Brisbane Queer Film Festival 2017: Queer Cinema’s Newest Wave
Brisbane Queer Festival turns 18 this year and co-director Shanon King tells Andrew Shaw what’s in store at the newly independent event.
Along with Justin Marshman, Shanon King is co-directing this year’s Brisbane Queer Film Festival, the 18th, and with the coming of age comes a new independence. Instead of being produced in-house at the Powerhouse, BQFF’s founding organisation, King and Marshman are producing it independently.
“We are moving into a new phase,” King tells QP. “This is a chance to develop the festival and run it more in line with how other queer film festivals run.”
For most of its life, the festival ran in April, May or June. But for the last two years it was moved to February to coincide with the Powerhouse’s queer arts festival, Melt. King says moving the date away from Melt means Brisbane’s queer entertainment is spread out for more than just two weeks of the year.
“The Powerhouse will remain the founding partner of the festival, because that’s where it was first run. It means that the festival is externally produced now, as opposed to myself and my co-director Justin Marshman being employed by the Powerhouse we are producing it externally. But there’s still support from the Powerhouse and Screen Queensland.”
As in 2016, the festival is at New Farm Cinemas again this year, the independent, boutique vibe suiting BQFF. The collective queer experience that film festivals offer still has a strong connection to visibility, King says, that feeling of coming along to see something that’s a specific to you and your life.
While new queer cinema of the nineties and noughties focused on identity and acceptance, King says the new wave of queer cinema has a different focus.
“There are still people making films specific to sexuality and coming out stories,” she says. “But I think the new queer cinema in the late nineties was about living your life, being visible, and being accepted within your own community – but also the mainstream, heteronormative community as well.
“Films like Tomcat, Women Who Kill and Rara aren’t focusing on the stigma of being in a queer relationship or the stigma of having same-sex parents. It’s more accepting of a broader community within the mainstream. The story no longer has to be so heavily rooted in the fact that they are gay characters.”
Opening night film is the documentary, Kiki (above). It follows the lives of queers who take part in New York’s gay ball scene and can be seen as an unofficial sequel to the 1990 doco Paris is Burning, which introduced voguing to the world via Madonna. But Kiki has significant differences to Paris, as King explains.
“It’s definitely an homage to that ballroom experience, but I think the best tag for it is that it’s an optimistic update. Because while Paris is Burning deals with some very deep and powerful issues, ultimately it’s still a film that has negative connotations around it and not such an uplifting ending. Whereas Kiki shows the opposite of that, people are striving to be better and more visible in the mainstream and establish themselves as a powerful political resource for other at-risk youth or others who are marginalised.”
Tomcat (above), the closing night film, is about two Austrian men who seem to have an idyllic, cultured lifestyle.
“We’ve tagged it as a thriller, because something happens in the middle of the film and it completely changes the context of how you see the couple’s relationship and where you think the film is going," King says.
"It’s completely unexpected, this reveal, and it makes you think how deeply you can love someone, to love all of them; how much you’re sharing with that other person. It’s fantastic, it’s more of a new wave queer film in its storytelling. It doesn’t focus on a gay aspect as such, it’s focusing on how they live their lives.”
The Nest is a Brazilian episodic film about community and all four episodes will be shown at BQFF. King says its cast defines the queer collective family spirit. It’s about Bruno, a young soldier, travels to Porto Alegre in Brazil’s south in search of his brother, who he hasn’t seen in years. While doing so he gets himself involved in a mystery in the queer punk underworld and finds a different kind of family.
King picks Women Who Kill (above) as one of her favourite festival entries, “because it’s so dead-pan, but has this mystery black comedy element to it as well”.
For the boys, The Pass is about homosexuality in sport, a gentle, subtle film about friendship between men and where that boundary lies.
Taekwondo is also about men in sport. “Taekwondo tells its story through cinematography, because there’s these long, lush shots of bodies and fly-on-the-wall lensing of a group of hetero friends, and the one guy who is not out of the closet yet. He’s navigating around interacting with them, and you can see that the lens is his perspective, his experiences," says King.
BQFF is part of the Asia Pacific Queer Film Alliance, which includes festivals from India, Indonesia and Japan. It’s a chance to see what the concerns are for LGBT people living in other parts of our region. A session of Asia-Pacific shorts has been programmed in this year.
“It makes people aware of the issues that are going on in the countries as well, and to understand the international scope of queer lifestyles and politics,” King says.
Unclassified films at the festival have a 15+ rating this year, rather than 18+. It means festival films can now be seen by a younger queer audience, says King. “It’s opened up a whole new audience of young people who may be looking for role models to define where they’re going. They can see it on the screen.”
BQFF 2017 runs from March 10-19 at New Farm Cinemas, 701 Brunswick St, New Farm. View program here.