Sunday 23 October 2016

GAZE Film Festival: Eight films not to miss

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 28/07/2016 | 20:57

The GAZE Film Festival returns to Dublin this weekend.
The GAZE Film Festival returns to Dublin this weekend.
A scene from Kiki.
A scene from Heartbeats.
A scene from Viva.
A scene from Closet Monster.

The GAZE international LGBT film festival returns to Dublin today for four days of Irish and internationally-produced features and shorts.

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Tasked with programming the 24th edition of the festival, Roisin Geraghty admits she was apprehensive.

“This is my second year programming the festival and I have to say I was a little bit nervous,” she told

“Last year I was very lucky that the LGBT content coming out was fantastic and I was worried that the standard of films coming out would not be as good this year.”

Luckily, that wasn’t the case. While the 2015 programme was filled with fascinating documentaries, Roisin set her sights on narrative and this year’s festival boasts a rich selection of feature and short films from Irish and international directors.

Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s festival.

It kicks off with a fascinating documentary about Madonna’s dancers


Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour sparked international controversy with its explicit juxtaposition of religious and sexual imagery, leading to a call for a boycott from the Pope himself. Truth or Dare, the documentary released chronicling the relationship between the pop icon and her dancers, was met with similar uproar, and now, 25 years later, this new film checks in with six of the surviving dancers, who offer moving reflections about how their time with Madonna impacted their later professional and personal lives. It offers an intriguing insight into how the close bond between them quickly deteriorated once the tour came to a close, along with heartrending stories about queer identity, living with HIV/AIDS and battling addiction.

Strike A Pose, 8pm, Thursday July 28
Truth or Dare, 10.30pm, Saturday July 30

Fans of Paris is Burning are in for a treat


Jennie Livingston’s beloved 1990 documentary presented a portrait of the New York ballroom scene in the late 1980s, and GAZE has selected a brand new documentary that focuses on the current ball culture in New York City. Kiki offers a flamboyant and uplifting update on Paris is Burning, and has plenty to say about the modern fight for LGBT rights and the Black Lives Matter movements. Roisin explained: “It’s really rooted in human rights, it focuses a lot on activism, trying to highlight LGBT youth homeless, trans rights, and the Black Lives Matter movement. For all those reasons, it’s a really brilliant and relevant film.”

Kiki, 8.30pm, Saturday July 30

A tribute to the 1916 Rising features a Roger Casement special screening


“We knew that we wanted to do something around 1916 and we weren’t quite sure what,” Roisin said. They ultimately decided to use their YesterGAZE slot on the programme, which is sponsored by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, to focus on Roger Casement, who is believed to have been gay. GAZE will be screening Alan Gilsensan’s 2002 documentary The Ghost of Roger Casement, followed by a panel discussion. “We hope to talk about the role of LGBT people in the Rising, because that’s something that’s never spoken about,” Roisin said.

YesterGAZE screening and panel, 2.30pm, Saturday July 30

The standard of Irish filmmaking continues to rise


According to Roisin, the standard of the Irish films is "really brilliant", whether they were submitted or screened at other festivals.

"It’s really important to GAZE to push the Irish content and particularly the Irish shorts," she said.

"Last year when I started I was worried about what kind of Irish submissions we were going to get, but as it turned out, the Irish shorts programme was one of the strongest that GAZA ever had and we ended up touring the shorts throughout the year."

The tour took them from Lisdoonvarna to New York and many places in between, which Roisin plans to replicate with this year's programme, the standard of which is "as good if not higher". She mentioned Kate Dolan's Little Doll as a must-see.

Irish Shorts Programme, 6.30pm, Sunday July 31

Read More: This gorgeous child-friendly LGBT film was made by an Irish woman, and the critics love it 

The last chance to see the acclaimed Viva before its official cinema release


GAZE patron Mark O’Halloran wrote this acclaimed feature, which was subsequently shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars earlier this year. The film offers a glimpse into the Cuban drag scene and a sensitive portrayal of a complicated family relationship as the lead character must deal with the sudden reappearance of his estranged father. This screening believed to be the last before the film opens on limited release around the country next month. “I’m really excited about Viva, we’re delighted to have that film,” Roisin said. “It’s set in Cuba and it’s in Spanish, but the whole production is Irish, and we’re so happy to have Mark’s film in the programme.”

Viva, 8.30pm, Friday July 29

A new regional focus puts the spotlight on Quebecois cinema


She may only be in her second year programming the festival, but Roisin was keen to “keep it fresh”, which led to the introduction of a new segment highlighting LGBT cinema from a particular country or region. “We’re focusing on queer Quebec cinema this year, so we’re screening two feature films and a programme of shorts. The standard is amazing - that I’m pretty happy about,” she said. Her top choice is Heartbeats, directed by Xavier Dolan, one of independent film’s most celebrated young talents. “He is so prolific and one of the most well-known independent filmmakers in the world. The Quebec festival suggested Heartbeats because it’s sort of an ode to Montreal and it’s so Quebec,” Roisin explained.

Heartbeats, 5.30pm, Monday August 1

There’s something for everyone’s taste, whether you’re after a hard-hitting documentary or light-hearted rom-com


“You have to be so concerned with balance – obviously you want to balance the LGBT in the programme, but within that you want to make sure you have a balance between narrative films and documentary, between hard-hitting and more entertaining content, between mainstream and independent films, between English and foreign language films.

“There’s a real spectrum of what you want to include in the programme. Striking that balance can be difficult but it’s really interesting and I love it,” Roisin said.

That spectrum is certainly reflected in the programme. She recommends the New York-based Uncle Howard as a particular documentary highlight – “a really beautiful, personal film” in which the filmmaker profiles his uncle, also an independent filmmaker who died of complications due to AIDS after making his first big-budget film.

On the narrative front, Roisin’s pick is Closet Monster, a coming-of-age story that blends motifs from fantasy films with Daved Cronenburg-inspired body horror.

Uncle Howard, 6.30pm, Saturday July 30
Closet Monster, 6.30pm, Sunday July 31

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