Last year, Brisbane Queer Film Festival came of age, hitting the big one-eight. As everyone who's been there and done that knows, that doesn't make turning 19 any less of an occasion — and, in the case of Brisbane's longest continuously-running local film festival and it's 2018 lineup, it means another round of celebrating lesbian, gay, bi, trans and gender-diverse cinema.
From March 8 to 18, that's what's on offer as BQFF settles into New Farm Cinemas once more. Forget trying to catch fleeting glimpses of potentially queer-friendly characters in big budget franchises — this festival is all about films that wear their love for LGBTIQ+ themes, protagonists and stories loudly and proudly, and in efforts big, small, old, new, factual and fictional. With that in mind, here are our five must-sees from this year's program.
A rare chance to see an essential film on the big screen, Desert Hearts might be the last flick screening at this year's BQFF, and but it's also the most important. When Donna Deitch's debut was released more than three decades ago, it was a pioneering work of queer cinema — and while the lesbian awakening effort didn't get the widespread attention it deserved at the time, it helped pave the way for everything that followed, including the applauded Carol. Here, a trip to Reno to finalise a divorce sees a professor find new love when she least expects it. Prepare to swoon not only over the movie, but over seeing it in on the silver screen in all of its gorgeously shot glory.
Shortlisted for this year's best foreign-language Oscar but not quite making the final batch of nominees, The Wound has been making a splash at festivals over the past year — and finally makes its way to Brisbane screens. The first film by South African writer/director John Trengove, the intimate drama takes audiences into the country's Xhosa community, not only setting its tale there, but finding the feature's non-professional cast from its ranks. Exploring the circumcision ritual used to mark a boy's passage into manhood, it hones in on a secret relationship between two men charged with overseeing the next batch of teenagers awaiting the ceremony.
Alan Cumming puts in a knockout performance in After Louie, playing a former AIDS activist trying to reconcile his past and his present after spending years fighting for recognition, and just as long coping with losing his friends. A must for fans of the actor, it's also a great companion piece to the acclaimed French flick BPM (Beats Per Minute), which is currently screening at the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival; both find their basis in the real lives of their filmmakers, former ACT UP members who campaigned for better HIV treatment during the '80s and '90s, and weave that reality into their very personal dramas.
The Feels starts with a familiar template: take a group of friends, place them in the same space for a few days, and watch the revelations, dramas and laughs fly. The fact that the film's characters are doing just that on a bachelorette weekend might also feel familiar, but turning it all into a comedy about the female orgasm is definitely far from standard. That's the outcome when brides-to-be Andi (Constance Wu) and Lu (Angela Trimbur) bundle up their best pals for a pre-wedding trip to Northern California wine country, and more than vino flows freely.
Hollywood teen rom-coms don't usually pop up on BQFF's program, but Hollywood teen rom-coms don't usually follow a 17-year-old boy grappling with his love for a classmate he's fallen for online, all while struggling to tell anyone he knows that he's gay. A certain crowd-pleaser that's based on the book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, it's a coming-out coming-of-age flick with plenty of heart — and the kind of film that mainstream cinema should be making more of — featuring Jurassic World's Nick Robinson in the lead, as well as the recognisable likes of Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel and Tony Hale.