Queer Screen’s 29th Mardi Gras Film Festival invites audiences on a mission to the Queer Frontier, to meet emerging and established filmmakers and explore new stories, styles and genres together.
This year there’s an eclectic mix of groundbreaking docs, nostalgic throwbacks, and premieres of locally made gems under two program strands – Focus on First Nations and Rebels With a Cause.
Little did we know when the 2020 Mardi Gras Film Festival lit up Sydney screens that it would be one of the last major arts events to take a bow before the world went awry. Now the film fest is back with a mix of screenings in cinema and online, the perfect mix that carried it through 2021. And you don’t even need to be in the Harbour City to join the popcorn party.
Under the eye of festival director Lisa Rose, Queer Screen remains a stalwart for the best and freshest LGBTQ+ storytelling from around the world, delivering 119 films in total, including 32 narrative features, 15 documentaries, four episodics, a retrospective and nine programs of shorts – from 37 different countries.
Running from February 17 to March 3, the festival includes screenings at Event Cinemas in George Street and special ‘one night only’ sessions at the Hayden Orpheum, Cremorne and Event Cinemas in Parramatta and Hurstville.
Opening night film Wildhood is a captivating story set in Canada's Atlantic Provinces. When two-spirit youth Link runs away from his abusive white father in search of his mother, he meets Pasmay, a pow wow dancer, and together they journey towards community, identity and love. German film Bliss provides an authentic insight into sex work and the lives of the women within it, as well as a love story between two sex workers – the experienced Sascha and the youthful Maria. Shot over ten years, Being Bebe follows the first winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race and reveals a deep dive into the perils of fame, expectations and ambition. In surreal mockumentary The Nowhere Inn Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) and Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney, Portlandia) play versions of themselves as they set about making a documentary about St. Vincent’s music.
Amongst the special screenings, seminal ’90s noir movie Bound returns after opening the fest 25 years ago. Starring Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon as lovers caught up in a dastardly web, this seminal film noir has even more queer resonance now, having been directed by the Wachowski sisters. There’ll be best-dressed prizes for the best femmes fatales and swarthy butches, naturally. Get in early to also catch doco Rebel Dykes. Co-presented by the Dykes on Bikes, it tells the story of a radical community of lesbians in 1980s post-punk London. They lived as squatters, partied at BDSM nightclubs, organised anti-Thatcher rallies and took action to change the world around them.
For some local flavour, there are 51 Australian premieres in this year's festival. This includes Romp, a hilarious episodic about three housemates looking for love that was shot in Newtown, with guest appearances by Gretel Killeen and Matthew Mitcham. Oxford Street’s Naked Barber appears in Manscaping, a documentary about the queering up of the traditional barbershop experience.
Amongst the on-demand options, in See You Then an explosive reunion ensues when a woman meets her former partner, who has transitioned to live as a woman. And on closing night, Moonlight meets Queer As Folk in B-Boy Blues, an adaptation of the 1994 novel from James Earl Hardy.
Tickets start at $21 for in-cinema screenings, $12 for streams, and flexi passes are also available. They’re on sale now, browse the program and get plotting your queer film adventure here.