First Nations in the spotlight at Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival

Queer Screen will once again showcase diverse films from around the world, at the 2022 Mardi Gras Film Festival. Pictured is a still from opening night film, "Wildhood". Photo: supplied.

By TILEAH DOBSON

As we count down the days to this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival, Sydneysiders and visitors alike will be eager to plan their time and attend multiple events.

From the iconic Mardi Gras Parade to the Sissy Ball, there is plenty to see and do at this year’s festival. One of the biggest drawcards is the annual Mardi Gras Film Festival, which runs in tandem with the overall festival.

The much anticipated film festival will run from 17 February to 3 March, 2022, both in participating cinemas across Sydney and streaming On Demand nationwide. For its 29th year, the organisation that runs the film festival – Queer Screen – invites audiences to explore ‘the Queer Frontier’, where upcoming and established filmmakers can be met, and new stories are told.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the understanding that some filmgoers would feel uncomfortable attending physical events is behind the option to stream films On Demand from home – a feature Festival Director, Lisa Rose, is proud of.

“We understand there is ongoing uncertainty in the community regarding the Omicron outbreak in Sydney and are delivering a hybrid festival to ensure the program is as accessible as possible and adheres to our Covid-19 safety plan,” Rose said.

“This means LGBTIQ+ communities in Sydney can choose to attend in the cinema or online, and regional and interstate friends of the festival can join our expedition to the Queer Frontier from wherever they are in Australia. More than half of the festival’s world-class program is available to stream, On Demand.”

Queer Screen’s 29th Mardi Gras Film Festival trailer. Video: queerscreen/YouTube.

Maintaining its dedication to the best new LGBTQI+ storytelling from around the globe, this year’s festival pays particular attention to inspirational First Nations LGBTQI+ individuals and activists, both local and international.

“The festival’s two program strands, ‘Focus on First Nations’ and ‘Rebels With a Cause’, honour stories of queer strength and resilience, be they factual or fictional. They shine a light on people with the resolve to survive and thrive in all possible circumstances,” Rose said.

The opening night film, Wildhood, is an enthralling story set in Canada’s Atlantic Provinces. When two-spirit youth, Link, runs away from his abusive white father in search of his mother, he meets Pasmay, a pow wow dancer, and together they journey towards community, identity and love.

The closing night will be showcasing the experience of African-American gay men with B-Boy Blues, a captivating adaptation of the famous 1994 novel by James Earl Hardy, about a journalist who falls for a courier.

The film B-Boy Blues is a novel-to-screen adaptation exploring the African-American gay experience. Photo: supplied.

In between the opening and closing night presentations is a plethora of works spanning 119 films, including 32 narrative features, 15 documentaries, 4 episodics, a retrospective and 9 programs of shorts – from 37 different countries across six continents.

Highlights from the ‘Focus on First Nations’ strand include Pure Grit, which chronicles three years in the life of Sharmaine, a Native American bareback horse racer; Finlandia, a magical realist drama set in rural Mexico; and Querencia, about two Canadian Indigenous women who connect in a big city.

From the ‘Rebels With a Cause’ stream, highlights include Denise Ho: Becoming the Song, about the Canadian-born, Hong Kong-based pop singer and democracy activist; Seyran Ateş: Sex, Revolution and Islam, which explores a female imam’s fight for the modernisation of Islam; and Hating Peter Tatchell, a documentary on Australian-born international queer rights hero Peter Tatchell (who was, incidentally, one of the Sentinel‘s first contributors, penning an exclusive op-ed for us in the week we launched).

Tickets to these films and the entire program are available now, with festival passes also now on sale. To purchase tickets, visit queerscreen.org.au or the Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival app, or call (02) 9280 1533.

There is also the option to become a Queer Screen member, which comes with a range of benefits, including discounted tickets and priority entry.

After its Sydney season, the festival will tour to the Blue Mountains on 11–13 March and Canberra on 18–21 March.

Tileah Dobson is the news and LGBTQ!+ editor of the Sydney Sentinel.