The birth of queer cinema in Australia was in 1969 shot by a US director, Frank Brittain, in Sydney. The film, The Set, was the first Australian feature film with homosexuality as a central theme. While progress has been slow to provide a voice for LGBT stories and storytellers, this list will highlight 5 of Australia’s best ever LGBT-orientated films.

1. 52 Tuesdays (2013)

Filmed over the course of a year, every Tuesday, to fit in with the setting of the film, 52 Tuesdays unique style of filmmaking is perfect for intimately depicting the gradual progressions of the gender transition occurring on screen. There is an element of authentic poetry in the structure that director Sophie Hyde chose for this film. This remarkable drama offers a fascinating dual character perspective of the sexual awakening and coming of a teenage girl and the journey of her mother who is transitioning from female to male. The films heart and soul shows the audiences the many selfish, childish, and beautiful ways we can act towards those we love unconditionally.


2. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

What would this list be without Stephan Elliot’s sparkling and flamboyant comedy about a cabaret act driving through the desert with a giant glittered stiletto on top of a shimmering van? More than any other Australian film since Crocodile Dundee in 1986, Priscilla became a global phenomenon and remains one of the funniest drag films to this day one. It’s costumed musical numbers and sharp one-liners is what drags you in, but the films very moving message of acceptance in the face of adversity is what mellows you all the way out.

3. Gayby Baby (2015)

Maya Newell’s sensitive, funny and moving documentary observes the lives of four children who have same-sex parents and explores the every day challenges they face. The film’s strongest moments involve the scenes of tension between the children and the beliefs of the parents. As Newell, herself the daughter of same-sex parents, states: “These kids get it. We just need the rest of the world to catch on”.

4. Head On (1998)

Based on the novel Loaded written by Christos Tsiolkas this film gained its notoriety upon its release for its sexual explicitness of a young 19 year old caught between his Greekness, his Australianess, his gayness and his city of Melbourne. This film is a brilliant and confronting cinema experience.

5. Downriver (2015)

Downriver is a haunting mystery-drama that slowly but surely layers characters and details until we have a better picture – though never complete – of what happened and the consequences of an unresolved crime.  Probably the best thing about this film is the unselfconscious depiction of male desire and distinctive homoeroticism without it being the main focus of the story. Strong production values together with superb performances and an intriguing story make this a great Australian queer film.

Thanks to Screen Australia for the feature image.
By Katerina Paltoglou

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Katerina Paltoglou