[Amir, our Canadian correspondent, is reporting from The Hot Docs Film Festival, the biggest documentary festival in North America currently underway in Toronto.]
One of the tendencies that festival-goers develop over time is finding connecting threads between films that might otherwise be completely unrelated. This unconscious search for umbrella themes, even if unintended by festival programmers, intensifies when you sit down to write about the films. At first glance, there is little connecting three films about aging Belgian transsexuals, Argentinian civilians on camera, and Turkish-American political pundits. Beneath the surface, though, all deal in some way with a desire for self-expression in the spotlight.
Before the Last Curtain Falls follows a group of gay and transsexual performers who get together in the later years of their lives to put on an avant-garde show called Gardenia. When the film begins in the hauntingly beautiful city of Ghent in Belgium, where the performers hail from, the show has already become a massive international success and it is returning home for one final performance after more than 200 outings. Director Thomas Wallner combines interviews with the cast members with footage of the show to paint a portrait of each of them, drawing on their experiences of sexual identity struggle, social oppression and therapeutic theatre work.