As the 1920s became the 1930s, and the production code began crushing Hollywood with its moral watchdog, North American cinema began getting a filtered perception of what it was to be gay.

Homosexuality was either demonized, marginalized or ignored altogether and it has taken the tireless, upward climbing of generations to change that perception.

Which makes the very existence of the ever-evolving Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film and Video Festival (running from May 14 to 24) a cause for celebration.

Now in its 19th year, the massively influential festival (the third largest of its kind in the world, in fact) assembles queer-centric cinema from every country, every perspective and every genre.

And as director of programming Jason St. Laurent believes, Inside Out is much, much more than just another niche film exhibition.

“There’s a potent social significance to the fest,” says St. Laurent. “Liberation movements evolve the world over and it’s a good situation for us because film usually precedes and stokes these movements. It honestly feels like we’re partially responsible for the rise of many of them, internationally.

“And perhaps tellingly, we’re still seeing a lack of films coming from Africa, which is worrisome.”

This year, along with a addendum to its name (the newly included B and T stand for bisexual and transgender), Inside Out also casts a spotlight on films coming out of France (including New Wave, starring iconic actress Beatrice Dalle and a resurrection of Oscar winning ’50s kid flick The Red Balloon) and boasts more than 100 filmmakers from around the globe set to attend and introduce their respective works.

But as St. Laurent admits, the wild, post-screening soirees are almost as much of a draw as the movies themselves.

“There are no VIP areas for filmmakers or celebrities at our parties,” he says.

“Filmmkers, writers and actors freely mingle with industry pros and invited guests and it’s a great dynamic. In fact, believe it or not, some people forgo the films and just buy tickets to the parties. It’s wild.”

Ticket info
For complete Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film and Video Festival screening, party and ticket information go to www.insideout.on.ca