|Location||Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario, Canada|
|Festival date||May (Toronto)|
The Inside Out Film and Video Festival, also known as the Inside Out LGBT or LGBTQ Film Festival, is an annual Canadian film festival, which presents a program of LGBT-related film. The festival is staged in both Toronto and Ottawa. Founded in 1991, the festival is now the largest of its kind in Canada. Deadline dubbed it "Canada’s foremost LGBTQ film festival."
The organization also presents a series of film screenings throughout the year outside of the dedicated festival, as well as a touring program of short film screenings in smaller towns and cities within Southern Ontario. The organization's current executive director is Lauren Howes, who succeeded Andria Wilson in 2021.
First held at Toronto's Euclid Theatre in 1991, Inside Out celebrated its festival with a small community of people who yearned to see film and video created by and about lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people. The festival was briefly the subject of controversy in 1993, when Metro Toronto council refused an arts grant to support the 1994 festival on the grounds of "community standards", even though the council had given grants to the festival in both 1991 and 1992 without issue. The festival was able to make up the lost funding that year when numerous arts organizations in the city, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Toronto International Film Festival, the National Ballet School, Tarragon Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, and the Danny Grossman Dance Company made donations to the festival.
The festival has since expanded to incorporate a variety of programs related to the promotion and development of LGBT films and filmmakers in Canada. Currently the largest event of its kind in Canada, Deadline dubbed it "Canada’s foremost LGBTQ film festival." Previously staged at a variety of venues in Toronto, the festival is now staged at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Since 2009, RBC Royal Bank has served as the presenting sponsor of the Toronto Festival. The festival bills itself as "a not-for-profit registered charity that exists to challenge attitudes and change lives through the promotion, production and exhibition of film made by and about lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people of all ages, races and abilities."
In 2016, a number of local activists launched the Toronto Queer Film Festival, an alternative intended for filmmakers and audiences who perceive Inside Out's current programming as too commercialized and mainstream.
In March 2020, the festival organizers announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, the 2020 festival, normally scheduled for May, would be postponed to October. In July, they announced that the Toronto and Ottawa events would be combined into a single digital event. Due to the unique online nature of the event, the winners of the juried awards were announced at the beginning of the festival, as a tool to help publicize the winners during the festival, although audience-voted awards were still announced after the festival's conclusion.
The 2021 festival returned to the event's traditional scheduling in late May, although it was still staged online. The event was available to viewers throughout Ontario; the films in the Spotlight on Canada program were screened for free through a sponsorship agreement with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
The online platform that was used for both the 2020 and 2021 festivals is also planned to remain in permanent operation, both as a year-round distribution platform for LGBTQ films and as an additional accessibility option once the festival is able to return to traditional physical screenings.
In 2007, the Inside Out festival expanded to Ottawa, soon after the demise of the city's earlier Making Scenes Film and Video Festival. Originally presented at the ByTowne Cinema, since 2016 the event has been staged at the National Gallery of Canada.
In 2009, the festival faced controversy when the Canada Border Services Agency impounded prints of the films Patrik, Age 1.5, I Can't Think Straight, and Clapham Junction that were en route to the festival, even though all three films had previously been screened elsewhere in Canada without incident.
In addition to the annual film festival events, the Inside Out organization also offers a number of dedicated training and funding programs to foster the creation of LGBT-themed film in Canada.
In 1998, with the support of Charles Street Video, Inside Out initiated the Queer Video Mentorship Project to provide opportunities for youth to learn video production in a supportive atmosphere. Queer youth under the age of 25 are mentored through the process of making their first videos, from storyboarding and shooting to post-production and editing. In celebration of the festival's 20th anniversary in 2010, Inside Out expanded this into a multi-generational program bringing together LGBT youth and seniors over the age of 55. To date, close to 100 new artists have created work through the project. The works are screened at the festival and many go on to play at festivals around the globe. Each year, the works are compiled and distributed free to schools and community organizations.
In 2001, Inside Out launched the inaugural John Bailey Film and Video Completion Fund. Named in recognition of the contribution of a longtime Inside Out supporter and advisory board member, the fund awards grants ranging from $500 to $2,000 to Canadian filmmakers with work in the final stages of production.
Inaugurated in 2002, the Mark S. Bonham Scholarship for Queer Studies in Film and Video awards a $5,000 cash scholarship to a Canadian student who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, to pursue post-secondary studies in the field of film or video. The first scholarship was awarded in September 2002 to Adam Garnet Jones from Vancouver. Subsequent recipients were Mary Fogarty, Christopher Sanchez, Jung Kim, Cam Matamoros, Jo Simalaya Alcampo, Rachel Smyth, and Jordan Tannahill.
In 2018, the festival launched the Focus Fund to support work by LGBTQ female and non-binary filmmakers. It also organizes an annual Finance Forum, providing an opportunity for emerging filmmakers to pitch LGBT-related projects in development to potential production funders.
In 2019, the festival partnered with streaming service Crave as a branding partner on the service's new portal for LGBTQ film and television content, as well as launching a partnership with Netflix to support the development and funding of new LGBTQ-oriented film and television content in Canada.
In 2020, through the Focus Fund, the festival launched a special emergency relief fund, offering grants of up to $2,500 to projects impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival was also one of the key partners, alongside Outfest Los Angeles, the Frameline Film Festival, and the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Film Festival, in launching the North American Queer Festival Alliance, an initiative to further publicize and promote LGBT film.
The Inside Out Arts Endowment Fund was established in December 2001 through the Ontario Arts Foundation to provide a stable base of funding for Inside Out in the future. The fund was created thanks to a generous founding gift from Mark Bonham of $200,000, and it is currently valued at close to $300,000. Supporters of Inside Out can make tax-deductible donations specifically to the Endowment Fund.