Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival Director Paul Struthers talks about the festival’s significance and what is on offer from the Australian contingent this year. By Caris Bizzaca.
In this year’s Oscars race there will be a number of queer films, including Carol and The Danish Girl, up for statuettes.
While the representation is great, Paul Struthers says it also highlights the significance of the Mardi Gras Film Festival.
As festival director he notes that, as so brilliantly put in a recent article by The Guardian, the stories that will be screening from 18 February – 3 March are about more than a character’s sexuality.
“There are a few queer films out there, but often they feature only white people and the stories are focused on their sexuality,” he says.
“We show a lot of films with people of all races, from all walks of life and it’s not so much about their sexuality, it’s more about stories with people who happen to be LGBTIQ.”
A perfect example is the Australian film Downriver directed by Grant Scicluna, which had its world premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival (check out the Screen Intel article about financing the piece here).
Downriver features characters who are LGBTIQ, but the story is more concerned with redemption, as it centres around a teenager who’s released from juvenile detention, after serving time for his part in the drowning of a child.
“It’s a really well-made Australian drama that isn’t about the character’s sexuality. Some of them just happen to be queer and there’s an excellent story that takes place,” Struthers says. “It’s a very well written and beautifully acted film.”
Apart from Downriver, which screens on 27 February and March 17 in Sydney, here’s a guide to the other Australian films and series you can find at Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival.
STARTING FROM… NOW! – directed by Julie Kalceff
1 March, 7.30pm
Making its world premiere at the festival is the fourth season of the Screen Australia supported web series, about the complicated lives of four inner-city Sydney lesbians. The web series will also make its television premiere, of seasons four and five, on SBS2 from March 7.
“It has really fascinating characters and is very high in drama. I think everyone’s going love it and want to see the previous seasons if they haven’t seen it already,” Struthers says.
Screen Australia went on set during the filming of Starting From …Now! Watch our video here.
ECCO HOMO – directed by Lynn-Maree Milburn and Richard Lowenstein
21 February, 7.15pm
A documentary about the life of artist and performer Troy Davies, who dealt with fame, addiction, HIV and was a key figure in Melbourne’s pop and queer cultures.
“He collaborated with everyone from INXS to U2,” Struthers says. “It’s just a great documentary about this fascinating character.”
REMEMBERING THE MAN – directed by Nickolas Bird and Eleanor Sharpe
25 February 7.15pm,
11 March 7pm,
1 April 7pm
The true story that inspired the play and film Holding the Man, based on the life of actor Timothy Conigrave and his partner John Caleo. It uses Conigrave’s memoirs, published just after his death, as well as interviews from friends and family to piece together the tragic love story, which unfolded during the AIDS crisis.
“It’s a documentary about the real people from Holding the Man and they just have some great access,” Struthers says. “It’s just a really beautifully-made documentary and anybody who loves the book and film just has to see it.”
SCRUM – directed by Poppy Stockell
23 February 6.30pm
This documentary, which also screened at Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival, covers the lead-up to the international gay rugby tournament, the Bingham Cup, in 2014.
“It’s a fascinating story about the Bingham Cup and how the Sydney Convicts Rugby Club try to win it,” Struthers says. “The reason I really love it is it follows three characters and they all happen to be from abroad. One’s Canadian, one’s Irish and one’s Japanese. It’s just a very heart-warming, very well made documentary.”
29 February, 6.30pm
Australia’s largest LGBTIQ film prize invites filmmakers every year to submit short films into the competition. This year, the eight shorts selected will be competing for a prize pool of over $14,000 in cash and support.
Struthers says prize winners and entrants from past years include Downriver’s Grant Scicluna, Starting From… Now! director Julie Kalceff and Remembering the Man’s Nickolas Bird have gone on to produce larger projects.
“So it’s great to see them graduating from my Queer Career into web series, feature length films or documentaries,” Struthers says. “It’s a good learning ground for filmmakers.”
Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival begins in Sydney from 18 February to 3 March, before travelling to the Blue Mountains and Parramatta. Click here for more details.