Participating in the Goes to Cannes initiative for the very first time, Australia’s Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival has unveiled titles selected for its works-in-progress showcase: Four feature films and one documentary.
“It is the first time that Goes to Cannes has a partner from Australia and it’s also the first time when we have a festival dedicated to LGBTQ films and content. It’s also a part of our impACT initiative, which supports diversity, inclusion and sustainability in the film industry,” observes Guillaume Esmiol, executive director at Marché du Film.
Fawzia Mirza’s “The Queen of My Dreams” and Poppy Stockell’s dark comedy-drama “Triple Oh!” – “about a mismatched pair of queer ambulance paramedics who get hands-on with life, death, and each other,” teases the director – will be presented, as well as “Sunflower” by Gabriel Carrubba.
“For me, the mood of the film is sensual. It’s tender, warm and cold, all at the same time,” he tells Variety about the semi-autobiographical story shot in his childhood home.
“I have a lot in common with the main character Leo. He doesn’t say much very often, but he’s always looking, thinking, feeling. To tell you the truth, there is a lot of me in this film. Not just when it comes to its locations and the people I knew, but this memory of who I once was or wanted to be, and who I am now, on the other side of my coming out process, with a wonderful boyfriend and the sense of security I never thought was possible.”
In “Closing Night,” Timothy Despina Marshall will go darker, following a queer theatre actor suddenly facing his biggest fears while stuck in a hotel room.
“It’s the kind of psychological horror where the boundaries of real and imagined unravel and blur, similar to films like ‘The Shining’,” he says about the “viscerally” claustrophobic tale which puts his protagonist in a tight spot: He has returned home for his father’s funeral, his relationship has ended and chances of breaking out as an actor are fading. As he is trying to put on a brave face, his struggles to meet those of Tom and Laura Wingfield from the classic play “The Glass Menagerie.”
“The ultimate fear here is the fear of ending up alone and helpless. It’s a fear examined through a queer lens, but one that hits hard for us all,” he adds.
“Our horror lies in what’s unseen and hiding in the dark, so sound design is a big element we are excited to explore further.”
Finally, in the selection’s only documentary, “One Person Protest,” Christopher Amos focuses on Peter Tatchell’s protest at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
“At the time, FIFA justified its decision to host the prestigious Global event in Russia and Qatar as [a way of] ‘promoting equality and human rights.’ Cut to five years later and Russia outlaws ‘gay propaganda.’ In present-day Russia, there’s no right to protest peacefully or publicly stand up for the LGBTQ people. I have a duty to share their testimonies,” says the director, who already talked about the activist in “Hating Peter Tatchell.”
“After dozens of bashings, this is a closer inspection of Peter than has ever been seen before. ‘One Person Protest’ lets us see another side of him, authentic and raw. We gain a deeper understanding of his lifelong dedication to fighting for equality.”
“At Queer Screen, we are dedicated to supporting Australian LGBTIQ+ filmmakers beyond just showcasing their work,” notes festival director Lisa Rose.
“We established the Queer Screen Completion Fund to help them bring their feature projects to life and two of the films in our Goes to Cannes lineup are past recipients. Furthermore, we organize the Queer Screen Pitch Off competition. We understand that funding for these projects is scarce, and we are committed to supporting emerging talent in this critical aspect of the industry.”
She adds: “As newcomers to the program, and the first Australian festival to participate, we wanted to provide as many opportunities as possible to Australian projects. It is crucial to amplify the voices of queer filmmakers and their stories, especially those from underrepresented groups within the LGBTIQ+ community.”
Rose has noticed “encouraging” trend towards greater diversity in genre in the LGBTIQ+ cinema space, she notes.
“Our selection reflects this. From coming-of-age to dark comedy-drama, psychological horror, a multigenerational Bollywood-inspired tale and a documentary, our lineup celebrates the rich tapestry of stories.”
Director: Gabriel Carrubba
Producers: Gabriel Carrubba, Zane Borg
Production Company: Pancake Originals
Melbourne-born actor and director delivers a story about a teenage boy who struggles to understand and embrace his sexuality in the working-class suburbs on the edge of Melbourne. According to Carruba, “Sunflower” is a take on the “tender years” of his youth. “It features the schools I attended, the places I would frequent. The quiet moments in my childhood bedroom, my relationship with my parents and brother. The friends I was once close with and one day, it was the last time I saw them.” Nelson Blattman, Elias Anton and Olivia Fildes star.
“Closing Night,” (Australia)
Director: Timothy Despina Marshall
Producers: Bec Dakin, Timothy Despina Marshall
Production Companies: B&T Films, Orange entertainment Co.
When his life falls apart, a young queer theatre actor, poised to play the lead in “The Glass Menagerie,” must reckon with his demons and fight for survival while trapped in a hotel room with a sinister presence. This new chilling offering by Timothy Despina Marshall, whose short “Followers” was shown at Sundance and SXSW – and at the same time his feature debut – will feature Daniel Monks, recently spotted in “Sissy,” as well as National Theatre Live’s “The Seagull” alongside Emilia Clarke.
“Triple Oh!” (Australia)
Director: Poppy Stockell
Producers: Poppy Stockell, Alexander Galloway, Tamasin Simpkin
Production Company: Sirius Pictures
Inspired by real people, Stockell sets her sights on two ambulance paramedics. Their personalities clash, but then one of them introduces the other to her unconventional policy of having sex when a patient dies. “It’s about love, death and sex, and the ways we find meaning despite knowing that soon, we’ll all be gone,” she says, mentioning “incredible paramedics” who shared their stories. “They are among the world’s best in confronting fear with humor and laughing when faced with a loss. This is the World we wanted to explore.”
“One Person Protest,” (Australia, U.K., Russia)
Director: Christopher Amos
Producer: Christopher Amos
Production Company: Chrysaor
In 2021, Amos delivered “Hating Peter Tatchell,” starring Ian McKellen and Stephen Fry. Now, in this observational undercover documentary, he follows a 73-year-old human rights activist’s mission to protest at the 2018 FIFA World Cup to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ injustice in Russia and Chechnya. “[Compared to] Peter’s 50 years of pulling off stunts, I felt like a complete amateur. Which I was. As soon as I was on the Red Square, I understood his anxiety. Russia is a police state. Very few people knew we were there.”
“The Queen of My Dreams,” (Canada, Pakistan)
Director: Fawzia Mirza
Producers: Andria Wilson Mirza, Fawzia Mirza, Jason Levangie, Marc Tetreault
Production Companies: Baby Daal Productions, Shut Up & Colour Pictures
It’s 1999. In Toronto, Azra Malik shows her girlfriend her favorite Bollywood film: “Aradhana.” Across the country, her mother watches a similarly-labelled VHS as she and her husband Hassan pack for a trip back home to Pakistan. An awkward phone call between them makes it evident that their relationship is strained. Two nights later, Azra gets another call from her mother: Hassan’s had a heart attack and died. Azra’s journey back to Pakistan incites memories and flashbacks. Shot in English and Urdu.
Originally published at variety.com