THE Sydney Film Festival (SFF) is almost upon us and we thought we’d save you the trouble of going through the exhaustive list of films and give the you the definitive list of LGBTI films in this year’s festival.

Desde Allá


Winner of the Golden Lion at Venice, it’s the story of a middle-aged man’s affair with a young street thug is a tense study of class conflict and desire in Venezuela’s capital.

 Wealthy, closeted Armando (Alfredo Castro) cruises the streets of Caracas looking for young men to pay for look-but-don’t-touch sexual activities. When one of these clients assaults and robs him, he decides to track him down rather than report the incident.

Quite unexpectedly, a relationship develops between these two very different but equally disenfranchised men. With an exacting visual style reminiscent of Michael Haneke, this absorbing and psychologically nuanced character study marks the arrival of an exciting new filmmaker.

Session time and tickets here.



It’s Only the End of the World

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Prodigiously talented Xavier Dolan, who at the age of 27 has already created a distinctive body of work, has made perhaps his most emotional and immersive film, the 2016 Cannes Competition contender It’s Only The End Of The World. Dolan, won the Sydney Film Prize with Heartbeats (SFF 2010), and the Jury Prize at Cannes with Mommy (SFF 2014).

In his new film, he assembles a standout French cast for an intense family drama based on the eponymous play by Jean-Luc Lagarce.

Successful writer Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) returns to his hometown after a twelve-year absence to break the news of his impending death. He is welcomed, with varying degrees of warmth, by his mother (Nathalie Baye), sister Suzanne (Léa Seydoux), brother Antoine (Vincent Cassel) and sister-in-law Catherine (Marion Cotillard).

What should be a sincere reunion soon turns into an afternoon of bickering and recriminations, and Louis’ mind wanders back to some pivotal memories. With extreme close-ups eliciting raw, expressive performances from the superb cast, the film draws you in close, as if you are yourself a member of this family of strangers.

Session times and tickets here.


Closet Monster


Flashes of horror and a talking hamster voiced by Isabella Rossellini elevate this idiosyncratic Canadian gay coming-of-age tale well above this familiar genre.

Oscar’s childhood is marked by two life-defining events: his parents’ break-up and the traumatic witnessing of a hate crime, which leads Oscar to repress his emerging sexuality. Now a lonely but creative teenager, Oscar is plagued by gory fantasies. His only comfort is the wisdom of his pet hamster Buffy.

As the line between fantasy and reality begins to blur, a budding friendship with a handsome tattooed co-worker fills Oscar with the confidence to reclaim his identity.

Blessed with inventive streaks of magical realism, an explosive soundtrack and a masterful sense of visual storytelling, Closet Monster establishes 26-year-old Newfoundland filmmaker Stephen Dunn as a talent to watch.

Session times and tickets here.


Angry Indian Goddess



Dubbed India’s answer to Bridesmaids, this female buddy movie from acclaimed director Pan Nalin (Samsara) presents a refreshingly frank portrait of women in India today.

Ahead of Frieda’s pending nuptials, a group of her closest friends gather to catch up on lost time at her beachside home in Goa.

The diverse bunch includes a singer, photographer, actress, activist, a trophy wife and a businesswoman. Their conversation flows freely and jubilantly, leading to revealing and often hilarious discussions that span everything from sex to gender politics to the handsome guy next door. That is, until an incident threatens to break their newly formed bond.

An audience favourite at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, Angry Indian Goddesses is a riotous, genre-bending gem that explores the pressing issues of gender and sexism in contemporary Indian society.

Session times and tickets here.





The winner of this year’s Teddy Award at Berlinale: a walk through New York City’s voguing ballroom scene, led with swagger by gatekeeper Twiggy Pucci Garçon.

The ‘Kiki’ scene is highly competitive; you need to be dedicated, on form, and willing to practise endlessly.

Kiki follows young black LGBTQI participants as they compete for trophies and titles, including dance-offs between feuding houses (House of Amazura and the House of Unbothered Cartier, for example).

The interview subjects openly reveal their troubles and discuss their hopes and dreams. 25 years after the award-winning documentary Paris is Burning (Kiki has been tagged the ‘unofficial sequel) much has changed, but homophobic attacks, poverty, and discrimination continue to threaten the queer community.

As house mother, community organiser and homeless LGBTQI youth activist Twiggy says, “There is so much left to fight for”.

Session times and tickets here.




Indie darling Jena Malone and rising star Riley Keough shine in this exploration of the ambiguous close bond between a lonely soft-spoken woman and her free-spirited friend.

Neglected by her husband, Sarah (Keough, Mad Max: Fury Road) embarks on an impromptu road trip with her young daughter and feisty college friend Mindy (Malone). After an alcohol-infused heart-to-heart, a long unspoken intimacy emerges between the old friends, but circumstances force them apart.

Years later, Sarah attempts to rebuild their intimate connection in the days before Mindy’s wedding. Filmmaker So Yong Kim (For Ellen, SFF 2012) skilfully uses naturalism and minimalism to capture intimacy and express unspoken, sometimes unformed emotional truths.

Summoning beautiful performances from her actresses, she has crafted a bittersweet, elliptical love story about muted desire and the grey areas that can define a relationship.

Session times and tickets here.


The Queen of Ireland


Fresh from her starring role in this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras comes an uplifting documentary about Ireland’s superstar drag queen Panti Bliss as she rises from ‘giant cartoon woman’ to one of the highest-profile activists in the LGBTIQ community.

Within mainstream media, Rory O’Neill and his drag alter-ego Panti Bliss are commentators on the fringes, standing on the outside, looking in and saying the unsayable.

Conor Horgan’s five years in the making documentary follows Rory’s journey of self-discovery against the backdrop of Ireland’s 2015 referendum on marriage equality.

From dancing on stage with Cyndi Lauper in Japan in 1994 to becoming a national scapegoat, to causing a global online sensation at the Abbey Theatre in 2014, Panti Bliss has constantly defied neat categorisation. Instead, Rory forges a powerful, persuasive and hugely popular new voice in Irish society at the exact moment the LGBTIQ community – and the entire country – needed it most.

Session times and tickets here.



Spa Night



A young Korean-American attempts to define his cultural and sexual identity in Andrew Ahn’s perceptive debut, which invites viewers into a community rarely portrayed on screen.

David (Joe Seo, winner of the Sundance Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance) dutifully helps his immigrant parents at the family restaurant in LA’s Koreatown, until financial hardship forces everyone to re-evaluate their priorities. David does not accept his parents’ dreams for him to pursue an education, opting instead for a clandestine job at a Korean spa.

There, the shy young man finds himself caught between traditional Korean culture and a new and sensual world of male nudity, furtive glances and secret embraces.

Announcing a bold new talent in writer-director Andrew Ahn, Spa Night subtly explores an immigrant family’s dreams and the overlap of personal desire, regret and sense of tradition.

Session times and tickets here.


Presenting Princess Shaw



An unlikely viral sensation is born when YouTube mash-up artist Kutiman encounters a troubled New Orleans singer, in this uplifting documentary from Israeli director Ido Haar.

By day, Samantha, a.k.a. Princess Shaw, works in an old people’s home. By night, she writes, records and posts songs on the Internet.

Her heartfelt unaccompanied lyrics reveal a difficult past and an uneasy present. In Israel, a musician called Kutiman specialises in creating collages of YouTube videos by unknown artists. Impressed by Princess Shaw’s big voice and candid videos, he decides to use her in his next remix.

Unaware of Kutiman’s interest, Princess Shaw happily goes along with Haar’s explanation that he’s making a film about Internet performers. When he captures the moment Princess sees Kutiman’s interpretation of her song, we know her life is about to change.

Session times and tickets here.



Being 17


Two boys explore their confusing but undeniable attraction to each other in this drama by French master André Téchiné, set in the stunning landscapes of the Pyrenees.

Classmates Damien and Thomas don’t get along, and their violent outbursts betray repressed feelings neither of them can articulate nor deny. When Damien’s mother invites Thomas to stay, the sexual tension erupts. More than two decades after his now classic gay-awakening drama Wild Reeds, veteran Téchiné has made one of his most accomplished and youthful films yet. Complementing his style is co-writer Céline Sciamma (Tomboy, SFF 2011; Girlhood), who has her finger on the pulse of the gender fluid, racial, sexual and cultural identities of contemporary French youth. Without romanticising an awkward age, Being 17perfectly captures the wild and urgent thrills of first love with heart-quickening energy.

Session times and tickets here.

Stateless Things

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Kim Kyung-mook compares two ways of being ‘stateless’ in his devastating vision of South Korean society when an illegal immigrant from North Korea meets a sexual outlaw.

Kim is a social and sexual misfit – one of the few openly gay men in Korean cinema – and one of the country’s finest indie filmmakers.

Here, two slowly converging storylines (one set in wealth, the other in abject poverty) allow him to reflect quite profoundly on what it’s like to be an outsider in a deeply conformist society. Jun is an illegal immigrant from the North, stuck in dead-end jobs, always on the run and living in fear.

Hyeon is the kept boy of a married businessman, virtually imprisoned in a swanky apartment near the National Assembly building. Both young men are in some sense victims of a hypocritical society. A rent-boy website brings them together, with shocking consequences.

Session times and tickets here.


Strike A Pose

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25 years after the controversial documentary In Bed with Madonna, the ‘Blond Ambition’ dancers – now out of the celebrity spotlight – are re-united and re-exposed.

Stylish voguers Carlton, Gabriel, Jose, Kevin, Luis, Salim and hip-hopper Oliver were handpicked to join Madonna on her 1990 world tour. ‘Blond Ambition’ highlighted the pop star’s commitment to gay liberation and the fight against AIDS. The good-looking troupe became poster boys for the cause.

The tour was filmed for the documentary In Bed with Madonna (a.k.a. Truth or Dare). But the solidarity, frankness and flamboyance onscreen was contradicted by Gabriel’s subsequent lawsuit against the singer.

Now, the surviving performers discuss the fallout from the 1990 film, their lives post-Madonna, and painful, long-buried secrets, in this candid and tender documentary.

Session times and tickets here.


Teenage Kicks

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Star Observer was lucky enough to chat to the filmmakers of this powerful new queer Australian drama, where a 17-year-old boy navigates the many minefields of adolescence and sexuality, in the wake of a family tragedy.

Miklós (Miles Szanto, Love My Way) is at the age when everything feels high-stakes. He is coming to terms with his own sexuality, and when his best friend Dan (Daniel Webber, Sleeping Beauty, SFF 2011) reveals that he has a new girlfriend, this puts an end to their plans to run away together.

He is torn between loyalty to his migrant family and his own desires, and his world is soon rocked by the death of his brother Tommy, that he feels partly responsible for.

Teenage Kicks beautifully captures this whirlwind period in Miklós’ life, dealing with themes of guilt, friendship, cultural and familial loyalty, and burgeoning sexuality. Craig Boreham’s unique voice is an exciting addition to Australian queer cinema.

Session times and tickets here.



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Paddy Breathnach uncovers authentic Cuba in this heartbreaking family drama about a troubled drag queen; an audience favourite at festivals all around the world.

In the vibrant drag community of contemporary Havana, Jesus (Héctor Medina) waits for the courage to steal the spotlight from troublesome local divas.

His initial steps towards stardom are complicated by the arrival of his charismatic jailbird father Angel (Jorge Perugorría), who he hasn’t seen since he was a toddler.

Realising a long-cherished passion project, Paddy Breathnach (I Went Down, 1997) has created a masterful and intimate portrayal of love and sacrifice, his camera capturing both the beauty of the Cuban capital and the pain beneath its alluring exterior. Breathnach became interested in the underground world of drag performers when he visited Havana in 1996.

He captures the less touristy, grittier side of Havana in vividly detailed vignettes.

Written by acclaimed screenwriter Mark O’Halloran (Adam & Paul, 2004; Garage, 2007), Viva continues his penchant for creating engaging stories that shine a light on hidden lives, and break your heart into a million pieces.

Session times and tickets here.


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