Now in its eighth year, the 2020 Queer Screen Film Fest comes to you! Comprising over 40 feature films, documentaries and shorts – 90 percent of the festival can be accessed by LGBTIQ+ communities and allies anywhere in Australia this September. Australian Arts Review takes a look at eight films worth checking out:
In director Mike Mosallam’s debut feature, we met Mo (Haaz Sleiman), a gay, Muslim man living in West Hollywood who not only isn’t struggling to reconcile his faith and sexuality, but also has the support of his family! However, that doesn’t necessarily make things smooth sailing, and after he ends things with a long-term love, he wonders if he’ll ever find someone. Enter dashing actor Kal (Michael Cassidy), who comes into Mo’s life just as he enters the period of Ramadan, meaning he’ll have to balance his new feelings with the vows of abstinence this sacred month requires. Australian Premiere!
Why do you need a boyfriend if you already have a BFF? So asks 14 year-old Nora, the wallflower protagonist in the German coming-of-age film, Cocoon. Spending her summer traipsing after her older sister, Nora quietly observes all without quite fitting in. At first it seems this is because of Nora’s youth, but as the film progresses, Nora begins to discover that perhaps her way of viewing the world and the people in it has more to do with her own identity. The film provides a perfectly heartfelt portrayal of the confusion and joy of growing up. Touching on the full swathe of teenage themes, sexuality is one of many discoveries, subtly interwoven into the broader question of what it means to an adolescent. Australian Premiere!
In the summer of 1986, ten-year-old Tate and his parents move to a small town after living in the city all his life. Much to his father’s annoyance, they find themselves living next door to Gossamer, a young, Black trans woman. When Tate’s family crumbles around him, he defies his parents’ warnings to stay away and finds solace with Gossamer and her father, a retired English professor. He and Gossamer bond as he treats her with innocence unmarred by prejudice and she treats him as an equal. Moving beyond clichéd stories of gender transition, Gossamer Folds centres a Black, trans woman, played by a Black, trans actress, Alexandra Grey (Empire), who is empowered to follow her dreams. Australian Premiere!
In Moonlit Winter we meet four women: teenager Sae-bom and her divorced mother Yoon-hee who are making ends meet in South Korea; and veterinarian Jun and her aunt Masako who live together quietly in Japan. When Sae-bom intercepts a letter to her mother from Jun that hints at a past she never knew of, she convinces her mother to travel with her to Jun’s town and surreptitiously plans to find the mysterious woman her mother once loved. With the serene beauty of Japanese winter as a stunning backdrop, we’re warmed by the tender bonds that tie these women to one another, and the tension of two people destined to reunite. Moonlit Winter overflows with joy tinged with regret, and captivates with its soft and gentle hopefulness. Australian Premiere!
From award winning director Philippe Faucon, Proud is a powerful and moving three-part miniseries which tells the story of Charles, Victor and Diego, three generations of the same French family. In 1981, it was still illegal to be gay in France. When, at 17, Victor comes out to his father Charles, and introduces the family to Serge, his older lover, the relationship between father and son is profoundly impacted. As LGBTIQ+ rights in France continue to evolve over the decades, Victor finds love and the security of family in his lasting relationship with Serge and their adopted son, Diego. As his son enters adolescence, Victor must confront long-held attitudes and re-evaluate his relationship with Diego, to avoid reliving the turbulence of his relationship with his own father. Both epic and intimate, Proud is an engrossing and superbly acted depiction of how political and societal attitudes change over the years, as do families and their relationships. Australian Premiere!
Steelers: The World’s First Gay Rugby Club
After moving from Australia to the UK, Eammon Ashton-Atkinson discovered the accepting embrace of the Steelers, the world’s first gay rugby team. Starting out as just six men in a Kings Cross bar in London, queer rugby has now developed into a community of thousands. Eammon introduces us to some of these colourful characters as they compete in the Bingham World Cup against the best in the world, including our own Sydney Convicts. We meet Nic Evans, the passionate lesbian coach who has overcome misogyny in a male-dominated sport, Simon Jones the semi-pro player who opens up about his battle with depression and Andrew McDowell, the fierce rugby player by day and even fiercer drag queen by night. Australian Premiere!
Surviving the Silence
Surviving the Silence explores the extraordinary story behind the historic discharge of war hero, Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer, for admitting she was a lesbian in the midst of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military era in the United States. This dismissal was presided over by decorated nurse Col. Pat Thompson. What no one knew at the time was that for decades Thompson herself had been serving as a closeted lesbian, and navigating life in homophobic 20th Century America with her longterm lover, Barbara Brass. From finding love in the military, surviving anti-gay policy, to the heights of a Hollywood adaptation starring Glenn Close; Surviving the Silence gives voice to those women once silenced and offers a timely reminder of what is at stake when we don’t stand loud, proud and united. Australian Premiere!
Tu Me Manques
Based on a play that started a revolution in Bolivia, Tu Me Manques is an innovative film which turns a deeply personal story into a universal call for love and acceptance. Sebastian and Gabriel are two Bolivian men living in New York City who meet serendipitously and are instantly drawn to one another. As they fall in love, the complicated issue of Gabriel coming out to his family back home starts to drive a wedge in their fairy tale life stateside. When tragedy strikes the young couple, Gabriel’s father travels to New York City to meet Sebastian. With a glorious cast of supporting characters, including Almodovar muse Rossy de Palma, this heartfelt film tackles the sensitive issue of cultural homophobia with passion, love and tolerance and is a deeply moving and unique cinema experience that has already left an indelible mark in its home country.
The 2020 Queer Screen Film Fest continues to Sunday 27 September. For more information, and ticketing options, visit: www.queerscreen.org.au for details.
Image: Steelers: The World’s First Gay Rugby Club (supplied)