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Five Must-See Films at the 2017 Mardi Gras Film Festival

From a love story between two Iraqi soldiers to porn scandals to horror comedies, this year's program is Queer Screen's best yet.
By Sarah Ward
February 16, 2017
By Sarah Ward
February 16, 2017

Less than two months into 2017, and the best film to reach Australian cinemas so far is a queer tale of identity, masculinity and longing. Don't just take our word for it — take the Oscars', too, where Moonlight will hopefully pick up many of the eight awards its nominated for. That's just the beginning of what's shaping up to be a fantastic year in LGBTIQ film, and if there's ever an event that makes that clear for Sydney residents, it's the annual Mardi Gras Film Festival. The cinema-focused offshoot of Sydney's inclusive celebration is back from February 15 to March 2, and positively bursting with must-see, must-talk-about flicks, including Moonlight, plus our picks of the program.


The 2017 Berlin Film Festival is currently brightening up Germany with the latest and greatest in cinema — and, while it might take a few months or more for the hits of this year's fest to make it to Australian shores, one of 2016's standouts is flying the flag at the Mardi Gras film festival. Winning the Teddy Award for its tale of Vienna love disrupted unexpectedly, Tomcat explores just how a seemingly idyllic life can suddenly unravel. And, while the movie is about many things — the psychology of relationships, most prominently — a cat certainly does feature.


If you hosted a podcast about murders, it probably wouldn't be long until you started experience a rather predictable side effect: seeing evidence of homicidal tendencies in the people you meet in everyday life. If it sounds like the premise to a paranoia-laced horror-comedy, well, that's because it is. From writer/director and star Ingrid Jungermann, and also featuring A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night's Sheila Vand, Women Who Kill finds mystery, thrills and amusement in romantic suspicions of the both heightened and relatable kind.


Just last year, Australian filmmaker Eva Orner endeavoured to expose the reality of Australia's offshore treatment of refugees to the world with Chasing Asylum, a documentary big on both detail and revelations. Now, she's ready to unleash her follow-up. Out of Iraq is something completely different, telling a love story between two Iraqi soldiers — however, this 13-years-in-the-making effort shares one thing with its predecessor. No, it's not the act of hopping between countries, although the film's four-nation tour definitely does that. Instead, prepare for a doco that might seem small in scope, but proves huge in its impact.


New town, new home, new mates — none of the above screams moody thriller, but audiences shouldn't let this Australian newcomer lull them into a false sense of security. Sure, Bad Girl seems as though it is charting familiar territory — and as its troubled teen protagonist Amy (Sara West) moves to the rural house her adoptive parents want her to call home, and makes a local pal in Chloe (Samara Weaving), it does so often. Still, even though charting the darker side of friendship is similarly commonplace on screen, this Aussie effort boasts more than enough twists and insights to retain attention.


We've mentioned many, many times that no film festival program seems to be complete without an appearance by James Franco, but it just keeps proving true. In King Cobra, the never-far-from-a-camera actor jumps into a gay porn biopic about a gay porn scandal. If that's not enough to inspire intrigue, then the rest of the cast should help, with Franco joined by Christian Slater, Alicia Silverstone and Molly Ringwald — aka quite a few '80s and '90s icons all in one movie.

Mardi Gras Film Festival runs February 15 to March 2 in various Sydney cinemas. More info here.

Published on February 16, 2017 by Sarah Ward
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