With this year’s motto Landscapes of Us Down Under Berlin celebrates diversity by showcasing a selection of exceptional films focusing on LGBTQI stories, shining a rainbow on the importance of diverse storytelling and representation within film.
Australia and New Zealand are countries where the LGBTQI community was, historically, ostracised from mainstream society. It was only in the mid-eighties and nineties that homosexuality was legalised in either country; meaning they essentially had no civil rights. Despite this, both countries have a history of rebellion, specifically in film. Both have fought hard for the voices of their community to be heard. This year's Down Under Festival program is no exception, showcasing exceptional films that celebrate visibility and individual freedom. Now let's take a closer look at the films in this years program.
The feature documentary Black Divas is a celebration of the Indigenous LGBTQI+ community in Australia. The documentary, directed by Adrian Russell Wills, follows six drag queens as they tough it out to become Miss First Nations Drag Queen - the first ever Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander national drag competition, held in the sweltering heat of Darwin.
The documentary is as glamorous and outrageous; as it is raw and deeply moving. Behind all the spangles, padding, and makeup is the reality of how much these queens have sacrificed in order to be their true selves.
Black Divas - Screening at Down Under Berlin 2018 Friday 21st September. 10.45pm.
The short film Tasty is a coming of age film about coming out. Based on a real event, a queer teenager finds himself in the midst of a homophobic drug bust by the Victorian Police’s, that was both brutal and illegal, in a gay nightclub in Melbourne, in 1994.
The film portrays the anxiety that surrounds being gay in a country where gay sex was illegal in Tasmania until 1997. Written and Directed by Meaghan Palmer, the film won the Australian Directors Guild Award for Best Direction in a Student Short, making this director a talent to watch.
Tasty - Screening at Down Under Berlin, within AUSSIE SHORTS #1 2018 Friday 21st September. 4.00pm.
With the short film Mrs. McCutcheon, the traditional eighties teen romance flipped on its heteronormative head - think Sixteen Candles in small-town Australia, with indigenous and transgender leads.
Directed by John Sheedy, this sweet and subversive coming of age story is a film that captures the pressure cooker feel of the teen experience; the bullies, geeks, pretty girls, and the cool kids, while tackling some major issues regarding gender, race, and sexuality.
Mrs. McCutcheon - Screening at Down Under Berlin 2018, within BATTLE OF THE SHORTS: AUS VS NZ - ROUND #2 Friday 2oth September. 9.00pm.
Pasifika Female Filmmaker Dianna Fuemana, wrote and directed Sunday Funday a deeply powerful exploration of motherhood and gender. Set in Auckland, New Zealand, the film is a story about a young transgender woman’s fight for acceptance from her family and society, and a solo mother’s unconditional love. The film is as much about one trans teen’s experience as it is about the sacrifices her mother has to make in order for her teenager to live their truth.
Sunday Funday - Screening at Down Under Berlin 2018, within BATTLE OF THE SHORTS: AUS VS NZ ROUND #1 - Friday 21st September. 8.30pm.
All these films, so different in tone and style, celebrate and discuss the challenges, the joys, and the diversity of the LGBTQI experience – bringing home the message that the landscapes of Down Under are as beautiful as they are varied.
Georgina Titheridge is a writer based in Berlin. Born in Christchurch, New Zealand she currently works as a copywriter and writes plays and short stories when she can fit it in.