Stranger By the LakeThis year’s Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) features an impressive line-up of queer content, calling attention to some of the international film scene’s newest and best queer films and documentaries.

With 219 feature films as part of the program, festival programmers said that including a diverse range of films was a priority, from geographical and political diversity to films by and about specific communities.

“Those kinds of subject areas are always towards the forefront of our minds when we’re programming,” said MIFF programmer Al Cossar.

“There are things that we particularly want to push to the front and centre and into the spotlight as well, because we think there’s value in terms of the social worth and the political themes.”

One example is Valentine Road, a documentary by American filmmaker Marta Cunningham. The film examines the aftermath of the 2008 shooting of 15-year old Larry King by 14-year old fellow student Brandon McInerney. King identified as gay and had begun wearing women’s clothing to school, and the day before the shooting had asked McInerney to be his valentine.

“The film is a very clear-eyed, substantial view of the kinds of prejudices and culture of victim blaming built into the community response to this event,” explained Cossar.

“In terms of a political issue, the very interesting thing about the film…is its placement in our Next Gen strand, which is there to be inclusive of teen audiences.”

MIFF has put together study guides for schools to use with the film, and the festival will feature a schools-focused panel discussion with the film’s director and representatives from LGBTI organisations such as Transgender Victoria, Safe Schools Coalition and Headspace.

“It’s something that we thought was an amazing piece of storytelling, has a great degree of social worth, and a strong degree of relevance to Victorian young people,” said Cossar.

Another queer film sure to attract attention is French filmmaker Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger By the Lake, which received the Un Certain Regard award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film is about a gay nude beach and cruising spot where the protagonist is sexually drawn to a man who he sees murder another man there.

“It’s got some very graphic and non-simulated sex scenes which are throughout as well, very explicit, but they work in the tonal context of the film in a really interesting way,” Cossar said.

“It will be interesting to see how it’s responded to here.”

MIFF opens on 25 July, with screenings in venues across Melbourne. Visit miff.com.au for session times and booking information.

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