Sydney’s sixth annual Queer Screen Film Fest opens with Ísold Uggadóttir’s Icelandic refugee drama And Breathe Normally (Andið Eðlilega) and closes with Transparent director Silas Howard’s smart exploration of youthful gender identity A Kid Like Jake.
Here are five of the finest features that screen in between.
George Michael: Freedom
‘Last Christmas’ has never been the same since 1996 and the shock death of everyone’s favourite dancing beat cop father figure George Michael. A tear-jerking rattle through a remarkable career, it embraces both the sublime –Stevie Wonder and Mary J Blige insisting the boy had soul, and Liam Gallagher and Elton John comparing him to John Lennon – and the gloriously ridiculous in his interview with Michael ‘Parky’ Parkinson interview, “I had to take my willy out to get on here.”
I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story
Deploying weapons-grade joy, sadly Wham! aren’t featured in Jessica Leski’s big-hearted tribute to the teenage (and older) women embracing an all-consuming love of boybands. With the focus firmly on the Backstreet Boys, the Beatles, One Direction and Take That, the queer angle comes care of the blonde-quiffed Dara, one of two Aussie contributors, who realised her obsession with Gary Barlow was less about wanting to be with him, and more about wanting to be him.
Recalling the free-flowing mix of performance and vérité of Grace Jones doco Bloodlight and Bami, Kiko Goifman and Claudia Priscilla’s fascinating insight into São Paulo sensation Linn Da Quebrada – a queer, black, trans woman, singer and activist – isn’t here to fit into neat little boxes. Fiercely armoured, Quebrada’s a smart cookie with plenty to say about homophobia, transphobia and sexism.
Loosely based on Alyssa Robbins, Tony Award-winning Lena Hall stars as the eponymous singer-songwriter whose dreams of moving from Brooklyn to LA with her girlfriend (Hayley Kiyoko) are rudely interrupted. Finding herself back home in St Louis in her teenage time warp bedroom, her only escape is sinking whiskey and singing in the bar of ex-boyfriend (Dan Fogler), but pretty soon she’s falling for the bi-curious wife (Mena Suvari) of her sometime school bully.
Just Friends (Gewoon Vrienden)
Dutch director Ellen Smit delivers style, sass and sex appeal in this sweet rom com starring Josha Stradowski as Joris, an introverted rich biker boy brooding a over the death of his dad when he was just a boy. His solitary life is blown wide open by the arrival of curly-haired Middle Eastern lad Yad (Majd Mardo). As gorgeous as their dance around each other is, Jenny Arean as Joris’ go-for-it gran and Tanja Jess as his high-maintenance mum steal the show.
And if you can’t get enough cool queer movies in your life, here are five top ups you can mainline from SBS On Demand right now. (Click image to watch film in SBS On Demand)
Todd Haynes’ divine take on the Patricia Highsmith novel, adapted by her friend Phyllis Nagy, is a lush ode to lesbian romance that bucks the ‘50s period trend for tragedy. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara have never been better, and the Oscars should be ashamed it went home with nothing from six noms.
Speaking of ‘how very dare you’ Oscar snubs, Ang Lee was flat out robbed of Best Picture in the Crash imbroglio of 2006. This heart-rending cowboy romance plays out against the harsh realities of violent homophobia in rural America, with Jake Gyllenhaal and our own heart-acher Heath Ledger remarkable.
Anna Kokkinos’ take on Christos Tsiolkas’ novel Loaded explores being Greek, gay and working class in ‘90s Melbourne with a rare verve and veracity. Alex Dimitriades was born to play the role of rebel without a cause Ari and legendary performance artist Paul Capsis soars as his drag queen best friend Toula.
Xavier Dolan’s Cannes Queer Palm-winning third feature follows a decade in the life of a trans woman (Melvil Poupaud) trying to figure out how her transition works with her straight female partner (Suzanne Clément, also picking up Best Actress in Un Certain Regard). With all the expansive joie de vivre you’d expect from the French-Canadian wunderkind, it’s a beautiful complication.
The String (Le Fil)
Mehdi Ben Atti’s steamy romance stars Antonin Stahly as an panic-attack plagued architect returning to Tunisia after years in France. Arriving at his mum’s house, played by the always brilliant Claudia Cardinale, he promptly falls for the hunky handyman (Salim Kechiouche, who you can also check out in Grande École) and begins to unwind as his pathway becomes clearer.
The Queer Screen Film Fest runs from September 18-23. For more info or to book tickets, click here.
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