Justine Pimlott

Documentarist, Soundperson
Lives in
Toronto , ON
Ontario CA

Documentarist, soundperson. Technical support on many feminist and lesbian documentaries since the mid-1980s, and a frequent collaborator of such directors as Fernie and Weissman, Toronto-based Pimlott brought out her first documentary as director in 1999. Laugh in the Dark (47; see Chapter 9) is a prizewinning low-budget documentary about community—and its loss—in the hinterland of Southern Ontario. Crystal Beach, not far from the Fort Erie border crossing on Lake Erie, used to have claim to being our Coney Island, and under vintage images of its rollercoaster glory days, Pimlott narrates a small group of gay men arriving from Toronto in Crystal Beach’s days of decline in the early 1980s. They undertake the resort town’s rejuvenation, overcoming local prejudice through their charm and sincerity, and gradually build up a kind of community consisting of “four fags, two dykes and a 78 year old ‘former practicing heterosexual’ woman.” The image conveyed of this unusual friendship circle, whose energy is devoted largely to sprucing up their digs and putting on AIDS fundraiser cabaret benefits, is both sentimental and wry: “your friends are God’s apology for your family,” says the elderly fag hag Doris. But, as AIDS rears its head, feelings of sunlit nostalgia are soon replaced by tearful expressions of loss, for three of the four men eventually die, and the alternative family must pack up and leave. The documentary about the transplantation of queer community into the boondocks has shifted gears and has become one of the most unpretentious, effective and affecting elegies in Canadian queer cinema. In 2003 Pimlott went on to make Punch Like a Girl, a well received TV documentary series on women boxers, co-produced and co-directed with her partner Maya Gallus.