The Melbourne Queer Film Festival is one of the most vibrant and downright fun of our city’s many film festivals, and this year is no different. A highly impressive film program showcasing LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex, for those not in the know) culture is in store for us this year, including a variety of short film compilations, a fun queer history slideshow presented by the Australian Gay and Lesbian Archives, midnight screenings and, of course, the always raucously enjoyable opening and closing night film and party combos.

When it comes to the full-length film program, you won’t go wrong with our following recommendations. Dive into the MQFF and let your queer side shine.

Tickets are going quick for MQFF’s opening night film, a hilarious comedy about two best friends who decide to have a ‘gayby’ together. Jenn, sick of waiting for the right man to come along, asks her best friend Matt to father her child. Matt, still recovering from the break-up from his boyfriend and struggling to reconnect with New York’s gay dating scene, all too readily says yes. But there’s one snag: conception’s going to have to happen the old-fashioned way. Delicious quips and laugh-out-loud moments occur thick and fast in this effortless crowd-pleaser.

Mosquita y Mari
An impressive debut from first-time director Aurora Guerrero, Mosquita y Mari is a gentle, beautiful story of first love. Yolanda, nicknamed Mosquita, is a straight A student, slightly dorky and always feels shackled by her Mexican immigrant parents. When she meets Mari, a rebel with a chip on her shoulder the size of California, both girls are drawn towards each other, unable to name the feelings they have. The pair continue to entwine their lives together to the detriment of their other obligations and to the consternation of their families. We highly recommend this tender love story.

North Sea, Texas
A gorgeous, dreamy film, North Sea, Texas is set in a moribund Belgian coastal town, where young Pim imagines a world filled with beauty queens and obsesses about Gino, the beautiful boy next door. But after a series of incidents that cause Pim to think that Gino might return his affections, Gino disappears with a French girl, leaving Pim to question his place in his family, his town and his own sense of self. When Gino eventually returns to town, both boys must confront the tangible currents between them.

Struck by Lightning
The writing debut by Glee’s Chris Colfer, who also stars in the lead role, Struck by Lightning begins with its main character Carson, an ambitious young writer just longing for high school to end so he can get out of his one-horse town and into the world, getting struck by lightning and killed in his school’s car park. The film then backtracks to recount Carson’s last weeks of life, from his plot to blackmail the popular kids in order to help his college application, to the struggles of his broken family and the reappearance of his father. Look out for Allison Janney’s performance as Carson’s wine and pill-addicted mother, and for Rebel Wilson as his only friend, a girl compelled to film everything that she experiences.

The Invisible Men
The Invisible Men is a heart-wrenching documentary about the distinctive plight facing gay Palestinians. Driven out of the Palestinian territories by their own families, who threaten their gay relatives with death, men like Louie seek refuge in Tel Aviv, the most gay-friendly city in Israel. While these men are embraced by their Jewish counterparts in the gay scene, as Palestinians the Israeli government refuses to recognise them as legal citizens. Left with no other choice than to reluctantly apply for asylum in Europe, The Invisible Men asks where one belongs when neither your people nor your homeland are willing to recognise your right to exist.

Beyond the Walls
Paulo, despite living a life of apparent heterosexuality, falls very easily for Illir, his local bartender. Thrown out of home by his suspicious girlfriend, Paulo appeals to Illir for help and, although wary, Illir is eventually won over by Paulo’s boyishness and vulnerability. In time, a passionate, obsessive relationship begins to form, in which each man relies only on the other. But when Illir is arrested and jailed for drug possession, Paulo finds himself unable to function alone, while for Illir even the reminder of Paulo makes his sentence irredeemably worse. The question of whether their relationship will survive such a separation drives the film’s heart-in-your-mouth climax.

When pilot Valle is retrenched from his job, loses his wife to an older man and has to move back to his childhood home, he assumes he’s hit rock bottom. The fact that he can’t seem to land another piloting gig is just icing on the cake. In desperation, he applies to an airline, which is looking specifically for female pilots, using his sister’s name – and gets the job. Now masquerading as ‘Maria’, things could actually be looking up for Valle, until a fellow pilot, Cecelia, falls in love with Maria. Will Valle’s true gender matter to Cecelia? And will Maria survive the onslaught of publicity that follows a near-miss airplane accident?

The Melbourne Queer Film Festival runs from March 14 to 24 at various cinemas across Melbourne. For the full program, visit the website.