Brett McKay | Oct. 28, 2022
The Rainbow Visions Film Festival has been showcasing LGBTQ-focused short and feature length films in Edmonton since 2015. For festival director Guy Lavallee, its seventh year brings some proof that Rainbow Visions is establishing a lasting place in the city, and the paradoxical feeling of starting all over again.
“We hit year five and we were really starting to get a bit of nice momentum . . . and of course, COVID hits. So, in a lot of ways this year is kind of like starting from scratch,” Lavallee said.
The festival’s 2020 dates shared an unfortunate overlap with the second wave of the pandemic, and a more cautious hybrid schedule the following year was better attended but lacked the community element and in-person experience Lavallee is optimistic will return with this year’s run from Nov. 3–6, at Metro Cinema.
Rainbow Visions began when the long-running documentary festival NorthWest Fest moved from moved from Nov. to May, and organizers floated the idea of starting a second festival to fill that space.
“Our treasurer brought up the fact that there is a real need in Edmonton for an LGBTQ festival, because there weren’t any,” Lavallee explained.
When Lavallee started looking around, he realized Edmonton was seemingly the only major or mid-size city in the country without a queer-focused film fest: “Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, London, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax – everybody had one except Edmonton. So, we launched it the following year, that was the catalyst for it.”
There may not have been a dedicated LGBTQ film festival in 2015 when Rainbow Visions started, but there were queer film festivals in the city in the 90s, said Dr. Kristopher Wells,
Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual & Gender Minority Youth and a member of the Edmonton Queer History Project. These festivals, and the arthouse theatres that supported them, have an important place in Edmonton’s queer history.
“Places like the Princess and the Garneau have long standing connections to the queer community and were seen as safe spaces” Wells said. “In fact, they were queer managed. Magic Lantern Theatres was one of the places where people in Edmonton knew they could go from the queer community and be safe and see films and entertainment that was for them, about them, and by them.”
Magic Lantern Theatres operated the Garneau Theatre until 2011, when it became the home of Metro Cinema.
Wells said that the success of Rainbow Visions is building off of the work that came before it, and that queer-centric festivals past and present have an important role in providing a place for the queer community “to see and tell and experience [their] own story.”
“It’s particularly important to feel that you’re connected to, and you’re part of a larger community. Many people grew up feeling like they were the only one in the world because there wasn’t that visibility,” Wells said. “Even to this day, these festivals are really important, because young people are not getting to this information in their K to 12 schools, for example. The curriculum still does not actively or significantly include any outcomes related to sexual orientation or gender identity.”
This year’s Rainbow Vision Film Fest also boasts greater representation of Edmonton’s creative community, with three of the 21 films being contributed by local film producers.