Mardi Gras Film Festival releases full program

The Way He LooksFrom ballerinas to roller derby players, rodeo cowboys to surf lifesavers, and everything in between – the 22nd Mardi Gras Film Festival will deliver the best in LGBTQI cinema from Thursday 19 February.

Film fans all over Sydney have been eagerly awaiting the announcement of the festival’s full program since the release of ten teaser films last November. Mardi Gras Film Festival has certainly delivered and then some, with its wide-ranging medley of classic and contemporary queer films hailing from Australia and countries as far-reaching as Philippines, Kenya, and even the very first queer feature film from Sri Lanka.

“This year’s Mardi Gras Film Festival program has such a special selection of films from all over the world,” says Festival Director Paul Struthers. “However, I’m especially proud of the really strong Australian talent that features this year.”

“It’s incredibly important to us at MGFF to support the local industry and get Aussie films shown to as wide an audience as we possibly can. And it’s easy to support our filmmaking industry when it produces the incredible films we’ve chosen for our program!”

First up amongst these home-grown highlights is the tense, gripping and terse new drama, Drown. Exploring the world of Aussie beach culture through the story of handsome young Sydney surf club champion, Len. The film stars Harry Cook (Accidents Happen) and Matt Levett (Devil’s Playground) and is a world premiere for the festival.

Next up is the world premiere of All About E. Sexy Sydney DJ, E, always has a world of women at her feet. When she and her gay best friend, Matt, stumble upon a load of cash, they are forced to hit the road on the run from crooks. They soon realise there’s nowhere left to go but into outback Australia.

In 2015, the Festival will also celebrate the 45th anniversary of cult Australian film The Set. The very first local production to have homosexuality as its central theme, it depicts the story of Paul (Sean McEuan) who is pursuing his dreams in the Sydney art world when he falls in love with his cousin’s handsome boyfriend, Tony. This screening will also be followed by a Q&A with the cast and crew.

Shot in and around Newtown, Skin Deep will also be making its Australian premiere at the Mardi Gras Film Festival. Troubled university student Caitlin and straight-laced Leah are two lost souls who discover that sometimes a stranger is the best person to open up to.

This year’s program features an assortment of fascinating documentaries for every taste. There’s the hilarious Do I Sound Gay? following the journey of David Thorpe – a man who undergoes voice-changing exercises due to his anxiety about sounding gay, and features interviews with linguists and celebrities such as Margaret Cho, Tim Gunn, Dan Savage, George Takei and David Sedaris.

Mala Mala celebrates the trans community in Puerto Rico, through the eyes of nine trans-identifying individuals. Among the group are business owners, sex workers, and even RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant, April Carrión.

Fascinating crime documentary, Out in the Night tells of a night in a gay-friendly neighbourhood of New York City when four African-American lesbians are violently and sexually threatened by a man on the street.

Peter de Rome: Grandfather of Gay Porn tells the story of pornography art filmmaker, Peter de Rome, who captured the attention of the underground New York art scene from the ‘60s onwards (including Andy Warhol and David Hockney), with his erotic fantasy pornscapes.

Chronicling the events of the brilliant women who founded the modern women’s movement from 1966 to 1971, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry examines the evolution of feminism. It includes prominent lesbian figures like Karla Jay, Kate Millett and Rita Mae Brown. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion called Still Angry.

Famous faces frequent this year’s festival program. Legendary Patrick Stewart stars in Match, based on a Tony Award-winning play about an interview with an aging Julliard dance professor. This film also stars Carla Gugino and Matthew Lillard.

Another star-studded film is Life Partners, featuring Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) and real-life husband, Adam Brody (The OC), along with Gillian Jacobs (Community). Openly gay actor Ben Whishaw (Bright Star, Skyfall) stars in Lilting, about a man who, in his grief, reaches out to his dead boyfriend’s mother, who is of Cambodian-Chinese heritage and doesn’t speak English.

There’s a star-turn of a different kind in one of the films this year, with gay pornstar-turned-actor Frankie Valenti (aka Johnny Hazzard) in Tiger Orange. Valenti stars as a man reunited with his estranged brother after the death of their father.

Also spot Patricia Clarkson in Last Weekend, Girls actress Gaby Hoffman in Lyle, and our own Sigrid Thornton in BFFs. BFFs tells the story of Kat and Sam, who are gifted a weekend away to a couple’s retreat, despite being straight and not a couple. This film is arguably the funniest of the festival, and Thornton herself will be coming along to the screening and participating in a Q&A session afterwards.

Last year was the first time that Mardi Gras Film Festival screened a kid’s film as part of the program, and this year the tradition will be continued with Disney princess film of a different kind – a Frozen Sing-a-long. This gorgeous animation is riddled with pro-gay subtext and teaches the empowering lesson to ‘let it go!’ and feel proud in your own skin. The screening is presented by Rainbow Kids and Babies.

Ten years has passed since Ang Lee’s three-time Academy Award-winning Brokeback Mountain graced our screens. The Festival offers a chance to relive this beautiful film on the big screen. Its perfect pairing is the award-winning documentary, Queens & Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo – taking us to the unexplored realm of gay rodeos.

Another combination is Derby Crazy Love and In the Turn – these two documentaries investigate the adrenaline-fuelled world of roller derby and how femininity and queer culture translate into this badass sport.

As in previous years, there will be a variety of critically acclaimed queer short films as part of the festival’s program, My Queer Career – Australia’s richest prize for queer short films, awarding the winner of this year’s fantastic line-up over $10,000 worth of prizes. There are also the always popular sessions of Mixed Shorts and Gay Shorts – a highlight of which is Wham, Bam Mr. Pam, covering the career of Catholic school girl-turned gay porn director, Mr. Pam.

The 2015 Mardi Gras Film Festival runs from Thursday 19 February to Thursday 5 March. For more information, including complete program and bookings, visit: for details.

Image: production still from The Way He Looks