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#HotDocs21 Review: Someone Like Me

May 1, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2021 Hot Docs Festival is running virtually from April 29th to May 9th, all films are available to stream for audiences across Canada

Directors Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams follow a group of people from Vancouver’s LGBTQ+ community who are working together to sponsor a gay refugee through the Rainbow Refugee program in Someone Like Me. We watch as the group hosts fundraisers and holds planning meetings, to be able to bring someone over from a country where queer people are facing persecution.

The group chooses Drake, a 22-year-old gay man from Uganda dreaming of becoming a fashion designer, who is unable to freely express his sexuality without the threat of violence or jail. But when Drake actually arrives, tensions emerge within the group, as they disagree over how to help him. Some take an overly parental approach of trying to keep him away from marijuana and alcohol, both legal in Canada, while others rightly recognize the trauma he has gone through and encourage him to find his own way in a country where he is finally able to be himself.

This push and pull between the best way to support a newcomer is felt strongly in the film, and it’s very interesting to watch how the dynamics change within the group. The ones who step up most to the plate are Kay, a non-binary immigration lawyer, and their partner Emily, who give Drake a place to stay when he first arrives, and offer non-judgemental support. It’s also interesting to watch how Drake adapts to life in Vancouver, where he observes that homophobia is not a problem, but racial tensions exist for him as a young Black man, an inverse of his experience in Uganda.

Because of the film’s timeline with Drake arriving at the end of 2019, we know that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to hit, disrupting his first year in Canada. The final stretch of the documentary is made up of footage that the subjects shot themselves in quarantine, and it adds another interesting layer to it, that the filmmakers do a very good job of incorporating. This is an involving look at the immigrant experience, that finds a unique perspective through its engaging subjects.

Someone Like Me is available to watch from April 29th until May 9th. It includes a Q&A. Digital tickets and more information can be found right here.

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