Queer Screen’s 26th annual Mardi Gras Film Festival kicks off with Keith Behrman’s teen drama Giant Little Ones and celebrates 120 films, including a sumptuous restoration of James Ivory’s Hugh Grant-led E.M. Forster adaptation Maurice, before winding up with the lesbian hit Kenya tried to ban (until they realised awards were beckoning), Wanuri Kahiu’s joyous Rafiki.
If you’re overwhelmed by all the great choices on offer, here are a few of our top tips.
The Happy Prince
Madonna’s former BFF Rupert Everett achieved a lifelong goal when he finally realised this dreamily majestic vision of a doomed Oscar Wilde’s last days in Parisian exile. As writer, director and lead, he’s haunting as the whip-smart man way ahead of his times who, even as society crushed him, left an indelible mark. Also look out for Mr Darcy himself Colin Firth as Oscar’s buddy Reggie Turner.
Birds of the Borderland
Genderqueer Australian filmmaker Jordan Bryon smashes the binary between impartial observer and impassioned participant in this powerful documentary following four at-risk LGBTIQ Arab people. Byron shelters Iraqi refugee Youssef in his Amman safe house and is dating closeted feminist Rasha. Jordanian teenager Hiba transitions in secret, and Beirut-based former Imam Khalaf seeks asylum in Canada.
Wild Nights with Emily
As if we weren’t spoiled enough by A-list lesbian Cynthia Nixon playing American poet Emily Dickinson in Terence Davies’ A Quiet Passion, The Foxy Merkins director Madeleine Olnek really goes there with this fantastic feminist comedy. With Moly Shannon in the lead, it reclaims possibly erased queer history, with Susan Ziegler as the sister-in-law who might have been a whole lot more.
The Blonde One
Argentinian director Marco Berger perfected the slow-burn tease in homoerotic movies including Hawaii and Taekwondo, blurring the borderlines of male sexuality. A guest of the festival, he’ll present his latest queer-questioning drama The Blonde One as the centrepiece gala, as well as offering a master class in how to get gay indies funded.
When the Beat Drops
If you vogued to Kiki and Paris is Burning, strap your dancing shoes on for Jamal Sims’ best doco-winner at Frameline. Spearheaded by Atlanta’s Anthony ‘Big Tony’ Davis, it charts the unstoppable rise of bucking, the big move dance craze championed by high-kicking African American gay men excluded from college majorette troupes. Get ready to root for the Phi Phi boys as they aim to reclaim their crown while rewriting masculinity.
Part Sisters Grimm dark fairy tale, part feminist love story, Brazilian writer-director duo Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra take a bite out of werewolf mythology in this São Paulo-set magical realist fantasy. Desperately looking for work, Clara (Isabél Zuaa) takes on a job as a nanny for the heavily pregnant and very rich Ana (Marjorie Estiano). Forging a firm bond across racial and social divides, they soon get more than they bargained for.
Making Montgomery Clift
Too often queer histories have been obscured or misremembered thanks to the social opprobrium or outright persecution of the times. Hollywood’s golden age (and now, tbh) was no different, with heartthrob Montgomery Clift usually cast as a tragic figure trapped in the closet. Rewriting the script, his nephew Robert sets the story straight in this rousing doco.
Sidney & Friends
Joining Rafiki in presenting a different side of Nairobi, Tristan Aitchison’s award-winning documentary follows indomitable intersex man Sidney, who forges a new life in the city after being abandoned by his superstitious family. Falling in with a group of trans people similarly shunned, they rebuild a logical family, as Armistead Maupin would say, together.
French writer-director Camille Vidal-Naquet’s impressive debut taps into Cannes Film Festival-awarded rising star Félix Maritaud’s smouldering good looks and incendiary screen presence. Equal parts sensual and startling, it sees the BPM actor play a Strasbourg sex worker pining for love in a hopeless place. You can also catch him Christophe Charrier’s haunting Boys.
The Coming Back Out Ball Movie
Too often overlooked, Sue Thomson’s gorgeous documentary centres the lived experience of a dozen LGBTIQ elders as they come together to celebrate their achievements in a glittery, celeb-led party at Melbourne’s Town Hall. Though some of the elders take a little convincing at first, you’ll be left in no doubt they’re all supremely worth it.
The Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival runs from February 13-28. You can browse the full program here.
You can watch the SBS parade coverage on Sunday March 3rd at 8.30pm.
Catch up on our Rainbow Pride collection on SBS On Demand.