Queer Screen 2021: LGBTQI lives through lenses

Alec Smart gives us the lowdown on the gargantuan 2021 Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival which, for the first time ever, will be be held both in cinemas and online.

Queer Screen’s 28th annual Mardi Gras Film Festival takes place from 18 February to 14 March and will feature over 90 films, ranging from dramatic features and incisive documentaries to quality short and episodic films.

The varied program showcasing LGBTQI+ storytelling from 30 different countries includes 60 Australian premieres, three world premieres and, significantly, 15 homegrown Sydney premieres from local filmmakers.

For the first time, due to Covid-19 restrictions, film sessions will be screened in theatres as well as on-demand online, meaning regional and interstate movie lovers don’t have to travel to Sydney to enjoy quality queer cinema. Film fans can create their own movie night experiences at home with friends; break out the popcorn, choccy and fizzy drinks, and log-in to the live-streaming!

2021 Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival official trailer. Video: queer screen/YouTube.

Lisa Rose, Queer Screen Festival Director, said: “The current ongoing challenges of the pandemic has helped us evolve our festival model to deliver a world class film festival to the widest audience and in the safest ways possible.

“After successfully delivering Queer Screen Film Fest mostly online in September 2020, we have expanded on that with a truly hybrid model to provide the collective in-cinema community experience that we all love, alongside a strong on-demand offering.

“With more than half of the program available online Australia-wide, and over 60 cinema screenings in Sydney, there are so many ways to experience the Festival this year.”

Around 70 per cent of the films in the 2021 festival are available to view online.

The films will be shown at five participating venues around Greater Sydney. These include: Event Cinemas in George Street, in the CBD; the Hayden Orpheum on Military Road, Cremorne; Ritz Cinemas in Randwick; the Event Cinemas in the Westfield Hurstville Shopping Centre; and the much-celebrated open-air outdoor cinema, Moonlight Cinema, in Centennial Park.

Thereafter, the festival moves on to the Blue Mountains and Canberra.

The Hayden Orpheum at Cremorne is one of five Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival venues across Sydney. Photo: Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace/Facebook.

Festival highlights

The opening night film, Dating Amber, will be screened under the stars at the Moonlight Cinema at 7pm on Thursday, 18 February. The amusing story focuses on two teenagers in 1990s Ireland – one lesbian, the other gay – who pretend to start dating in order to hide their sexuality from their fellow high schoolers.

But the practicalities of that trigger other hilarious consequences, and soon their friendship is put to the test.

Ammonite pairs powerful lead performers Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan as lovers in the historic tale of one of the world’s greatest female scientists, Mary Anning.

Anning, an intrepid palaeontologist and fossil collector-dealer, became well-known for her discoveries in the shale cliffs at Lyme Regis in Dorset, England, including a sea dinosaur that inspired the tale of the Loch Ness Monster. However, she was undermined and passed over by her male contemporaries and has only recently gained the recognition she deserved.

Goodbye Mother focuses on the universally recognised tale of a wandering son returning home to his mother. However, his plans to introduce her to his boyfriend as he comes out gay are stunted in the rural, conservative village of his Vietnamese homeland when he discovers his mum is gravely ill.

In the multi-award-winning Suk Suk, a married elderly taxi driver meets an elderly gay man at a Hong Kong cruising spot and begin an affair in what is described as a mature, affecting drama.

The poignant documentary Cured weaves archival film footage and photos to examine a time in American history when gay people were subjected to horrific ‘treatments’ in an attempt to ‘cure’ them of what was seen as an affliction. Civil and gay rights activists later successfully overturned the USA psychiatric profession’s classification of homosexuality as a ‘mental illness’ and revolutionised the social perspective of same-sex relationships.

Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan star in Ammonite.

The Sentinel presents …

The Sydney Sentinel is also presenting a film at this year’s Mardi Gras Film Festival, Milkwater, an award-winning dramatic comedy about a young straight woman, Milo, who agrees to become a surrogate and donor to an older gay man, Roger, and the complications that ensue.

The US film, which features three Aussie characters, is bolstered by a dynamic performance from Younger’s Molly Bernard.

A striking debut from queer director Morgan Ingari, it was described by American entertainment bible The Hollywood Reporter as a “well-acted indie” and a “disarming seriously-comedy work … with pleasing depth”.

The film has its world premiere at last year’s Brooklyn Film Festival in New York City and the Sentinel presentation with Queer Screen will be its Australian premiere.

Milkwater will screen at 7pm Sunday, 21 February at Event Cinemas, George Street, and will also be available on-demand.



Milkwater official trailer. Video: Atlanta Film Festival/YouTube.


The Sentinel is proud to announce that we are an official media partner for the 2021 Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival – Australia’s largest LGBTQI+ film festival and one of the largest such festivals in the world. 

Sydney Sentinel editor-in-chief Peter Hackney said the publication had a dedicated arts and entertainment section, as well as a dedicated queer section, making it a perfect Queer Screen partner. 

“We have a strong commitment to both the arts and to the queer community – and we’re thrilled to be able to bring both these areas together in our partnership with Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival,” he said. 

The 2021 Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival runs from Thursday, 18 February to Sunday, 14 March.

The full program of festival can be viewed online at: https://queerscreen.org.au/mgff21-program/.

For film session tickets and other information, visit queerscreen.org.au or phone (02) 9280 1533.

Become a Queer Screen member to receive discounted tickets and priority entry.