family has just moved to a new town. So she decides to pass herself off as a boy for the summer. It’s a glorious season of water fights, swimming and learning to spit.
“But you know it’s going to end badly when she has to start school in the fall,” said Thomas.
Then there’s Gun Hill Road, which “is awesome,” said Griffin.
It’s about a macho Hispanic guy who is released from prison and returns to his family to find nothing’s like he left it. His wife is having an affair and his son is going through a sexual transformation.
“It’s a story about a family divided, but also so much in love,” said Griffin. “It’s painful.”
“But lots of true things in life are painful,” added Thomas.
The final film is Private Romeo about eight military cadets who are left on their own, studying Romeo and Juliet. “And it takes over their lives,” said Thomas.
There will also be three short films each night, plus a special showing Saturday of a short by local artist Celia McBride.
“The local submissions could be anything, as long as they were northern and had some queer connection,” said Thomas.
The film festival, called Out North, is also going to be a party with food and a bar, run by the Yukon Roller Girls.
“We want it to be a safe, friendly environment for people who might be questioning their sexual identity, people who haven’t come out and for straight people to feel welcome,” said Thomas.
Film is a really powerful way of telling stories, she said.
“And people want to see their stories on screen,” added Griffin.
“It validates you,” said Thomas.
Out North runs Saturday and Sunday, March 24 and 25, at the Old Fire Hall. Screenings start at 6 p.m.
Out North is also heading to Dawson City’s Odd Fellows Hall on May 12 and 13.
For a festival schedule visit www.queeryukon.com.
Contact Genesee Keevil at