National Post

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Thursday, May 13, 1999

From Bubbles to drag kings, film-grant money still flows

Gloria Galloway, with files from Robert Fife
National Post

Fred Chartrand, The Canadian Press / Sheila Copps, the Heritage Minister, says rules may be tightened.

The Canada Council has agreed to fund production of a movie called The Girl Who Would Be King, a lesbian, drag-king adventure set to begin production in September.

Ilean Pietrobruno of Vancouver, who was awarded $60,000 to make the film, said yesterday that it was "a campy kind of thing" in which women in drag travel up and down the west coast "and search for treasure." When asked what the "treasure" was, Ms. Pietrobruno laughed, then refused to answer.

"I like the Canada Council," she said, adding that she didn't want to get the arts-funding agency controlled by the Department of Canadian Heritage in trouble.

A woman who had seen the script told the National Post yesterday that the film is pornography and the treasure the drag-king pirate is seeking is her own vagina.

Earlier this week, the council was condemned in the House of Commons by Sheila Copps, the Heritage Minister, for providing funding for Bubbles Galore, an award-winning film featuring porn star Nina Hartley. Ms. Copps said the government may tighten the rules for the funding of independent films.

She went on to blame members who were appointed to the Canada Council by the previous Conservative government for the decision because the grants to fund Bubbles Galore were approved in 1995 and 1996.

But The Girl Who Would Be King was approved this year by council members appointed in 1998. It was one of 22 films that were awarded production grants in a council competition that closed Nov. 1, 1998.

Stephane Dubois of the Canada Council, who on Tuesday defended the funding of Bubbles Galore, said the subject matter of The Girl Who Would Be King was clearly spelled out in the grant application.

But the film was more than a tale of a drag-king pirate searching for her own genitalia, said Ms. Dubois.

"There was also an artist's statement which explained where that was situated within her process, her artistic explorations."

The common issue linking pornography and pirates is that they are both male concepts, said Ms. Dubois. "A female in the pirate world is lucky if she can be the loved one . . . so it is an interesting way of presenting another representation of women."

Jacques Lefebvre, an aide to Ms. Copps, said the minister was concerned about government funding for such movies.

"Publicly she stated this in the case of Bubbles Galore, and the reaction is the same in this case. They should be very cautious in the way they give out grants in order to ensure that taxpayers' money is used in a judicious way."

He reiterated Ms. Copps' assertion that the Bubbles Galore grant had been given by Conservative appointees.

But one Tory politician jumped to the defence of the former government. Marjory LeBreton, a senator who was director of appointments under Brian Mulroney, said members of the Canada Council who had been appointed by the Conservatives were replaced shortly after the Liberal government took power in 1993.

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