LISA Daniel is leaving Melbourne Queer Film Festival after 16 years at its helm as director, but will stay on to run next year’s festival.

Daniel’s departure after next year’s festival will see some changes to MQFF’s staff structure, with the duties of her overarching festival director role set to be taken over by an artistic director focusing on festival programming and a more general management role.

An LGBTI community icon, Daniel has presided over the expansion of MQFF from a small event to one widely-considered one of the world’s top queer film festivals, with satellite events throughout Victoria and interstate.

Daniel cited MQFF’s support of events like Bendigo Queer Film Festival and tours of the programs’ highlights to locations as remote as far north Queensland as highlights of her time as festival director.

“I’m very chuffed that I also had a hand in starting the Brisbane Queer Film Festival, Bendigo Queer Film Festival, and have taken quality queer cinema to film starved locations like Far North Queensland, Darwin, Adelaide, Perth and Ballarat,” Daniel said.

“I’ll miss the rough and tumble of the queer film fest world and the adrenalin of running a not-for-profit event on the smell of an oily rag, but mostly I’ll miss the people who have helped make it happen — the various boards, staff, volunteers, audiences, filmmakers and financial supporters.”

Running next year’s festival will give Daniel and MQFF time to plan a smooth transition, with expectations her duties as festival director will be taken up by two positions: an artistic director in charge of programming and a more general management role.

Daniel told the Star Observer after 16 years it was time to move on, and her long tenure with the festival had prompted discussions over recent years about how to ensure MQFF’s sustainability should she leave.

“Because I’ve been around so long that’s why we’re going to restructure, so that the next person doesn’t need to walk into this comparison,” she said.

“It’ll just be an artistic direction job rather than an overseeing job, which is what I’ve done.”

Daniel argued it was a challenge to balance “bums on seats” films with more artistic or experimental work, and said getting that mix right was key — a successful MQFF program couldn’t be driven entirely by the director’s own personal tastes.

MQFF co-convener Alice Murray said Daniel’s value to the integrity and profile of the festival could not be overestimated.

“The Melbourne Queer Film Festival has been in the privileged position of having one of the world’s best queer film curators as our Festival Director over the past 16 years — the respect Lisa commands at overseas festivals is testament to her skill” said Murray.

“We have been so fortunate to benefit from Lisa’s expertise and passion, but her humour and charm, particularly her now legendary opening night speeches, [are] gold.”

Melbourne Queer Film Festival will run March 19–30, 2015.

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