Celebrating all queer histories, past, present and future, informing the now and shaping the future, the 2023 Melbourne Queer Film Festival kicks off this week.
Running 9 – 19 November, cinema-goers will get the chance to see 50 feature films, including 26 Australian premieres, 19 Victorian premieres, 3 world premieres, 11 short film packages and 17 documentaries. Highlights include:
I Love You, Beksman
Twenty-something Dali (Christian Bables) is a flamboyant make-up artist and fashion designer who astonishes his gloriously queer family and colleagues by coming out as… straight? Yes, it seems he’s fallen for Angel (Iana Bernardez), a beauty pageant queen. But such is everyone’s astonishment that no one – Angel included – believes him. Australian premiere – opening night film.
Housekeeping for beginners
(2023, North Macedonia, Sweden, Kosovo, Poland, Serbia, Croatia) This year’s Queer Lion winner at Venice and North Macedonia’s Oscar candidate is the third feature from outstanding Melbourne-based filmmaker, Goran Stolevski, director of 2022’s Of an Age and You Won’t Be Alone. A boisterous, cinema verite-style dramedy set in a makeshift queer household in Skopje, subject to constant, farcical comings and goings of queer and Romani folk galore. Victorian premiere.
When tween-aged Minato starts to behave strangely, his mother, Saori, suspects the school has something to do with it. Saori begins a campaign to expose Hori’s problematic teaching practices, but Minato and his newest friend have a different tale to tell. Yet as the story unfolds nothing is as it seems. Acclaimed director Hirokazu Koreeda tenderly brings to life Yuji Sakamoto’s layered screenplay and features legendary composer Ryuichi Sakamoto’s final screen work before his death. Awarded Best Screenplay and the Queer Palm at Cannes this year.
Coming out isn’t always easy, even in a big city like Melbourne. Writer/director Gabriel Carrubba’s semi- autobiographical debut feature explores the challenges at play in a working-class suburb on the outer edges of the train line. Liam Mollica plays 17-year-old Greek-Italian high-schooler Leo, crushing on his best mate Boof but unable to tell him how he really feels in this delicate coming-of-ager that doesn’t shy away from the harsher realities still too often at play.
All Of Us Strangers
Adam, a listless screenwriter (Andrew Scott, Fleabag’s “hot priest”) and Harry (Aftersun’s Paul Mescal) seem to be the only tenants of a Ballardian London high-rise. A burgeoning relationship between them lifts Adam’s spirits. He takes to visiting his childhood home where his parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell) are there to greet him, surely not a day older than when they died tragically in Adam’s youth, in the mid-‘80s. Victorian premiere.
Isla is a feisty, stubborn and resilient octogenarian who lives with Susan, who is a lesbian. But Isla won’t be pigeonholed, instead calling herself “a widow”. Refusing to relinquish her passion for horse driving carriages, Isla remains active in her community no matter her age, even as the naysayers insist her time to slow down has come. A quirky new Aussie documentary feature, Isla’s Way observes an indomitable woman, community elder and miniature horse lover. Victorian premiere.
Iranian women soccer fans travel to a World Cup qualifier match in Tehran despite it being illegal for them to be spectators by disguising themselves as boys. Will they be able to fool the guards? Jafar Panahi’s Offside is one of the most charming and poignant sports films ever made, a telling reminder of the power of sport to connect us. The film took home the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize from the 2006 Berlinale.
A queer summer camp for kids would be the easy way to describe Canadian filmmaker Jen Markowitz’s latest feature documentary, but it’s so much more than this. Using mostly fly-on-the-wall cinematography Summer Qamp provides a sincere lens into the lives, hardships, successes, highs and lows of a group of queer campers, many of whom are trans, non-binary or just trying to figure themselves out. Australian premiere.
Penelope Cruz may be fabulous in ‘70s fashion but newcomer Luana Giuliani is the real star of the show, magnificently depicting young trans teenager Adri, confidently asserting himself in a world that does not fully understand. A heartfelt ode to Italian director Emanuele Crialese’s personal history, having announced that he is a trans man at last year’s Venice Film Festival, this luminous film was nominated for both the Queer and the Golden Lion. Victorian premiere.
Graduating from Heartbreak High with distinction, Alex Dimitriades burned up the screen as a small-time drug dealer and big-time hot mess Ari in Ana Kokkinos’ seminal Melbourne story. A high-spirited adaptation of author Christos Tsiolkas’ free-wheeling debut novel Loaded, it depicts the Greek Australian teen pushing back against parental expectation, class boundaries and ethnic stereotypes in a self-destructive, sure, but take no prisoners break for freedom. It’s an irresistible performance matched toe-to-toe by living legend Paul Capsis as his fearless drag queen buddy Toula. Kokkinos burns an indelible mark on the Australian cinematic landscape. 25th Anniversary screening.
Simon (Théodore Pellerin) is a skilled make-up artist who, by night, is a mainstay of Montreal’s exuberant drag scene. His performances are elevated upon hooking up with the charismatic Olivier (Félix Maritaud), a French drag artiste who becomes his partner on and off stage. Their chemistry is electric… yet might not Olivier be a touch… manipulative – nay, domineering? When word reaches Simon that his long-absent opera diva mother, Claire (Anne-Marie Cadieux) will be passing through town, Simon struggles with validation issues. Are either capable of affording him the respect he so yearns for? Australian premiere – closing night film.
The 2023 Melbourne Queer Film Festival runs 9 – 19 November at various locations across Melbourne. For more information and full program, visit: www.mqff.com.au for details.
Image: Solo (film still) – courtesy of SND Films