Mardi Gras Film Festival reveals 2016 program

MGFF Maggie Smith stars in The Lady in the VanWith 20 additional screenings, 4 new venues, 9 international guests, countless Australian premieres and an increased cash prize for the My Queer Career winners, the 23rd Mardi Gras Film Festival presented by Queer Screen is set to be the biggest year yet in the Festival’s history.

Running from 18 February to 3 March 2016, the Festival will feature 75 screenings at Event Cinemas in George Street and new-to-festival venues the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace Cremorne, the Golden Age Cinema and Bar in Surry Hills and The Harbour. From mid-March to early April the Festival will travel to the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta and for the first time, the Carrington Hotel in the Blue Mountains.

“Every year we aim to be bigger and better than before and this year we have nailed it,” explains Festival Director Paul Struthers. “We have more diversified content including a lot more lesbian films, more transgender films, more documentaries, more international guests, more masterclasses and more screenings at more venues including two free community screenings. There is absolutely something for everyone in this year’s line-up and we are really excited to launch the full program today.”

An absolutely jam-packed program offers LGBTIQ stories across the whole spectrum from fantastical feature films to raw documentaries and promises to make audiences laugh, cry, think, be inspired and engaged. Highlights include:

Chemsex – a fascinating and honest insight into the lives of modern gay men in the UK who engage in weekend-long, drug fueled orgies, a.k.a ‘chemsex’ or ‘wired fun’. Participants hold nothing back and the documentary offers untouched, gritty and sometimes confronting point of view from a variety of lives within the London chemsex scene. The screening will be following by a panel discussion.

Andrew Steggall’s Departure is a visual delight bringing us to the peaceful French countryside where Elliot on holiday with his mum is awakened to previously unknown desires. With a surprisingly honest portrayal of family, young love and self-discovery, this film will haunt you in the best possible way. Filmmaker Andrew Steggall will be at the Festival and participating in a Q&A after the screening.

The Girl King tells the story of the real life Queen Kristina of Sweden a brilliant 17th century monarch who fought the conservative forces of her court to modernize Sweden. Shocking the court with her refusal to marry, Kristina fell for her lady-in-waiting and names her as the Queen’s bed companion. This is the first film to delve deeper into the Queen’s sexuality and won Best Actress award at the Montréal World Film Festival.

Sure to become an audience favourite, Dame Maggie Smith and Alan Bennett give stellar performances in The Lady in the Van, fresh from the Toronto Film Festival. This is a quirky, true story about a homeless elderly woman called Mary Shepard who moved her battered van into Bennett’s driveway and refused to leave.

A superb Australian feature from 2013 My Queer Perspective winner Grant Scicluna, and featuring actors Reef Ireland, Kerry Fox and Tom Green, Downriver is a mysterious story that follows protagonist James as he is released on parole for the murder of a child as a young boy and turns the idea of coming of age on its head. The cast and crew will participate in a Q&A after the screening.

The visually stunning Girls Lost is an emotionally raw Swedish urban fantasy film where three teenage girls are given the bodies of cisgender men for the night. When they realise how different they are treated as men then gain a new confidence as women while one realizes he may have been a boy all along.

A fascinating Australian documentary, Ecco Homo asks a range of famous and not so famous people including U2 and INXS, the impossible question who was Troy Davies? Artist and performer, provocateur and chameleon, Davies charmed his way through a lifetime of fame, art, secrets, HIV, abuse and gender fluidity.

Starring Dianna Agron from Glee, Bare explores the vastness of Nevada’s landscape and the neon lights of its seedy nightlife as country girl Sarah is drawn unto a world of drugs, stripping, spirituality and sex by squatter Piper.

Exciting news for fans of hit online drama Starting From… Now!, the Festival presents the world premiere of the fourth season in one glorious sitting followed by a Q&A with the cast and crew. Following the complicated lives of four inner-city Sydney lesbians, the drama has amassed 20 million views over its first three seasons.

Earlier this year Australian audiences got to experience a piece of heartbreaking cinema – the tragic love story set against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis, Neil Armfield and Tommy Murphy’s Holding the Man. Queer Screen has the privilege and pleasure to present the true story that inspired this gorgeous film, the life of actor Timothy Conigrave and his partner John Caleo.

Drawing from Conigrave’s memoirs, published just after his death, as well as interviews from friends, and family, Remembering the Man – a documentary by Nickolas Bird and Eleanor Sharpe is a no holds barred look at the grim reality of the AIDS crisis, and the pure love which was able to survive and flourish through it.

My Queer Career – Australia’s largest LGBTIQ film prize has now been increased to a prize of $14,000 in cash and support and automatic nomination to the world-renowned Iris Prize competition. This year the eight finalists are: Kate Halpin (A Private Matter), Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston (Don’t Cry Those Tears), Tim Marshall (Followers), Nathan Keene (Little Boy Blue), Stevie Cruz-Martin (Marrow), Joshua Longhurst (Oasis), Ben Southwell (On Stage), and Dannika Horvat (The Summer of ABC Burns).

The always popular shorts section has been extended with this year with the exciting addition of the first ever Asia Pacific Queer Film Festival Alliance Shorts – a selection of the best shorts from a new alliance of 11 Asian queer film festivals. There will also be a screening of Mixed Shorts featuring a collection of the year’s best lesbian, gay and transgender films; a special late-night collection of international Gay Shorts, and returning after a four year absence a great collection of Lesbian Shorts.

In partnership with the City of Sydney, two free community screenings will be shown. What’s Between Us looks at the aftermath of a straight husband coming out as gay as Frank admits to sexual attraction to men after 18 years of marriage and three children. The Year We Thought About Love is a documentary following the personal lives of members of True Colours, a Boston based LGBTIQ youth troupe and delivers a powerful message on social change.

For more information, or to view the full program, visit: for details.

Image: Maggie Smith stars in The Lady in the Van (supplied)