Queer Screen has announced the full program for the Mardi Gras Film Festival 2019, which begins on February 13 and features over 120 short and feature films.

The festival will open with the Australian premiere of Giant Little Ones, a coming-of-age drama centred on Franky, a young man forced to confront homophobia on his swim team after an incident on his 17th birthday.

Giant Little Ones also co-stars Twin Peaks‘ Kyle MacLachlan as his dad, who left Franky’s mum for another man.

The festival will close with Kenyan film Rafiki, which premiered in Un Certain Regard at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, before making headlines when it was briefly banned in Kenya where homosexuality is illegal.

MGFF 2019 also features a world premiere in Marco Berger’s The Blonde One, an Argentinean drama about colleagues who move in together and find themselves irrevocably drawn to each other.

Berger previously directed the acclaim 2013 film Hawaii and Taekwondo, which played the Mardi Gras Film Festival in 2017. He will attend MGFF 2019 and lead a filmmaker masterclass: ‘How to Get Your Gay Indie Made’.

Other highlights include Wild Nights with Emily, which portrays poet Emily Dickinson in a bold, funny rebuke to historical queer erasure and the spinsterhood often applied to her memory.

The luminous Molly Shannon, beloved as Val on Will & Grace, Mary Katherine Gallagher in Superstar, in gay indie Other People and Mike White’s criminally underrated Year of the Dog, stars as Dickinson alongside Susan Ziegler and Amy Seimetz in the film, which is directed by Madeleine Olnek (The Foxy MerkinsCodependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same).

Former Doctor Who Matt Smith brings the life of famed photographer Robert Mapplethorpe to the screen in Mapplethorpe, charting his rise to fame in the 1970s until his death in 1989.

Australian films feature prominently in the program in The Coming Back Out Ball Movie as well as Becoming Colleen, Ian W. Thomson’s powerful documentary about Colleen Young, the woman transitioning – in her eighties – while living in a Coffs Harbour aged care facility, with both docos shining a rare light on our LGBTI elders.

My Queer Career returns to the festival once again, showcasing the best up-and-coming Australian queer short filmmakers.

Staying on the documentary side, the award-winning When the Beat Drops follows on from Kiki and Paris is Burning in highlighting the communities and artforms developed by queer people of colour in this film about ‘bucking’, an African-American dance subculture which subverts traditional notions of masculinity.

Making Montgomery Clift delves into the life of the gorgeous Monty Clift, a ‘confirmed bachelor’ who was famous friends with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe and a four-time Oscar nominee for films like A Place in the Sun and From Here to Eternity.

The documentary challenges many of the commonly held notions about Clift as a tragic, closeted figure, due in part to his involvement in a 1956 car accident from which many say he never fully recovered, through the involvement of his nephew and recordings made by Clift’s brother.

Other highlights include The Rest I Make Up, which looks at the Alzheimer’s journey of avant-garde Cuban-American playwright Maria Irene Fornes, as well as the caustic satire of Kill the Monsters, in which an American throuple go on a cross-country road trip in search of treatment for one partner’s mysterious illness.

Already tipped to be a highlight in festival favourite Sauvage, announced as part of the festival’s first look, Félix Maritaud also stars in the emotional thriller Boys, while Guatemalan film José, which won the prize for best queer film at last year’s Venice Film Festival, tells a story of a first love against a backdrop of class and economic hardship.

And those seeking a classic queer cinema fix will be thrilled by the inclusion of Maurice in the program, a story of repression in the high class circles of Britain in the 19th century starring Hugh Grant and directed by James Ivory, who recently won an Oscar for the Call Me By Your Name screenplay, whose Merchant-Ivory productions with his partner Ismail Merchant are renowned for their lush sensitivity.

MGFF 2019 will also screen groundbreaking 1985 dramedy Buddies, the recently restored first feature film about the AIDS crisis, which until recently was largely inaccessible to new audiences.

The Mardi Gras Film Festival 2019 runs from February 13 to 28 at Event Cinemas George Street in Sydney, before select screenings across New South Wales. For tickets, head to www.queerscreen.org

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