Celebrating their 26th annual Mardi Gras Film Festival, Queer Screen showcased queer cinema brilliance with a powerful line-up of films.
As a movie buff that’s always looking for some quality queer films to see, I look forward to the Mardi Gras Film Festival with great enthusiasm every year. This year, in particular, has brought about some incredible stories that served well on the big screen.
The 2019 festival held five world premieres, 75 Australian premieres and 15 Sydney premieres, as well as 54 feature-length films and 66 short films across multiple venues in Sydney.
Believe me, I know that’s a lot of numbers to take in but the great thing is that we’ve selected the best films that played at the Mardi Gras film festival, so you don’t have to scan multiple film bios.
Here are FIB’s top picks from the 2019 Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival. We promise there won’t be any spoilers!
Anchor & Hope
For all the Harry Potter lovers out there, you’ll be happy to hear this film stars Natalia Tena aka Nymphadora (Tonks). Anchor & Hope, directed by Carlos Marques, tells a story of two wildly carefree women in a relationship that can only be described as the idealistic lesbian dream pairing. Except Eva (Oona Chaplin) and Kat’s (Natalia Tena) relationship proves to be a little rocky once the couple begin their journey to motherhood, while soliciting the help of one of their friends as their sperm donor.
Giant Little Ones
In this film we follow Franky (Josh Wiggins) through a familiar time in one’s queer adolescence as he navigates his way through the homophobia that exists within his swim team. It doesn’t help that Franky is also coping with his parents break-up, which saw his father leave his mother for another man, and an encounter on his birthday that left him ostracised by his schoolmates and being prompted by his friend to come out of the closet.
This boldly captivating story takes place in Nairobi, Kenya, yet it was banned from its home country where homosexuality is still illegal. Set in a conservative society, from opposing political families with father’s both running for local office, and different financial classes, these two women manage to find each other. You’ll have to watch the film to see how their secret love blossoms.
Leo (Félix Maritaud) was made to love and be loved. A man who is forever on a quest to find love, security and just a little bit of danger, a hustler on the streets of France that only kisses his clients when it feels “natural”, and a man with lonely puppy dog eyes: it’s hard not to like Leo. The camera acts as a voyeur as we see Leo fall in love with a fellow hustler who rebuffs his advances.
You might remember some of director Yorgos Lanthimos’ work from his film The Lobster (2015), distinctively twisted and creative are the words that spring to mind here. In this tale, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and newcomer Abigail (Emma Stone) battle it out for Queen Anne’s (Olivia Colman) affections as her health declines. The script, written by Australian Tony McNamara, is witty and sharp – creating a perfect atmosphere for this hilarious and moving piece.
(Silent applause for Rachel Weisz and her journey to bring more queer female stories to mainstream media, please and thank you).
Birds of the Borderlands
This film contains a roller coaster of emotions, you’ve been warned.
Australian filmmaker, Jordan Bryon, broadcasts four intense queer Arab individuals. Jordanian teenager Hiba is transitioning in secret, fearful of being killed by her Bedouin tribe. Gay Iraqi refugee Youssef fled Baghdad following the murder of his boyfriend, and is now living in Bryon’s safe house in Amman. Lesbian feminist Rasha is strongly vocal about her fight to gain LGBTIQ visibility, yet keeps her sexuality and relationship to Bryon a secret from her family. We also take a look at the lonely life of Khalaf, an Imam turned gay activist, as he awaits asylum in Canada. Bryon’s position in the lives of these individuals see’s the tensions rise as danger emerges.
Can You Ever Forgive Me
Can You Ever Forgive Me has been praised as a low-key biopic that presents a touching portrayal of queer loneliness. The unlikely friendship between a lesbian and a gay man maintains its place as the heart of the film while the backdrop of their dramatic shenanigans plays on.
This sensitive tale centres on José as he works to support himself and his religious mother. While José finds comfort in temporary arrangements made via a hook-up app, his quest to find fulfilment while carrying the burden of responsibility and familial duty weighs heavily on him. Winner of the Queer Lion at the 2018 Venice Film Festival, José is a beautiful story of first love in contemporary Guatemala.
Let us know which queer films were your 2019 film festival top picks in the comments down below!