Sotiris Dounoukos had never explored gay subjects in his work before making his fourth film, Mona Lisa.
It turned out to be an impressive debut, with the Melbourne director’s movie taking out best film, best screenplay and best direction at the My Queer Career short film competition last Thursday.
Shot in Melbourne in 2003, Mona Lisa charts the fraught relationship between 30-something Greek-Australian George and his elderly mother.
The short film takes its title from the painting of which its male character was frightened as a child. The film and da Vinci’s masterpiece also share an enigmatic quality.
I thought that was true to the environment that [the characters] share -“ that within their world it’s really an unsaid thing, Dounoukos told Sydney Star Observer.
The Sydney-born director said his win was a shock given the quality of the other 10 My Queer Career finalists.
I thought there were many strong films on the night. I guess that was the basis of the shock.
Dounoukos was equally impressed by the audience response.
The reaction at the Mardi Gras Film Festival opener was without a doubt the best yet for Mona Lisa after about 90 Australian and international festival screenings.
I felt like there was a real compassion for the characters, Dounoukos said.
As a filmmaker you want to enter into a dialogue with the people who might identify most with the character.
Dounoukos based Mona Lisa on observations of a close friend and his relationship with his Italian mother. The Greek element came from the director’s own background.
Dounoukos plans to revisit themes of family and sexual identity in an upcoming feature film.
Other winners last Thursday included One End Stands, a comedy about lesbian lust that took out the development award and the SBS TV award that includes a television screening.
My Queer Career judges Miranda Dear from ABC TV, Oscar-winning director Adam Elliot and Mark Gooder from Icon Film Distribution gave Sydney director Craig Boreham the best sound award for And Everything Nice.
Rolmar Baldonado won the editing award for his story of two very different one night stands, Two Nights.
The My Queer Career audience choice award will be announced at the Mardi Gras Film Festival closing night on 2 March.
The Mardi Gras Film Festival is on now at various locations. For more information or to vote for the My Queer Career audience choice award, visit the Queer Screen website.