We present a list of 15 films and documentaries you cannot at the 24th Mardi Gras Film Festival that will take place from February 15th – March 2nd, in Sydney, Australia.
Angry Indian Goddesses by Pan Nalin – India, Germany | 2015 – 104 min.
Ahead of Frieda’s pending nuptials, a group of her closest friends gather to catch up on lost time at her beachside home in Goa. The diverse bunch includes a singer, photographer, actress, activist, a trophy wife and a businesswoman. Their conversation flows freely and jubilantly, leading to revealing and often hilarious discussions that span everything from sex to gender politics to the handsome guy next door. That is, until an incident threatens to break their newly formed bond. An audience favourite at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, Angry Indian Goddesses is a riotous, genre-bending gem that explores the pressing issues of gender and sexism in contemporary Indian society.
Thursday 16th February – Event Cinemas George Street – 7:00 pm
Bad Girl by Fin Edquist – Australia | 2016 – 87 min.
Amy is the picture of teen rebellion, slumped in the back seat of her adoptive parents’ car as they move to a brand new, top-of-the-line model home in rural Australia. Designed by her father, the home is a wonder of modern architecture, totally at odds with the landscape and people Amy finds around her.
When the beautiful, mysterious Chloe from over the hill offers her cleaning services, Amy begrudgingly becomes friends with her and they push and break the boundaries of one another’s worlds.
But something isn’t right about Chloe, when she drops a bombshell about her parents Amy spirals into deeper depression. With both Chloe and Amy going off the rails, it’s a race to the end to see which bad girl will be victorious and which one of them is telling the truth.
Bad Girl is a refreshing take on being a teenaged girl, depicting both girls with remarkable honesty. In fact, while events and dire consequences pile up around them, their characters remain grounded firmly in reality with grit, determination and a hell of a lot of resilience.
A slow-burn thriller, which premiered at Melbourne International Film Festival, you will be entirely unprepared for the many twists and turns this throws at you. Featuring captivating performances from Sara West and Samara Weaving as Amy and Chloe, this is a dark take on modernity, family and strength.
Saturday 25th February – Event Cinemas George Street – 7:00 pm
Being 17 by André Téchiné – France | 2016 – 116 min.
A realistic tale of two teenagers who mask their growing sexual attraction with apparent vehement dislike. The burgeoning romance and stunning French mountain scenery is beautifully captured by André Téchiné (Wild Reeds, The Witnesses).
Damien (Kacey Mottet Klein) and Thomas (Corentin Fila), both loners, do not get along at their school at the foot of the Pyrenees. Thomas resents Damien, who lives in the town and seems entitled, while Damien feels superior to Thomas, who struggles with schoolwork and travels from a farm in the mountains every day. The boys are thrown together when Damien’s mother, in an attempt to help out, suggests Thomas temporarily moves in so he can focus on his schoolwork by cutting his travel time.
With both lead actors bringing both intensity and innocence to their roles, the erotic tension between these young men is never far from the surface as they square off over the course of the film; their connection often punctuated by acts of violence.
This is a brooding, thoughtful exploration of what it’s like to be in those late teen years, when the whole world could be your oyster, your hormones and emotions are everything, and that hot classmate a few seats back is never far from your thoughts.
Sunday 19th February – Event Cinemas George Street – 7:30 pm
Burn Burn Burn by Chanya Buttom – UK | 2016 – 105 min.
From the first joke of questionable taste in the opening minutes of the film, to the last one at the very end, this black comedy about life and death will have you laughing out loud.
Dead at 29, Dan (Jack Farthing) bequeaths his ashes to his BFFs – emotionally stunted lesbian Alex (Chloe Pirrie, Youth) and straight, self-absorbed Seph (Laura Carmichael, A United Kingdom) – along with videoed instructions on scattering them in England, Scotland, and Wales filmed as his illness developed.
During his posthumous video appearances, Dan not only unpacks his own issues, but sets about getting Alex and Seph to address theirs as well. Refreshingly, Alex’s sexuality isn’t one of her many issues. The unplanned road trip uncovers some unexpected truths and the pair unearth some unlikely characters along the way.
A warm, rich, intelligent film with wonderful performances, Burn Burn Burn ranges from devastating to hilarious, and through everything in-between. For all the jokes about death it has a lot to say about life.
Friday 17th February – Event Cinemas George Street – 9:00 pm
Check It by Dana Flor & Toby Oppenheimer – USA | 2016 – 91 min.
You’ve never met a gang like the Check It – a wildly protective group of black LGBTIQ young people in Washington, DC who have decided to stand their ground in the dangerous gang world which exists in the capital of the United States.
Formed by a handful of young LGBTIQ kids to ward off hate-filled attacks, the Check It now has more than 200 members and for many, this is the only family they know. This documentary follows some of the feisty, loud, hilarious, and angry crew. They’ve had to grow up fast, and they know that sometimes to survive you need to fight back.
The film also shows the work of Ron “Mo” Moten, who helps street kids find their potential. For the Check It members we meet, that can mean taking part in a fashion camp to help put a runway show together, or even, for one, to take out some of that aggression in the boxing ring.
Fascinating and eye-opening, Check It celebrates the power of resilience, and the difference it makes when someone has your back. From their amazing sense of style to their attitude, this squad is truly the definition of fierce.
Saturday 18th February – Event Cinemas George Street – 4:00 pm
Irrawaddy Mon Amour by Valeria Testagrossa, Nicola Grignani, Andrea Zambelli
Italy | 2015 – 58 min.
Filmmakers Nicola Grignani, Valeria Testagrossa, and Andrea Zambelli were surprised to find an active LGBTIQ community in the remote village of Kyauk Myaung, on the banks of the Irrawaddy river in Myanmar. This documentary focuses on a young gay couple and their audacious ambition to marry against the law of the military regime of their country. Their story is tender and romantic, but also set in the context of the emerging gay rights group that they are part of.
Bringing together the stories of their friends, we are introduced to a number of brave individuals who openly experiment with gender and sexual identity in the face of an unaccepting world. Importantly, there is the influence of their older friends and mentors Myo Nyunt and Thet Htar Phyu, who add an important perspective of a different generation to the film. Myo takes on a particularly active role as a political leader and in forming an alliance with the local Buddhist monastery, and it is his advice that the young lovers seek in their battle to be together.
The climax of the film is one of the first meetings of the rights activist group, along with the ceremony, blessing, and celebration of the wedding.
Tuesday 28th February – Event Cinemas George Street – 6:15 pm (Screens with The Priestess Walks Alone)
Moonlight by Barry Jenkins – USA | 2016 – 111 min.
Is this the best gay film ever? Critics think it might be. A timeless story of human connection and self-discovery, Moonlight chronicles the life of a young black man as he comes to terms with his sexuality.
We revisit Chiron’s story in three defining chapters, with three stunning acting performances from Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes. Growing up in a tough neighbourhood in Miami and battling through a dysfunctional home life, Chiron struggles to find a place for himself in a dangerous and unfriendly world.
This is a coming of age story that encompasses all the ecstasy, pain, and beauty of falling in love. Beautifully shot, with a gorgeous score by Nicholas Britell, and exceptionally well-written, Moonlight is the must-see film of the year. It has been receiving fantastic reviews and has already been nominated for six golden globes, including best motion picture (drama), best director for Barry Jenkins, and Naomie Harris (Skyfall and Spectre) has also been nominated for best supporting actress for her wonderful performance as Paula, and Mahershala Ali (House of Cards, Luke Cage) is also nominated for best supporting actor. Not only is it one of the leaders for golden globe nominations, it also has serious Oscar buzz.
Wednesday 1st March – Event Cinemas George Street – 8:30 pm
One Night and Two Days by Leesong Hee-il – South Korea | 2012 – 159 min.
One Night and Two Days, a stunning 2012 trilogy from director Leesong Hee-il (whose 2006 feature No Regrets is widely known as the first Korean gay film) is finally premiering in Australia.
The first in the trilogy, Suddenly, Last Summer (run time approximately 40 minutes) sees a high school teacher, Kyung-Hoon, trying to battle his attraction for Sang-Woo, a smitten former student. Sang-Woo all but blackmails Kyung-Hoon into a date, and the older man tries valiantly to quell his hitherto hidden desire.
Feature-length White Night revolves around Won-gyu, an expat flight attendant who hasn’t been home to Korea in years. He plans to spend an overnight trip to Seoul searching for the homophobes who attacked him, but while searching for revenge is distracted by a chance meeting with Tae-jun and the temptation of sex. The lead character’s emotional journey is everything in this gorgeous film, which was inspired by a real life, random, homophobic street attack.
In Going South (45 minutes) a soldier, Ki-tae, visits a former superior, Jun-yeong, who may also be a closeted former lover. After lacing the officer’s coffee with sleeping pills, Ki-tae bundles him into the car and drives them both south, to a location that hides a mutual secret.
Tuesday 21st February – Event Cinemas George Street – 8:30 pm
Trailer (Going South)
Our Love Story by Lee Hyun-ju – South Korea | 2016 – 99 min.
Yoon-ju is an awkward, shy art student who, consumed by her work, has never really dated. Her family and friends bombard her with questions as to why, but the answer doesn’t become clear to Yoon-ju until she sees Ji-soo. Against the edgy backdrop of a scrapyard where she searches for materials for her work, Ji-soo appears, radiant and beautiful in a moment of perfect clarity.
As the two fall into a heady romance, we are taken along on the whirlwind of a first love, which quickly consumes them both. Yoon-ju’s infatuation is addictive, and the pair become inseparable, at the expense of her art, as preparations for her graduate exhibition fall by the wayside. Meanwhile, Ji-soo’s father plans to marry off his only daughter, putting their relationship under extreme pressure.
Director Lee Hyun-Ju (Ordinary Family QSFF 2015) in her debut feature masterfully unfolds her familiar story and characters with mesmerising attention to detail. A slow-burn and tender journey that traces every moment from giddy euphoria to the anxieties, jealousies, and frustrations that can follow. Released late in 2016, Our Love Story has so far screened at festivals in London, Warsaw, Toronto, Tokyo, San Sebastian, and San Diego as well as in South Korea.
Tuesday 28th February – Event Cinemas George Street – 8:30 pm
Out of Iraq by Chris McKim and Eva Orner – USA | 2016 – 81 min.
It’s 2004, in war-torn Iraq, Nayyef Hrebid has just started working for the US military as a translator, a job that continually puts him in life-threatening danger. But, when he meets and falls in love with Btoo Allami, a fellow Iraqi soldier, the two men must face new dangers and find a way to flee the country.
Spanning thirteen years and four countries, Out of Iraq is both a gripping documentary and a true love story. It provides a heart-wrenching insight into the lives of many queer people living under oppressive governments. It also reveals the difficulty and tedium of applying for refugee status under the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), a bureaucratic process that the film makes clear is in dire need of funding and reform. What could be a grim and devastating account is made sweeter, and ultimately more compelling, by Nayyef and Btoo’s all-encompassing romance that withstands a totalitarian regime and years of separation.
Both lovers are instantly likeable: brave yet willing to be vulnerable, open about the threats that they face and their dreams for a shared future.
Monday 20th February – Event Cinemas George Street – 6:30 pm
Saturday 8th April – Arc Cinema – 6:00 pm (Out of Festival)
Out Run by S. Leo Chiang and Johnny Symons – Philippines | 2016 – 75 min.
Bemz Benedito dreams of becoming the first transgender person in the Philippine Congress, representing the LGBTIQ party Ladlad.
This documentary on her journey and that of the first LGBTIQ political party in the Philippines, Ladlad is at times uplifting, heartbreaking and shocking. You may be surprised at the blatant, well-meaning discrimination faced by the representatives of Ladlad, by the extreme marginalisation of LGBTIQ, and particularly of transgender people and by the overwhelming odds against this little group of would-be politicos.
But you will also be moved by the incredible sense of camaraderie within the LGBTIQ community. The endless support and never-give-up attitude of both the party leaders and supporters will have you willing them to get around the corrupt political parties, easily swayed and bribed supporters, splits within the LGBTIQ community itself and many more setbacks.
Each and every individual that is part of Ladlad is in it for the love, for hope for the future and to represent their community with pride. Despite the differences in worlds, you will see yourself and your friends in this, and it will give you the same confidence that things will get better.
Sunday 26th February – Event Cinemas George Street – 3:30 pm
Sunday 2nd April – River Side Theatres Parramatta – 5:00 pm
Ovarian Psycos by Johanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull LaValle
USA | 2016 – 72 min.
At night The Ovarian Psycos, a crew of cycling, feminist women of colour, regularly hit the streets of Los Angeles’ Eastside. They are determined to take back control. They’re determined to feel safe in the hood. They demand an end to the violence that confronts women every day. The only safe place they have is the one they provide for each other.
We meet three of the crew who, when explaining why they hit the streets, take the opportunity to thoughtfully consider their own motives. Single mother, poet MC and the group’s founder, Xela, fears for her 9-year-old daughter’s safety – while at same time questioning if her activism is harming their relationship. Meanwhile street artist Andi is replacing her estranged family with the crew and transforming into a leader of the women. Young newcomer Evie, facing poverty and an overprotective mother at home, finds freedom and confidence cycling with the crew.
Made by Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle, Ovarian Psycos screened at Frameline, SXSW, Hot Docs and the Human Rights Watch film festivals. Tackling themes around abuse, racism, injustice and violence, it is one hell of an empowering ride.
Sunday 19th February – Event Cinemas George Street – 7:15 pm
The Priestess Walks Alone by Hui-chen Huang – Taiwan | 2016 – 54 min.
This emotionally powerful film constantly treads the boundaries between past and present, and between life and death. Director Hui-Chen Huang slowly reveals her mother’s story in this elegantly paced documentary.
The priestess, Anu Hong, has guided souls to the afterlife in ceremonies for many years, but has been unable to put her own painful past to bed; a struggle shared by her daughter. In a series of intimate interviews, Anu reveals the joy and the pain of living as an openly lesbian woman in Taiwan, and specifically in a family that struggle to understand and accept her. In an attempt to help her mother achieve the salvation that she has helped so many others to reach, Hui-Chen bravely reopens the past and finally confesses a dark secret that has weighed on her for decades.
In a film that is delicate in its stillness, we are given a genuine insight into an immensely complex individual and into the relationship between a mother and daughter who have spent years separated by the chasm of their painful past. Bittersweet and beautifully realised, The Priestess will absorb you into another world, and leave you utterly moved.
Tuesday 28th February – Event Cinemas George Street – 6:15 pm (Screens with Irrawaddy Mon Amour)
Upstairs Inferno by Robert L. Camina – USA | 2016 – 96 min.
This comprehensive, informative documentary finally presents the untold and important story of the 1973 arson attack on a New Orleans gay bar that claimed the lives of 32 people. The tragedy would remain the largest gay mass murder in US history for 43 years when the tragic mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando occurred. Despite the immense scale and sadness of the 1973 event, few people know the details because it never received the public recognition it deserved. Now, after over 40 years we have something of a fitting tribute.
Oscillating between a detailed account of the events and heart-wrenching testimony by survivors, this film treads the perfect boundary between headlines and humanity. Featuring a number of exclusive interviews, it’s clear that for many the pain and loss is still fresh.
The treatment of the queer community following the fire makes it painfully clear how different it was to be LGBTIQ in the 1970s versus today, but also highlights how far there still is to go. There is an inspirational sense of community and defiant hopefulness among those affected. The film is concerned with the involvement and establishment Metropolitan Community Church and forms a moving ode to the relationship between faith and LGBTIQ lives. Narrated by novelist Christopher Rice, this film is moving, respectful, fascinating and beautiful.
Saturday 25th February – Event Cinemas Georges Street – 4:30 pm
When We Rise by Gus Van Sant – USA | 2017 – 80 min.
This highly-anticipated drama series recounts the history of the LGBTIQ rights movement. Written and created by Dustin Lance Black (Oscar-winner for 2008 film Milk), this part is the first of four and was directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk).
The epic production begins in San Francisco, where Cleve Jones (Austin P McKenzie), a young anti-war campaigner; Ken Jones (Jonathon Majors) a closeted Vietnam veteran; and Roma Guy (Emily Skeggs) a women’s rights activist ostracised for being a lesbian, are finding their feet.
Later episodes star Guy Pearce (as an older Cleve), Michael K. Williams (older Ken), Mary Louise Parker (older Roma), and Rachel Griffiths (as Diane, Roma’s wife). Whoopi Goldberg guest stars as Pat Norman, the first openly gay employee of the San Francisco Health Department and Rosie O’Donnell plays Del Martin, co-founder of the first lesbian organisation in the States.
Black and Van Sant are among a list of big-name executive producers on the series, with Laurence Mark (Julie & Julia, Dreamgirls, I Robot, Jerry Maguire) and Bruce Cohen (American Beauty, Milk) also credited.
Friday 17th February – Event Cinemas George Street – 6:45 pm
Full Schedule (PDF)