Home-grown lesbian romantic comedy Ellie and Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) will make its Brisbane debut next week.
The film was written and directed by queer filmmaker Monica Zanetti, from her own stage play. Last month it became the first Australian film ever to open the Mardi Gras Film Festival, and it’s heading to the Brisbane Queer Film Festival next week.
The queer rom-com sees school captain Ellie fall for rebellious classmate Abbie, however teen awkwardness and angst get in the way of her plan to ask Abbie to the year 12 formal.
Then, Ellie is visited by the ghost of her late aunt Tara, a lesbian activist who died in the 1980s, who plays a “fairy godmother” of sorts for the teen.
Rising stars Sophie Hawkshaw (Love Child) and Zoe Terakes (Wentworth) play the titular star-crossed lovers Allie and Abbie.
They’re joined by an all-star ensemble cast including Janet King‘s Marta Dusseldorp, Hunt for the Wilderpeople‘s Rachel House and Starting from… Now‘s Julia Billington.
Monica Zanetti told QNews.com.au that the project came about due to a lack of same-sex rom-coms when she was growing up, particularly family-friendly films.
“My experience of coming out was similar in some ways to Ellie’s experience,” she said.
“I realised I liked someone, and I was so excited about that. I had this wonderfully supportive experience from my parents at the time.
“But as much as I wanted to write a really simple lesbian rom-com – because their really aren’t any, particularly in Australia – I couldn’t without acknowledging the people that have come before.”
Ellie and Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) combines heart, humour and history
Monica Zanetti incorporated that history through the character of Tara, played by Billington. The character was partly inspired by Zanetti’s openly gay uncle.
“He lived openly my whole life, but he came out in the 1950s or 60s,” she said.
“He lived very true to himself in a time when I know how incredibly hard that would’ve been.
“Tara is fictional but she’s based on that knowledge that I had an easier time because of those who forged this path.”
Zanetti said Marta Dusseldorp was cast as Ellie’s mum by chance through non-binary Wentworth actor Zoe Terakes.
“Zoe happened to be doing a play with Marta at the time that I cast them,” Zanetti said.
“They had talked to Marta about the film because they’d recently done the audition.
“Next thing I knew, Zoe told me Marts really loved the sound of the film, would it be okay if she read it?
“I mean, Marta was on our dream cast list. I told Zoe, ‘Um, yes, of course Marta can read it’. She and I later met for coffee and she told me what she loved about the movie.
“It was one of those magical casting moments you hear about.”
The Brisbane Queer Film Festival begins on March 5 at New Farm Cinemas. Ellie & Abbie screens on March 11. For more info visit the Brisbane Queer Film Festival website here.