It’s known in some circles as the Captain Cook fallacy: the bold pronouncement of being the first, when in fact you’re a little late (sometimes by 40,000 years, in Cook’s case).

In the history of queer cinema, the swallowed wisdom is that San Francisco held the first lesbian and gay film festival in the world in 1977. It’s also widely believed that Sydney held the first gay film festival in the country two years later.

Researcher Ricardo Peach thinks they’re wrong and discovered evidence of a festival held in 1976 in Sydney at the Filmmakers Cinema in Darlinghurst. If he’s right, Sydney held the first gay film festival in the world.

It’s kind of what anthropologist Greg Denning calls the difference between -˜what really happened’ and -˜what actually happened’, Peach said. What -˜really happened’ is what people believed happened and the cultural myths that grow around a particular event. And what -˜actually happened’ is what the archival evidence points to. It’s interesting to compare the two.

Peach is keen to talk to anybody involved with the 1976 Festival of Gay Cinema, held as part of a Sydney Filmmakers cooperative, which eventually evolved into Queer Screen. Once a board member of Queer Screen, Peach is now completing a PhD on queer cinema in Sydney and South Africa.

The line-up of films shown in 1976 might not ring any bells, such as the forgotten flicks Adam (1975) and Pride And Snide (1973), although Satdee Night (1973) was directed by Gillian Armstrong, who later helmed My Brilliant Career (1979) and Charlotte Gray (2001).

Peach’s concerns though are more anthropological than aesthetic.

Visibility, consciousness raising and education were key points of the liberation movement, he said. They were using film as a way of raising consciousness, but also creating a sense of pleasure, which is such an important part of creating a movement and sustaining a movement.

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