Unlike April that ushers in cooler temperatures The Brisbane Queer Film Festival is guaranteed to make you hot and sweaty. Gay Aussie spoke to Sarah Neal, Festival Director for The Brisbane Queer Film Festival about this year’s internationally diverse films, her selection process and the grand opening night.
❝Firstly congratulations! The Brisbane Queer Film Festival is in its 13th year, the longest standing festival from The Brisbane Power House and you’ve been steering it for the last seven years. What are you most excited about this year?
Look I think the quality of films this year are really outstanding, there’s a really great range of films from all over the world and that’s what makes this festival particularly good. Every now and then, I mean as a programmer you can really only put together a program that’s as good as the product. If people aren’t making fantastic films then I can’t screen them, but it seems that this year, well last year that there’s just been so many amazing films made that it made my job very easy.
❝When you start researching films, watching them and ultimately deciding what makes the cut, tell us about your process?
I usually start at the beginning of the year looking at the current crop of films. With this program I started at the Berlin Film Festival, and I was lucky enough to be on the jury there for their Queer award which is really a wonderful process because it meant that over ten days myself and other international festival directors watched about seventy queer films, to decide which would win the award, and that gave me a really great overview of the brand new films that are out there.
❝Did you say seventy as in 7-0?
Yeah, I mean they were long days, 14 to 16 hour days of watching films. You know, matchsticks for the eyes. I do a lot of research and I’m always looking to the A-list festivals being Sundance, Toronto, Cannes and Berlin, and there are others. I’ve found over the last number of years there is an amazing quality of films coming from places like Argentina, Scandinavian countries or out of Iran, not necessary from English-language speaking countries, and I think that’s fabulous. To be able to put a really interesting international palette of films in front of people is a really good thing to do, rather than just go, okay I think I’m going to program a festival of American cinema that has gay topics in it.
❝For a film to open the Brisbane Queer Film Festival, it’s got to be pretty special, right? Leave It On The Floor has the job of opening this year’s festival; tell us why it has won the prestigious job?
Oh, good question. Well I think I look at a few things with an opening night film; it’s our biggest night and we have the big party that follows it. I guess ideally I look for something that’s going to be more upbeat: I’m not going to program a really difficult documentary on opening night and then have people walk out for a glass of champagne and a party and just feel like they just want to go home. I want it to be a really joyous and celebratory kind of night, and so that’s probably what just helped me to select this film. It needed to be something that’s really, you know, full of joy, fun and celebrates queer culture.
❝Talking about the afterparty, it has a reputation of being a little bit wild and a lot of fun, I can attest to having a good time myself. What is planned for the boys and girls on this opening night?
Well we’ve got a couple of fantastic DJs, we’re going to have amazing lighting, amazing sound and there’ll be a great party atmosphere, and really because we do get such a great turnout to it and because it has been going for such a number of years people really look forward to it, so we just rely on everyone coming in with a great vibe ready to have a fantastic night. And there might be a couple of special guests, we’ll see how things roll out, I just have to keep a couple of things up my sleeve.
❝There is a great mix of diverse films like the Argentinean film Ausente (Absent), French and Algerian film Quelque Jours de Répit (A Few days of Respite) and more. If the Brisbane Queer Film Festival were a snapshot of what the global queer community is facing at the moment, what would you say are our current global challenges?
Wow, I think that’s a really great question, and that’s really what the festival is trying to do, to provide a snapshot of what is going on around the world, and it is really diverse. Some years you see certain trends emerge, like a couple of years ago I remember queer parenting because that was coming out. This year when you look at, as you mentioned for example, A Few Days Of Respite, I mean that looks at what it’s like to be homosexual in Iran and to actually have your life threatened. I don’t want to give away the detail of the film because it’s really an extraordinary film but it looks at what it’s like to be queer in Iran and that means that your life is at threat. So everything from that looking through to the club scene in LA where it’s celebratory and wonderful, it’s a really broad spectrum. I guess overall the thing that I feel comes through is that, well I like to think it does, how important love is, that you have to fight for things and how important that is in our community, actually so important to our community. Our right to love.
❝As people sit in their chairs and wait for the screen to paint a story that takes them away from their world and puts them in another’s world, what do you think they’re going to learn?
I think it is a really interesting and complex world that we live in, and people do face very different challenges. We’ve got a local documentary, The Cure, a Brisbane film, which looks at the ex-gay movement and the conflict between faith and sexuality. It’s going to be really impactful for the Brisbane community. There’s a film from South Africa which is quite amazing called Beauty, and that’s looking at straight white masculinity in South Africa with the underlying theme of being homosexual and being completely so filled with self-loathing, so I think um, [Sarah laughs] what was the question?
❝What do you hope people learn?
Oh what they learn, yes! Well I guess, we call ourselves a community but when you look at it we’re just all individuals facing different individual challenges in our lives, and what joins us together is more of a human rights issue. So I hope that people learn there’s hope and also that there are challenges and we have to always be vigilant and fight.
❝If you had a cinema with Campbell Newman, Peter Madden, Bob Katter, Margaret Court and other let’s say homophobic people, and you had one film to show them, what would it be?
Out of this program, I think Cloudburst. This film beautifully deals with what it’s like to be in the LGBT Community when you’re older and your rights again. It’s done in a way in which the Bob Katter’s and the Margaret Court’s of this world would really be able to engage with. And it’s something that’s really challenging too. It would definitely be that one.
❝What do you think will be the stellar tear-jerking films people will be talking about and arguing over and over again?
I think the film that will be causing a lot of discussion will be Beauty, the South African film. It has got some very confronting subject matter in it, so I think people will talk about that. It’s really a standout film.
❝Is there anything you would like to say to all the fans because there are a lot of fans out there.
Good, I hope there are. Just to come along and to really make sure that you feel that you own it because it’s not my festival, it’s our festival, and that’s the most important message. I just want everyone to feel ownership of it, proud of it and to get into it. ⏏
The Brisbane Queer Film Festival is Brisbane Powerhouse’s longest standing festival and it’s on from the 13 – 22 of April 2012.