THE biggest Brisbane Queer Film Festival yet wrapped up its nine-day celebration of the silver screen last weekend, going off with a drag-inspired bang.

Entering its 15th year, BQFF organisers had plans to go above and beyond previous years and see that Brisbane, Australia and the world took notice of a festival that has in the past lived in the shadow of its interstate counterparts.

Using the 2014 festival’s core mantra of “Let Love Fly”, organisers were determined to offer visitors a variety of Australian queer film festival-firsts along with events, screenings and guest speakers exclusive to Brisbane.

This year’s festival also featured an extensive line-up of Australian content and the local films proved to be a major draw card.

“The features and shorts attendances were much stronger than any other year,” BQFF producer Troy Armstrong told the Star Observer.

“The hit screenings were G.B.F, Queer Aussie Shorts, Monster Pies and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which says a lot for the level of support for Australian content.”

Exclusive film screenings and Q&As with the creative team behind classic Australian flick The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (which is celebrating its 20th anniversary), Olympian Matthew Mitcham and several film directors had festival-goers raving.

“The patron responses to the events and films have been overwhelmingly positive. Filmmaker Beth Nelsen who travels the festival circuit exclaimed ‘BQFF has the best festival opening night party in the world, it’s the perfect venue’,” Armstrong said.

The overall theme of the festival of love was evident when one event hosted a happy wedding proposal between two women that took everyone by surprise.

Well-known community advocate and supporter Shaz Gerchow took the chance during the festival’s Camp Out night to surprise almost everyone in attendance and propose to her partner.

Wanting to involve the community she’s proud to be a part of, Gerchow knew that the time was right to demonstrate her devotion to her girlfriend of three years who had stood by her during recent family illnesses.

“Niko has been enormously supportive of both me and my family and given the amount of stress and upheaval we were going through, I felt like I wanted to show her how much she meant to me,” Gerchow told the Star Observer.

Preferring to wait until their union is legalised in Australia instead of marry overseas, Gerchow wanted use the proposal as a means to offer security and commitment.

“I also wanted to do something special for her and to reassure and remind her we’d have a future regardless of the tumult surrounding us at present,” she said.

“We both love the (Brisbane) Powerhouse and were really looking forward to Camp Out so it just seemed like the right place and event for it. I asked a number of friends to come along to support us.”

Armstrong could not have been happier to see the theme of the festival literally on display and jumped at the opportunity to help Gerchow.

“‘Let Love Fly’ was the underlying theme of the festival and to have a marriage proposal at the most significant community event within the festival was deeply touching,” he said.

“We kept this a big secret, we were all so nervous with flowers and champagne ready for Niko to say yes and when she did say yes, it was like fireworks went off in the theatre.”

Armstrong was extremely proud of the efforts of everyone involved and the festival itself, saying the end result far outweighed the controversy it faced with promotional posters in February.

“[It was] exhausting but truly rewarding, the best role I’ve ever had in terms of job satisfaction. It was… a defining year of an annual event that has come to maturity and gaining an international reputation,” he said.

Armstrong also praised the man who stood by him and helping him make sure the festival went off with only a few glitches.

“I shared this whole experience with an amazing guy. He supported me through the controversy and the accolades of opening night. There is no point working day and night on a job unless you can share the journey, for this I’m truly grateful,” he said.

As to where to from here for the festival, Armstrong said he was determined to grow it in the years to come.

“[There is]a lot of discussion for the festival to remain a LGBTIQ highlight event of the year, we are looking to strengthen and broaden our sponsors and partnerships to match the scale in 2015,” he said.

© Star Observer 2014 | For the latest in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans* and Intersex (LGBTI) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also pick up the next Star Observer monthly magazine September 18 or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.