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Vancouver Queer Film Fest nets two arts luminaries as artistic directors

Author Amber Dawn returns as artistic director of Out on Screen—and its Vancouver Queer Film Fest—alongside playwright Anoushka Ratnarajah.

Newly hired artistic co-directors of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Amber Dawn (left) and Anoushka Ratnarajah, started their Out on Screens organization position on Wednesday, March 15, 2017. The festival will be held Aug. 10 to 20.

Contributed/Anoushka Ratnarajah

Newly hired artistic co-directors of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Amber Dawn (left) and Anoushka Ratnarajah, started their Out on Screens organization position on Wednesday, March 15, 2017. The festival will be held Aug. 10 to 20.

Vancouver’s pioneering Queer Film Festival has hired two well-recognized arts community luminaries as its artistic directors.

Out on Screen, the organization behind the annual event, hired back acclaimed author Amber Dawn — who held the role until 2012 — alongside playwright Anoushka Ratnarajah, who started in their new roles Wednesday.

“Every year I’ve attended, the Queer Film Festival has offered such an important space for so many different queer and trans folks to gather and experience film,” Ratnarajah told Metro in a phone interview. “Film is such a formative, revolutionary, beautiful way of experiencing our lives, challenges and histories.

“To be able to come into an organization that’s been in existence for almost 30 years and has such an incredible history in the artistic and queer landscape of Vancouver feels like such a gift. As an artist, this is a really wonderful challenge for me.”

Dawn’s book How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir garnered a Vancouver Book Award and was shortlisted for the Lambda Literary award, which she previously won for her book Sub Rosa.

Ratnarajah, meanwhile, co-directed the play Boxes, which won the Vancouver Fringe New Play Award last year, and brings experience in performance, theatre and a short film here as well as New York and Montreal.

“I’m more of an experienced theatre artist than film,” Ratnarajah noted, “but it’s so important for queer and trans stories to be on film because we’ve been excluded for so long — especially queer and trans artists of colour — from mainstream filmmaking. But we have been making our own art and histories and stories despite that.”

The festival, which turns 30 years old next year, is planned for Aug. 10 to 20. Its motto is “illuminating queer lives through film.”

The event has faced several controversies in the past: in 2002, B.C.’s Film Classification Office tried to ban the festival’s opening gala film, about local Little Sister’s Bookstore’s fight against government censorship.

Since 2012, activists protested the festival’s inclusion of Israeli government-sponsored films and advertising over human rights concerns, leading to an extensive dialogue process in the LGBTQ community after several artists withdrew.

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