As the youth curator at Queer Screen, Megan Carrigy had the daunting task of selecting films to be shown in the Youth Sessions program of the 2004 Mardi Gras Film Festival.

Like most Australian film festivals, the MGFF has always had an 18-plus rating for all its screenings but this year Queer Screen was determined to reach a younger market. The organisation had noticed their audience was aging, and they were keen to start attracting younger viewers. So Carrigy had the task of selecting films aimed at people between the ages of 15 and 25.

We hope young people will be able to engage with these representations of themselves that they don’t normally get to see, she said. It’s a great chance for young people to see their own stories, and to tell their own stories. I think that’s really important.

Carrigy, 24, recently graduated from university with a degree in film studies, and has been a volunteer with the MGFF for years. She’s also made several of her own short films and writes a regular column for the online film journal Senses Of Cinema. So she had exactly the kind of first-hand experience in youth cinema Queer Screen needed when they decided to launch their first youth program.

She spent months contacting queer film festivals from all around the world requesting to see what they had on youth-related topics. I was surprised at how well-represented young gay and lesbian people were on the international film circuit, in both short films and feature-length films, Carrigy admitted. Most festivals did have youth programs, so there was a lot to choose from. She also put out a call for local submissions from young Australian film makers.

Two of the sessions Carrigy put together are collections of short films -“ the Beauteous Bingebabes session features stories about young lesbians, while Fantasy Briefs is all about young gay men. These short films are as diverse as possible and from as many different countries and cultures as I could find, she said. Most of the ones I chose were really popular at the international festivals, and many of them have won awards.

The Youth Sessions will also include the premiere of the Australian feature film Pink Sheep, an exciting collaboration between Sydney’s Twenty10, the gay and lesbian youth support organisation, and Metro Screen. They’ve workshopped real-life stories with the kids at Twenty10, Carrigy explained. And because Metro Screen has been involved they’ve done a really beautiful job of realising it. It’s a really slick production. The collaboration was so successful Queer Screen is hoping to expand the project next year to get even more young people involved.

Pink Sheep will be shown with a documentary made by a GLBT community centre in New York, which again showcases stories about young people, as told by young people. So these two films go really well together, Carrigy said.

The multi-award winning documentary Straight Out: Stories From Iceland, takes an honest look at what it’s like to grow up gay in Iceland. Although Icelandic laws are considered very liberal toward gays and lesbians, most of these kids have grown up in small communities and face the same issues as young queer people all around the world. They’re all really gorgeous stories about coming out, said Carrigy, adding that this is the first queer film to come out of Iceland.

So if you want to bring mum and dad to anything at the Mardi Gras Film Festival, these are the sessions to take them to. There’s nothing too explicit for parents, Carrigy confirmed. I think these films would be good for educating mums and dads about coming out and the things young queer people face.

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