Melbourne Queer Film Festival 2013: Always forward, never straight

COME out and support, as well as celebrate,  LGBT cinema with the 23rd Melbourne Queer Film Festival! Hieu Chau sneaks a peek at what organisers have in store.

Melbourne Queer Film Festival

The Melbourne Queer Film Festival has returned for its 23rd year with a new slate of films from local and international filmmakers that celebrate what’s become known as the LGBT  (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgenderculture.

Since its emergence in 1991, the Melbourne Queer Film Festival has become one of the largest beacons for LGBT cinema in Australia. The festival currently stands as the second largest film festival in the state of Victoria – the largest being the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Needless to say, it has accrued quite a reputation for itself both as one of Melbourne’s premiere film festivals and remains one of the most exciting festivals in Australia to embrace LGBT culture.

Running from March 14 through to March 24, some 169 films – both feature-length and short – will be screened across several venues including popular film festival site ACMI Cinemas and over at Hoyts Melbourne Central. Accompanying these films will also be panel discussions including a special panel dedicated to the new phenomenon known as crowd-funding.

With so many films to see though, how does one begin to whittle down their choices?

Opening the festival this year is Gayby, a comedy about two best friends – one straight, the other gay – who commit to a promise they made and try to conceive a baby.

Indie favourite Keep the Lights On seems poised to be huge draw at this year’s MQFF. The American indie film has scored reasonably well with a lot of critics and was most recently nominated across several categories, including Best Feature Film at this year’s Independent Spirit Awards – arguably the largest awards night for independent film in America. In the Best Film category, Keep the Lights On was nominated alongside Academy-award nominated films, Silver Linings Playbook and Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Spanning across ten years, it tells the story of a gay couple in New York as their relationship slowly begins to become undone by drug abuse. Intimate, if not personal, Keep the Lights On is a slow film that stumbles through its ten years. It is less concerned with gay issues and instead speaks to audiences through the language of love – something that everyone should be able to latch on to. Though it meanders more often than not, it remains a fairly sumptuous and moody piece. Fans of films like Blue Valentine will most likely be satisfied with Keep the Lights On.

Rebel Wilson and Chris Colfer blackmail their peers into contributing to their literary magazine in Struck by Lightning.

Rebel Wilson and Chris Colfer blackmail their peers into contributing to their literary magazine in Struck by Lightning.

Another film that may prove to be a hit with audiences is Struck By Lightning. Fans of Glee will have reason enough to be excited by this one as Glee fan favourite Chris Colfer not only stars in the film but also serves as its writer.

The film, a coming-of-age story, isn’t dissimilar to most of its cohorts in this category and does little to elevate it above that template but there is a heart to the film that is perhaps more indicative of Colfer’s personal efforts in high school (he began writing the film when he was 16). The film is uneven at times but it mostly works – especially when concerned with Allison Janney’s surprisingly strong performance. Also included in the cast are Sarah Hyland (Modern Family), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) and recent Australian break-out star Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect).

Award-winning Iranian film, Facing Mirrors, examines the societal expectations placed on women living in modern-day Iran.

And of course, what’s a film festival without a topical documentary? One of the standouts of this year’s festival is the Israeli documentary, The Invisible Men.

The 60-minute documentary follows three gay Palestinian men as they tell their stories of persecution, all the while seeking asylum from their countries. It’s a powerful documentary and though we only hear of their tragic stories verbally, it’s painfully clear how much of an affect religion and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has had on their identities. The Invisible Men serves an interesting portrait of a country’s negligence of equality and will no doubt move several audience members.

The Melbourne Queer Film Festival begins on March 14. Tickets for sessions and events are currently available for sale online through MQFF’s official website. 

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