There have been lesbian and gay film festivals in Sydney since 1978. Initially these were run by the Australian Film Institute. In 1986, the AFI partnered with what was then theSydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, to present an annual ‘Sydney Gay Film Week’during the Mardi Gras festival. The film festival was taken over by commercial concerns in 1991, but still screened as a highlight of the Mardi Gras season.
In 1993, a group of queer Sydney filmmakers, students and others approached Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras with a view to establishing an independent organisation whose primary focus was queer film and screen culture. This organisation, Queer Screen, had the central aim of reclaiming Sydney’s LGBTIQ film festival as owned and operated by the community. From that time, Mardi Gras was the principal funding body of Queer Screen, initially with a five-year funding agreement, followed by a three-year agreement in 1998. This agreement came to an end with the 2001 Mardi Gras Film Festival.
The Mardi Gras Film Festival has grown considerably since 1993. It is now one of Australia’s largest film festivals of any kind, and one of the top five queer film festivals in the world. It is highly regarded by filmmakers all over the world, and is the most important avenue for promoting gay and lesbian titles to distributors and exhibitors in this territory.
For 10 years, Queer Screen’s documentary festival, queerDOC, was the first and only LGBTIQ documentary festival in the world, and the annual My Queer Career competition pioneered queer short film competitions exclusively for locally produced work.
In recent years, new initiatives have grown to include special events and curated programs right across Australia, making Queer Screen one of only a handful of LGBTIQ film organisations world-over to operate a national slate of events throughout the year.