Country Bear Jamboree

Malcolm Ingram finds his people, and films 'em, too

Director Malcolm Ingram
Director Malcolm Ingram

One look at big, beefy, burly Malcolm Ingram, and it's clear why he made Bear Nation, an examination into the subculture of big, beefy, burly men and the often big, beefy, burly men who love them. "The bear community gave me so many gifts," he says. "It gave me a place to belong, and I didn't have to change anything."

And what, pray tell, would anyone want to change about the adorable, 41-year-old filmmaker (Small Town Gay Bar)? Other than, maybe his weight ... or hair? Or a better wardrobe? What a lot of folks unfamiliar with gay community may not understand is how marginalizing it can be within the confines of the LBG. The insularity of being outcasts breeds peer pressure. And often, that pressure is about looks.

"It's about finding representation beyond prebranded, fabricated representation. Just because you like to suck a dick. ... Is this, like, the only thing I share with these guys? There are pretty boys that are essentially really effeminate and really good-looking and dress really well. I am none of those things. I'm a big fat dorky guy."

As in his much lauded 2006 doc Small Town Gay Bar, Ingram adopts lyrical montages as the film hits the road, or in this case the skies, from Ingram's home turf Toronto to (unlike Small Town) the urban dens of Chicago, London, and New York. Even in these sophisticated settings, bears need tribe. "Essentially my mission," says Ingram, "is to get those voices heard whenever possible, because people are trusting me with something, and I have to make sure those voices get out there."

Beyond representation, Ingram's film cheerfully invites the curious in. "Bears are doing a lot for the gay world," Ingram asserts. "I don't know if you've looked around lately, but the boys are spreading a lot more hair – even little twinkie ones. Hair is coming back, and in the male gay world, masculinity has a currency like it has never had before. Everybody is walking around looking like [the Minutemen's] Mike Watt – which is not a bad thing."

Country Bear Jamboree

In fact, I suggest, it is probably Ingram's dream come true. And speaking of punk rock icons, I ask him if he thinks Bob Mould – the guitar god of Eighties phenom Hüsker Dü, who is featured in the film – was cuter fatter.

"I think Bob Mould was always kind of attractive, but I think that he ... Jesus Christ, he basically ages to the wolfiest motherfucker," he confesses. "When I did that interview – he is literally one of my idols, and I had not really seen that many [current] pictures of him. When I went to meet him I was like, 'Oh God, not only is he my idol, but I have a huge crush on him.' Oh," he stops himself, "this interview just got awkward." The film also features another cuddly famous (albeit straight) guy, namely Ingram's bud and producer Kevin Smith, who recently hit headlines with a very public dispute with Southwest Airlines, which ejected him from a flight claiming his girth was too substantial for one seat.

"You know that whole thing with Kevin on Southwest happened when he was leaving International Bear Rendezvous. It's so funny that he was leaving a fatty convention and ended up, like, getting kicked off a plane for being too fat."

But the trip was not without its silver lining: "Kevin has never felt that he has been completely sexually objectified, and to sit in a room of guys that – I would say that 99 percent of the people in that room had jerked off thinking about him. It's a bit of a trip, right?"

Bear Nation

Emerging Visions, World Premiere

Sunday, March 14, 9:30pm, G-Tech

Thursday, March 18, 12:30pm, G-Tech

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Bear Nation, Malcolm Ingram, Small Town Gay Bar, Kevin Smith, International Bear Rendezvous, Mike Watt, Bob Mould

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