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13 February 2023  •  Arts & Lifestyle

Watchlist: 2023 Mardi Gras Film Festival

By Claire Matthews
Watchlist: 2023 Mardi Gras Film Festival

The 21st century has been a significant turning point in regards to positive representations of LGBTQ+ lives, as queer characters and relationships have surged into sight on international film circuits and mainstream media. 

Even earlier, annual lesbian and gay film festivals have been held in Sydney since 1978, often run by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. By 1993, an independent organisation dedicated to bringing queer films to Sydney was founded, fronted by queer Sydney filmmakers and students. Queer Screen was born as a community centred and owned non-for-profit organisation. Thirty years on, it is still a beacon of joy and entertainment for queer audiences and a platform for new LGBTQ+ talent.

This year, the festival is showcasing an exciting line-up of films, ranging from international award-winning blockbusters to local indie shorts. There will be 166 films screening in various cinemas across Sydney as well as an on-demand option, allowing you to watch alone or host screening parties with friends from the comfort of your own home. Starting on the 15th of February and running until the 2nd of March, the festival includes live panel discussions, industry networking events, workshops, and after-parties for the opening and closing night. 

If you’re horrible at decision making or feel overwhelmed by the massive list of films available, here's a short and sweet compilation of eight films that you should keep an eye out for (in no particular order). As a quick disclaimer, this is entirely personal opinion – be sure to check out the Mardi Gras Film Festival website for the many other picks available and the applicable content warnings. 

Mars One (2022) 

A chaotic, tender Brazilian coming-of-age film set after the election of far-right President Bolsonaro in 2018. Mars One follows the story of a working class Black family and the intertwining of their respective dreams and challenges. A little predictable, but extremely touching – if you can’t catch this one in cinemas, it’s currently streaming on Netflix.  

Tár (2022) 

Cate Blanchett playing a lesbian. Tempted to leave it at that, but if you need more convincing, this film explores the rapid fall from grace of the egotistical genius conductor, Lydia Tár, through an exposé on the classical music world. 

Uýra: The Rising Forest (2022) 

What does queerness have to do with ecology? This meditative and inspiring documentary follows the life of Indigenous non-binary/trans artist Uýra and their life as a performer, dancer, poet and creator. Just over an hour long, it showcases the beauty of the Amazon rainforest through performance art, leaving a message about identity and environmental protection. 

Joyland (2022) 

This Cannes award-winning Pakistani arthouse film is simply heartbreaking. A revolutionary drama that follows the romance between a trans woman and a married man, highlighting repression, desire and patriarchy in Pakistan.

In Her Words: 20th Century Lesbian Fiction (2022) 

Granted, this documentary is extremely niche, but the session features a Q&A with the filmmakers that is sure to please any English major. Travel through the history of lesbian fiction and discover (or revisit!) pioneering female authors and the texts they created. 

Pride (2014) 

Heartwarming, sweet and inspiring – if you haven’t already seen Pride, now is the time to watch it for free at the special screening on the UTS alumni green. The film traces the historical activism and protests of LGBTQ+ activists from London who lend support to striking coal miners in Wales in the 1980s. 

BLACK AS U R (2022) 

Set during the Black Lives Matter movement, this insightful and moving documentary examines the intersection of race and queerness, and questions the treatment of queer Black victims in the U.S Black community. 

Beautiful Thing (1996) 

A sweet 90s classic by the gays, for the gays. Traces the lives of three teenage boys as they edge towards adulthood during a hot summer in Southeast London. Watch it for free at the UTS alumni green! 

If you want something different, the short film program features a selection of the best short films from various categories including: 

  • Lesbian Shorts

  • Gay Shorts 

  • Bi+ Shorts 

  • Trans and Gender Diverse Shorts 

  • Women Loving Women Shorts 

  • Youth Shorts 

  • Asia-Pacific Queer Film Festival

  • Queer Scream Shorts (Horror) 

There is also a Queer Screen Trivia Night, complete with drag queens, located at The Bearded Tit on the 21st of February if you’re looking to test your knowledge of obscure queer films.

Very excitingly, UTS will be hosting four outdoor cinema sessions on the alumni green for free (or a $10 donation). ‘Queer Screen on the Green’ will include Raya and the Last Dragon (2021); Pride (2014); Saving Face (2004) and Beautiful Thing (1996).  

The Mardi Gras Film Festival runs from Wednesday, 15th of February to Thursday 2nd of March. For more information check out


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