You know how nerve-wracking it is to recommend a movie to a group of friends? Lisa Daniel, director of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, says she understands the feeling. “When people talk about the ‘queer community’, I don’t really know what they’re talking about,” she says. “The only thing we have in common is our sexuality, and it makes it pretty tough to second guess what people with very different tastes want to see!”
The festival is 22 years old, and Daniel’s been the director for the last 14. (“But I think I was saying 14 last year too, so I’m not really sure.”) She says that the limited amount of quality queer cinema actually used to make her job easier. “You just screened whatever was doing the rounds of international festivals at the time. Now, the problem – and it’s a good problem to have – is that there’s a lot of really good stuff! You’ve got to curate, rather than just schedule.”
And she’s seen Melbourne audiences change, too, embracing films from all around the world that aren’t necessarily the obvious crowd-pleasers. In 2010, MQFF patrons gave their Audience Award to the Argentinean film Plan B. “It’s not a good-time-gay story at all, and people loved it! They wanted an alternative to the American fluffy comedies.” It’s important to push the envelope, Daniel says, and that means challenging audiences as well as entertaining them.
“The more serious films aren’t necessarily going to fill a cinema, and might make people angry, or bored, or whatever. Not everybody wants to see a documentary about what’s happening in the Pride March in Poland – but it’s still an important film to be in the festival.”
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same: “Fantastic title! The Californians didn’t seem to really get it, whereas I think Melbourne audiences will appreciate the dry humour. It’s sardonic and quite hysterically funny.”
Cloudburst: “The opening night film is basically about elderly lesbians. And I know that might sound like oh jeez – but the writing is brilliant and the acting’s fantastic. I defy anyone not to enjoy it.”
Hit So Hard: The Life and Near Death of Patty Schemel: “Patty was a drummer in Courtney Love’s band Hole, and a role model for holding her own in the male-dominated world of grunge. This is more than just a music doco – it’s a doco about survival. Patty rocks!”
MQFF screens at ACMI, Greater Union, and Loop Bar and Cinema.