Inside out Toronto Lesbian & gay film & video festivaL at the Cumberland (159 Cumberland), opening-and closing-night galas at the Paramount (John and Richmond). Tonight (Thursday, May 17) through May 27. Admission: book of eight vouchers $64, members $55; opening- and closing-night galas $20, members $18; centerpiece gala $12, members $10; single ticket $9, members $8; seniors and youth $6, director series pwyc. 416-925-XTRA ext 2229. www.in sideout.on.ca. Rating: NNNN
In Bed With A Secret (Wednesday, May 23, 9:30 pm) is one of the fest's strongest programs of shorts. Welcome to the world of lesbian longings and unexpected dramatic twists. Montreal filmmaker Louise Archambault's exquisite Atomic Sake is a must-see, a 33- minute, black-and-white film structured around the different points of view of three women pals who reveal huge secrets to one another. A stunning work. The clever 4 P.M. finds a politician dealing with a one-night stand that won't go away, and Her Urge is very funny look at a brainy dyke looking to reel in her bad-girl opposite.IR
It's not easy to sit through Gaea Girls (Monday, May 21, 4:15 pm), directors Kim Longinotto and Jano Williams's disturbing documentary about the training techniques inflicted on young Japanese women who want to become professional wrestlers. Not only do the girls undergo brutal physical punishment, but they also endure the emotional browbeating of their coach, who admits to using the same methods her abusive father used on her.IR
Gena Rowlands, Brooke Shields, Jared Harris and highly underrated Canadian actor Deborah Kara Unger (Crash) star in Brian Skeet's elegiac The Weekend (Friday, May 18, 7:15 pm). Unger assembles friends and family for a weekend at her upstate New York home to mark the anniversary of the AIDS-related death of pal Tony. The "missing member" drama is a mainstay in gay cinema, but rarely has it been delivered with such quiet conviction. It whispers, "Life goes on and we must treasure the love around us." Great cast, great performances.IR
Fans of Tennessee Williams and Secrets And Lies will enjoy Tag Purvis's first feature, Red Dirt (Saturday, May 26, 9:30 pm). Pine Apple, Mississippi, is lush but confining for 20-year-old Griffith Burns. He aches to run away with a hunky wanderer but feels compelled to stay and care for his made-nutty-by-the-past aunt, intensely portrayed by Karen Black. It moves slowly and has less gay content than audiences expect for Inside Out, but Red Dirt offers strong, character-based performances and beautiful cinematography.
Anyone who digs Vaseline every month at the El Mo must see John T. Ryan's Freaks, Glam Gods And Rock Stars,The NYC Story (Friday, May 18, midnight). Ryan scopes out the Big Apple's resurgent glam scene, which is hanging on despite Mayor Rudy Giuliani's attempt to shut down the city's club scene, and celebrates a musical movement that mixes gay, straight and we're-not-quite-sure partiers.IR
After his grandfather suffers a stroke, New York artist Henry (Ayre Gross) returns to his small Montana town to take care of the old man and deal with a past love and the attentions of silent, closeted native American Pike (Vancouver's Eric Schweig). Big Eden (Tuesday, May 22, 9:30 pm) is a glorified Northern Exposure episode in which a quirky town exudes gay-positive vibes cheering on opposites Henry and Pike. Still, the good-humoured wishful thinking of director Thomas Bezucha is very appealing. IR
Dykes who love to "process" will be in seventh heaven sitting through Greg Stiever's stirring documentary, Poles Apart (Saturday, May 19, 4:45 pm), which captures the trek of four American women to the South Pole. They give an almost day-by-day account of their arduous journey, which tested their mental toughness even more than their physical limits. The footage -- photos and videos of the trip -- is spellbinding. IR