THE 17th incarnation of the Brisbane Queer Film Festival (BQFF) seeks to uncover what the LGBTI community thinks about identity and how we relate to it.

Now a major feature of the Brisbane Powerhouse’s MELT festival, recently held over the past two weeks, this year’s BQFF which opens tonight follows on 11 days of local and international films.

Despite skirting controversy two years ago following uproar over the banning of a promotional poster, this year’s festival is making a name for itself by focusing on screening LGBTI content that breaks down barriers.

How the LGBTI community asserts itself through identity is a key theme, according to festival director Shannon King.

“It’s tricky to have an overriding theme for a genre based film festival, especially with the title ‘queer’ in it, but this year does point towards identities,” King told the Star Observer.

“How we identify ourselves within the LGBTIQ community at large and within the heteronormative dominated media/community.

“These films collectively have very open and unashamed identities with their central characters, either learning how to identify themselves or how they wish to be identified (oh and also unrequited love is a strong theme this year).”

Without the luxury of travel afforded to organisers of larger film festivals around the world, King looked to inspiration from other festivals.

“For Brisbane, on such a small scale, it really does rely on keeping up to the minute with breaking news on what’s happening in Berlinale, the Teddy awards and the Queer Palm award, and even the people programming those awards,” she said.

“They often have their own history with regards to how they’ve come to be programmers, you can draw from their experience and see what might work for a Brisbane audience.

“I look to Melbourne and Sydney for their trends and often what their programs of the year prior included. Just drawing on a lot of research from a lot of different festivals internationally is the best way to do it. And to be honest, the queer festivals from around the world have an incredible circuit.”

Still from Remembering the Man

Still from Remembering the Man

Guaranteeing both quantity and quality of local content in Australian film festivals has always been an important feature given the challenges the local industry faces, especially queer films.

King has made sure Australian films comprise a significant portion of this year’s BQFF.

“We open with Brisbane born filmmaker Tim Marshall’s short film Followers this year alongside opening night feature. Tim has been on my radar for some time now, having made his Iris Prize winner short Gorilla and his web series Torso a friend of mine alerted me to,” King said.

“It’s brilliant to have his latest film screening in BQFF. We also include a new short from Anna Helme, Mother’s Not Herself Today, as part of our Queer Shorts program. I am thrilled to have two of my favourite directors of contemporary Australian queer cinema included.

“Features Drown and Remembering The Man are such fine examples of contemporary Australian cinema – Drown focuses on the rife homophobia in contemporary Australian society, this is a rare story so publicly told.

“Documentary Remembering The Man, comes to us from the creators of Ballroom Rules. It is a historical monument, a testament to gay Australia, kept true to form of the Holding The Man lives, novel, play and 2015 feature film. It ties all these together, such an important story, so splendidly preserved.”

This year’s festival has also found a new home in the recently-renovated Brisbane icon New Farm Cinemas, whose retro feel, according to King, ties into one of this year’s festival’s most popular films.

“[I am] so happy to open with another restored classic, 54: The Director’s Cut, a film set during the time of the original cinema venue. It was only a matter of time to have BQFF screen there I feel, it is the perfect location for our festival.”

Ryan Phillippe in '54: The Director's Cut

Ryan Phillippe in ’54: The Director’s Cut

King believes there is enough in this year’s festival to leave audiences with a lasting sense of the strength of the LGBTI community.

“The film going audience is steadfast in this town, and I believe it’s due to the amount of culturally diverse film festivals we have now throughout a year, sharing the screens with mainstream cinema releases,” she said.

“The program shows the strength in LGBTIQ cinema from around the world, that its content is relevant in many countries and cultures, especially for those whose queer freedom is not as privileged as ours in Australia.

“Yet it is also so refreshing to see worldwide films that unashamedly embrace their queers too.”

The BQFF starts today and runs till February 28. For information and tickets, visit brisbanepowerhouse.org/festivals/brisbane-queer-film-festival-2016

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