In 2013, LGBTQIA+ organisation Queer Screen unveiled a new film festival, Queer Screen Film Fest. In its inaugural year, the festival screened just seven films to 400 Sydney cinephiles. This year, for the 10th anniversary, the team will present 37 films to thousands of people all over Australia. And for the first time, three of the films are from Australian filmmakers.
“We usually save those ones for the Mardi Gras Film Festival,” Queer Screen festival director Lisa Rose tells Broadsheet, “but this year we had the opportunity to focus on some Australian films, which is so incredibly important.”
One of the three is a documentary called Equal the Contest, which sees non-binary filmmaker Mitch Nivalis joining a women’s footy club in regional Victoria to examine inclusion in sport for transgender and gender diverse people.
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A double feature, Triple Oh! and Fanny Scat, completes the locally made trio. The former, starring former Neighbours actor Brooke Satchwell, is an absurd comedy-drama about two ambulance paramedics. Satchwell’s street-smart character Tayls has an unusual policy: having sex when a patient dies. The equally offbeat and funny Fanny Scat is set on Sydney’s Oxford Street and follows a middle-aged drag queen, Fanny, who becomes a private investigator, partnering up with a Pakistani-Australian Uber driver.
But showcasing local queer films isn’t the only way that Queer Screen is fostering the Australian queer community.
“We’ve also started to put back into the filmmaking community beyond showcasing their work in our festivals,” Rose says. “We have two filmmaker initiatives: the completion fund, which we award every year to people who are making features, web series, and documentaries; and then we have the Queer Screen Pitch Off, which helps emerging filmmakers by awarding them $10,000 in production funding.”
The result is a greater number of films being made, with increasing diversity – something Rose says has been missing from our screens.
“It used to be that a large percentage of films that were submitted were focused on gay men. And so I think that the thing that probably excites me the most is the sort of stuff that we’re seeing through Pitch Off – the increasing diversity of those making content. And it’s not just diversity of gender expression, there’s also diversity of faces, of ages, and backgrounds and ethnicities and abilities.”
For the wider queer community, Queer Screen has again been able to offer the festival on-demand all around Australia. This allows those who wouldn’t normally have access to queer cinema in-person, the opportunity to participate.
“The cool thing about broadcasting nationally for our on-demand program is that we have people watching from every single state and territory in Australia – we have people in the outback, in regional areas and in other cities,” Rose says. “But the on-demand program also really helps people who have access issues and can’t get to the cinema; it helps people with young children who can’t come; it helps shift-workers. It’s just really enabled us to be able to broaden the type of people that we have engaging with the festival.”
The Queer Screen Film Fest plays at Event Cinemas (505/525 George Street, Sydney) from August 23–27 and on-demand nationally until September 3.