When the Melbourne Queer Film Festival returns for its 28th outing this year, the nation’s largest and longest-serving queer movie showcase will include 38 features, 14 documentaries, and 72 shorts.
It will also boast an impressive array of Australian premieres. We caught up with MQFF program director Spiro Economopoulos to get his insights on a red-hot dozen.
Tickets for opening night hit Freak Show starring The End of the F***ing World’s Alex Lawther – as well as Bette Midler and Laverne Cox – are long gone, but if you’re quick you can still grab closing night premiere Becks.
Directed by Daniel Powell and Elizabeth Rohrbaugh, it stars Tony award-winner Lena Hall as a broke musician who leaves LA and heads back to the Midwest to live with her mum (Christine Lahti) following a messy break up, in the process falling for the wife (Mena Suvari) of her former high school bully.
“Lena Hall was in the US production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and I recently fell into some kind of weird gay YouTube K-hole watching her perform,” Economopoulos admits. “She’s very charismatic, plus the music is really good.”
Quirky Melbourne-set lesbian break-up drama So Long, directed by Caitlin Farrugia and Michael Jones, stars Kimberley Lisle and Eva Seymour as a 20-something couple calling it quits.
“I really like the structure of the film, which is divided into two parts following each of the women’s post-breakup journey,” Economopoulos says. “It revels in the small details of slowly picking up the pieces.”
Postcards From London
Beach Rats star Harris Dickinson plays queer once more, wearing even less, in British director Steve McLean’s stylistically dreamy movie Postcards From London, straddling the Soho scene of escorts and artists, which we sneakily get to see before it closes this year’s BFI Flare festival in London.
“Harris is gorgeous, he’s a real star,” Economopoulos says. “This reminded me of Derek Jarman’s sensibility and also of Querelle in its visual style.”
Canadian director Ingrid Veninger was a guest of MQFF 2016 for the film He Hated Pigeon when she spotted Australian Lucinda Armstrong Hall. Casting her in Porcupine Lake alongside co-star Charlotte Salisbury, they play lovesick teens in northern Ontario. Hall will take part in a post-screening Q&A.
“I feel like we basically brought these talents together,” Economopoulos chuckles. “What’s really great about Porcupine Lake it is that you rarely get to see films about young girls in love. It’s beautifully done.”
Alaska is a Drag
Writer/director Shaz Bennett expands her MQFF 2013 short of the same name with Alaska is a Drag. Starring Martin L. Washington Jr as Leo, a frustrated factory worker stranded miles from the nearest gay bar, he dreams of escape, seizing on the Miss Drag America competition.
“This shouldn’t be missed,” Economopoulos insists. “It’s that classic story of being fabulous in a small town and not being able to fit in. It’s got a great sibling relationship and a romantic element as well, plus the bloody brilliant soundtrack includes Perfume Genius and Magnetic Fields.”
With marriage equality finally a reality in Australia, rainbow families have long flourished regardless of what the state deems valid. German director Chris Miera’s heartfelt Paths takes a look at long-term couple Martin (Mathis Reinhardt) and Andreas (Mike Hoffmann) dealing with an empty nest.
“It’s a wonderful film looking at the nuances of a long-term relationship, moving backwards and forwards in time to chart their ebbs and flows,” Economopoulos says. “The Ring Thing does something similar with two women contemplating the idea of marriage.”
The City of the Future
Speaking of queer families, Brazilian directors Cláudio Marques and Marilia Hughes Guerreiro explore a very different iteration in The City of the Future. Gay couple Gilmar (Gilmar Araujo) and Igor (Igor Santos) are having a baby with Milla (Milla Suzart), choosing to live with her as a family unit in defiance of their conservative community in Serra do Ramalho.
“Played out against the backdrop of this community that promised grander pastures, it was a bit of a lie, unfortunately,” Economopoulos says. “The film creates this idea that these people are creating a new utopian world for themselves in a way.”
Jennifer Gerber’s gripping directorial debut The Revival explores faith and the unfaithful as Baptist preacher Eli (David Rysdahl) takes up residence in his late father’s church, pregnant wife in tow, but is led into temptation by a handsome stranger Daniel (Zachary Booth, also starring in After Louie).
‘It’s a really interesting film about religious hypocrisy that has a very tense, dark undertone to it and a very black sense of humour as well,” Economopoulos tips. “Gerber is someone to watch.”
The Fabulous Allan Carr
Sex, drugs, and La Cage Aux Folles, Jeffrey Schwarz (I Am Divine, Tab Hunter Confidential) traces the career of flamboyant Grease producer and all-round extrovert Allan Carr in this eye-opening doco.
“He was an out gay man and a big player, and it’s really all about the excesses of Hollywood,” Economopoulos says. “He had a lot of career highs and lows, and it’s riveting to see that play out.”
Canadian filmmaker Arshad Khan turns the camera on his family history in deeply moving documentary Abu (the Urdu word for 'father'), examining the consequences of moving from Pakistan to Toronto, touching on sexuality and gender, immigration, religion, and abuse.
“Abu is about a young man coming out and having to deal with his father who was quite liberal back home but now, in Canada, has become quite conservative,” Economopoulos notes. “It’s a really powerful film that shares a lot of themes with Signature Move.”
Combing news interviews with snippets of classic queer films and TV shows – including The Killing Of Sister George, The Naked Civil Servant, Orlando, Beautiful Thing and Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit – Daisy Asquith’s fabulous video essay Queerama trawls the BFI National Archive, tracing the progress of LGBTIQ rights in Britain.
“It’s also got a really excellent soundtrack including Goldfrapp and Hercules & Love Affair,” Economopoulos tips.
Remember when Hollywood worshipped Satan? So much rumour and scandal swirls around the final years of larger-than-life star Jayne Mansfield, but what was diabolical truth and what was fantasy? Directors P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes attempt to enlighten us in Mansfield 66/67.
“It’s interesting in how we look at what is a queer film?” Economopoulos offers. “Mansfield was heterosexual, but it’s the lens that filmmakers put on the story.
"And it’s very entertaining, with talking heads like Peaches Christ and John Waters, and I can’t wait for the Cinemaniacs panel after the screening.”
The Melbourne Queer Film Festival runs from March 15 - 26. Buy tickets here.