Gay TIFF: Complete Guide to the Best LGBT Films of 2019

Looking to discover the best gay films at TIFF 2019?

Last week the Toronto International Film Festival launched its 2019 program. This year the TIFF schedule features 333 films from over 80 countries!

I set my alarm for the crack of dawn, excited to read over the entire TIFF 2019 film schedule from A to Z. What would the world’s finest queer filmmakers bring to Toronto this awards season?

It took me over 12 hours to find each gay film in the TIFF 2019 lineup, so you don’t have to!

Last year our favourite gay TIFF film was Boy Erased.

History of Gay TIFF Films

Some of the best gay films have screened at TIFF, such as Brokeback Mountain, Boys Don’t Cry, Before Night Falls and Shortbus.

We chatted with Diana Sanchez, TIFF’s Senior Director of Film about the history of gay films at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Sanchez shares, “TIFF has engaged in LGBTQ+  programming since the very beginning, with strong programming voices like David Overby and Noah Cowan’s ensuring LGBTQ+ films are featured in the lineup. Our founders have supported LGBTQ+ films at TIFF since the festival’s nascence and it’s something we continue to do. Ensuring that we have a diverse programming team screening films in consideration for selection is also of vital importance and instrumental in ensuring that the lineup is representative of the diverse group of film lovers who attend the Festival.”

Outside of September, TIFF supports LGBT filmmakers and creators year round. Sanchez explains, “We have long standing partnerships with Pride Toronto and Inside Out, who work with us on programming initiatives throughout the year showcasing LGBTQ+ narratives and creators, in addition to hosting their own programming showcasing within TIFF Bell Lightbox.”

Sanchez continues, “Our programming team, including the Adult Learning team, lead by acting director Keith Bennie, brings LGBTQ+ focused events and talks to the building year round. Events like Queer Romance in Bollywood and the Gay Mean Girls web series (TIFF Next Wave) consider the multiple intersectional identities of those in the LGBTQ+ community and highlight what’s next from LGBTQ+ creators.”

TIFF offers a launch pad for queer filmmakers and LGBT stories to be shared. Some of our favourite gay TIFF films of the past include Boy Erased, Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, Call Me By Your Name, Moonlight, Green Book, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Thelma and Battle of the Sexes.

Toomas Beneath the Valley of the Wild Wolves is one of the best gay films at TIFF 2019.
Toomas Beneath the Valley of the Wild Wolves is one of the best gay films at TIFF 2019.

Best Gay TIFF 2019 Films

This year there are 21 gay films screening at TIFF! Looking for the best LGBT films at TIFF 2019? You’ll find queer stories on the silver screen via 8 feature films, 2 documentaries and 11 short films.

Keen to buy tickets to the best gay films at TIFF 2019? Sanchez shares her favourite LGBT films at this years festival, “The new film by Pedro Almodovar, Pain and Glory is a wonderful rumination on an aging and creativity, which centres on a gay filmmaker played by Antonio Banderas. Portrait of a Lady on Fire by Celine Sciamma is a smouldering period piece about a love that emerges through the intimacy of portraiture. Maria’s Paradise is a coming of age LGBTQ+ story. Tamar Shavgulidze’s Comets from Georgia is a story of two women who could not realize their love when they were young and come together in their sixties. I also love The Obituary of Tunde Johnson, from the Discovery section.”

Should we expect any unique themes in TIFF 2019’s crop of gay films? Sanchez chirps, “These films are as diverse as any other films in the Official Selection. From meditations on aging and creativity, to changing mores. We’ve got films from all over the world dealing with LGBTQ+ topics and what’s so compelling is that they are all unique.”

Pain and Glory

An aging gay filmmaker (Antonio Banderas) grapples with an uncertain future and the circumstances that shaped his successful but troubled life, in Pedro Almodóvar’s self-reflexive consideration of identity and desire.

Maria’s Paradise

A teenage girl begins to question the teachings (and actions) of the fringe religious sect in which she has been raised, in Zaida Bergroth’s intelligent and chilling study of cults based on a real-life scandal that took place in Finland in the 1920s.

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson

A gay African American teenager is forced to relive, over and over again, the day he is shot and killed at the hands of the police, in Ali LeRoi’s incisive and urgent feature debut. Likely to be one of the best gay TIFF films of the year, an absolute must-see for fans of Moonlight.

Blackbird

A terminally ill mother (Susan Sarandon) invites her family to their country house for one final gathering, but tensions quickly boil over between her two daughters (Kate Winslet and Mia Wasikowska), in Roger Michell’s remake of the award-winning 2014 Danish film Silent Heart.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Hired to paint a portrait ahead of a prospective marriage, an artist in 18th-century Brittany finds herself falling for the reclusive would-be bride, in the Cannes Queer Palm–winning fourth feature from writer-director Céline Sciamma.

Hala

Geraldine Viswanathan gives a breakout performance as an American Muslim teenager balancing her relationship with her protective Pakistani immigrant parents and her own independent desires, in Minhal Baig’s honest, touching, and assured coming-of-age drama. Produced by Jada Pinkett Smith.

Comets

Three decades after their separation, Irina and Nana remain mesmerized by memories of earlier days. But when Irina returns to the small community she left — where Nana stayed to start a traditional family — the women must reconcile with the past and their complex feelings, in Georgian director Tamar Shavgulidze’s emotive drama.

Two of Us

Pensioners Nina (Barbara Sukowa) and Madeleine (Martine Chevallier) have hidden their deep and passionate love for many decades, but their bond is put to the test when they are suddenly unable to move freely between each other’s apartments, in Filippo Meneghetti’s bold, lustrous debut feature.

The Capote Tapes

Newly discovered interviews with friends of Truman Capote made by Paris Review co-founder George Plimpton invigorate this fascinating documentary on the author (and socialite) behind Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood. One unexpected interview is with Capote’s assistant Kate Harrington whose father was his lover.

Bad Education

Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, and Ray Romano star in this fact-based dramedy directed by Cory Finley, about an infamous school-larceny scandal that rocked Long Island in the early aughts.

Liberté

Visionary Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra returns to TIFF 2019 with another period-piece provocation, which follows an ensemble of libidinous 18th-century French aristocrats who embark on an extended night of woodland cruising to live out their sexual fantasies and explore their philosophy of libertinage.

Dads

Director Bryce Dallas Howard teams up with her father, Ron Howard, to explore contemporary fatherhood through anecdotes and wisdom from famous funnymen such as Will Smith, Jimmy Fallon, Neil Patrick Harris, and more.

Are You Hungry?

An overprotective mother’s assumptions about her son’s needs and desires lead to a cascading series of calamities in this hilarious, raunchy, yet wholly endearing comedy by Teemu Niukkanen.

Darling

Naive Shani helps his transgender friend and crush audition for the lead in an erotic dance show. In this whimsical drama, Saim Sadiq depicts the guileless ambition and inevitable compromises of two young adults daring to imagine bolder roles for themselves than society has envisioned.

Flesh

Five women, each in a different stage of their life, share experiences about their relationships to their bodies and how others perceive them in this powerfully intimate mixed-media animated documentary from Camila Kater.

Flood

A queer teenage boy takes his little sister on an adventure through the city for her birthday, but their celebration comes at a cost, in Joseph Amenta’s vital and unflinching drama.

I’ll End Up in Jail

A bored stay-at-home mom gets into trouble after speeding away from her small-town life, in this wildly unpredictable, madcap multi-genre effort from Canada’s own Alexandre Dostie.

Oracle

While their parents undertake prolonged home renovations, a child is left to roam the house, absorbing the chaos of construction and adult anxieties. In this unsettling directorial debut by actor-turned-filmmaker Aaron Poole, childhood imaginings soon manifest themselves in dreadful ways.

Reminiscences of the Green Revolution

In this vibrant drama about Filipino activists planning a series of protests in 2001, Dean Colin Marcial crafts an intricately layered portrait of idealism, fraying dynamics, and jealousy — all filtered through the point of view of a surprising narrator.

Route-3

In a sweaty, overcrowded tram in Sarajevo, a shy teenager is beset by every imaginable impediment as he tries to capture the attention of his object of desire. Yet the overheated hero of this wild farce will not be easily defeated.

Toomas Beneath the Valley of the Wild Wolves

In this decidedly cheeky and deliriously fun gay TIFF animation, a decent, hard-working wolf must rely on his physical gifts in order to make ends meet for the sake of his family.

SaF05

Turner Prize–winning artist-filmmaker Charlotte Prodger deftly blends the scientific with the diaristic, as the hunt for a rare maned lioness structures a personal reflection on queer desire and mobility.

The Bite

Pedro Neves Marques’ speculative short weaves a story of a polyamorous, non-binary relationship struggling to survive an epidemic of genetically modified killer mosquitos.

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