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Gay Films Seized in Canada

Clapham Junction by Adrian Shergold
Lisa Ray, Sheetal Sheth in I Can't Think Straight
Patrik Age. 1.5 by Ella Lemhagen
Clapham Junction by Adrian Shergold (top); Lisa Ray, Sheetal Sheth in I Can't Think Straight (middle); Patrik Age. 1.5 by Ella Lemhagen (bottom)

Canada an egalitarian gay haven? Think again.

Marcus McCann reports in Xtra.com that Canada Border Services Agency customs officers have seized three gay-themed films en route to Ottawa's three-day Inside Out gay film festival, which ends tomorrow, Nov. 22. No explanation was given for the seizure – which, of course, is exactly what you'd expect to happen in a true democracy. The films are supposed to remain in custody until they're watched in full by some border censor or other. (Curiously, the Inside Out website makes no mention of the border incident.)

The three films in question are Adrian Shergold's made-for-TV Clapham Junction, which follows a group of gay men in Clapham, South London, and which has some nudity; Shamim Sarif's I Can't Think Straight, a Middle East-set lesbian love story starring Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth; and Ella Lemhagen's PG-rated Patrik Age. 1.5, the story of a gay couple who mistakenly end up adopting a teen thug. All three films have already been screened elsewhere in Canada. All three are Here! releases, a US-based distributor of gay-themed movies.

In the past, Canadian customs officials have been accused of harassing gays, and of arbitrarily confiscating gay literature and movies. Despite the country's reputation of being more “liberal” than its southern neighbor, its customs cops, obsessed with obscenity, are known as anything but – especially when it comes to homosexuality. In 2000, the Vancouver-based bookstore Little Sister's sued the CBSA, taking the matter all the way to Canada's Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the bookstore. Clearly, the ruling hasn't prevented the agency from going after other gay-oriented venues.

When told about the pending fate of the festival's three films, festivalgoers booed and hissed upon hearing mention of the CBSA.

Now, the question is: why haven't those bigots been sued again so they'll stop – for good – their anti-gay harassment?

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3 Comments to Gay Films Seized in Canada

  1. Sariena

    I would expect this in a country that still binds and gags and kills people for being who they are. But Canada? Shamim and Hanan's films are the epitome of universal connection, regardless of social status, religion and sexual orientation. The characters in her films are representatives of the world, struggling with “human” feelings and an evolution of themselves-themes anyone can relate to. The films have connected world-wide with audiences-gay and straight and have won dozens of film festival awards. To be truly enlightened, see them both and decide for yourself. Canada: You are supposed to be one of the leading epicenters of World Cinema, equality and liberation. Set an example for that for which you stand, in all areas, except this-this is truly hypocritical and not conducive to progression. Your citizens are free-and with that freedom comes exposure to experience lives and stories other than our own. Shamim and Hanan at Enlightenment Productions, have broken down all kinds of barriers around the world,with their cinematically beautiful films and luckily through their own experiences they know and have conveyed the indispensible value of personal freedom. Watch the films, and support these two progressive film makers & perhaps you'll transgress your own mindset as many others have.


  2. Zelia Lobo-Hagiwara

    Canada is an extremely progressive country and there is no justification for the seizure of Shamim Sarif's multi award-winning films, moreso when one of the main actors, Lisa Ray, is a famous Canadian actor. Lisa Ray is suffering from multiple myeloma and her worldwide fans help fund her Canadian charities with tens of thousands of dollars to find a cure for the disease.

    To serve some rainbow coloured icing cake to the border services folks, it might help to cross the Canadian border carrying both “The World Unseen” and “I Can't Think Straight” DVDs. Make a flashy flier showing Shamim Sarif's picture, her bio, synopses of her two films, pictures of the films, the awards they have received, list where they were screened in North America, and the link to Enlightenment Productions (all information is available at ). Declare the DVDs at customs together with the flier as “personal possession” or “daily dose of personal entertainment and relaxation”. Have the ICTS Soundtrack playing in your ear or on the car stereo. Wear the ICTS T-shirt should you own one. Remain patient, polite, and smiling while at the border crossing.

    Thanks and Cheers!

  3. Mrl

    This is really sad.
    I live in Vancouver and have ordered one of the movies listed above plus books and they came with no problem.
    Why cause problems for people who are celebrating the art of film making and increasing awareness?

    Doesn't make any sense, especially in Canada.