There’s something to be said for handmade films curated in Newtown’s backyard. And that is probably that they should be viewed running from someone’s laptop on a makeshift projector against a white sheet in the Courtyard Hotel. It was we, the audience that had the wrong address during Queer Night, part of the Sydney Fringe Film Festival. Newly renovated Dendy Cinemas are fancy, but we should all have been sitting around on beanbags and stools to view the intimate stories of queers in our community.
The first film that took me to that place was actually the third in the program. Layered with photographs to illustrate the coming-out stories of the girls being interviewed, I belly laughed at Fee’s frank declaration, that her “experience with men was like looking at the otters at the zoo…” and felt the warm-fuzzies starting to rise in my stone-cold heart. I felt pride that people like this, with stories such as theirs, added depth and humour to an often-perceived stereotype. Seriously, how is it we’re still having a marriage debate?
Still with the girls (and it stayed this way for the rest of the first half) were a couple of episodes of the locally filmed web series, The Newtown Girls. While the L-Word production was slick (minus the ‘you knows’ and the ‘likes’ in the dialogue), I couldn’t work out if I was just watching Neighbours with an all-lesbian cast and Ramsay St ditched for King. Perhaps an obligatory straight character wouldn’t have gone astray, a butch lesbian, or heaven-forbid… a male. In saying that, maybe we could’ve seen a greater spectrum of episodes instead of the first four – because, like, you know I really wanted to see if Scar and the hot librarian got together!
But the curator must have grinned from ear-to-ear when Slut, the Musical fell into her lap. A satirical and raunchy high-school musical that preaches abstinence, but which education is lost in a flurry of catchy lyrics, tongue-in-cheek comedic timing and a pair of glittering gold boots. Caterpillar-into-butterfly stories resonate with audiences because so much of the suffering and pain we go through in our teens in reality is always retold later on with fabulous costumes and a Broadway soundtrack. I can’t say I’ll ever see any local eisteddfod matching its effervescence. Pity more of the films in the collection didn’t tease and titillate me as much.
The WTF films that rounded out the evening were random pieces of abstract art that left me with a care factor of zero (I’m looking at you Wet… and you Fashionista-can’t-remember-your-title). These are fillers that were less ‘selected’, and probably just included because they had been submitted. Though if I were watching Queer Night at the Courtyard, this would have been when I would’ve gotten up to go take a leak.
Perhaps all these short films have their place on screen, whether in a cinema, pub courtyard or confined to YouTube with queer hashtags. But this is the call of the Sydney Film Fringe – to screen unpolished (and sometimes rubbish) celluloid to a handful of local filmmakers and enthusiasts.