The Melbourne Queer Film Festival is Australia’s biggest and this year celebrates its 27th year.

The 2017 line-up features some holdovers from the Melbourne International Film Festival, if you were unlucky enough to miss them the first time. One is the explicit French romance Paris 05:59: Theo & Hugo with its notorious 18-minute opening sequence set inside a sex club; another is Desde Allá (From Afar), a Venezuelan cross-generational drama that won the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2015.

With more than 140 features and short films, there is a lot to see – here are five films to make time for.


The Watermelon Woman

While MQFF’s retrospective program offers you the chance to see the delightfully insane Multiple Maniacs by John Waters, Cheryl Dunye’s acerbic and incisive 1996 romantic comedy is even more worthy of attention. It’s the first feature film ever directed by a queer African American woman, and in it Dunye dives into American cinema’s history of racism with her typical wit coupled with a forthright portrayal of an inter-racial romance. And as an added bonus, it’s predominantly set inside a video store, which offers plenty of retro laughs.

Showing at Kino on Thursday March 23 at 8:45pm. Buy tickets here.


Take Me to the River

Take me to the River is a deeply uncomfortable Southern Gothic tale of a city family with a gay son and their trip to a rural family reunion. Ryder (a terrific Logan Miller) is quickly targeted with a shocking accusation and mounting rumour and innuendo. Gravely out of his depth, flaunting his wardrobe and artistic sensibility among his country cousins, Ryder finds himself a bit like Alice in a strange, homophobic Wonderland. A quietly disturbing but excellent debut from director Matt Sobel.

Showing at ACMI Cinema 1 on Wednesday March 22 at 6pm. Buy tickets here.


Pulse

A true original, this Australian film mixes grounded drama with fantastical sci-fi. A gay, disabled teenager undergoes a procedure to swap bodies with a young woman. Finally able to engage in things he’d only ever dreamed about – be it sex with the guy from the footy team, admitting love for his best friend, or gossiping about boys with his girlfriends – the young man quickly discovers the struggles of being a woman and another kind of outsider.

Showing at ACMI Cinemas 1 & 2 on Thursday March 23 at 8:15pm. Buy tickets here.


A Date for Mad Mary

Mary (Seána Kerslake) is seeking redemption after being released from prison and sets about finding a date for her best friend’s wedding to prove she’s not a lost cause. Set in Ireland, Kerslake’s performance has been applauded around the world, but Darren Thornton’s engrossing debut film is more than just one great performance.

Showing at ACMI Cinema 2 on Tuesday March 21 at 8:15pm. Buy tickets here.


The Nest

This four-part Brazilian TV mini-series is being presented here in one session, which is a win for Australian audiences because it is surprisingly cinematic. The film is bold and sexy, full of neon and flesh. The Nest tells the story of an AWOL soldier who descends into the queer punk underground of Porto Alegre, Brazil to find the brother who ran away from their abusive and homophobic home many years ago.

Showing at ACMI Cinema 1 on Sunday March 26 at 5:45 pm. Buy tickets here.

The Melbourne Queer Film Festival runs from March 16–27. Find the full program here.