Queer Screen is undoubtedly the most influential film organisation in Australia for Queer cinema. After the highly successful Queer Screen Film Festival 2014, and the Mardi Gras Film Festival 2014, the announcement of a teaser of ten films from next year’s Mardi Gras Film Festival is more than welcome. The festival last year played a range of groundbreaking dramas, offbeat comedy, classics along the lines of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and older films that have been reinterpreted and embraced due to their resonance with the Queer community. In other words, the folks behind Queer Screen are master festival curators and consistently throw together programs that push the boundaries they’ve been conceived for, striving for inclusivity, while challenging popular perceptions of issues that receive little coverage in larger festivals.
While the full program will be announced in January, the first taste of Mardi Gras Film Festival 2015 has a lot to offer already, indicative of an even stronger list to follow.
Opening the festival is Stefan Haupt’s The Circle, a film set in 1940s Zürich that drifts between dramatic narrative and documentary. Reception has been strong overseas, with the film being chosen as the Swiss entry for Best Foreign Language Film for next year’s Academy Awards and winning Berlin’s Teddy Award. Another film not to miss is Nan Goldin: I Remember Your Face, which looks to be an intimate study of one of history’s most influential, subversive and important photographers. The festival doesn’t whitewash itself at the same time. Anita’s Last Cha-Cha, a Filipino coming-of-age film, featuring a 12-year-old’s first experience with love, looks to be one of the highlights of the fest. Kumu Hino presents a group of Pacific Islanders within the “Westernized society of modern day Hawaii”, a film that examines a deeply multi-faceted and complex manifestation of Queerness within a divided and conflicted society.
Tru Love, a film that looks at a complicated and nuanced lesbian relationship within an environment of domestic stress – examining how these areas intersect – sees the festival’s penchant for finding films where queerness is an integral part of the film yet is far from the sole reason for its inclusion. The Dutch Boys (Jongens) looks at masculinity in sport through a queered lens, with a romance between two teenage boys standing on the centre stage of the film. Lyle, on the other hand, couldn’t be further from comedy. A psychological thriller, described by the festival as “a lesbian Rosemary’s Baby” – makes it clear that this could be a year for the festival with more genre diversity than ever before. The festival isn’t without an eye for Australian cinema as well, with All About E taking a focus on a Sydney DJ before moving towards a tale of conflict and identity.
Like always, there’s always more beyond the features and documentaries, with shorts punctuating the festival selected from “over 300 submissions.” Beyond this? There’s a cash prize for the best queer short film to be awarded on February 26 with screenings of the submissions and an award ceremony. 4:3 will be covering the festival extensively, with this preview likely to only mark a small portion of the festival.