Universal love without borders

Originally posted on Mojonews (14 April, 2016)

In a spectacular display of red carpets, posters and friendly faces, this year’s Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF) once again showed what great things can happen people come together for a cause. While the festival may have come to an end, the films and the messages they carry certainly have not.

The 26th MQFF highlighted the “proudly different” by showcasing a shocking, delightful and excitingly diverse set of stories with everything the queer film industry had to offer.

While Australia is yet to have marriage equality, the Australian LGBTIQ community can still happily celebrate diversity through other means such as film.

But there are many queer communities who cannot enjoy such privileges, namely in Russia. That is why as an act of solidarity, MQFF launched their To Russia with Love campaign, where they invited Russia’s LGBTIQ community to attend the opening night live via the Periscope app.

MQFF could not endorse the event on the streets of Moscow legally due to Russia’s “gay propaganda law“, which criminalises any positive depictions of queer issues or identities in spaces that are visible to minors.

To fight this head on, the billboards were put up right here in Melbourne.

Billboard translation: To Russia with Love, please join our live stream of the opening night of the Melbourne Queer Festival. (We wanted to put this up in Russia but it’s illegal)

This year’s event, developed by MQFF program manager Spiro Economopoulos, aimed to bring audiences together to collectively witness films that inspire, enlighten, invite and challenge.

Although Mr Economopoulos said he recognised the great progress the LGBTQ community had seen in light of the recent mainstream success of Todd Haynes’ Carol and celebrated TV shows such as Transparent, he stressed the importance of continued support for platforms like MQFF.

“While there is obviously a lot of queer stories in the mainstream now … that’s only a fraction of the story, there are so many more stories out there and it’s really there to celebrate that diversity,” Mr Economopoulos said.

MQFF’s co-convenor Fiona Kelly opened this year’s Festival by speaking of the effect films could have on the world.

“ [Films] are more than just movies, like all good storytelling they are a way to change the world and never have they been more important,” Ms Kelly said.

Labor MP Harriet Shing, the first openly lesbian Member of Parliament, also highlighted the importance of a supportive platform for queer people.

“A friendly crowd is what we really need at the moment. We have faced as a community an enormous amount of debate, vitriol of misinformation and of tests to our stamina and our resolve,” Ms Shing said.

MQFF highlights a different focus compared to mainstream media

Standout films from the festival’s opening night


That’s Not Us

Nathan Sullivan’s improvised romantic comedy That’s Not Us was enjoyed in the company of live stream from Russia’s queer community.

That’s Not Us tells an intimate story of three young couples who travel to the beach for a weekend during the last days of summer. However, what should be a carefree and enjoyable weekend soon becomes an exploration of what is takes to sustain true love.

That’s Not Us is an emotionally mature film, showing an honest take on contemporary relationships. The calm progression of the story alongside fast-paced editing and slight twitches in camerawork made the film appear all the more real as we are reminded that we all encounter problems – gay or straight.

Thanks to the fact that the whole film was improvised, it carries a beautiful raw power formed by the genuine interactions and honest performances of the cast.

Portrait of a Serial Monogamist

Portrait of a Serial Monogamist was another popular film in this year’s program.

A colourful and quirky film about Elsie, a television producer in her mid-40s who is an accomplished breakup artist and dumps her long-standing girlfriend for a younger woman.

Surprised about the disapproval of her engaging bunch of queer friends, Elsie reconsiders her decision and goes through a journey of self-questioning and discovery.

The film is fun and comedic, complimented by a great cast of friends and family that had interesting flavours to the mix. It is both comfortingly familiar as it never breaks from convention, yet it is new and energetic enough.

That’s not Us is available on DVD and VOD from April 19, 2016 http://www.thatsnotus.com/buy/

Full release details for Portrait of Monogamist are available by visiting http://portraitofaserialmonogamist.com/


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