To mark the release of John Greyson’s DVD box set and a new book about his feature Zero Patience, Toronto video distributor Vtape has partnered with TIFF, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival to present a multi-venue retrospective of his work. This comprehensive retrospective includes screenings of seven features and twenty-one shorts by Greyson, the launch of the book and DVD box set, and a TIFF Carte Blanche screening selected by Greyson.
Greyson first gained international recognition in 1989 with his provocative hybrid feature Urinal (Best Gay Film Teddy, Berlin International Film Festival), an experimental documentary/drama featuring the closeted characters of Eisenstein, Kahlo and Mishima who are recruited to fight back against the police persecution of gay public sex in Ontario. Subsequent shorts and features established him as a leading figure in the loosely defined New Queer Cinema movement of the early 1990s, including such titles as The Making of Monsters (Best Canadian Short Film, TIFF, Best Gay Short Teddy, Berlin International Film Festival), Zero Patience (Best Canadian Feature, Sudbury Film Festival) and Lilies (Best Film Genie, best film awards at festivals in Montreal, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Johannesburg, Austin).
His many shorts, addressing such diverse topics as gay penguins, censorship, gender conformity, solidarity with Palestinian queers, gay rights in Bosnia, and the American bombing of the Iraqi Film Archives, have been shown in festivals internationally, while his 2003 feature Proteus was awarded Best Actor at Cape Town’s Sithenghi International Film Festival. He has been awarded the Arts Toronto Award for Film/Video (2000), the Bell Canada Award in Video Art (2007), the Arts & Culture Pride Award (2009), and the 1st Annual Alanis Obomsawin Award for Commitment to Community & Resistance, Cinema Politica, 2011. Recently, his 2009 opera- documentary Fig Trees addressing AIDS activism was awarded Best Film at Inside-Out, and Best Gay Documentary Teddy at the Berlin International Film Festival, while his new short documentary Green Laser, about the 2011 freedom flotilla’s attempt to break the blockade of Gaza, will receive its world premiere in February 2012 at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Throughout his extensive body of work that ranges from hybrid documentary and historical fiction to filmed operas and experimental video art, Greyson employs digitized Brechtian techniques and camp humour as instruments of cultural and political activism. His work engages audiences passionately and critically, occupying diverse cinematic genres (the essay, the song, the viral video) and distinctive formal devices (multiple layers of subtitles, split-screen, voice and anachronism) to wittily contest dominant discourses of sexuality, gender and power. These deft, challenging works tell outsider stories that trouble history and skewer complacency, joining a growing debate about the role of queer activism in today’s social justice struggles.
Colleagues and collaborators of Greyson will briefly introduce each program, and then facillitate Q&A’s with Greyson following the screenings. TIFF’s Noah Cowan will host the DVD/book launch, which is co-presented by This is Not a Reading Series, interviewing Greyson along with Zero Patience book authors Wendy Pearson and Susan Knabe and Vtape’s Wanda Vanderstoop.
Retrospective schedule: Impatient Press Release (pdf)
Still Credit: Zero Patience, John Greyson.