Here are five films currently featured in covid-aware gay film festivals around the world, in cinemas, drive-ins and private screenings but mostly streaming at home, including Sydney’s Queer Screen Film Festival, which runs from this Thursday, September 17 to Sunday, September 27.
“We did it your way for ages,” Jacki Weaver tells her husband. “You do what you want, but I’m going to my own son’s funeral.” The gay boy’s untimely death makes mum stand up to dad’s years of rejecting him.
Not that Jacki suspects what she’s in for – inheriting a San Francisco drag bar! “I run a Southern Baptist choir.” “Exactly. What would you know about running a drag bar?!” And we’re off!
It’s Jacki’s movie and she owns it, with some great support form Lucy Liu. Adrian Grenier, as her son’s boyfriend, though pretty, finds it hard to hold the screen against the women.
There are great lines (“Get your arse outta here before I put another hole in it,” says Jacki, brandishing a rifle). And it works hard to avoid cliches in this oft-filmed territory, never losing sight of its heart. (“I’m not looking at our son through frightened eyes”). Somehow the film doesn’t quite fulfil its promise, but it’s definitely endearing, affirming and fun.
Western Sydney drive-in double-bill with The Adventures Of Priscilla (extra $15) for an awesome night! M15+, 93 mins
Queer Screen: Skyline Drive-in Blacktown, September 26 (6.30pm) – tickets $35 (per car)
Extraordinary French TV series in three parts, looking at the evolution of gay rights in France, following the life story of one man as the world transforms around him.
In episode 1, 1981, it’s illegal to be gay in France, socialist Francois Mitterrand is on the brink of re-election, and WHO thinks being gay is a mental illness.
Victor, 17, is spotted by his father, the site manager, hooking up secretly with another boy at work. Dad doesn’t go berserk, but fires the friend on a pretext. Victor begins a relationship with older Serge, who dad tracks down and calmly delivers an ultimatum. On his 18th birthday, Victor leaves home to be with Serge.
In 1999, domestic partnerships are now approved, Victor, 35, is living with Serge and they plan to adopt a baby.
In 2013, gay marriage has been passed, Victor is 49, and young Diego has to come to terms with the fact he has two dads.
The fine writing is gripping, passionate and well-wrought. It’s honest and sensitive to all sides, making it all the more powerful, and it avoids posturing.Unclassified 15+, 156 mins, subtitled
Queer Screen: streaming on demand (Australia only), tickets $12
Steelers: The World’s First Gay Rugby Club
Even some gays think there’s a regulated amount of masculinity needed to play sport. “Bollocks!” says a big tough gay footballer. “I’ll kick your arse on the field. But off it, I’ll be as flagrant, as flamboyant as I want!” Cut to: vision of this same burly bloke on stage as one of the Bearded Ladies.
He’s one of the Steelers, the queer rugby team that began as six gay blokes in a Kings Cross pub in London who are now taking on teams round the world in the famous Bingham Cup.
This doco was put together by a former reporter and cameraman for Channel 10, Eammon Ashton-Atkinson, who quit Australia to move to the UK to escape depression and who found an unlikely home among a bunch of footy players.
Memories of being taunted as a “poofter” and “fudge-packer” at 12 no doubt fed into his depression.
This is a great look at how stereotypes can be smashed. Originally, the Steelers invited 130 straight teams to compete, 110 refused. Now, 60 gay clubs compete worldwide.
It could do with some trimming and less slo-mo, but it’s a rousing tribute to fearlessly being yourself, with some great scoring — musically and on the field. Unclassified 15+, 82 mins
Queer Screen: streaming on demand (Australia only) – tickets $12
Muslim Mo could give or take bits of his religion but he’s trying to keep the faith. Some of his family have a don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach but meeting American Kal sweeps Mo off his feet and after the two break fast together for Ramadan it’s not long until religious Mo and non-religious Kal discuss the merits of marrying a woman for show: “She’d have to be very understanding to let her husband see a man.”
And where does God fit? As the Abbess in The Sound of Music said: “Maria, just because you love the Captain doesn’t mean you love God any less.” Which sounds a bit like having your cake and eating it.
At 44, Mo seems too old to fear talking to his dad about being gay but perhaps that’s an intended cultural comment.
Veronica Cartwright (Alien, Daniel Boone as a child), 71, is suitably top-billed for a great 4-minute scene.
Mike Mosallam made this as a short in 2015. This extended treatment is very worthwhile. Unclassified 15+, 92 mins, some subtitles
Queer Screen: streaming on demand $12 (Australia only) – tickets $12.
Welcome To Chechnya: The Gay Purge
It’s horrifying that in a world where marriage-equality is fast becoming the norm, various countries sanction gay murder.
A young Chechen says: “It’s a disgrace to be gay in Chechnya; the family shame can only be washed away with blood.”
Statistics, interviews and news footage are piled relentlessly to produce an unflinching picture of our brothers and sisters under siege.
The crisis-response co-ordinator of the Russian LGBT Network, David Isteev, set up a rescue effort after police rounded up and tortured young gays, then returned them to their families who were told to kill them. David says: “Imagine in the 21st century people killed and maimed; families urged to kill their children and siblings.”
Filmmaker David France goes inside Isteev’s gay shelter in Moscow and interviews those hiding out, like Ahkmad, 30, whose account of being tortured is chilling.
Says Grisha: “Being abducted and tortured changes you.” So will watching this film. Unclassified 18+, 107 mins, some subtitles
Queer Screen: Chauvel Cinema Sydney, Sep 19 (3pm), Sep 20 (6pm) – tickets $21/$18.50
All of these, plus more, are featured in the Queer Screen Film Festival, September 17 to 27. Online passes and tickets now on sale at queerscreen.org.au or download the Queer Screen app or book on 02 9280 1533. Queer Screen members get discounted tickets.