The 38th annual Vancouver Pride Parade took place on Sunday, July 31st, from central downtown on Robson Street at Thurlow Street through the West End (on Denman Street) and finishing at the Sunset Beach Festival site. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made history by becoming the first sitting Prime Minister to attend Vancouver’s Pride celebration. As one of the biggest Pride Parades in the globe and most prominent events on Western Canada’s cultural calendar, the participation of prime minister demonstrates to the world that Canada is becoming one of the very first countries to prove its commitment to inclusivity, as well as securing equal rights and acceptance. It is truly an honour to be called a citizen of Canada!
However, it took decades of collective resistance and sacrifice for Canadians to get to where they stand today, and this struggle has inspired and informed many Canadian documentaries. In order to pay tribute to our predecessors who fought for LGBTQ+ equal rights and those who are no longer able to celebrate Pride, here is list of three such films on the National Film Board of Canada that can enrich your knowledge of the history of homosexuality in this country:
1. Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives (Lynne Fernie & Aerlyn Weissman, 1992)
Forbidden Love recounts stories of lesbians in Canada, their first loves, and the impact of “lesbian pulp fiction” in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. Through personal interviews, the filmmakers take the audience into the private lives of these Canadian women – illuminating the discrimination they faced and it shaped their personal identities. In addition to sharing the stories of these brave women, Forbidden Love is a fictional drama reenacting a young girl’s erotic seduction and coming out from popular 1950s lesbian pulp fiction novels.
2. When Love is Gay (Laurent Gagliardi, 1995)
Gagliardi’s documentary brings the French studios of the NFB up to date on the world of male homosexuality. It offers a lively and respectful depiction of older men and their queer identity. Part of the director’s conscious intent in this film was to politicize the sexual imagery in a way that may shock the audience – for example, the documentary includes a unique performance by a legendary danseur from Club Taboo (a highlight of the film!). The shocking scenes and narratives throughout the film resulted in official complaints to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Counsil, but despite the outrage, this film is one that should not be missed!
3. Cure For Love (Francine Pelletier & Christina Willings, 2008)
Opening with the wedding preparations of Brian and Ana, Cure For Love shows a ceremony similar to any other, with one exception. At the exchange of vows, the minister has them state that they “would rather die than break these vows” as “the goal of marriage is not happiness, but faithfulness.” Brian and Ana are “ex-gays,” whose struggle between their religion and their orientation leads them to become members of the Living Hope Youth Forum, an Evangelical Christian ministry that denies homosexuality as a reality.
Cure for Love has no narrator. Instead, the characters tell their own stories with utmost honesty, aiming at showing the damage that the ex-gay ministry has done throughout years in Canada. Evangelicals may take offence, because the film is clearly an attack on the ministry and the conservative government.
These films each reflect upon the struggles that generations of LGBTQ+ people endured in the past – hardships which have ultimately lead to broader acceptance, a strong community, and Pride celebrations all over the world. It is no longer unusual for Canadians to wave rainbow flags alongside the Prime Minister of our great country.