Udo Kier dancing in a nightclub in a still from 'Swan Song' (2021) Icon
Swan Song (2021) Icon
Stories & Ideas

Mon 15 Nov 2021

A guide to the Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF) 2021

Film First Nations Representation Short film
Dilan Gunawardana - Stories & Ideas
Dilan Gunawardana

Digital Editor, ACMI

MQFF triumphantly struts back into our cinemas this year with a wide spectrum of LGBTI+ stories from around the world. Here are some of our picks.

Be transported

We’re all itching to travel to far-flung destinations, and with MQFF’s lineup you can explore queer stories from all corners of the world and across time.

In Ming Lang Chen’s sharply edited, cinéma verité-style drama The Teacher (2019), set in Taiwan during the marriage equality campaign in 2019, the private and professional life of a young teacher collide in a society that has some way to go with LGBTI+ acceptance. In Sean Horlor's and Steve J. Adams' documentary Someone Like Me (2021), a gay asylum seeker from Uganda lands in Canada to begin a new life. As the spectre of COVID-19 looms, he faces new challenges in his quest for freedom and love.

Learn more

Moffie (2019), Great Freedom (2021) and Firebird (2021) each take place in the brutal, repressive worlds of the South African, German and Russian armies, respectively, of past decades. In Moffie, Oliver Hermanus’ unflinching story of forbidden desire, a young recruit forms a connection with a fellow solider – a dangerous proposition in Apartheid-era South Africa, where such relationships were illegal. A similar danger was present in the Soviet era (and still exists in Russia today), the backdrop of Peeter Rebane’s Firebird, based on the memoir of the late Sergey Fetisov. When a dashing fighter pilot arrives at an air force base in Estonia, an incendiary love triangle forms between him, a young soldier and the base’s female secretary, Luisa. Driven by Franz Rogowski’s (Undine, Transit) outstanding lead performance, Great Freedom depicts the experiences of a gay man in postwar Germany, repeatedly imprisoned due to Paragraph 175 (the horrors of which still endured long after the Nazis were gone), and the romance that unfolds between him and his cellmate.

Learn more

Todd Stephens’ love letter to gay culture in the U.S.A, Swan Song (2021), stars legendary actor Udo Kier in a career best performance as a retired hairdresser on a quest to rekindle his spark. It also stars the glorious Jennifer Coolidge (enough said!). Travelling further south on the American continent we arrive at the visually resplendent Finlandia (2021), directed by Horacio Alcalá; a tender and vibrant story that shines a light on the lives of the ‘Muxes’, a group of transgender and non-binary people living and working on the outskirts of Oaxaca, Mexico. Make sure to check out Gender Euphoria Shorts, a program that celebrates trans life and love in all its dreamy, affirming manifestations.

Learn more

To complete your global trip, explore First Nations stories from the Pacific Islands, Hawaii and Brazil in the Queer First Nations Shorts program, and land back home with the Australian Shorts & Awards.

Learn more

Navigate queer love

Sometimes all you need is a good ol’ fashioned love story… but in the world of queer romance are things ever really so simple? Featuring electrifying chemistry between its two female leads, the joyful and warm Anaïs In Love (2021) follows the exploits of a broke thirty-something as she falls head over heels for her older lover’s wife. Carrying on the theme of female love, Canadian film Querencia (2021) centres on an Indigenous woman’s pursuit of love and self-identity in a big city. Don’t miss this year’s Girl on Girl short film program.

Learn more

Dive into Gitta Gsell’s empathetic and sensual drama Beyto (2020), a young Turkish-Swiss man is pressured into marrying a girl from his home village, despite falling in love with his handsome swim coach. And, hey, if statuesque men in various states of undress are your thing, then check out the hilarious Mascarpone (2021), a light-hearted Italian romp about one man’s road to emotional recovery, post-breakup. Don’t miss the ever popular and eclectic Hooking Up Shorts program celebrating male intimacy.

Learn more


Immerse yourself in the stories of the fearless and bold people who improved the lives of persecuted LGBTI+ people around the world and paved the way for growing acceptance.

The lines between Sunset Boulevard’s Norma Desmond and Gloria Swanson blur in Boulevard! A Hollywood Story (2021), chronicling the gay icon’s ill-fated attempts to produce a musical adaptation of Billy Wilder’s 1950 film classic. From old Hollywood glamour to the… not so glamourous, but nonetheless vital, Raw! Uncut! Video! (2021) documents the rise of the same-sex fetish porn production company Palm Drive Video, which was founded by two 'leather boys' at the height of the HIV and AIDS crisis in 1980s L.A. as an attempt to provide a safe sexual outlet in perilous times.

Learn more

The struggles of the tireless and brave German-Turkish human rights activist Seyran Ateş are documented in Seyran Ateş: Sex, Revolution and Islam (2021), which sensitively handles the thorny subject matter of Islamic extremism by delving into its real-life consequences. Speaking of being bloody fearless, the late artist David Wojnarowicz weaponised his work to combat the U.S. government’s neglect of people suffering during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Wojnarowicz: F*ck You F*ggot F*cker (2021) pieces together intimate recollections and archival footage to produce a fiery portrait of the provocative East Village artist.

To cap off your 2021 MQFF experience, raise your lighters in the air for Fanny: The Right to Rock (2021) which sees the members of pioneering all-female band Fanny reunite after 45 years apart. Critically lauded yet criminally underappreciated, Fanny broke the barriers of race, sexuality and gender in the early 1970s and are now combating ageism in a hostile, shallow music industry. A must watch for music lovers.

Learn more

View all the MQFF films showing at ACMI. Tickets on sale now.