Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival, starting this week, is allowing audiences across Australia to create their own festival experience with on-demand streaming options.
This year’s festival features over 90 films to choose from, including a variety of shorts, documentaries, and narratives both heartbreaking and humorous. Cinema sessions and streaming options are on offer during the festival from February 18 to March 4.
Indie-minded comedy/drama Milkwater centres around the complexities of surrogacy and non-traditional family models.
Milkwater details the unusual friendship – and then relationship – between 20-something, straight New Yorker Milo (Younger‘s Molly Bernard) and Roger (Patrick Been), a 52-year-old drag performer desperately wanting a family.
There’s an instant connection between the two. Despite Milo’s seeming disinterest in the idea of a family model, she wants to help Roger with his desires.
Naturally, drama ensues though as she meets a potential partner (Ade Otukoya). Roger starts to view his and Milo’s relationship as purely transactional.
Narratively, Milkwater doesn’t tread new ground but it treats its characters and audience with respect. The film supports the idea of forging your own familial path outside traditional rules.
Under My Skin
Under My Skin continues the theme of non-traditional models and gender respect. Australian writer/director David O’Donnell is behind the tender, emotional drama.
Inspired by his own relationship with his trans, non-binary partner, Under My Skin is an important and ambitious look at a romance between heterosexual man Ryan (Alex Russell) and non-binary Denny.
Denny is portrayed by four non-binary actors to highlight the disconnect between themselves and their gender.
Performers Liv Hewson, Chloe Freeman, Lex Ryan, and Bobbi Salvor Menuez all play the role. The film intricately incorporates them all into the narrative of identity and its changing scope.
Audiences hoping to find a new companion piece to such genre classics as Brokeback Mountain and God’s Own Country may look to Luz. The tender romance is wrapped up in the imagery of a brutal prison drama.
Luz focuses on the unlikely partnership that forms between two cellmates – the soft, remorseful Ruben (Ernesto Reyes) and the more threatening Carlos (Jesse Tayeh).
Ruben is initially being intimidated by Carlos’s position in the prison. However after earning his protection, a romance forms between the two.
Born from merely being in close proximity of each other and deprived of outside sexual gratification or a genuine attraction, Luz explores their sexuality and what it means when they are reunited on the outside.
It flirts with being overly sentimental at times. Nonetheless, the Mardi Gras Film Festival selection looks at a queer romance created from an uncertain situation with an honest eye.
Cowboys is likely to be one of the Mardi Gras Film Festival’s most sought after titles. The film looks at trans children and the response they receive from their parents.
Writer/director Anna Kerrigan contributes an important dialogue to the trans community and their continuing validation with this beautiful and tragic film.
Steve Zahn and Brittany Runs A Marathon‘s Jillian Bell star as estranged couple, Troy and Sally.
It’s clear that their sole reason for being is their daughter Jo (young trans actor Sasha Knight). Jo, however, identifies as Joe, something Troy has openly accepted but which Sally has struggled with.
Joe wants to live as his authentic self and knows Troy will provide that environment. However when the two head off together on a cross-country trip, Sally declares it kidnapping. The authorities then get involved.
While the story borders on melodrama, Cowboys is an important, loving ode to acceptance at its core.
See the full Mardi Gras Film Festival 2021 lineup at queerscreen.org.au
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