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Mardi Gras: An Asian dimension

Dan Edwards

Butterfly Butterfly
For those looking for a cool, dark room to escape the in-your-face Mardi Gras street festivities this year, the 2005 Mardi Gras Film Festival provides the perfect solution. Opening night will see the works of 9 Australian filmmakers screened in the sumptuous State Theatre in the My Queer Career program of locally produced queer-themed shorts. Highlights include Oranges (director Kristian Pithie), focusing on 2 school boys coming to terms with their nascent feelings for each other, and Moustache (director Vicki Sugars), an absurdist tale about the unexpected effect of over-active female facial hair on a flagging marriage. Oranges screened at Germany’s Oberhausen Short Film Festival last year while Moustache appeared at the illustrious Venice International Film Festival.

Queer Screen has always sourced a wide selection of gay and lesbian features from around the world for the festival, but this year has a particular Asian focus. From Japan comes Queer Boys and Girls on the Bullet Train, an omnibus of 10 five minute films by different directors, running the stylistic gamut from sex dramas to anime. Queer Boys and Girls will screen with 2 gay-themed shorts from India: Barefeet (director Sonali) and Calcutta Pride March (director Tejal Shah).

From Hong Kong comes Butterfly, directed by up-and-coming talent Yan Yan Mak. A 30 year old woman’s chance encounter with a young singer triggers memories of a rocky relationship while at university during the turbulent period leading up to the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Man skillfully flits between past and present to forge a poignant tale of personal loss that is also a mourning for the youthful idealism that characterised China’s pro-democracy movement of the period. The colour-saturated visual style and fragmented narrative is strongly reminiscent of Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai.

The festival also features 2 programs of Asian-related shorts, providing audiences with an interesting point of comparison with the Australian works of My Queer Career. They are Gaysia, a collection of films by Asian directors from around the world, and Hong Kong Lesbian Shorts. The latter will be introduced by one of the directors of Hong Kong’s Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Several documentaries are included in this year’s schedule, including Wash Westmoreland’s Gay Republicans. One million voters identifying as gay or lesbian voted for George Bush in the 2000 Presidential election; this film asks why these voters support a party and president seemingly at odds with their own interests.

The festival’s closing night film is A Dirty Shame, the first work in 4 years from the legendary John Waters. With plenty of full-frontal nudity and crooner Chris Isaak in the lead role, A Dirty Shame promises to provide a happily trashy conclusion to some serious and culturally diverse proceedings.

2005 Mardi Gras Film Festival, curators David Pearce, Megan Carrigy; State Theatre, Palace Academy Twin, Valhalla Cinemas; Sydney; Feb 17-March 3;

RealTime issue #65 Feb-March 2005 pg. 25

© Dan Edwards; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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