A GAY director, whose movie is one of the highlights of next month’s Sydney Mardi Gras Film Festival, has told the Star Observer he believes Australia is being “humiliated” due to its inaction on same-sex marriage and the country’s trenchant homophobia stems from a misguided belief in mateship.

Dean Francis, the producer and director of Drown, which has its world premiere at next month’s Mardi Gras Film Festival, made the comments at last Wednesday’s festival launch.

The event, held at Sydney’s Star casino saw organisers Queer Screen showcase the festival’s main attractions including the My Queer Career shorts by new filmmakers and Skin Deep, which was filmed in Sydney’s Newtown district and about the relationship between two strangers thrown together by grief.

Drown, billed as an exploration of violence, jealously and desire, portrays the ramifications for an Australian surf lifesaving champion when a new, and gay, member of the team steals his crown.

“The thing that inspired us to make this film is that we still live in a very homophobic world and in terms of western countries we live in a particularly homophobic country,” said Francis, who also bemoaned the fact Australia could soon be the only country among its peers without same-sex marriage.

“America will join the many other nations that have sanctioned gay marriage and we will once again be left behind and we are humiliated.

“We are living in a fucked up and backward society in so many ways.”

Francis said much of the blame was due to the Australian belief in mateship at all costs.

“The idea of mateship has evolved to the place where you essentially endorse brotherly loyalty at the expense of everything else,” he said.

“Mateship excuses a lot because it is basically an excuse for us to go with the crowd and to not stand up for what we actually believe in which is stifling to the notion of an individual’s identity and, in particular, their sexual identity.

“It’s an idealisation of the Australian male who is straight, who is imposing physically and who goes with the pack mentality there is zero room for sexual or gender diversity.”

Francis said being a filmmaker was his way of challenging the status quo.

He wanted to highlight Australia’s cultural issues of sexuality and masculinity by having one of the lead characters of Drown, lifesaving champion Len played my Matt Levett, embody those stereotypical Aussie traits.

“He is the perfect image, he is the archetypal Australian male and he’s not gay he’s completely straight,” Francis said.

“The problem is that when a gay, hotter, younger, fitter bloke steals his championship he’s angry [because] he’s being dethroned but, more importantly, he’s starts to get a hard-on when he’s around this guy.”

Drown, which was filmed in Sydney and includes some tumultuous scenes on Oxford St, premieres on March 4 at Event Cinemas, George St.

Tickets to Drown and other Mardi Gras Film Festival events, which runs from February 19 – March 5 are available at queerscreen.org.au/mgff

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