Drag Queens, Lesbian Conductors, and Elliot Page: 5 Queer Films Playing at TIFF 2023

Feature image photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagi

With the SAG and WGA strikes still in full swing, the fall festivals are adjusting to the possibility that the films will be there but the stars will not. It’s disappointing for these artists to not be able to celebrate and promote their work, it’s unfair that corporate greed is diminishing the release of projects that have likely been in development for years. And yet their absence will act as a reminder that Hollywood creatives are tasked far beyond what they do on set. They deserve their fair share of the profits — after all they’re doing most of the work.

The lack of red carpets for Hollywood films will shift the focus at a festival like TIFF. Less glitz and glam means more attention on the films themselves, and more attention on smaller films and films made outside of North America.

Last year, I saw 40 features at TIFF and I am so excited to be back this year to watch the big releases and the hidden gems. The initial lineup was released today and it looks to be another strong year with a mix of celebrated titles from previous festivals and new premieres.

I’m sure there will be more surprises, but here are five queer films I’m looking forward to at this year’s festival!

NOTE: The ethical issues in Hollywood are unfortunately not as simple as studios vs. artists. It is very disappointing that TIFF has decided to show Alexander Payne’s new film The Holdovers, despite Rose McGowan’s accusations against Payne of statuatory rape. Payne denies the allegations.

Close to You (dir. Dominic Savage)

Other than the latest season of The Umbrella Academy, this film is the first on-screen appearance of Elliot Page since he transitioned. While the cis director and tropey premise of “trans person returns to hometown” has me lightly skeptical, Page’s presence alone is more than enough to keep me excited.

Days of Happiness (dir. Chloé Robichaud)

TÀR 2? If the Cate Blanchett hit had you yearning for more lesbian conductor movies, Chloé Robichaud is back with her own spin on what I hope becomes a subgenre. One of my biggest issues with the earlier film was its total lack of lesbian gaze, so all jokes aside I am really excited to get a lesbian conductor film from an actual lesbian filmmaker!

Rustin (dir. George C. Wolfe)

Biopics have been some of TIFF’s most reliable awards exports over the years, even if their quality has been less consistent. I’m excited for this biopic of gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin for two reasons: star Colman Domingo and director George C. Wolfe. Whether working with good writing (Zola) or bad writing (Euphoria) Domingo has shown himself to be one of the very best actors around and George C. Wolfe is a literal legend.

Solo (dir. Sophie Dupuis)

It wouldn’t be TIFF without some Canadian gems and one Canadian film I’m most looking forward to is this tale of a drag queen, his new romance, and his estranged mother. I would always rather an actual drag queen play one on-screen, but star Théodore Pellerin has more than proven himself in his young career so I’m keeping an open mind.

Unicorns (dir. Sally El Hosaini, James Krishna Floyd)

Co-directed by Sally El Hosaini who made last year’s festival’s opening night film, The Swimmers, this film is about a queer South Asian nightclub performer who meets a mechanic. It’s unclear if the title implies there will be straight couples looking for a third but based on the brief plot description, it’s looking like no.

Bonus:

Fingernails (dir. Christos Nikou)

Okay so I don’t actually know if this movie that stars Jessie Buckley, Riz Ahmed, Jeremy Allen White, and Annie Murphy is queer. But I do know the premise is a woman works at an institute that determines whether couples are compatible. Will some of those couples be gay? Maybe! Is the title referring to a lesbian couple where one person was brainwashed by The L Word and the other wants to keep her long nails? Maybe!! (Probably not.)


As of now we only have minimal plot descriptions, so I’m hoping more of these initial films will turn out to be queer. And I’m still crossing my fingers the next round of announcements includes highly anticipated queer titles like I Saw the TV Glow and Drive-Away Dolls. I’ll be back to Toronto in September reporting on all these films and more!

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 521 articles for us.

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