If we needed a positive sign that life in Sydney is slowly returning to normal, it’s this year Mardi Gras Film Festival continue with a physical event. Much to our delight, the iconic film festival celebrating queer representation and LGBTQIA + filmmakers and storytellers is entering its 28th year, and you can watch this year’s films from February 18 – March 4.
The festival is set in a range of Sydney cinemas such as Randwick’s Ritz Cinema, the CBD’s Event Cinemas, Cremorne’s Hayden Orpheum and Centennial Park’s Moonlight Cinema, showing over 90 different films. And for the first time in MGFF history, viewers across Australia will be able to watch movies online and on demand from their homes. On February 18 at 7 p.m., the public can stream more than half of the festival program.
The history of queer film screenings in Sydney dates back to 1978. It has evolved a lot over the decades – to the now internationally renowned version that hits our cinema screens in the coming weeks. This is largely due to Queer screen, which claimed Sydney’s LGBTIQA + Film Festival in 1993 and was owned and managed by the community.
The opening movie of 2020, Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt), a sweet and funny love story from high school in Sydney, was the first Australian film to open the festival in its history. This year, the festival kicks off under the stars of Moonlight Cinema with a new coming of age film, Amber dating, this time from Ireland. Star power movies hitting the screen this year include the UK Supernova, with Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci, ed Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. Expect a great mix of Aussie-made movies like the coming-of-age movie, My first summer, or time-traveling drama The greenhouse, and international films making waves like acclaimed Hong Kong drama Suk Suk, about two older men and their secret relationship.
In addition to great cinema, the festival also hosts online educational seminars and panels on inclusive and authentic film casting (February 20) and the importance and role of intimacy coordination on a film set (February 22). You can read more about these and other active initiatives at the festival full program here
To get you excited about the movies on offer, here are the five movies we are most excited to see.
The coming world
This mid-1800s drama may not carry the heavy star power of celebrities like some of the movies listed above, but starring Katherine Waterson, Vanessa Kirby, Christopher Abbot and Casey Affleck, The coming world is packed with talent. In the harshness of the American border, two neighboring couples battle natural elements and isolation, while two unhappy and emotionally lost wives find solace and solace in each other’s love. The film’s Australian premiere will take place at 7pm on February 26 at the Ritz Cinema.
Amber dating tells the story of surviving the troublesome and sexually charged world of Ireland’s high school in the 1990s. To dispel rumors and suspicions around school, secretive gay Eddie (Fionn O’Shea) and lesbian friend Amber (Lola Petticrew) pretend they’re in a relationship. We expect a lot of high school / coming-of-age charm, as well as some funny and moving performances from the breakout leads. The opening film of the MGFF will premiere at Moonlight Cinema, 7 p.m., February 18.
I carry you with me
In a notable feature film debut by director Heidi Ewing, I carry you with me follows the passionate love story (based on two of Ewing’s real friends) of two Mexican men, Ivan and Gerardo. Hoping for a better life away from his unacceptable, homophobic community, Ivan escapes from Mexico for the American Dream. Pay attention Fast & FuriousMichelle Rodriguez, with Ivan’s friend Sandra. The Spanish-language film flashes back and forth, hopping from the couple’s early love to their eventual reunion, and also features documentary footage of the real Ivan and Gerardo. The film’s Australian premiere will take place on March 2 at 7.30pm at the Ritz Cinema.
After divorcing his wife (Jillian Bell), a troubled but well-meaning father (Steve Zahn) walks away with his trans son in hopes of letting him live his authentic self. While the couple is being pursued by authorities, their own relationship is put to the test. Filmed against the beautiful backdrop of Montana, this story has the feel of Taika Waititi’s buddy adventure Hunt the Wilderpeople, with a few twists of family drama, gender acceptance and the modern western. CowboysAustralian premiere will take place at Event Cinemas, 7pm, February 27.
One of the most anticipated films of the festival and this year’s closing film, Rūrangi, is written, produced and starred by members of the queer, Mãori, gender-diverse communities in New Zealand. After more than ten years of leaving his isolated community, gay transgender activist Caz returns home to confront the past, those who knew him and his estranged father. The sudden return can also revive a new relationship, but raises personal questions between Caz and his ex-boyfriend, Jem. Rūrangi won the Audience Award at Frameline44 in San Francisco, the world’s largest LGBTIQA + film festival. The film’s Australian premiere will take place on March 4 at 7pm at the Ritz Cinemas.
Buy tickets to these MGFF movies and more here
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Image credit: Dating Amber