The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival: art, kweenz, horror, politics and even puppets
by Drew Rowsome
Multidisciplinary artist Steven Paul Judd's tag, "Warning: Use of this product may open your mind," applies to the 17th annual imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival as a whole. Judd, a renowned filmmaker in his own right, is the subject of the documentary Dig It If You Can that I was lucky enough to screen in advance. His work is a hilarious and thought-provoking fusion of pop art, pop culture and activism; his story is inspiring.
It doesn't hurt that Judd is more than a little easy on the eyes and watching him create - a scene in his studio where a giant cardboard "Indian Elvis or maybe a Link Wray" mask is a comic set piece set amongst décor gone mondo - and explain that process is fascinating. The pointed humour of Judd's work appears to be a reflection of his personality and Dig It If You Can is a must-see if only as an introduction to an important and entertaining artist.
The other screener I received was The Kweenz of Kelston. The Kelston Kweenz are a group of gay and transgender students at an Australian school who have found salvation from bullying by voguing. The film follows them rehearsing for a talent or voguing competition (the back story is a little vague) and talking about their lives. The subjects have astonishingly beautiful faces, a refreshing amount of attitude, and one dance move that involves falling flat onto the floor that looks painful. Though voguing, coming out and bullying have been documentary subjects many times before, the only negative about The Kweenz of Kelston is that it is a short instead of a feature, the Kweenz could have used more time to strut their stuff.
A festival of any sort isn't complete without abundant gay content, so ImagineNATIVE is also presenting The Promise of Piha where a closeted young man sleeping with his best friend "navigates the difficult demands of his family, the church and his heart." For the lesbians there is Sparrooabbán (Me and My Little Sister) and Sweet Night, but the catalogue also teases some intriguingly homoerotic films including Spear which fuses film, dance and nubile young bodies in a coming of age tale.
Taking advantage of the festival's timing, just before the festive Halloween season, imagineNATIVE in partnership with Rue Morgue, features The Witching Hour, a collection of horror films. Presented as "midnight madness screenings" Dressed to Kill, the puppets of Hipster Headdress and Remains, Human promise thrills and chills that are particularly intriguing among the dozen fright flicks to choose from.
As if combining The Witching Hour with the pop/politic sensibilities of Steven Paul Judd, the already in full swing Media Arts Festival gifts the A Space Gallery, 401 Richmond St W with a sampling of Jay Soule's Indigenous Movie Monsters series. These faux-horror film posters cleverly indiginize classic horror film posters to a spooky, comical and unsettling effect. There is an artist's talk as part of the imagineNATIVE Art Crawl taking place on Friday, October 21 where the many other exhibits will also be highlighted.
There are over 96 films and seven exhibits to choose from so there is much more on offer than these films matching my predilections for gay, camp and shivers. But, trust me, Steven Paul Judd is irresistible.
The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival runs Wed, Oct 19 to Sun, Oct 23 throughout the city with screenings at TIFF Lightbox, 350 King St W. imaginenative.org