Queer delights at MIFF 68 ½

MIFF-No-Hard-FeelingsMelbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) today embarks on its new 17-day cinematic journey, MIFF 68 ½ – the 2020 online iteration that will see Australia’s oldest and most prestigious film festival made available to audiences right around Australia for the very first time.

Streaming more than 110 films – spanning 44 shorts, 12 world premieres and 82 Australian premieres – the festival’s expansive program features online talks, Q&As, activations and free film program – with special surprise screenings, virtual events and performances set to be announced across the three-week Festival. The Australian Pride Network takes a look at some of the queer films on offer:

FEATURE FILMS:

Born To Be (US)
For Dr Jess Ting at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital, catering for the needs of his transgender patients is a matter of life or death. Transgender people see some of the highest suicide rates in the world, and for the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery – the first of its kind in the USA – offering targeted care goes a significant way towards redressing the situation. Born to Be takes viewers inside surgical theatres and beyond, observing several patients’ procedures, from initial meetings to post-operation check-ups. Anchoring these insights are the personal and professional experiences of Dr Ting himself, whom we see working tirelessly both at the hospital and at home.

No Hard Feelings (Germany)
The 2020 Berlinale Teddy Award winner is both a sensuous queer love story and a scintillating snapshot of life for LGBTQIA+ migrant youth living in the West. Inspired by events from writer/director Faraz Shariat’s own life, No Hard Feelings is stylish, striking and vibrant, brought to life by a zesty pop aesthetic and a hip soundtrack that includes songs in Farsi, Afrobeats tracks and indie stars like Grimes. This is a brave, bold feature debut that explores queerness, assimilation, cultural displacement and coming of age.

Shiva Baby (US)
Black dress code turns into black comedy as a young woman attending a funeral service is forced to navigate her uptight parents, former girlfriend and current sugar daddy. Shiva Baby is a claustrophobic comedy of awkwardness par excellence. With an ensemble cast that includes Molly Gordon (Booksmart), Polly Draper (Obvious Child) and Dianna Agron (Glee), this is a masterfully witty feature debut about putting one’s best foot forward – no matter who’s around.

Welcome to Chechnya
Welcome to Chechnya is an eye-opening exposé of the persecution of LGBTQI Chechens – and a testament to the courage of those who risk their lives to grant them safe passage to freedom.  Alongside tense hidden-camera footage of border crossings, Welcome to Chechnya uses ground-breaking deepfake-like VFX technology to digitally replace the faces of its subjects, thereby preserving their anonymity. A recipient of multiple major awards at Berlin, Sundance, Hot Docs and elsewhere, this documentary depicts, in gripping detail, the efforts of a small group of committed activists who work to smuggle LGBTQIA+ refugees to safety.

Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)
Taking love life advice from a beyond-the-grave-lesbian-activist-cupid begets some tricky situations in Monica Zanetti’s quirky and delightful Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt). Described by The Guardian as a “funny Australian teen queer rom-com exploring all of the awkwardness that comes with being a teenager,” Ellie & Abbie is feel-good story of coming out, coming-of-age and crushing hard.

SHORTS:

Call History
Through a series of dramatised voicemails and phone calls, writer/director Lillian Paterson (Lives in Action, MIFF 2019) crafts a story of growth, grief, and yearning for clarity and closure. Unfolding mostly in its protagonist’s bedroom, Call History contains gravity in its simplicity and offers an intimate stage for a tour-de-force performance by Zoe Terakes (Wentworth) – who is also starring in MIFF 68½ Program Spotlight feature Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt).

Don’t Forget to Go Home
Two Fijian-Indian sisters escape their cousin’s wedding to get high on disobedience and drugs. Joining their friends, a pair of sisters enjoy a wild night out in the heart of Sydney. Featuring clever cinematography that captures both youthful abandon and slowly altering states of consciousness, Don’t Forget to Go Home dramatises the tensions between culture and queerness, rebellion and responsibility.

Playback
In this Berlinale Teddy Award for Best Short Film winner, La Delpi narrates an elegy to her sisters in Grupo Kalas, a 1980s coterie of drag queens and transgender women from Cordoba, Argentina. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, a group of drag queens and transgender women glittered up rural Argentina, resisting Catholic and conservative subjugation through flamboyant performances, fabulous frocks and sheer sex appeal. Featuring stunning archival footage of the LGBTQIA+ community at the time, including scenes inside the very basements and theatres where gigs were held, Playback is both celebratory and melancholy in its homage to a found family and lives fought for and lost.


MIFF 68 ½ streams online from 6 – 23 August 2020. For more information, and full program, visit: www.miff.com.au for details.

Image: No Hard Feelings (film still)

Note: The Australian Pride Network thanks Jadan Carroll at Common State for compiling this list!

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