Among the 119 films in this year’s Mardi Gras Film Festival are a number of specially curated $10 Community Screenings, which facilitate easy attendance, factoring in considerations such as cost, locations, dates and times. Tileah Dobson reports.
No longer trapped in our homes by lockdowns or restrictions, many Sydneysiders might be left wondering what to do now that the festive season is over.
Luckily, the world-famous Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival has begun. The festival will rain its enchanting colours on Sydney, celebrating our diverse and energetic LGBTQI+ community. While some residents will be keen to party it out, others might want to celebrate it in a more low-key way.
The Mardi Gras Film Festival thankfully solves this issue for the more toned-down crowd. The festival, run by Queer Screen, is showcasing an extraordinary mixture of documentaries, films and web series entries, highlighting the powerful work of filmmakers, producers, actors and storytellers.
Queer Screen was established back in 1993. While its roots trace back to the Australian Film Institute’s (AFI) Sydney Gay Film Week, the mission to promote and showcase queer culture through the screen remains the same. Despite its initial small scale, the festival has now evolved to become one of Australia’s largest film festivals and one of the top five queer film festivals in the world.
This year, Queer Screen is proudly presenting its theme, the Queer Frontier. It’s giving special attention to the stories of First Nations LGBTQI+ individuals and activists, both local and international.
Within its wider program of film screenings and streaming, the film festival is this year presenting a number of low cost Community Screenings, in a bid to make the festival more inclusive and accessible to all.
“Queer Screen recognises that there are many barriers our community faces when it comes to attending our events and we are working towards overcoming some of those barriers wherever we can,” festival director Lisa Rose said.
“We want to make the Mardi Gras Film Festival as accessible as possible to all members of the LGBTIQ+ community and beyond,” she said.
“That’s why we have curated these particular films and organised screenings which facilitate easy attendance – factoring in cost, location, date and time.”
The Events Cinemas in Parramatta and Hurtsville will be showing specific films from the festival for those who cannot or don’t want to make the journey into Central Sydney.
Seyran Ateş: Sex, Revolution and Islam showcases the struggle of an openly bisexual female Imam around religion and sexuality. She seeks to establish co-existence with her sexuality and the Islamic faith by leading a revolution through her liberal mosque.
Meanwhile, Kapana tells the narrative story of two gay men from Namibia, a country with strict anti-gay laws. Simon believes his one-night stands don’t make him gay whilst George is longing for more than casual flings. This film contains severe homophobia.
Ìfé is about two women who fall in love over a three-day date, Ìfé desires to find someone to love openly and share her life but Adaora comes from parents who are not that accepting. As a critical secret is revealed, the two must decide how much they are willing to sacrifice to maintain their romance. As this film is only 36 minutes long, it is shown in the same session as Kapana.
On Thursday, 24 February, Hurstville will be showing a unique piece from Hong Kong called The First Girl I Loved. This film explores a tender tale of first love, companionship, family and heartbreak through the main character, Wing Lee. Wing Lee had pined for Sylvia during their high school years. When Sylvia asks Wing Lee to be her maid of honour for her wedding, Wing Lee’s feelings return.
Two more films round out the $10 Communiy Screenings, with both events held Events Cinemas George Street in Sydney’s CBD. will be showcasing the screen media Hating Peter Tatchell and Hetero. Hating Peter Tatchell is the film being presented with the Sentinel.
Hetero is an episodic that was written, directed and created by young queer people. It will screen at Event Cinemas George Street on Saturday, 26 February. It follows the evolving queer teen American high school experience, highlighting it through humour. With the threat of their club being disbanded, five queer high schoolers must recruit straight students to their Gay-Straight Alliance.
Hating Peter Tatchell is a documentary depicting the journey of the famous Australian-born LGBTQI+ activist Peter Tatchell. Directed by Queensland-born and based Christopher Amos, the film counts Elton John among its producers and featuring Stephen Fry and Ian McKellen.
Proudly presented by the Sydney Sentinel on Sunday, 27 February, the documentary allows audiences to witness the struggle and hard-fought battles Peter Tatchell endured from the late ’60s to today.
Both Hetero and Hating Peter Tatchell will feature live Q&A sessions afterwards for audience members to participate in.
Several of the Community Screening films – Kapana, Ìfé, Seyran Ateş: Sex, Revolution and Islam and The First Girl I Loved – will also be offered for On Demand streaming.
“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.
Queer Screen also offers a Financial Aid Tickets program for those facing economic or social barriers from attending the films. To access these free tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rose encourages those who require aid to reach out as soon as possible in order to enjoy the film festival and not miss out.
“This program provides two free tickets to those in the community who are unable to buy them,” Rose said.
“In addition to these six $10 community screenings, we also offer $10 youth tickets to anyone under 26 years old to any film screening in cinema that has not already sold out.
“Meanwhile we are continuing to provide captions to as many screenings as possible and this year we have six cinema sessions with open captions and one with audio description available. We also have closed captions available on ten of the programs streaming On Demand.”
For more information on the $10 Community Screenings, the Mardi Gras Film Festival in general or to purchase tickets, visit https://queerscreen.org.au.
Tileah Dobson is the news and queer editor of the Sydney Sentinel.
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