Director. An essential figure in the New Queer Toronto Wave of the 1990s, Ryerson- and American Film Institute-trained Podeswa first attracted attention way back in 1983 with David Roche Talks to You About Love, an engaging monologue and sketch performance by the eponymous actor about love, same-sex and otherwise. Podeswa’s first feature Eclipse (1994), a tri-lingual carousel of horny but alienated Torontonians fucking their way through a solar eclipse, was very queer in its omni-sexuality, as well as a masterful exercise in mise-en-scene, directing acting, and gazing in rapture at long-haired newcomer Matthew Ferguson. The second feature The Five Senses (1999, Genie Best Director), followed in a similar vein with interwoven narratives, multi-sexual labyrinths (and beefcake), high powered acting and evocative urban symbolism. Both films literally embody Podeswa’s resistance to the pigeonhole of “gay filmmaking” in the narrow sense:
... my sexual orientation is one element among others. I believe that the experience of belonging to a minority, whether tied to sexual orientation, religion or race, changes your perspective you can have on of our environment and things in life. My orientation is only one part of me: I am Jewish, my parents are immigrants, I am North American. All these things and many others make what I am. It would be very restrictive, even a mistake, to say that my work or any other filmmaker’s can be reduced to the dimension of sexual orientation. (Fugues, 16-9 (Dec. 1999) 88).
Podeswa followed up with bread-and-butter exercises in TV movies (the period prairie melodrama of heterofamilial dysfunctionality After the Harvest, 2000), and directing queer cable episodes (Six Feet Under).
Podeswa then stunned everyone with a brilliant short fiction about the masochistic eroticism of an abused and sequestered teenager, Touch (2001, 29), by far the new decade’s best queer short fiction in English. This half-hour narrative follows the first person narration of Richard who emerges from his trauma to crave the eroticism of pain. Richard turns away from his restored family and the flirtatious high school boy at the next locker towards the nighttime world of street-corner hustling for johns who will hit him. Based on a story “My Lover’s Touch” by Vancouver writer and ex-sexworker Patrick Roscoe, and starring Brendan Fletcher, the intense sandy-haired revelation of rollercoaster, The Law of Enclosure and The Five Senses, Touch was compared to Genet by an online commentator when it bowed at TIFF in 2001: “Raw, beautiful and haunting, it may be Podeswa’s best work.”[i] No one who saw the film disagreed.
[i]. http://eyetap.org/cyberman/cyberman_eye_tiff_movie_rating_printer.htm. Accessed 27 November 2003.