LAST week’s controversy sparked by the Daily Telegraph over the documentary Gayby Baby was a blessing in disguise according to director Maya Newell, who hopes public discussion can get back to the film’s core themes ahead of its national release tomorrow.
It was expected the film that documents the lives of four children — Gus, Matt, Ebony and Graham, all of which are growing up with same-sex parents — would garner some negative attention but even Newell was surprised by the vitriol that came to the surface.
[showads ad=MREC]“Kids in same-sex households have to develop thick skins as we’re often told that our families are not normal,” she told the Star Observer.
“What we could not have predicted was the level to which it blew up last week.
“What was lovely was that it feels like the majority was really in support of our families, the film and us. The backlash was actually really positive in the end but it definitely wouldn’t have been good to be a child in a gay family last week, and that’s the really sad part of it all.”
In response to News Corp columnist Piers Ackerman’s efforts to tell one of the film’s stars, Ebony that she is “not normal”, Newell didn’t believe such a comment was possible. However, she revealed it was handled by Ebony perfectly.
“How could you think that someone could be so inconsiderate?” Newell said.
“I would never have expected that of anyone. Ebony, who [Piers Ackerman] was addressing, said in a Q&A last night ‘Piers spent the whole article trying to tell me that I’m not normal, but I already know that and it’s okay’.”
Inspiration for Gayby Baby came from a feeling that for a group that has constantly been talked about by politicians and commentators, children of gay parents – Newell included – needed to actually have a say in the issue.
“I’m 27 and my mums have been together for 30 years and it’s certainly a strange thing to be talked about for years as if you’re a hypothetical: ‘If [same-sex couples] had kids, would that be ok?’” Newell said.
“There are thousands of kids around the world and in Australia who have grown up in these families and are now old enough to have their own opinion and voice to actually tell you what they think and what it’s like [with same-sex parents].
“I really wanted to make a film that – and I think actually is one of the first – that shares the perspective of children growing up in these families. I hope it becomes one of many films that talk about this new generation of children and adults that seemingly intrigue the world.”
It was a conscious decision of Newell and the film’s producer Charlotte McLellan that Gayby Baby be an honest portrayal of the ups and downs of having same-sex parents to show that no matter what makes up a family, all share similar commonality in their experiences.
“The film is by no means an ad for gay families. We decided very early on that we didn’t think that it was helpful to have our families or any family have to project an image of normalcy or perfection because really, what family is perfect?” Newell said.
“I actually think that the connection point which will hopefully get people coming to see the film is about the imperfections. I think that’s much more helpful for us: we don’t want kids in gay families across the country feel like they have to be poster children for us, for the ‘best’ families.
“We want people to understand that you know, sometimes or parents yell at us, and sometimes we get let down. Or sometimes when things go bad at home it’s not because our parents are gay, it’s because our families are like everyone else’s.
“Families are imperfect, we all are. The point is that same-sex families are no more or no less perfect than anyone else’s.”
Far from feeling like audiences are being preached and lectured to, Newell said Gayby Baby is an entertaining documentary with stories that anyone will be able to connect to, even those who decided to ban the film without seeing it.
“If there were just one thing I could say to everyone that has been listening to all of the news last week, it would just be to come and see the film for themselves,” Newell said.
“The film is very entertaining, it will make you laugh and cry. It’s not going to be like medicine or a lecture, it’s got these gorgeous and incredible children that will surprise you.”
Gayby Baby will be shown in selected cinemas around the country on September 3.[showads ad=FOOT]