Lisa Daniel has lost track of how many years she’s been director of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, but according to our calculations, this will be her 17th year at the helm. And in those years, she's seen a few changes.
“Obviously the volume of stuff you get submitted has grown enormously,” says Daniel. “When I started we had 120 submissions; now we have 750. You’re wading through an enormous amount of crap, but you’re getting a lot of good stuff as well. The other major change is the locations of where the films are coming from; they’re coming from all over the world, even the Middle East and South America. And we don’t get as many angsty tragic coming out stories as we used to, we get great stories with queer characters. Which is a relief.”
Digital technology has made it much easier to submit films. “You get more because it’s much easier for people to submit through online sites – and it’s cheaper. You just have to have a robust set-up in the office in terms of web speeds and the amount of gig you can keep on file. But then, people send me files that just say ‘Film.mp4’, or USB sticks with no label.”
One thing Daniel has noticed in this year’s crop of entries is a common visual style.
“There’s a lot of documentary-style features, like the film Weekend. I blame (Weekend’s director) Andrew Haigh.”
Apparently there's also a lot more variety in the documentaries. “You do get themes like gay marriage, but there’s been lots of stuff about queers in Africa and those parts of the world where it’s difficult being a queer person. There are also a few sports documentaries, which is fun.”
While ACMI will continue to be the main venue for MQFF this year (with the Greater Union Cinemas in Russell Street now well and truly closed), there’ll be more screenings at Hoyts in Melbourne Central.
“We figured Greater Union was on the way out a couple of years ago," says Daniel. "They hadn’t fixed a seat for 15 years, so we were at Hoyts last year with that in mind, thinking we needed to educate our audiences. We have nine or ten sessions at Hoyts; the quality of the venue is really good. It feels a bit more festival-like.”
Top 5 MQFF films...
Lisa Daniel highlights five films you mustn’t miss.
52 Tuesdays (2013, dir. Sophie Hyde)
We’re incredibly lucky to get this Australian trans-themed feature; it’s a really great original idea. It was only shot on Tuesdays for a year and it’s about a woman with a couple of kids who decides to transition.
Matterhorn (2013, dir. Diederik Ebbinge)
This film from the Netherlands is about a conservative guy in his 60s who meets a guy who has mental health issues, and they form this strange affection – and it’s gorgeous. One of the sweetest films I’ve seen.
Gerontophilia (2013, dir. Bruce La Bruce)
It sounds disgusting, and La Bruce pushes boundaries, but it’s a love story between a 22-year-old guy and an 80-year-old man. You think it sounds confronting, but it’s a beautiful, sweet film.
Any Day Now (2012, dir. Travis Fine)
This is the Opening Night film and stars Alan Cumming – and is fantastic. Bit of a tear-jerker and a tough decision for opening night, but it has fantastic performances, and I didn’t want to bury it in the programme.
Reaching for the Moon (2013, dir. Bruno Barreto)
Miranda Otto stars in this Closing Night film, a feature from Brazil. It’s a true story about a lesbian architect and an English author who fall in love... and it all gets very messy.