À Vancouver is an experimental video essay based in autobiography, featuring interviews with my father about our familial and individual sexual histories. Blending documentary and fiction, the video examines and expands upon parallel events in both my father and my lives, wherein we each traveled across Canada to Vancouver, and had formative (homo)sexual experiences at separate moments in time: my father as an 18-year-old traveling in the mid-60s and myself as a young teen and then adult in the mid-90s and 2000s. This story is recounted bilingually in French and English voiceover with subtitles and live action re-enactment of fictionalized events.
My father told me the story of his trip to Vancouver when I came out to him as a teenager. In 1964, he hitchhiked across the country with ‘nothing but $40 in his pocket.’ There he traded sex for shelter, contemplated suicide, and had profound thoughts on what his future would bring. Years later, I travelled to Vancouver several times, living there first as a young teen and then spending several months in my twenties grappling with addiction and fears of no future. From these experiences emerged a shared narrative of isolation, trauma, non-belonging, and hope.
Our conversation takes place over imagery of Vancouver (predictably) at its most Vancouver: in the cold rain. This is an intimate and touristic portrait of Vancouver, crafted from our shared memories of the city. It is both of the city but not the city. Similarly, our memories cast a transient and mythical framing of events. At one point during our exchange, my father asks if ‘my AIDS thing was part of my video?’
In the discussion that follows it is revealed that a traumatic memory from my youth can only be mis-identified as being parts of my AIDS narrative.