Exploring the Queer Frontier at the 2022 Mardi Gras Film Festival

Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film director Lisa Rose, pictured, has taken the Sentinel through some of this year's festival highlights. Photo: supplied.

This year’s Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival will feature films from 37 countries. Brandon Bear caught up with festival director Lisa Rose to explore some of the many cinematic highlights.

From 17 February to 3 March, Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival once again brings the lives, loves and lenses of LGBTQI+ filmmakers to audiences.

Building on the success of previous years, the hybrid festival model means these stories will shine not only on screen at partner cinemas across Sydney but also at home, or wherever you might happen to be, with more content than ever before available for streaming.

“There is nothing like coming along and watching queer film in a cinema with other queer people, but we have been fortunate enough to be able to pivot to offering these stories to people living outside of Sydney, or who have children, or work shifts – anyone who previously might not have been able to share this experience with us,” festival director Lisa Rose tells the Sentinel ahead of opening night.

“The theme for 2022’s festival is ‘The Queer Frontier’ –  it’s a play on the final frontier, the ends of space. And for us, the ends of space is queer. We are asking the community to come and explore the frontier together.”

Queer Screen’s 29th Mardi Gras Film Festival features over 110 films from 37 countries spanning six continents. Video: queerscreen/YouTube.

To support their vision, this year the festival presents four films that showcase queer, global First Nations stories, including their opening night film Wildhood.

“It is so important, as this is an intersectionality that we don’t often see represented in film,” Rose says.

People are a clear focus of the programming, with a number of films amplifying the stories and contributions of queer icons.

Hating Peter Tatchell, which explores the life of the titular infamous activist, is a good example.

“Peter can be very polarising, but the film presents a balanced view of his methodologies and shines a light on his platform and the danger he puts himself in.

“It could be quite insightful for people who have found him controversial in the past.”

Also recommended by Rose is Denise Ho: Becoming the Song, a considered film that tracks the activism of one of the biggest voices in the Cantonese pop music scene, and her contributions to the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement.

“A formidable woman and a really fantastic documentary,” Rose enthuses.

“A formidable woman,” says Lisa Rose of pop star and freedom fighter Denise Ho, the subject of the compelling documentary Denise Ho: Becoming the Song. Video: queerscreen/YouTube.

“With films from 37 countries, the whole program is a reminder about and reflection on our global queer community,” Rose says when asked about films that speak to reconnecting as a community during Covid. “But A Distant Place – a beautiful sweeping family drama with hints of mystery and romance, and astonishing cinematography that brings rural South Korea to the screen – is an excellent choice.”

Rose also highlights Kapana, the first gay love story on screen from Namibia, and one of three films from Africa in this year’s program. 

Reflecting on our local place in the community, Lisa praises Manscaping which delves into ideas about masculinity, safety and communication through the shared setting of the barbershop, and features Sydney’s own Naked Barber, Richard Savvy.

The film shares the experiences of three men, reimagining the barbershop as a space for kink, communication and queerness. 

Following a Black American visual artist, a trans barber and the Sydney-based Naked Barber, Manscaping explores what barbershops could be when created by queer folks. Video: queerscreen/YouTube.

For a hidden gem in the program, look no further than Hetero. “Ignore the title,” Rose advises, “this is one of the queerest films in the program. Five young queer students rally to recruit ‘heteros’ to save their school’s gay-straight alliance. The film is made by young people and has more one-liners than you can poke a stick at.”

Heteros will be screened as part of a youth session with a hangout following the film. 

For an emotional catharsis, Coming to You – a documentary following the lives of two mothers of queer children in South Korea who become fierce advocates for LGBTQI rights in a hostile environment – will surely work up some tears of joy and happiness.

A still from Coming To You, which follows the lives of two mothers of queer children in South Korea. The film won the DMZ International Documentary Film Festival’s Brave New Docs Award and is a favourite among Queer Screen staff. Photo: supplied.

It was widely adored by the curatorial team who support Rose, but not all films have them seeing eye-to-eye – for example, The Divide from France. “There are queer characters central to the plot, but their queerness is not what defines the film. It caused a lot of discussion about what queer film actually is.”

Whether you venture to the cinema or stay at home in your pyjamas, be sure to grab some popcorn because the Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival is the perfect way to reconnect with the world.

This year, screenings will be running at Event Cinemas in George St, Parramatta and Hurstville as well the Orpheum Cinema in Cremorne.

After the Sydney season ends, select screenings will be available at Mount Vic Flicks in the Blue Mountains (11 to 13 March) and Dendy Cinemas, Canberra (18 to 20 March)

Visit queerscreen.org.au to view or download the program, purchase tickets and for venue, streaming and accessibility information. 

The Sentinel is a proud media partner for the 2022 Mardi Gras Film Festival and is delighted to present a screening of Hating Peter Tatchell at 2.30pm Sunday, 27 February, including a Q&A with the film’s director Christopher Amos. Sentinel editor-in-chief Peter Hackney said: “This is a perfect film for the Sentinel to present; a reflection on the importance of advocacy and people’s impact on social change – some of the ideals we stand for as a media outlet.” 

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