Queer Screen’s 31st Mardi Gras Film Festival is ready to start a conversation

PRESS RELEASE

Queer Screen’s 31st Mardi Gras Film Festival is ready to start a conversation. This year, the Festival encourages the audience to indulge in a good, old-fashioned, post-screening discussion (or debate!), with a jaw-dropping program that will get everyone’s tongues wagging. Screening in Sydney from 15 to 29 February, before an on demand encore streaming nationwide from 1 to 11 March, tickets are on sale now at queerscreen.org.au. 

“The theme focuses on films that start conversations. People will be keen to discuss and dissect them as soon as the credits start to roll,” explains Festival Director Lisa Rose. “There’s so much to sink your teeth into, including several that will inspire lively debate.” 

Encompassing an epic 161 films and events spread across 77 unique programs, MGFF24 will be on everyone’s lips. Audiences can agree, disagree, or agree to disagree on the merits of each at our favourite venues – Event Cinemas (George Street and Hurstville), Ritz Cinemas Randwick, Dendy Cinemas Newtown, the Bearded Tit and Hayden Orpheum Cremorne – and some exciting new ones, including a special double bill of music and film at the Sydney Opera House and panel discussions at the State Library of NSW. The Festival also makes a welcome return to the stunning Westpac OpenAir Cinema, following last year’s sold-out screening of Cate Blanchett’s TÁR. 

We will ponder another age-old question – how do you solve a problem like Maria? – at a special sing-along-with- THE SOUND OF MUSIC screening, presented with The Sisters and Brothers of The Order of Perpetual Indulgence Sydney and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir. 

Opening and closing night galas 

The Festival opens with the Sydney première of British neo-noir thriller FEMME, a fierce psychodrama featuring phenomenal performances from Misfits star Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and George MacKay (Pride, 1917), about a drag star given the opportunity for revenge following a homophobic attack. 

To close the Festival, HOUSEKEEPING FOR BEGINNERS delivers Australian filmmaker Goran Stolevski’s (OF AN AGE, MGFF30’s opener) signature fast-paced, witty dialogue to its Sydney première. It’s only fitting to end the Festival with this sensitive, conversation-rich exploration of found family.

World premières 

Two of the three world premières at the Festival are Australian titles. Documentary A PORTRAIT OF LOVE celebrates Archibald award-winning artist Craig Ruddy. Told through the eyes of his partner of twenty years, Roberto Meza, and directed by Molly Reynolds (MY NAME IS GULPILIL), it’s an exuberant tale of creativity and devotion. Both Molly and Roberto will be attending the screening and answering questions afterwards. 

IN THE ROOM WHERE HE WAITS was a Queer Screen Completion Fund recipient and one of the projects chosen for Queer Screen Goes to Cannes. This exciting feature debut from up-and-coming Australian director and Festival guest Timothy Desphina Marshall is a chilling psychological thriller, set in the claustrophobic hotel room of a theatre actor who returns home for his father’s funeral. 

Argentinian director Lucas Santa Ana will personally introduce BLUE LIGHTS, a sophisticated exploration of love, loss, friendship and forgiveness that unfolds over the course of an evening, when seven close friends and family members come together for a 70th birthday dinner. A captivating dramedy with an ensemble cast, its intricacies and complexities will be the talk of the town. 

Australian showcase 

SUNFLOWER, which we also packed when we went to Cannes, is the impressive first feature from director Gabriel Carrubba. Tender, atmospheric and touching, it follows Leo, a 17-year-old from working-class Melbourne who is questioning his sexuality. 

SAHELA is set in Western Sydney, where Vir, a second-generation Indian-Australian who is close to fulfilling his parents’ dreams, can no longer ignore his own desires. A deeply moving film which beautifully captures the not-uncommon connection between a gay man and his wife. 

Retrospectives 

Don’t miss the 4K restoration of the exquisite and erotic WHEN NIGHT IS FALLING (1995), the fortieth anniversary screening of ANOTHER COUNTRY (1984), starring Rupert Everett and Colin Firth, and the fiftieth anniversary of the eternally quotable John Waters classic FEMALE TROUBLE (1974), featuring 

Divine. Three very different seminal queer classics, each representing a different decade of burgeoning queer filmmaking. Whether viewed for the first, second or umpteenth time, you’ll have something to say about them. 

Special events 

For the first time, the Festival takes centre-stage at Sydney Opera House with Music from Queer Film, performed by the Sydney Cello Quartet in the beautiful Playhouse Theatre. Embark on a spine-tingling aural journey from the disco beats of ‘I Will Survive’ (THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT), to the mesmerising acapella interlude in PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE via the haunting sounds of the MOONLIGHT score. 

The concert is followed by the Australian première of DAYS OF HAPPINESS, which is about a lesbian conductor, and that’s where the comparisons to TÁR begin and end. This intimate portrait of a talented woman, entangled in a relationship with a fellow musician and under the controlling thumb of a manipulative father, speaks volumes all by itself. 

We return to the Westpac OpenAir Cinema to host a special screening of ALL OF US STRANGERS, a heart-wrenching film about grief, love, loneliness and hope, from director Andrew Haigh (WEEKEND) and starring Paul Mescal and out actor Andrew Scott. 

MY QUEER CAREER, Australia’s richest queer short-film competition, our hugely popular queer film trivia night Inqueersition and our industry networking drinks for Chatty Kathy’s looking for queer collaborators don’t need any talking up. Rounding out the special events is two panel discussions at the State Library of NSW. The first tackles the very meaty topic, Queer tropes and trauma on screen – should we tell these stories? and for the second, the floor will be yours for the potentially revealing tell-all, Queer awakenings – the films that made you feel seen. Cue the embarrassing confessions. 

Centrepieces and shorts 

Narrative centrepiece THE MISSING, the Philippines’ entry for Best International Feature at the Oscars, is a stunning, animated allegory for survival that reveals itself through a main character who doesn’t have a mouth. 

Documentary centrepiece QUEENDOM is the exhilarating story of a radical non-binary artist, Gena Marvin (she/her), who defiantly performs on the streets of Moscow to raise awareness of the oppression of LGBTIQ+ people. Her vulnerability, bravery, and other-worldly costumes are astounding. 

We can talk about shorts at length, but we’ll leave that for the audience. Suffice to say we aren’t skimping on shorts this Festival. Our Asia-Pacific Shorts, Bi Shorts, Comedy Shorts, Gay Shorts, Hot Boy Shorts, Non-Binary and Gender Diverse Shorts, QueerDoc Shorts, QueerScream Shorts, Sapphic Shorts, Transgender Shorts, and Women Loving Women Shorts have everyone covered. 

That’s nowhere near all. 

From the sumptuous French drama ALONG CAME LOVE, which premiered at Cannes, to WHO’LL STOP THE RAIN, a powerful tale of two girls who fall in love after meeting at a student protest in Taiwan, the narrative features on the program have plenty to say. 

Word will spread fast about OUR SON starring Billy Porter and Luke Evans, CORA BORA with Megan (Hacks) Stalter, HILMA from Lasse Hallström, MONICA with Trace Lysette and Patricia Clarkson, French erotic, feminist genre-bender SPLIT and POLARIZED from popular lesbian director Shamim Sarif. 

The documentary component introduces everyone from Isla, a sharp-shooting ‘widower’ from regional South Australia (ISLA’S WAY), to Armenian weightlifter Mel Daluzyan, a beloved national champion who won medals and broke world records – before his transition (MEL). 

We accept an invitation into the lives of four black, trans, sex workers (KOKOMO CITY) and four intersex people (EVERY BODY) as they celebrate their authentic selves, and pull back the curtain on playwright Noёl Coward (MAD ABOUT THE BOY: THE NOËL COWARD STORY) and fashion stylist extraordinaire Pat Field (HAPPY CLOTHES: A FILM ABOUT PATRICIA FIELD) 

We travel from the raucous underground nightclub scene frequented by alternative Chinese youth (THE LAST YEAR OF DARKNESS) to a joyous, life affirming LGBTIQ+ youth summer camp in Canada (SUMMER QAMP), via a temporal night at Boston’s oldest gay bar (PLAYLAND). 

The twist at the end 

This year, our hybrid festival includes an on-demand encore season, with a diverse selection of films available for streaming, nationally, from 1–11 March. Stay COVID-safe, catch titles you missed or do a re-watch with friends. There’s something for everyone with F.L.Y, GIRLS DON’T CRY, I AM WHAT I AM, THE MATTACHINE FAMILY, OLD NARCISSUS, MUTT, and many more available from the comfort of home. 

Queer Screen’s 31st Mardi Gras Film Festival is proudly supported by our Presenting Partner Optus. “For the third year in a row, Optus is generously providing invaluable support throughout the Festival,” says Queer Screen Co-Chair Abs Osseiran. “In addition to funding the prizes for our Audience Awards, Optus are presenting 12 sessions, including the Closing Night Gala, along with some exciting audience experiences. ” 

Cam Luby, Optus Head of Consumer Marketing, says “We’re thrilled to be returning as the Presenting Partner of Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival. At Optus, we celebrate the diversity and inclusion of our people and our community. It’s a privilege to be part of the Festival’s 31st anniversary of showcasing the diversity of queer creativity and storytelling on screen.” 

The festival also values the support of Major Partners: American Express, Allianz Insurance, and Johnnie Walker. The Supportix program, funded by American Express, enables community members to obtain two free tickets if they are unable to purchase them. Allianz Insurance supports our $10 Community

screenings, and lively conversations can take place at the Johnnie Walker Festival Bar at Event Cinemas George Street. 

Queer Screen is also grateful to receive funding from our Government Partners Screen NSW, City of Sydney and Randwick City Council. 

“On behalf of Queer Screen, I extend my heartfelt thanks to all of our partners, whose support has a direct and positive impact on filmmakers and audience members alike.” says Queer Screen Co-Chair Abs Osseiran. 

Tickets and passes for MGFF24 are on sale now. Queer Screen memberships are also available and offer discounted tickets and priority entry. Visit queerscreen.org.au, use the Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival app, or call (02) 9280 1533 to book. 

Press Release

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