While London’s Lesbian & Gay Film Festival is proceeding at full speed, here’s a brief q&a (via e-mail) with Lisa Daniel, the director of another gay film festival elsewhere in the world, the Melbourne Queer Film Festival (website).
First held in 1991, the Melbourne Queer Film Festival is reportedly one of the longest-running of its kind.
Its 18th edition, which took place several weeks ago, created quite a bit of a stir when a scheduled screening of The Erotic Films of Peter De Rome had to be canceled because of governmental censorship.
In the Q&A, Daniel talks a little bit about the festival’s history and the Peter De Rome controversy.
I recall reading that the Melbourne Queer Film Festival is one of the longest-running gay & lesbian festivals in the world. Is that true? How has the festival changed since its inception?
The MQFF is indeed up there as one of the oldest queer film festivals in the world – certainly [among] the top-10 oldest. The festival is a much more professionally run organization than it was several years ago, and the availability of excellent queer cinema and a venue like the Australian Centre for the Moving Image hasn’t hurt either.
Were there any outstanding successes at this year’s festival?
Certainly films such as Shelter [winner of the Audience Award], The Chinese Botanist’s Daughters [above], and the closing night film XXY were both critical and audience stand outs.
I’m aware that Australia’s Office of Film and Literature Classification refused to allow the festival to proceed with the special presentation of The Erotic Films of Peter De Rome. Why did that happen? Is there no recourse against the Office’s injunctions? And has the festival suffered much censorship in the past?
The festival has been lucky not to have encountered much censorship in the past decade or so. The Peter De Rome films were rejected by the Censor as they had been rejected in the past – the 1970s apparently. It’s a little frustrating that the censor won’t allow adults to make up their own minds (particularly as the session info contained a warning regarding content), and that a decision that was handed down over 30 years ago can still stand today. There is an appeals process, but it’s a long one.
Do gay-themed films fare well with Australian arthouse audiences – or are they usually relegated to the festival circuit?
Still mostly relegated to the festival circuit, which is unbelievable as there have been so many marketable and high-quality films in recent times.
This year’s festival is over. Do you already have any particular plans for next year?
We’re always planning for the nest festival, so right now we’re looking at what worked and what didn’t and mulling over ways to improve the running and programming of the festival.