Jen Markowitz‘s TIFF 2023 documentary SUMMER QAMP follows a group of kids attending a queer sleepaway camp in Canada. This celebration of individualism is essential viewing.
We witness walls breaking down through small pods of campers and mentors, campfire storytelling, and creative and traditional class selections. Former campers and artists in residence encourage each kid to take chances, but only as long as they are comfortable. There is no hidden agenda here. Camp Firefly exists to help these kids make it to adulthood. A brilliant and creative outlet for fear, anxiety, identity, and community connection, Camp Firefly is a safe space for queer youth to flourish. Camp is a place to heal, be accepted, and feel free. The world needs more of this. Just think of how many suicides we could prevent if we allowed everyone to be themselves, fully and unapologetically.
The overwhelming joy of hearing these kids laugh is infectious. SUMMER QAMP is an education, through and through. As a former theatre kid and current creative adult with two kids, I strive to understand how identity plays a part in overall confidence. I grew up with often crippling anxiety, a stranglehold of perfectionism, and feeling othered. It doesn’t feel good. My job is to protect my kids from the same overwhelming feelings of chaos any way I can.
SUMMER QAMP‘S brave kids allow the audience into their personal lives. They may not fully appreciate how fearless they are. Campers share their gender identity journey, the good, the bad, and the emotionally ugly. This film provides a conversation starter for understanding gender dysphoria from those experiencing it firsthand. It’s an aha of a film.
Leave your judgment at the door. Better yet, rid yourself of it altogether. The biggest takeaway from SUMMER QAMP? Just let kids be kids. They will figure it out in the end. And love should be unconditional.
WORLD PREMIERE – 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
About Director Jen Markowitz
Writer, director, and producer Jen Markowitz has worked in nearly every facet of Canadian television. Starting in scripted, moving to casting, and eventually landing in unscripted/non-fiction, they recently earned three Canadian Screen Awards for writing and producing Canada’s Drag Race, as well as a People’s Choice Award nomination and an Imagen award for producing Shine True, Vice/Fuse TV’s limited series about non-binary youth. Throughout their career, Jen has built a reputation on prioritizing authenticity in their storytelling and pursuing narratives with a balance of tenacity and tenderness. Identifying as queer non-binary, Jen brings their passion for celebrating, protecting, and properly portraying queer and trans communities into their work with deep respect and relentless devotion.
Mins 80 | Language English | Year 2023 | Country Canada