Saturday, August 29, 2009

John Greyson's bold stand against TIFF's showcase of Tel Aviv...

I'm not sure if I completely agree with Greyson's reasoning for pulling his film Covered out of this year's Toronto International Film Festival in protest over its inaugural City to City program on Tel Aviv.

Regardless of one's position on Israel's treatment of the Palestinians (and vice versa), no doubt Greyson's move (and those of other filmmakers who are boycotting TIFF this year as well) will create considerable discussion. It already has.

Last night, CBC's The National ran a puff piece by reporter Margaret Evans on rumours of a mermaid off the beautiful coastline of a northern Israeli resort town. It contained many beautiful shots of beaches and people enjoying the sunset, the kinds of images no doubt being promoted by any "Brand Israel" campaign. Perhaps Greyson has a point that we ought not forget about Israel's ongoing treatment of Palestinians.

Here's an excerpt from Xtra's news piece on Greyson's move:

"In a public letter dated Aug 27 Greyson zeroed in on press comments from the Israeli Consul General Amir Gissin describing the Tel Aviv spotlight as the culmination of the Israeli government's "Brand Israel" campaign.

Despite being a supporter of an economic boycott campaign against Israel, Greyson's letter discusses the "specific and strategic" details of when he participates in such a boycott. He criticizes the Tel Aviv spotlight as too one-sided, lacking diverse voices from displaced Palestinians or underground artists.

"What eventually determined my decision to pull out was the subject of Covered itself," Greyson writes. "It's a doc about the 2008 Sarajevo Queer Festival, which was cancelled due to brutal anti-gay violence. The film focuses on the bravery of the organizers and their supporters and, equally, on the ostriches, on those who remained silent, who refused to speak out: most notoriously the Sarajevo International Film Festival and the Canadian ambassador in Sarajevo. To stand in judgment of these ostriches before a TIFF audience, but then say nothing about this Tel Aviv spotlight — finally, I realized that that was a brand I couldn't stomach."

You can view Greyson's Covered on Vimeo until the end of the festival. It's quite stunning.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sue-Ann Levy's candidacy doesn't mean Tim Hudak's gone centrist...

I wrote an article on gay Tories in 2005 for Xtra and, at the time, couldn't find a single out Conservative lesbian to interview. If I recall, now-Conservative senator Nancy Ruth, formerly Nancy Jackman, was still sitting as a Progressive Conservative in the upper chamber, so she didn't qualify at the time for an article on gays in Stephen Harper's party.

I have no idea if Sue-Ann Levy was a card-carrying Conservative in 2005. But now that Levy is running for Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives in the upcoming St. Paul's by-election in midtown Toronto, we can now finally point to a high profile out lesbian who's active in Conservative politics. (We can also point to Jackman, who joined the federal Conservative caucus in 2006, but clearly she's not as high profile as Levy.)

Will Levy's candidacy cause a cascade of right-thinking lesbians to join the PCs or Harper's Tories? I doubt it. But I guess I'm the wrong person to ask.

Levy's by-election run greatly reminds me of Nancy Jackman's run in 1993 in the old riding of St. George-St. David, which encompassed parts of Rosedale and Toronto's gay village. Jackman ran under the pre-Common Sense Revolution banner of former Ontario PC Leader Mike Harris. Similarities with today's run by Levy are obvious.

In 1993, Mike Harris's endorsement of an out lesbian candidate was undoubtedly a one-riding strategy masking a larger, regressive agenda. Jackman, of course, lost the by-election to Liberal Tim Murphy. Harris went on to unleash his far-right platform in 1994 once he realized there were more votes to be won by vilifying the gay community and any other group or profession deemed unpopular at the time. In 1994, Harris led his entire caucus in voting against equal rights for same sex couples (I do admit the Liberal record that year was almost as dismal.)

I suspect that Levy's candidacy today now merely masks a similar, far-right and thoughtless agenda by new leader Tim Hudak, a protege of Harris who won the leadership this year promising to turn back the clock to 1995. If Hudak can stoke the fires of resentment and ignorance, he seems like the kind of guy more than happy to do it, Levy or no Levy.

Had Jackman won the 1993 by-election, would her Red Tory presence in Harris' caucus made them more open-minded to diversity? I highly doubt it. If Levy wins the St. Paul's by-election, I don't think it'll signal a new direction for Tim Hudak either. The strategy of putting up Levy in this very Red Tory riding smacks very much of local opportunism: running a fiscally conservative, socially liberal, Jewish columnist to win a high profile race.

The sad thing is should Levy lose, it'll likely embolden the Randy Hilliers of the party to steer as far right as possible in the run-up to 2011. I'm not sure how the by-election will go. The Tories will be putting their best Red Tory face forward. And now the Grits are sounding a little scared. Their candidate, Dr. Eric Hoskins, is impressive, but not as feisty or well-known as Levy. It'll be an interesting result, whatever the outcome.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Golden Pin makes its international debut...

The short film I co-wrote and helped produce, The Golden Pin, enjoys its international premiere today, screening for the first time outside Canada at the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Durham, NC.

Sadly, I nor my filmmaking partners, including director Cuong Ngo, are able to attend this weekend due to personal financial constraints. This is the reality for truly independent filmmakers who spend their own money to make films and promote them. As we roll our short film out on the festival circuit, we have to choose carefully which festivals to attend, balancing networking opportunities against our own budgetary constraints.

The Golden Pin will be screening next at the LGBT film festival next month in Oslo, Norway, and then at the San Diego Asian Film Festival in late October. We're hoping to add many more festival screenings as more festivals get back to us. Stay tuned.

In the mean time, if you want to follow our progress, join our Facebook group.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bravo: David Popescu found guilty of promoting hatred...

I was away this weekend with no access to Canadian news. I just found out this evening that David Popescu was convicted Friday of promoting hatred for telling a group of high school students last fall that all homosexuals should be executed.

This is a just decision. Advocating the mass execution of an entire group of people, especially in front of impressionable minds, is evil and I'm glad our country outlaws it.

Below is an excerpt from the Sudbury Star article:

Popescu, 61, made the comment during the 2008 federal election campaign in the Sudbury riding, where he ran as an independent, then repeated them in an interview broadcast over a Toronto radio station.

He was given a suspended sentence and placed on probation for 18 months.

During a one-day trial in Sudbury court, Popescu argued he was only repeating what was in the bible when he made the comments. However, Ontario Court Justice Guy Mahaffy ruled he was "not at all satisfied with the explanation by Mr. Popescu that his statements are based on his religious beliefs."

Popescu "basically picks and chooses what is in his best interest, according to his interpretation of the bible," said the judge.

Popescu testified Friday the bible lists homosexuality as a sin for which one should be stoned to death.

Prosecutor Andrew Slater then suggested that, by the same rule, Popescu should have been stoned to death in 2003 when he was convicted of assaulting his mother.

Popescu, however, said the assault was a false accusation.

"I never did hit my mother," he said, even though he was convicted of the charge.

In court in 2003, he admitted he had given his mother a "small swat and a light shake" to get her attention when she was not paying attention to him during a dispute over the placement of towels in their home.

Mahaffy said it was hypocritical of Popescu to say he should not be punished for an assault on his mother, then suggest it should be done to homosexuals.

If he felt he was not guilty, Popescu could have appealed the assault conviction, but he did not, the judge said.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Brüno: Not Yet Recognized Genius!

I finally got a chance to see Brüno on the weekend. Designed to simultaneously poke a gigantic hole (pun intended) into the deep-seated homophobia that still thrives in most parts of the world, as well as poke fun at vapid, fame-seeking vanity, Brüno knocks both balls out of the park. lol

I found myself giggling as I walked out of the theatre and I'm still giggling.

I’ve read some reviews that criticize Brüno for missing a major story hook; Brüno only wishes to become famous. Is that motivation less compelling than wanting to bag Pamela Anderson (again pun intended) in Borat? Perhaps it’s less specific, but it still provides Cohen with a wide palate of material with which to make his point(s).

I didn’t laugh out loud as much as I did for Borat, but I think Brüno is far more significant a film politically and socially. We live in an era where virulent homophobia still very much dominates much of North America and most of the world. What Brüno does is pit possibly the worst gay stereotype imaginable against raving, far-right bigots and waits for the fireworks to go off. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. The scenes where Brüno camps with some Alabama hunters were interesting in that the hunters were so restrained amid Cohen's come-ons.

Cohen brilliantly ties these episodes together as a full frontal attack on closed mindedness. The hypocrisy he exposes is biting. He uses shock to expose and challenge virulent homophobia head-on. Indeed, as media reports have indicated, Cohen’s own safety was frequently put at risk while filming this movie, not to mention afterwards. His sheer bravado is to be applauded.

Brüno makes Cohen an artist before his time...

One day they'll look back and view Brüno as a great historical record of the homophobia that still gripped much of America at the beginning of the 21st century...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Why doesn't John Baird just get it over with and tell us he's gay?

This is a pretty good profile by Linda Diebel in today's Toronto Star of federal Tory cabinet minister John Baird.

I once shared drinks with Baird back in 2004 along with my then-young Tory boyfriend and a few other gay Tory acquaintances at Toronto's Byzantium. He's a sweet guy and obviously very talented at his chosen profession as political pit bull. Before then, I had little awareness of the large numbers of gay Tories out there. Those in the know will be aware that the friends of Baird quoted in the piece are gay themselves: Jaime Watt, Bob Richardson...

Yet the article remains decidedly in the closet - there's no clear indication that Baird is gay himself. Too bad. Instead, we only get the following lines:

"[Baird]'s single, lives in a Nepean townhouse characterized by Richardson as "a permanent bachelor pad" with his grey tabby, Thatcher."

And most interesting is how Prime Minister Stephen Harper has no problem letting Baird escort his wife Laureen to events in the capital.

"Mrs. Harper is fantastic," says Baird. "We get along fine."

It's interesting that Harper, with a reputation for being quite regressive on gay issues, seems to have no problems with such an arrangement.

Baird states that he has no plans to run for Conservative leader one day: "I don't have any plans. I think some people probably think about that. I don't."

A possible leadership bid would be one major reason for Baird to remain discreet about his queer sexuality, with his party still dominated by Stockwell Day types. Yet if running for leader isn't in the cards, why can't Baird just come out publicly? It would do the queer movement enormous good to have such a high profile and capable politician come out in the Conservative Party.