What do Speedos, Orthodox Jews and a premature baby have in common? All three subjects are part of Queer Screen’s 2005 queerDOC documentary festival, opening at the Chauvel Cinema tonight.

Running until Sunday 11 September, queerDOC includes 13 local and international films that find common ground despite wildly diverse source material, according to festival programmer Megan Carrigy.

When we put the program together we were always looking to find films that address the issues affecting the LGBT community at the moment, Carrigy said.

Speedos and their relationship to gay culture is examined in Australian documentary Packed Lunch, and Carrigy says there is a growing appetite for gay-themed sports films.

Certainly this year, there have been a lot of films about queers and sport, which is a new kind of thing, she said.

There’s a whole range of [sports movies] that appeared this year -“ the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival in June had a huge focus on it -“ and they’ve got some good connections to Australia.

Packed Lunch screens on Sunday as part of a trio of sports films including Rugger Buggers, the story of British gay rugby team Kings Cross Steelers, whose opponents include local gay outfit the Sydney Convicts.

That’s a new venture for us: to get into documentaries about sport, Carrigy said.

Other Sydney stories at queerDOC this year come from enduring icon Mardi Gras.

Festival opener The Sequin Revolution is a snapshot of the beginnings of the landmark gay and lesbian parade. Incredi-Joyce & The Incredi-Gays, which also screens on opening night, offers a more contemporary viewpoint on Mardi Gras.

It stars drag queen Joyce Maynge and her troupe of performers as they prepare their satirical float for this year’s parade, before taking to Oxford Street with their creation.

It’s more about the process of putting a float together and also it shows what that float was about, Joyce Maynge’s alter ego Shane Pascoe said.

Now in its eighth season, queerDOC also delves into the spicy combination of politics, religion and sexuality with films such as Keep Not Silent: Orthodykes and This Way Out.

Keep Not Silent: Orthodykes, from Israeli director Ilil Alexander, observes three lesbian Orthodox Jewish women in Jerusalem as they navigate the tricky territory of faith and sexuality.

It’s an interesting film as well because the majority of women who speak in it can’t identify themselves and the way that the film deals with that is really interesting, Carrigy said. Ilil tries to bring the women’s personalities out, using web cameras very effectively.

Equally charged is This Way Out, a take on the experiences of gay and lesbian asylum seekers in the United States.

This film demystifies why the asylum seekers had to leave their home countries and who they are, Carrigy said.

It really raises a whole lot of issues that are really important and current.

Immigration issues for gay and lesbian couples are also a big issue in Australia, so these films can start to draw out some of these issues.

A shift from the political to the personal comes courtesy of documentaries such as Funny Kinda Guy, whose inclusion in queerDOC this year follows a flash of inspiration at the same festival four years ago.

The film’s director Travis Reeves actually saw a film we showed at queerDOC in 2001 called Southern Comfort, which inspired him to make Funny Kinda Guy, Carrigy said.

Because it was low budget filmmaking, he realised when the Funny Kinda Guy story came his way that he could actually achieve what he wanted.

Funny Kinda Guy explores a similar theme in Scotland and Australia through transgender protagonist Simon.

The main character Simon actually falls in love with an Australian girl from Brisbane, Carrigy explained.

Half of the film is about him moving to Australia and it’s quite an interesting film in the way they film Brisbane – you get a strong sense of a foreigner’s feel.

A sense of the new also pervades Little Man, a film about motherhood from US lesbian director Nicole Conn, who made 1992 kitsch dyke classic Claire Of The Moon.

Little Man, which closes queerDOC on Sunday night, follows the director and her partner Gwen Baba as they come to terms with the three-months-premature birth of their son Nicolas to a surrogate mother.

This baby was dubbed the $2.7m baby, Carrigy said, referring to the cost of keeping Nicolas alive.

It’s about at what price do we hold on to life in terms of keeping someone alive through cutting-edge technology. It’s also a film about motherhood and the complications of lesbian motherhood.

Both Conn and Baba are incredibly honest about the impact this child has on their relationship, and they disagree really strongly about what should be done.

It’s a very challenging film and I doubt whether anyone will get out of the cinema without shedding a few tears.

queerDOC opens tonight, Thursday 8 September at 7pm at the Chauvel Cinema, Paddington, and runs until Sunday 11 September. For bookings and program information call 1300 306 776 or visit the Queer Screen website.

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