The Melbourne Queer Film Festival is bringing some of the best LGBTQIA+ cinema to regional towns

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The Melbourne Queer Film Festival is bringing some of the best LGBTQIA+ cinema to regional towns

Summerland Feature Film Stills by Michael Wharley

The desires, loves, joys and fears of the queer community will continue to be projected on the big screens in selected regional areas.

We all know the power of films: they can transport, educate and empower. They can make you laugh or cry or leave you so shocked you can’t even speak. But most important of all, film has the ability to raise up marginalised voices and experiences to a global audience, such as those that portray an LGBTQ+ narrative.

From the classics, such as 1994’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, to modern masterpieces likes the modern favourites Green Book, The Favourite and Bohemian Rhapsody, films have cast light on the LGBTQ+ experience from all angles, delivering an accurate and inclusive representation of people and their remarkable stories. And it’s a light that been cast for three decades now, thanks to the Melbourne Queer Film Festival.

Renowned as Australia’s largest and longest-running queer film festival, MQFF returned to Melbourne earlier this year to celebrate 30 years of sharing the stories of LGBTQI+ people and their community through film and the moving image, after the festival had to cut last year’s edition short due to the pandemic.

Delivering its first in-cinema program in 12 months, the festival continues to be projected on the big screens in selected regional areas following the Melbourne showcase, bringing the latest and greatest in LGBTQIA+ film to a regional audience that might not otherwise enjoy opportunities to access these stories.

Having already visited Geelong, Bendigo and Shepparton, the MQFF will continue delighting regional audiences in Morwell and Ballarat in the coming weeks, taking to Ballarat’s Regent Cinema and Morwell’s Village Cinema.

With a kaleidoscope of stories in every colour, the regional roadshow festival programme features five specifically chosen films, all with the intention of unifying and celebrating LGBTQI+ culture and queer cinema.

First, there’s Eammon Ashton-Atkinson’s heartfelt documentary Steelers: The World’s First Gay Rugby Club, an inspiring testament to the power of teamwork and friendship. Based on the world’s first gay rugby team the Kings Cross Steelers, Ashton-Atkinson accompanies the Steelers to Amsterdam as the team vie for victory at the international gay rugby tournament the Bingham cup. Recording the team’s ups and downs in their journey to become champions, Ashton-Atkinson interviews some of the people who make the Steelers what they are, all while teaching the audience a thing or two about resilience, friendship, and self-belief. Please note, this film will only be screening in Ballarat.

Then there’s New Zealand transgender drama series Rurangi, which has been cut as a film. Directed by Max Currie, the drama follows transgender activist Caz Davis who returns to the remote, politically divided dairy community of Rūrangi after a decade away, hoping to reconnect with his estranged father, who hasn’t heard from him since before Caz transitioned. It recently won the Audience Award at Frameline San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival and played at the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Joining the brilliant list of feature films is Summerland, a love story set in the timeless and enchanting world of Summerland; sun-dappled days spent outdoors by the sea over one achingly beautiful summer. The story follows fiercely independent writer Alice (Gemma Arterton) who secludes herself in her study: occupied by her work but also profoundly lonely, haunted by a love affair from her past. When spirited young Frank, an evacuee from the London Blitz, is dumped into her irritable care, his innocence and wonder awaken Alice’s deeply buried emotions. Bravely embracing life’s miraculous unpredictability, Alice learns that wounds may be healed, hope and second chances do exist, and any woman must defiantly be two things: who and what she wants. The feature directorial debut of Jessica Swale, Summerland inspires audiences with daringly honest and contemporary themes – an intensely emotional journey of womanhood and self-discovery, love and friendship.

The Greenhouse comes from acclaimed shorts filmmaker Thomas Wilson-White and promises a magic realist spin on familial drama. In this story of loss, Beth and her three adopted siblings assemble at their rural childhood home after the tragic passing of their lesbian mother. As with many family events, the weekend is rife with conflict, hostility and implicit tension, while Lauren, an old flame from the past, shows up to destabilise Beth’s world further. Meanwhile, danger looms as Beth discovers a mysterious dimension to the past. Part magic and part metaphor, this film reminds its audience of the seductive nature of memory and the danger of spending too much time there.

Rounding out the film offering, The Man With The Answers follows Victor, a Greek ex-diving champion in his 20s who, following the death of his grandmother, embarks on a spontaneous road trip. On the boat to Italy, he meets Matthias, a charming German drifter who charms the uptight Victor into giving him a ride. The odd couple embark on a road trip that takes them through the stunning mountain scenery of Italy. Through many twists and turns, the two men are pushed out of their comfort zones, and must come face to face with their growing attraction for one another. Written and directed by Stelios Kammitsis, this film is a picture-postcard travelogue about the familial ties that bind, the boys that catch our eye, and the twists and turns that lead us home.

Featuring the five best films in new and retrospective LGBTIQ+ cinema to make you laugh, cry and think year after year, the MQFF regional roadshow promises to be another masterpiece you won’t want to miss.

The MQFF will take to Ballarat on June 25 and 26, and Morwell on July 2 and 3. You can view the full regional program and purchase tickets via the website.

If you are part of the LGBTQIA+ community and need support, there are services available:

Switchboard offer free and anonymous counselling, resources and referrals. 1800 184 527 (3pm – midnight, 7 days per week).

ZBGC offers online support, Q&A and information regarding sexuality and gender diversity.

If you feel distressed, please contact  Lifeline on 13 11 14. In the case of an emergency, please contact 000.