Film

Sydney Film Festival Reviewed

We reviewed some of the most buzzed films at this year's festival, including 'Dope', 'Ruben Guthrie', 'Gayby Baby' and 'Holding The Man'. Many were excellent. Some were not.

The Film That Will Make You Un-Hate Australia:

Gayby Baby, dir. Maya Newell

Reviewed by: Lauren Carroll Harris

With her largely crowd-funded debut film, Sydney’s Maya Newell has shown how intrinsically political documentaries can go beyond the polemical and straight to the heart. Where so many docos feel televisual rather than cinematic — like video versions of something you’d read in the weekend paper — Gayby Baby uses an observational style to go into the minds of four kids whose parents are gay. Opponents of marriage equality often use children to rationalise their prejudiced arguments against social change; Gayby Baby lets the children of queer parents speak for themselves, a storytelling technique that effectively short-circuits the hypocrisy of ‘pro-family values’ right-wingers.

Gayby Baby’s massive achievement is that it cuts through rhetoric by personalising the otherwise distantly political. Twelve-year-old Ebony’s confession says it all: “It’s not normal. You’re not normal. They’re the kinds of things that go through my head.” The film reveals marriage equality not as an issue for gay people, but an issue for everyone, and its denial an affront not just to queers but to anyone who loathes bigotry. Denying their parents the right to marry makes “gayby babies” feel smaller — it delegitimises their families, and their very existence. But beyond the marriage issue, there’s something more universal going on here that we can probably all relate to: a child’s terror at seeing their parents in pain for the first time.

Similar to last year’s Rich Hill, an American doco that dignified the lives of three poor children struggling to get by in the world’s wealthiest country, Gayby Baby is an uncommonly aesthetically lovely documentary, as well as being funny and sweet. Like the lives of its child protagonists, the film is bright and alive with a saturated colour palette, and close-shot to offer a sense of real familial intimacy. Because of this careful attention to cinematic beauty, Gayby is destined to succeed as a social conscience film of this very moment in political time, and as a strong contemporary piece of documentary filmmaking in and of itself.

For fans of: Social justice, artful docos, conversations with children who have massive emotional intelligence quotients

Opening in Australia: TBC

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