Trent Film Society welcomes you back to another year of film screenings!

We at TFS have been working hard on our schedule for the fall term and we’re happy to announce that we have selected a lineup of classic, cult and independent films for your viewing pleasure.

If you’re new to Trent and have never been to a TFS screening, you should know that we are a student group that hosts free (yes, free!) public film screenings once a week, paid for by your levy money (thanks!). The venue of our screenings varies but is generally in the downtown core. Our first screening of the year, John Carney’s Sing Street (2016), a coming-of-age story about a group of downtrodden teenagers in Dublin who start a rock band, was well attended and featured some great discussion from the audience. We would like to continue this trend by hosting films that are accessible to audiences (nothing boring and pretentious, we promise), are interesting and thought-provoking.

For our next screening, we will be teaming up with Peterborough Pride to show a cult classic of LGBT+ cinema, Jamie Babbit’s But I’m a Cheerleader. In case you didn’t know, September 17-24th is Pride Week in Peterborough and there are a variety of events planned downtown and elsewhere throughout the week (check out peterboroughpride.ca for more information).

LGBT+ culture is known for its cult films, the screening of which has become a yearly tradition around Pride, and we are happy to participate in this tradition.
Recent events such as the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Florida remind us that homophobia and transphobia are far from extinguished and confirm the necessity of Pride Week to combat discrimination against and hatred of LGBT+ people.

But I’m a Cheerleader is a campy, overtly political comedy that satirizes the practice of conversion therapy, a controversial technique that aims at changing the sexual orientation of LGBT+ people. Although it has been roundly condemned by many medical and psychological organizations as pseudoscientific, ineffectual and unethical, this practice continues to persist in some fringe movements of the religious right, particularly in the United States.

The plot of the film follows Megan, a lesbian whose misguided parents send her to a camp that aims to convert LGBT+ teenagers into becoming straight, conservative and joyless by forcing them to engage in gender-stereotypical behavior and curtailing their attraction for their desired gender.

The film showcases such abusive practices as administering electric shocks to discourage homoerotic thoughts, gender segregation, and misleading and harmful sex education.

Of course, since the premise of the camp involves a large number of gay and lesbian teenagers living together, this attempt fails spectacularly and the teens flout the authority of their homophobic counsellors by flirting and secretly going to a nearby gay bar.

By intentionally exaggerating and playing up gender stereotypes (much of the film is awash in vivid pinks and blues) the film aims to show how ridiculous and artificial the gender roles that are normative in our society really are.

Its quirky visual style and ironic humour have been compared to the work of notable director John Waters, who made many LGBT+-themed films during his long career and is gay himself.

The film was both written and directed by Babbit, who has had a productive career as a screenwriter and director for many well-known TV shows (including the lesbian-driven series The L Word). She was inspired to write the film from her own experiences, being lesbian and having a mother who ran a rehabilitation camp for teenagers with addictions.

Because of its frank depiction of sexuality, the film was the subject of a controversy over its rating of NC-17 (the most restrictive rating), criticized as a homophobic double standard since films with similar content that depict heterosexual characters do not receive the same restrictions. Babbit challenged this rating and succeeded in having it changed to R.

The film was negatively received by many critics, who did not like its blatant political message and depiction of LGBT+ stereotypes. Audiences responded more warmly however, and the film was shown at many film festivals, including TIFF and Sundance, to an enthusiastic response. Although it was one of the lowest-grossing films of the year, it remains popular in the LGBT+ community for its humour and style of over-the-top parody.

TFS will be showing But I’m a Cheerleader on September 21st at Market Hall. The screening begins at 8 p.m. and will be preceded by a discussion about queer cinema by community member Quinn McGlade-Ferentzy. We hope that you will attend this and many more screenings we have to offer you this year.