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Sunday, 7 February 2010

Video: New documentary: Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride




Source: Times Colonist - January 30

Victoria Film Festival Reviews

BEYOND GAY: THE POLITICS OF PRIDE

Canadian Gala Opening Presentation

Rating: 5

Is this really 2010? There are moments -- mostly during footage captured in Asia and Eastern Europe -- when you wouldn't think so as you experience Bob Christie's riveting and enlightening documentary on the politics and relevance of the global gay pride movement. On the plus side, Vancouver Pride Society parade director Ken Coolen's globe-trotting journey to monitor Pride celebrations worldwide is a joyful, moving and amusing account of the progress made in the acceptance of sexual diversity in cities from Toronto and New York, birthplace of the gay liberation movement, to Sao Paulo, Brazil, home to the annual government-sponsored Pride festival that in 10 years has grown from an audience of 200 to three million.

Christie's colourful overview is also a harsh and disturbing reminder, however, of ongoing, mind-boggling intolerance in places where homophobia is rampant (Jamaica is the world capital, according to Time). It's shocking to learn, for instance, that archaic British colonial sodomy laws are still in place in Sri Lanka, where "curative rape" is sanctioned as a "cure" for lesbianism; that homosexuality carries stiff prison terms in some countries; and to witness protesters pelting Pride participants with eggs and tomatoes in Budapest, where gay clubs are firebombed. The most fascinating of the sequences -- linked by graphics of a a 'Freedometer' charts each location's tolerance levels -- focus on gay rights activists risking their lives for the cause.

Risk-takers include charismatic Sri Lankan Equal Ground organizer Sahran Abeysundara, who peacefully protests his nation's pride-parade ban by flying kites that feature the movement's signature rainbow pattern. Another uplifting bit introduces Clare Diminyo, a lesbian teacher from Brighton, England, who persuades British authorities to fly Pride flags at their embassy in Riga, Latvia, a hotbed of homosexual oppression.

We also learn how Warsaw Equality Parade organizer Tomasz Baczkowski successfully forced Polish authorities to finally allow a Pride parade, with protection by 2,000 police officers, by taking his case to the European Union human rights tribunal.

The film's most tense and gripping sequences, however, observe Russian organizer Nikolai Alekseev and comrades risking arrest and worse by arranging clandestine meetings to stage and as quickly disassemble a compact parade in Moscow, where the mayor has banned the Pride parade for years and rejected 155 applications for permits. This superb documentary, a festival must-see, is more than a call to action for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community. It's as much a plea for for freedom, respect and basic human rights for everyone regardless of sexual orientation.

Pride Scenes: Moscow, Sri Lanka and Vancouver


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