By Rebecca Meckelburg
HOBART — The state attorney general, Ron Cornish, has banned 12 films that were due to be screened as part of Tasmania's inaugural Queer Film and Video Festival. The films have the go-ahead of the federal attorney general to be distributed throughout the country and are subsequently being screened at festivals around Australia.
Cornish has admitted that Tasmania's anti-gay laws are the real motives for banning part of the festival. Speaking to ABC radio on March 22, Cornish said, "We have certain laws in this state, obviously Sections 122 and 123 of the criminal code which says that certain sorts of conduct are not acceptable in Tasmania.
"These films all relate to homosexual and lesbian lifestyles and therefore after careful consideration it was decided we wouldn't give that exemption."
Most of the 12 films banned are either documentaries or films about lesbians. Lesbian sex in Tasmania is not illegal.
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson Rodney Croome said that Cornish's action is clearly based on hostility to homosexual people.
"In strict legal terms Sections 122 and 123 of the criminal code are irrelevant because the films are about much more than gay sex, but the fact remains that the laws stigmatise the lives of gay and lesbian Tasmanians, and Ron Cornish thinks this stigma justifies banning these films."
Festival organiser Robyn Brake said, "The films include features, documentaries and short films on a range of topics from film makers around the world. They are no more violent or sexually explicit than films currently screening commercially around the country, and film festival rules ensure that none of the films can be shown to people under 18. The most controversial aspect of these films is that they are lesbian and/or gay."
The films which Cornish has banned include Spikes and Heels (about the Gay Games in New York, broadcast on French, Swiss, Belgian and US TV), and Coming Out Under Fire (about the discrimination faced by US lesbian and gay personnel during World War II, which SBS has just bought to screen on SBS TV). Other titles include What a Lesbian Looks Like, Mad About the Boy, 21st Century Nuns and Sex Fish.
The film festival will go ahead with five sessions of classified films, and the TGLRG will defy Cornish by showing the unclassified films at the end of the festival.
Rodney Croome said that the group will be seeking legal advice regarding the display of the films. "I for one will risk legal prosecution to defend my right to watch films that people in every other state can legally view."