The Melbourne Queer Film Festival is about to kick off for another year. MQFF Director, Lisa Daniel, joins us to talk shop.
You’d think after 15 years at the helm of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, that my job would get a little easier each year. But anyone who’s ever worked in the crazy world of organising large events will know that they have a nasty habit of throwing up challenges and surprises when you least expect it.
This year the MQFF has ushered in (nice film reference there) a slew of new initiatives designed to make life easier for our punters, and let’s be honest, easier for the MQFF to sell more tickets to ensure the financial viability of the much-loved event.
We restructured our ticketing system, our passes, changed our Festival Lounge venue, and added a new screening venue (among other things). I smugly thought these things would be enough to keep us busy, that they’d be manageable. I never for a second considered that another ‘first’ would throw the fest into a sudden spin.
That first (and an unwanted one) has been the refusal by the Australian Classification Board to grant the MQFF permission to screen the Travis Mathews film I Want Your Love – in essence, banning the film. For reasons related to too much sex not enough narrative, the ACB has deemed that mature ticket buying adults are not able to read a film’s synopsis (complete with sexual content warning) and decide for themselves if that’s something they want to see within a festival environment. Instead we’re left with a faceless Government organisation deciding that for us.
Having seen the film several times, and having been part of the jury at the 2012 Frameline Film Festival where it was in the running for a Best First Feature Award, I flatly reject the claim that the film has not enough narrative to support the sex scenes. There is what amounts to six minutes of sex (actual sex) amidst a 71 minute narrative about a group of gay men, their relationships, lives and loves. Not a pool boy or pizza delivery boy in sight. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
The film has screened at dozens of film festivals the world over, and will be released in the US on DVD this week. Australia is the first country to ban the film, and that’s just plain embarrassing. And sadly, the ACB is so out of step, it doesn’t seem to acknowledge that no amount of banning films from public screenings can prevent people all over Australia downloading the film anyway. I’m not for a second advocating illegally downloading the film as it’s the scourge of the film industry and does filmmakers and film festivals no favours at all – denying both much needed financial returns, and threatening the careers of filmmakers. BUT, it does indicate just how misguided the ACB really is if it thinks it can protect the Australian public from viewing films such as I Want Your Love.
So, while the MQFF approaches like an out of control freight train with our small team clinging to the back, and me having to deal with the media storm that’s ensued post film banning, we ponder yet again, that working in the worlds of fests is never boring, and just when you think you’ve got it all under control, something pops up to remind you why the MQFF is so important to us all.
(For an update on I Want Your Love see - http://gaynewsnetwork.com.au/news/news-2/10714-james-franco-gifts-his-film-to-the-mqff.html)