Top Picks at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival

Drown_jj splice filmsCelebrating its 25th year, the Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF) kicked off in grand style last night with the screening of The Way he Looks. Featuring 45 feature films, 12 documentaries and 17 shorts packages, the 2015 Festival program is set to delight, excite, shock and surprise with the most cutting edge queer cinema has to offer from Australia and around the globe. We take a look at 10 films worth checking out:

Anita’s Last Cha Cha
Melbourne Premiere: Wednesday 25 March – 6.00pm
Set in a small town in Bulacan, the Philippines, Anita rebels against her mother’s wishes by sporting short hair, wearing t-shirts and playing war games. With the beautiful Pilar’s arrival, the small town is sent into a panic and Anita develops her first all-consuming crush. Director Sigrid Andrea Bernado perfectly captures the sultry heat of the landscape and the innocence of childhood in this coming-of-age tale that is sure to be a standout of the Festival.

Blackbird
Australian Premiere: Thursday 26 March – 8.30pm
Following the journey of 17-year-old Randy – a devout choirboy living in a conservative Mississippi town, who is struggling to understand his sexuality while also caring for his mother following his sister’s disappearance. Despite praying regularly and living a holy life, Randy can’t hold back the tide of feelings that point to him being gay. When he finds himself paired with his high school crush in a non-traditional production of Romeo & Juliet, Randy must finally confront his sexuality, Baptist religion, Southern values and African American upbringing.

Boys
Melbourne Premiere: Friday 20 March – 10.15pm / Thursday 26 March – 8.30pm
Quiet and sporty 15-year-old Seiger is training for the national relay championships where he meets fellow team member, the unpredictable and outgoing Marc. Their friendship quickly develops into something deeper and Seiger finds himself grappling with feelings and desires that begin to impact on the looming championship finals.

The Circle
Melbourne Premiere: Thursday 26 March – 6.00pm
This remarkable chapter in GLBT history chronicles the rise and fall of seminal Swiss gay magazine The Circle. Considered the pioneer of the gay liberation movement, the magazine offered a forum for men to meet and provided an outlet for the publication of gay erotica, poetry and fiction. At its centre were its infamous balls, which were attended by gay men and women from all over the world. At the film’s heart however is a moving love story spanning decades, between Ernst; a closeted teacher at an elite girl’s school and Robi, the flamboyant drag star of the balls. Seamlessly blending documentary and dramatisations the men’s fates intertwine with the changing fortunes of the magazine and the long march towards liberation.

Derby Crazy Love
Melbourne Premiere: Sunday 29 March – 4.00pm
Giving us an inside look into the exciting world of women’s roller derby, the players of this grass roots organized sport are competitive, aggressive and passionate. Derby, in its modern incarnation, is a serious sport that requires real athleticism. At the same time it maintains its queer punk aesthetic. The women who play are quirky, funny and tough. They want to be taken seriously and ensure the ethos of derby is never lost. As Trash N Smash, a player for Montreal derby team New Skids on the Block, comments, “finally we have something that belongs to us”. The film follows New Skids on their quest to succeed at the world championships, and offers a close up view of a tight knit, female-dominated community. Featuring an awesome girl punk soundtrack that will get you fired up, this film will have you itching to buy some skates and hit the track.

Drown
Melbourne Premiere: Saturday 21 March – 3.00pm
Based on the acclaimed play, Drown is a hard-hitting drama set against the iconic backdrop of Sydney’s Beaches. Len is a Surf Lifesaving champion, a legend in the cloistered surf club just like his father. But when the younger, faster, fitter Phil arrives at the club, Len’s legendary status starts to crumble. Then Len discovers that Phil is gay. Over the summer season, Len starts to form unexpected, confusing feelings for Phil. Can he accept the truth about his sexuality and identity or will he succumb to complete oblivion?

The Foxy Merkins
Australian Premiere: Saturday 21 March – 6.00pm / Saturday 28 March – 6.15pm
After recently arriving in New York, Margaret is broke, struggling to find work and has a distinctly droll sense of humour. Desperate for some money, Margaret decides to become a lesbian sex worker, where the very slightly more experienced Jo takes her under her wing. The two crash on the floor of the women’s restroom at the Port Authority bus terminal, wait out the front of Talbots for closeted lesbian socialites and run into a merkin-selling creeper in a trench coat while in a cemetery. In The Foxy Merkins, Olnek turns the male hustler genre on its head and has a great time while doing it.

Frangipani
Melbourne Premiere: Sunday 22 March – 1.30pm
Sarasi does not want Chamath to be the only boy in her bridal dressing class but she couldnt help wrapping the beautiful wedding saris that Chamath embroiders. Sarasi wants Chamath to rescue her from an arranged marriage but Chamath wants to run away from the village looking for the freedom in the city. Then Chamath finds a new friend Nalin, a welding mechanic who comes to work in the local temple. Sarasi reluctantly welcomes the outsider to her closed circle, not knowing that one day the mechanic would give her hopes of entering a marriage of her choice. The unvoiced love triangle starts shattering when the secret promises are about to be broken. The clash between the three companions comes to an end when Sarasi chooses her groom. Five years later they meet again to question whether the early winners in fact have lost their bid for a long lasting love.

I Feel Like Disco
Melbourne Premiere: Sunday 29 March – 8.30pm (followed by closing night party)
Only child Florian is an awkward, pudgy teen with unkempt hair, braces, zero interest in sport, an obsession with disco music, and a decent amount of confusion about his sexuality. He’s a bit of a mummy’s boy who is happiest when his judgemental diving coach father Hanno isn’t home. When his dad isn’t around Florian gets to don his favourite white leisure suit disco outfits and dance under the mirror ball with his mum. When the structure of their family suddenly changes, Florian and his father seek to find some common ground so that they can muddle on together amidst Florian’s crush on one of his father’s teen diving proteges. Music turns out to be the real savior in this heartwarming and goofy coming-of-age comedy drama: sometimes sad, sometimes absurd, often funny, and always fabulous.

Queen of Amsterdam
Melbourne Premiere: Friday 27 March – 6.00pm
A much-loved gay club threatened with bankruptcy is destined to become the property of the mean-spirited neighbouring nightclub magnate if money can’t be raised urgently after its elderly gay owner Adje collapses. To save the club, a close-knit, ragtag group of regulars plan to commit a Mission Impossible-style jewellery heist on the local Royal Museum during Amsterdam’s Gay Pride festivities. Equal parts hilarious and touching, this Kinky Boots meets Mission: Impossible comedy caper is not to be missed.

The 2015 Melbourne Queer Film Festival continues to 30 March. For more Information, visit: www.mqff.com.au for details.

Image: Matt Levett as Len and Jack Matthews as Phil in Dean Francis’ Drown – photo courtesy of JJ Splice Films

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