Melbourne Queer Film Festival Program Launched
Proudly different, the 26th Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF), Australia’s largest queer film festival, launched its jam-packed full program last night encompassing 128 stirring and stimulating films from 22 countries, including 38 features, 16 documentaries, 74 shorts, 11 Australian premieres, 28 Melbourne premieres and 12 special events screenings and forums.
From March 31 to April 11, MQFF will feature 88 sessions at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and Kino Cinemas in the city, and for the first time MQFF heads northside with a weekend of sessions at Cinema Nova.
“One of the joys of making the selections for this year’s MQFF has been the discovery that there are so many more stories to tell and that mainstream cinema and TV is only a fraction of what’s out there. Films like Deep Run, a terrific documentary about a trans teen struggling with acceptance in America’s Bible belt, two Muslim teens exploring their same sex attraction in Naz & Maalik or a Moroccan migrant boy finding redemption in the arms of a middle class Spanish teen in Hidden Away. I’m also excited to introduce some new programming strands into the festival such as our music focus, Proud and Loud and new Comedy and Animation shorts packages,” said MQFF Program Manager Spiro Economopoulos.
MQFF Executive Director Dillan Golightly adds, “MQFF is thrilled to welcome Film Victoriaon board as a sponsor this year. This is an exciting and meaningful development for the Festival – the first time in its 26 year history that it has received State Government support.”
MQFF is bookended by films that explore friendship and relationships, commencing withThat’s Not Us on Opening Night. Three couples – gay, straight and lesbian – head to the beach for a weekend of fun, sun and sex. This funny and heartfelt take on contemporary relationships is a modern-day The Big Chill for the queer set. Followed by our Opening Night Party at ACMI featuring DJ YO! MAFIA.
Then on Closing Night, Fourth Man Out takes us to small town USA where mechanic Adam hangs out with his buddies, drinking beer and talking sport. Adam also likes guys, something he painfully struggles to tell his pals about. Bawdy, candid and funny, Fourth Man Outdelves into modern bromance as Adam’s straight mates pitch in to help him navigate the gay dating scene. Followed by Closing Night festivities at ACMI featuring DJ Mr Weir (The Outpost).
The theme of attachment continues with this year’s Centrepiece film, MQFF is proud to present Remembering the Man, a moving documentary that charts the relationship between Timothy Conigrave and his long-term partner John Caleo. Featuring interviews with the people who knew and loved them best and little seen archival footage of the two men, the film is both tender tribute and chronicle of the rise and devastating effect of the AIDS virus in Australia. Filmmakers Nick Bird and Eleanor Sharpe are festival guests.
Ingrid Veninger’s He Hated Pigeons is an existential road trip and mediation on love and grief, following Elias as he wanders through the expansive plains of Chile, using his dead lover’s diary and sketches as a guide. In each city He Hated Pigeons screens local musicians provide live accompaniment to the film ensuring no two screenings are the same. MQFF is delighted to have the lead singer of Melbourne disco-funk band Total Giovanni, musicianVachel Spirason, perform a unique live score with festival guest Ingrid Veninger on hand.
Homegrown talent is in the spotlight both on the field and behind the camera with the Melbourne premiere of Poppy Stockwell’s documentary Scrum. In 2014 the Sydney Convicts enter The Bingham Cup, an international gay rugby union tournament. Muddy, sweaty and visually arresting, this intimate documentary follows the culturally diverse Convicts players in the lead up to, and during, the Cup. Featuring vivid action on the pitch and behind the scenes, this moving film tackles the stereotypes of what it means to be an athlete and gay. Filmmaker Poppy Stockwell is a festival guest.
Queer and Not From Here is MQFF’s annual showcase of international features – the best and latest in queer world cinema. Highlights this year include the Australian premiere ofStephen Dunn’s Closet Monster, a stylish drama with undercurrents of sly black humour and a smattering of Cronenbergian body horror. Traumatised by witnessing a violent gay bashing as a child, Oscar is a young man with ambivalent feelings towards his sexuality. When he meets the charismatic Wilder, Oscar’s unchecked desires are thrown into disarray. It’s a good thing his talking pet hamster (voiced by the always game Isabella Rossellini) is on hand to offer sage advice.
Based on stories from the international bestseller Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap,Josh Kim’s How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) is set in Bangkok, where 11-year-old Oat lives with his aunt and his openly gay older brother Ek, whose upper-class boyfriend Jai is an accepted presence in the family. Military conscription hangs heavily over Ek, whose status as the family’s chief breadwinner makes dodging the draft a necessity. Oat will do anything to help his brother buy his way out of the draw.
Combining the urban hipness of Spike Lee with a fresh queer sensibility, Jay Dockendorf’sdebut feature Naz & Maalik follows Brooklyn youths Naz and Maalik over one summer day. Naz is caught in a lie when he tries to hide the true nature of his relationship with Maalik, which has deeper ramifications as this fateful day unfolds. Featuring winning performances from the two young leads Naz & Maalik examines Islamophobia and homophobia showing a side of New York that we rarely get to see.
Avant-garde queer filmmaking is on show in Australian premiere Like Cattle Towards Glowthe highly stylized feature film debut of author Dennis Cooper. Spread over five separate stories following a motley crew of unnamed young men as they traverse dark, sexual desires within settings as diverse as a heaving punk club, an artificial stage set and a mysterious beach bunker. Equally wistful and depraved, Cooper and co-director Zach Farley weave a hypnotic spell.
Proud and Loud is MQFF’s electrifying new music strand celebrating queer musicians, innovators and trendsetters. Highlights include the Australian premiere of The Glamour and the Squalor. This revealing and highly entertaining documentary follows the career of radio DJ and tastemaker Marco Collins who introduced the world to grunge music and was instrumental in launching the careers of Nirvana, Beck, Pearl Jam and Weezer.
Also screening is When My Sorrow Died: The Legend of Armen Ra & Theremin. Former drag queen, the glamorously eccentric Armen Ra is a master of the Theremin, creating beautiful performance pieces and opening for acts like Nick Cave’s Grinderman. A consummate storyteller, Armen recounts his childhood in 1970s Iran, being bullied at school in Boston before finding a home on the New York club scene. Director Robert Nazar Arjoyan mixes gorgeous concert performances with lavishly designed set pieces bringing the larger than life Armen Ra to the screen.
Highlights of MQFF’s Documentaries program include the Australian premiere of Deep Run. Cole is a young trans man living in deeply religious, rural North Carolina. This intimate documentary highlights rebirth and courage within America’s conservative Bible Belt as Cole seeks to reconcile being trans with his family, girlfriend and the Church. Executive produced by Susan Sarandon and shot by first-time filmmaker Hillevi Loven, Deep Run is a powerful portrait of contemporary trans life.
Winner of a dozen plus international festival awards and popular with audiences worldwide,Mala Mala looks at the lives of 9 trans-identifying people in Puerto Rico. Covering a wide spectrum of age and experience in its subjects Mala Mala explores the highs and lows of identifying as trans in a country where a macho, Latino culture holds sway. Mala Mala is an entertaining and enlightening documentary made by Christine Vachon’s Killer Films.
Eminently quotable author of Notes On Camp and On Photography, Susan Sontag was one of the most provocative thinkers of the 20th Century. Narrated by Patricia Clarkson,Regarding Susan Sontag explores her influential written works along with her personal life through interviews with lovers and friends. This documentary takes us on a journey through Sontag’s first experience in a gay bar to her last relationship, with photographer Annie Leibovitz. The film will be followed by a panel discussion led by acclaimed Melbourne author Christos Tsiolkas.
A festival favourite (selling out each year), the Australian Shorts package puts the spotlight on local queer filmmakers. This year’s films range from dark schoolyard dramas, intimate documentary, through to farcical camp and sweet romantic comedy. All films selected for this program are eligible for a range of awards including the Audience Choice Award for Best Australian Short. Vote for your favourite films at mqff.com.au.
For more information and to view the full festival program please visit mqff.com.au.
Tickets and passes are on sale now at mqff.com.au. The festival takes place from March 31 – April 11.