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10 AUSTRALIAN LGBTQI STORIES

It’s gripped audiences at film festivals in Melbourne and Toronto as well as the Mardi Gras Queer Film Festival and now Downriver is set for local release.

Written and directed by Grant Scicluna in his feature film debut, it marks the conclusion of a 10-year journey for him and producer Jannine Barnes (that you can read about on Screen Intel here).

Starring Reef Ireland, it follows the story of 18-year-old James, who’s released from prison after serving time for drowning a boy years earlier. A visit from the victim’s mother causes James to venture out on a mission to uncover the truth about what happened to the boy’s body, which was never found.

Downriver is out now in Victoria, with the rest of Australian soon to follow.

To celebrate, we’re taking a look at just some Australian productions that feature prominent LGBTQI characters and stories.

1. GAYBY BABY

A documentary directed by Maya Newell and produced by Charlotte Mars, Gayby Baby looks at what it’s like to grow up in a family with same-sex parents, from the point of view of four different Australian kids – Gus, Ebony, Matt and Graham. Gayby Baby had more than 30 TUGG screenings across the country, encouraging positive discussion around diversity and the meaning of family and also screened at Hot Docs, a prestigious international documentary film festival in Toronto.

2. STARTING FROM… NOW

An award-winning drama created by Julie Kalceff, this popular online series follows the lives of four lesbians living in Sydney. With an ever-growing fanbase, Starting From Now pulled in 20 million views in less than two years for Seasons 1-3 on YouTube. From there, Kalceff and producer/actor Rosie Lourde were able to secure funding from Screen Australia and Screen NSW for Seasons 4 and 5, which were picked up by SBS for broadcast in March.

3. HOLDING THE MAN

Based on the 1995 memoir by Timothy Conigrave that also became a successful stage play, this adaptation by Neil Armfield follows the heart-warming (and heart-breaking) 15-year long love affair between Tim (played by Ryan Corr) and his high-school love John Caleo (Craig Stott). An aspiring actor, Tim fell for John, the captain of the football team, while they were at school together in the 1970s and over the years their relationship bloomed and struggled against prejudice and adversity as the AIDS crisis came to the forefront of people’s consciousness.

4. PLEASE LIKE ME

This semi-autobiographical series has won the admiration of GLAAD in the US (and Lena Dunham!) for its depiction of both LGBTQI and mental health, is the brainchild of Australian comic Josh Thomas. The show follows Josh and his best friends/ housemates Tom and Claire through the trials and tribulations of their mid-20s in suburban Australia, with an abundance of dry wit and charm.

5. BLACK COMEDY

The laughs fly thick and fast in ABC TV’s all-Indigenous sketch comedy show, where the cast aren’t afraid to push the boundaries. It’s the same series where actor/dancer/writer Steven Oliver coined the catchphrase “What’s this then…?” and “Can’t even…?” with co-star Aaron Fa’aoso as the hilariously flamboyant Tiddas, who celebrate a milestone in series 2.

6. THE HORIZON

Credited as the “most watched gay web-series in the world” with over 43 million views across six seasons, it follows the lives and loves of a group of gay and alternative characters living in Sydney in the post-AIDS crisis era. Created by Adam Jones and Boaz Stark, it recently started an Indiegogo campaign to fund seasons 7 and 8.

7. 52 TUESDAYS

There’s much that makes 52 Tuesdays unique, but one aspect is its title. It’s not kidding. The movie was created by, as its name suggest, being filmed over the course of year, with shooting taking place once a week, every week, on Tuesday’s, when the character of 16-year-old Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) is allowed to spend time with her mother who is undergoing a gender transition. The directorial debut from Sophie Hyde, it won multiple awards at film festivals around the globe in 2014, including the Crystal Bear at Berlinale and Best Director for World Cinema Dramatic at Sundance Film Festival.

8. PETER ALLEN: NOT THE BOY NEXT DOOR

Joel Jackson (Deadline Gallipoli) stars as iconic Australian performer Peter Allen in this Channel Seven biopic by the same creators of INXS: Never Tear Us Apart and Catching Milat. It follows the Oscar and Grammy Award-winner from his humble beginnings in country NSW to conquering the world stage. Also starring Sigrid Thornton as Judy Garland and Sara West as Liza Minnelli, it was the most awarded television production at the 5th AACTA Awards, winning seven gongs.

9. TEENAGE KICKS

Having just made its world premiere at Sydney Film Festival, Craig Boreham’s feature film debut is already garnering positive reviews. It follows 17-year-old Miklós (Miles Szanto), whose plans to run away with his best friend are dashed by the sudden accidental death of his older brother. Ridden with guilt for his part in the events that led to this tragedy and still coming to terms with his sexuality, Miklós struggles to find out the kind of man he can become.

10. THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT

One of the most recognisable Australian films of all time, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terrence Stamp star as three friends – two drag-queens and a transwoman – who take their faaabulous, glitzy show on the road… to Alice Springs in fact. Priscilla is the movie that coined such marvellous phrases as “a c-ck in a frock on a rock”, as well as being credited for opening the gates to more mainstream, positive representations of LGBTQI people onscreen. A box office hit earning nearly $15 million locally in 1994, Priscilla has since become a successful musical as well.