Mardi Gras Film Festival


The Mardi Gras Film Festival
Academy Twin Cinema, Sydney
February 15-28, 1996
Organised by Queer Screen
Previewed by Philippa Marsden
The Mardi Gras Film Festival, organised by community-based arts organisation Queer Screen, is being held again at the Academy Twin Cinema as part of the month-long arts festival that precedes the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade and party. The festival is bigger than ever this year, and the program reveals a better selection of award-winning overseas films, both shorts and features. Several films draw immediate attention for their overt political statements. Fiction and Other Truths is a documentary about lesbian activist and writer Jane Rule. Best known for her book Desert of the Heart, later made into a landmark lesbian film, Rule is a staunch advocate of lesbian and gay rights. She speaks candidly of her 30-odd year relationship and her involvement as a writer and activist with gay publications of the early '70s, particularly when they came under fire from censorship laws and the state. In a similar vein, Who's Counting: Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics — despite its rather dry title — is a fascinating documentary about this New Zealand activist and lesbian. Waring is a well-known political economist, who is particularly critical of economic rationalism and the global world order. She became the youngest ever female MP in the New Zealand parliament in 1975; in 1984 she withdrew support from her own National Party and brought down the government over the issue of a nuclear free New Zealand. Waring later became involved in an exhaustive study of the role of women in economics and wrote a book called If Women Counted, which provided the inspiration for this film — an inspirational must for anyone who believes in the power of people to change not only attitudes, but also the world. In a more cynical vein, The Last Supper explores another avenue for dealing with right-wing bigotry. In a tongue in cheek black comedy, the film describes the exploits of a group of friends whose regular Sunday night ritual is to invite someone to dinner. When their latest guest declares his support for Hitler's ideas, they are horrified. When he pulls a knife on them, but is accidentally killed himself, they get an idea. They bury him in the back garden and proceed to invite other right-wing bigots to dinner to try to convert them; if they don't see the error of their ways, they must suffer the consequences. Using humour to cope with otherwise unbearable situations is a theme which is continued in Red Ribbon Blues. It's probably Paul Mercurio's best film since Strictly Ballroom, which won him international acclaim. Mercurio plays a gay man, whose circle of friends, including the infamous Ru Paul and Debbi Mazar of LA Law, are all HIV positive. The film is set sometime in the not too distant future, and a multinational drug company has discovered a drug which increases life expectancy for HIV positive people by an average of 10 years. The problem — it's too expensive. So they hatch a plan. They begin to raid drug stores, pinning red ribbons on the workers they handcuff to the till and stealing only the drug — which they then give away to HIV positive people. It's an inspiring film which is heavily critical of drug companies' drive for profits at the expense of public health. It's hilarious, well acted and inspiring. Well worth a ticket. On a more sinister level, Anatomy of Desire is a documentary which explores the currently popular "gay gene" theory. It examines the role science has played in shaping society's understanding of homosexuality throughout the 20th century and includes 1950s education films and other historical footage. It makes an important link between the scientific search for a "cause" for homosexuality and the dangers of biological deter­minism for the progressive movements, a timely examination of a hot political topic. The festival is full to the brim — a total of 54 films. It includes the latest Hanif Kureishi (of My Beautiful Laundrette fame) piece, The Buddha of Suburbia, about an Indian-English teenager confronting life, politics and sexuality in the '70s. Crapston Villas is an animated adult soap opera! Everything Relative has been described as the lesbian Big Chill. The latest offering from Gregg Araki (Totally F***d Up, The Living End) is similarly bleak, even in its title — The Doom Generation. And the often forgotten story of gay holocaust survivors and resistance fighters is told in two films acquired from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, We Were Marked with a Big A ... and After the War You Have to Tell Everyone About the Dutch Gay Resistance Fighters. It's an impressive program which provides something for everyone and makes an important political and cultural contribution to the festival. For tickets or info call (02) 332 4938.