Featuring 3 World premieres, 60 Australian premieres and 15 Sydney premieres showcasing LGBTIQ+ storytelling from 30 different countries, there is so much on offer at Queer Screen’s 28th Mardi Gras Film Festival. Australian Arts Review takes a look at twelve films worth checking out!
Ritz Cinemas: Sunday 21 February
A rare opportunity to lose yourself in the world and lives of Hong Kong. Suk Suk (from writer-director Ray Yeung, Front Cover MGFF16) shows us the city through the eyes of Pak, a 70-year-old married cab driver. When he meets Hoi, another older man, at a local cruising spot, we discover new layers to the city and the people and become entwined in the blossoming love between the two men. As the affair continues, we are guided through wandering daydreams of roads untraveled and the reality of life in Hong Kong. Also available on Demand!
Two of Us (Deux)
Ritz Cinemas: Sunday 21 February / Hayden Orpheum: Sunday 28 February
This critically acclaimed and emotionally compelling romantic drama shows the lengths people will go to for love, and is a reminder that it’s never too late to live your truth. Two retirees, Nina (Barbara Sukowa) and Madeleine (Martine Chevallier), have been secretly in love for decades. Everybody, including Madeleine’s family, thinks they’re simply neighbours, sharing the top floor of their building. They come and go between their two apartments, enjoying the affection and pleasures of daily life together while keeping their relationship from their families. Also available on Demand!
The Man with the Answers
Event Cinemas: Monday 22 February / Ritz Cinemas: Saturday 27 February
Twenty-something Victor is an ex-diving champ living with his grandmother in a seaside town in Greece. After the sudden death of his grandmother, he jumps into a dusty old car and begins a road trip to Germany. On a boat ride in Italy he meets Matthias, a handsome, free-spirited German headed back home, who charms the uptight Victor into giving him a ride. The odd couple embark on a road trip that takes them through the stunning mountain scenery of Italy. Through many twists and turns, the two men are pushed out of their comfort zones, and must come face to face with their growing attraction for one another. As their destination looms on the horizon, will they find the answers they are looking for, in each other? World Premiere!
Event Cinemas: Wednesday 24 February / Ritz Cinemas: Thursday 25 February / Hayden Orpheum: Sunday 28 February
Acting powerhouses Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci deliver two understated, career-best performances in this heartrending modern love story. Sam and Tusker have been together for twenty years, and remain passionately in love. But when Tusker was diagnosed with early-onset dementia two years earlier their lives were changed forever. While Sam’s resolved to make their lives as normal and joyful as possible, Tusker is hyper-aware he’s beginning to lose control. They decide to take a road trip to reconnect with friends and family while Tusker’s still able, but as the trip progresses their differing outlooks on the future begin to collide. Secrets are uncovered, private plans unravel, and their love is tested like never before.
My First Summer
Ritz Cinemas: Thursday 25 February
A gorgeous, Australian lesbian coming-of-age film to tug at your heartstrings and fill you with memories of your first love. In My First Summer, 16-year-old Claudia has been raised in total isolation from society by her recently deceased mother. Now completely on her own on her property, she is surprised when Grace, a spirited teenaged girl appears from a nearby town. This beautifully shot film is at once a classic Australian story and a breath of fresh air. The two girls find themselves, and one another as they teeter on the cusp of first love, womanhood, past trauma and having their idyllic freedom torn away from them by the outside world. A sometimes dark, always stunning film about first love and discovering your sexuality.
Under My Skin
Ritz Cinemas: Friday 26 February
An important and moving tale of one person’s non-binary experience. Denny is a free-spirited artist, but when they fall for Ryan (played by Australian Alex Russell), a by-the-books lawyer, both their limits are tested. Throughout the film, Denny is portrayed by four separate non-binary-identifying actors, including Australian Liv Hewson (Bombshell) and Bobbi Salvor Menuez (Transparent). As their journey progresses, we see it from Denny and Ryan’s side as the two find themselves, and each other, in this very modern love story. An insightful, heartfelt and compelling film made almost entirely by an Aussie cast and crew in Los Angeles. Australian Premiere!
Ritz Cinemas: Saturday 27 February
What would you do, if you could go back in time? This Australian magic-realist film answers that very question. Beth is a young woman bereft when one of her mothers passes away. Unlike her three siblings, she languishes at the family home with her surviving mother, Ruth. On the eve of Ruth’s sixtieth birthday, Beth follows a vision into the garden and discovers a greenhouse that sends her into the past, where her mother is alive and Beth is taking her first steps in trying to deal with or ignore her own burgeoning sexuality. As her siblings and a past love return home and tempers flare, Beth’s escapes to the greenhouse are discovered and send the whole family searching for what they’ve lost and finding far more than they bargained for. World Premiere!
Event Cinemas: Saturday 27 February / Event Cinemas: Wednesday 3 March
In a picturesque English countryside cottage in the 1940s, prickly Alice (Gemma Arterton) toils away in isolation on her academic thesis. Nursing a heartache from her past, she shuts out the world around her. Until it comes knocking at her door. Frank, a young evacuee from London has been placed in her stead. As their friendship grows, the reason for Alice’s pain is revealed – an all-consuming love affair with the decadent Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), which unfolded when both women were barely out of their teens and everything seemed possible. Beautifully shot, this gentle film is awash with moments of humour, and is steadied by the ever wonderful Arterton as the fiercely independent Alice.
My Queer Career
Ritz Cinemas: Wednesday 3 March
My Queer Career is Australia’s richest queer short film prize with over $14,000 worth of cash and support to be won. The shorts in the running in 2021 include someone reaching out to an old flame in search for closure, in Call History; Maddie’s blooming relationship with another student forces her to make a major decision, in Her Own Music; a gay Afghan asylum seeker finds that his fate is in the hands of his interpreter, in Tribunal; a world-renowned chicken breeder travels the world exhibiting chickens – and himself – in A Rare Breed; a lesbian couple await results that could end not only their plans but their relationship, in The Test; and Francesca and Phyllis open up about their fifty-year relationship, in Why Did She Have to Tell the World?
Ritz Cinemas: Thursday 4 March
Starring, written, and produced by members of New Zealand’s queer, Maori, and gender-diverse communities, this touching dramedy is about the power of embracing one’s identity in all its forms. A decade since he skipped town without warning, gay transgender activist Caz returns to his isolated hometown of R?rangi, where no one has seen or heard from him since he transitioned. Although former best friend Anahera is quick to embrace him, the same can’t be said of his estranged father, while his reappearance raises more questions than answers for ex-boyfriend Jem. Winner of the Audience Award at the world’s largest LGBTIQ+ Film Festival, Framleine, Rurangi is a crowd pleaser that perfectly balances drama, humour and heart. Australian Premiere!
P.S. Burn This Letter Please
For fans of the 1968 documentary, The Queen, this collection of beautiful vignettes into an almost-forgotten part of queer history is a must-see. The discovery of a collection of letters from drag queens Daphne, Josephine, Claudia and more inspired the filmmakers to track down some of the authors and reminisce about their lives as queer people in New York in the 1950s. Their stories will sweep you up so thoroughly you will feel like part of the scene. The archival footage is something to be treasured as it shows stunning, beautiful queens performing at venues like the 82 Club and the Cork Club in New York. It’s impossible to watch this film without smiling at least once (and hopefully more!). You’ll laugh and cry as these long-lost stories finally make their way to the big screen.
Yossi and Jagger
An often-amusing romantic drama about finding peace amongst the routine of war, this modern gay classic firmly established Eytan Fox’s reputation around the world. At an isolated military outpost, soldiers Yossi and Jagger are secretly in love. But with the end of his mandatory service fast approaching, Jagger grows tired of the secrecy. Even when focused on the day-to-day of army life – ditch digging, spontaneous dance parties and snowball fights – unfortunately, in war, combat is never far away.
Running to 4 March, the Festival will screen with restricted and socially distanced viewings at a selection of cinemas across Sydney, and nationally on-demand, before touring to Canberra and the Blue Mountains in late March. For more information and full program, visit: www.queerscreen.org.au for details.
Image: Elz Carrad stars as Caz Davis in Rurangi (supplied)