I STARTED working at Queer Screen – the organisation that puts on Mardi Gras Film Festival – at the end of October. This gave me until Christmas to research the far and wide, secure the screeners and, with the support of the programming team, watch movies until the cows came home.

A couple of weeks ago, we finally released the full festival program. My goal was to cater to all segments of the community, and to go further by encouraging the wider Sydney audience to attend. Opening night at MGFF is usually a film with a gay male lead.

I wanted to change this, in an attempt to broaden and expand the festival’s focus. Luckily, one of the best films I viewed was a film about love between two women – an outstanding lesbian drama titled Reaching for the Moon.

Even better is the lead performance by Miranda Otto, one of the best Australian actresses. She plays famed American poet Elizabeth Bishop, who moves to Brazil and falls in love with architect Lota de Macedo Soares. This film has broad appeal to the queer community, the literary community and beyond and it’s selling fast.

Another important audience for me is young people. LGBTI youth ought to have the opportunity to see films where gay characters are represented, and to learn that being a gay teen is normal. One of those films is Geography Club, a US high school drama that will be classified M15+ so that the younger members of the community can enjoy the film.

G.B.F. (Gay Best Friend) is somewhat more adult, but again will be certified M15+ so that young people can attend. As a hilarious coming-of-age-comedy about gay and straight best friends, we expect it to attract a wide audience.

Sydney’s queer history features in two films: Friends of Dorothy and Croc-A-Dyke Dundee, the Legend of Dawn O’Donnell.  I believe a film festival should celebrate the local industry, and I am pleased to be in a position to do so with MGFF this year.

Both are strong films, and many people who built Sydney’s queer community in the in previous decades will see themselves and their friends in these films.

Another film set in Sydney and shot around Newtown is Zoe.Misplaced. It charts the life of a cynical 20-something-year-old lesbian who falls for the one girl she shouldn’t. Zoe.Misplaced, along with Submerge set in Melbourne, offers the younger generation a chance to see a representation of themselves on screen in their own country for the first time in years.

Dual, another film which ought to appeal to the same audience, is about two young girls who meet fortuitously in Slovenia. Critics have called it the lesbian Before Sunrise.

The trans community will also have the opportunity to connect with the Pakistani film Noor; The Philippines’ Quick Change; and Australia’s 52 Tuesdays. Quick Change is the film to watch of the festival.

These films are fodder for cinema buffs: Noor played at Cannes, Quick Change will play at Berlin, and 52 Tuesdays will screen at both Berlin and Sundance festivals. We’re thrilled to bring such high-calibre queer films to a Sydney audience.

Literature returns again in C.O.G., the first screen adaptation of David Sedaris’ writing. This film ought to appeal to all corners of the wider community, especially to those who love this writer’s hilarious work. Those who love Glee and HBO’s new show Looking will be pleased to see the lead role being played by hot actor-of-the-moment Jonathon Groff.

Sport is another focus of this year’s festival. Battle of the Sexes tells the story of the most-watched tennis match of all time, when Billie Jean King took on self-proclaimed male chauvinist pig Bobby Riggs.

As a film that doesn’t focus on her sexuality, this represents my favourite type of queer cinema. I hope that in the future we’ll see more films that are less concerned with the sexuality of a person, and simply more interested in their life.

Similarly, sport enthusiasts will devour The Rugby Player, a touching documentary that follows a mother trying to create a legacy for her gay son, who passed away in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Out in the Line-Up is another stunning documentary that deals with being a gay surfer, and has beautiful scenes along the beaches of California, Mexico, Hawaii and our own beautiful Sydney.

It’s clear that large sections of the gay and lesbian community are being catered for but what about queer parents? Two Mothers  is about two women struggling through the process of trying to have their own children.

And we’re hosting a special Rainbow Kids screening of Disney Classic Beauty and the Beast, which of course is suitable for all ages.

Another important factor for me in programming is that I want to see different races represented on screen. Noor and Quick Change do this, as does Born this Way, a moving documentary on underground gay life in Cameroon.

And for the bears, we’re screening the best of Golden Woofs, an Adelaide short-film festival aimed at furry men and their admirers.

There are of course many more segments of the LGBTI community. Unfortunately, I can’t highlight them all. But I hope that you will pick up a program, read about our films, find something that represents your experience and share the event with your friends.

We look forward to seeing you at the cinema.

MGFF is hashtagging their events under #MGFF2014 for Facebook and Twitter.

The Mardi Gras Film Festival guide can be found here.  The Star Observer is a proud media partner of Mardi Gras.



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