The Best of New Queer Albertan Cinema - Edmonton Short Film Festival

Recently Edmonton, and Alberta broadly, has been the site of some wondrous Queer film productions. As June comes to a close, and this year’s Pride Month extends to a full Summer of Pride, we are looking at some of the best recent Queer films made in Alberta in the last few years. From an informative and brilliant documentary to a batch of hopeful feature films, there is much to celebrate in Queer cinema coming out of this place we call home.

We can’t talk about Queer Edmonton cinema without mentioning Edmonton Short Film Festival Alumni Trevor Anderson. From his comically and cosmically hilarious Docking , to the more painterly and abstract Figs in Motion , Anderson’s collection of short films are a treasure trove of brilliant tableaus about modern gay life. It is his 2022 feature film that saw Anderson shoot into quiet superstar status. Before I Change My Mind is the compassionate and surprisingly heart-wrenching coming-of-age film that centres around Robin: the new kid in school in 1987, who the other kids can’t quite figure out. “Is Robin a girl or a boy?” they ask. The film explores the various difficulties Robin has navigating their new school, and the strange and complicated relationships they end up forming with those around them. It is an impressive debut feature film from an Edmonton local and we are looking forward to what Trevor creates next!

2024 also saw the premiere of another Queer-themed feature length film made by an Edmontonian that could use some more love. Eudaimonia is the feature film directorial debut by Dylan Rhys Howard. The film follows Prudence, a lesbian woman whose unusual telepathic ability to read other people’s thoughts makes her own pursuits of love rather difficult. Prudence’s estranged and complicated relationship with her mother — the only other person who also has this telepathic “gift” — causes much strife and tension within Prudence. It is through unraveling this complicated relationship with her mother that Prudence figures out how to navigate her other entanglements with love. Creatively shot with fractured images and boggling wide angle lenses, Eudaimonia is an intriguing and bold artistic debut.

Perhaps the biggest Queer cinema event of 2024, however, has been the documentary detailing the disco haven of Edmonton’s Queer yesteryear. Flashback  tells the story of the eponymous disco club that became a hidden beam of radiance emanating from 104 Street. throughout the 1980s. Flashback was a nightclub that became renowned throughout Canada, and abroad as a hot spot for disco, drag, and a fair dose of dazzle. The story is somewhat unbelievable: that from the terse and largely conservative soil of Albertan social life, such a world renowned Queer club would blossom. And yet it did. Against the various antagonists of the 1980s, like police raids and irresponsible responses to a disease, this club thrived. The documentary recounts those times, their wonder, their joy, and the little enclave that was formed in this place. There were many a cheer and holler in the crowd as old friends and Queer icons graced the screen to recount the story of this club. After the screening, if you waited around long enough, you would have also seen one particular patron moved to dance and twirl in the dim light of the cinema lobby. Momentarily, the ragged paisley carpet of the old Garneau theatre was transformed into an effervescent stage.