The Melbourne Queer Film Festival launched its 2011 program last week. The mix of international and local offerings includes the controversial Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives which looks set to divide audiences.

Celebrating its 21st year, the festival was launched at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image by Lord Mayor Robert Doyle.

“It’s a wonderful film festival in a city that loves film,” Doyle said.

Resisting requests for an encore rendition of “you’ve got the keys to the door, never been 21 before” — he earlier claimed he’d recently sung the lines to a local drag queen — Doyle praised the festival for its growth over the years.

“It’s one of the major events in the arts and cultural calendar. It’s a proud achievement and we’re very proud of that,” he said.

Festival director Lisa Daniel praised the festival’s ability to attract some 25,000 film-goers with only three part-time staff at the helm.

This year the festival will show 72 films, including 32 Australian shorts dating back to the mid-’90s, from March 17 – 27.

Festival programs are now available and this year the festival also has an iPhone app providing festival-goers with session times, ticket information and updates.

During the launch MQFF co-convenor Claire Jackson announced she would step down from the position, which will now be held solely by fellow co-convenor Paul Clifton until the board meets.

Festival offerings include I Love You Phillip Morris featuring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, the first documentary on the private life of Hollywood legend Rock Hudson in Rock Hudson: Dark and Handsome Stranger, the much anticipated Canadian feature Heartbeats, Bear drama BearCity and the controversial Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives directed by Israel Luna.

Luna’s ‘exploitation’ film set off a wave of controversy after it screened in the US for its depiction of trans women.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation called for the film to be pulled from the Tribeca Film Festival in New York last year claiming it misrepresented transgender women and used “grotesque, exploitative depictions of violence against transgender women in ways that make light of the horrific brutality they all too often face”.

Daniel said the film is likely to cause debate but she will leave it up to audiences to decide.

“You’re big enough and old enough to make up your own minds,” she said at the launch.

The festival opens with a screening of Gregg Araki’s Kaboom (US) on Thursday, March 17.

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