By Charlie David Page & Brent Davidson
6th December 2018

After its huge success as the closing night film of this year's Melbourne International Film Festival, ‘The Coming Back Out Ball Movie’ hits Australian cinemas for a theatrical release. The film's director, Sue Thomson, spoke to SWITCH about the importance of the film and how it came to be.

"The reception for this film has been extraordinary," Sue explains. "To be selected as the Closing Night film at MIFF 2018 elevated the film in ways we could not have imagined and an incredibly diverse audience of nearly a thousand people cried, laughed and cheered as the credits rolled. People were eager to speak to our cast, acknowledge them, celebrate them and say thank you to them. For reflecting stories that they recognised, but also stories and experiences that some were completely unaware of. People are ready for this film."

Sue believes the film is not just important for the LGBTIQ+ community, but its elder members too. "The film is breaking down stereotypes, it is portraying older people as active, sexual, opinionated and complex who have a lot to contribute to society," she says. "It is showing us that the LGBTIQ+ is a group of diverse communities not a singular community and that everyone is an individual no matter what their sexual or gender identity is - every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. The film makes us all see the world and the people in it, a little differently."


The film has a lot of characters at its centre, and the filmmakers took a long time selecting the perfect subjects. "Performance Artist Tristan Meecham spent over a year finding older members of LGBTIQ+ communities through friends, colleagues and organisations that work in the sector and he began to build his own community, a team of people to work together on the project," Sue reveals. "I started to bring my camera out at these early community consultations and it was at these events that I began to hear the stories that would end up shaping the narrative of the film. The process of casting the film was a complicated and drawn out process. I wanted to give as many people as possible a voice in the film, but I was drawn to a breadth of stories and with incredible stories who could articulate them on camera. In the end, eleven people including Tristan, feature in the film and we are enormously proud of introducing you to these amazing humans."

Captured in the tenuous and stressful times ahead of Australia's vote on same sex marriage, Sue believes 'The Coming Back Out Ball' is a vital message for the country's future. "The same sex plebiscite certainly was a timely issue for the film and many of the participants and it gave the project a contemporary angle," says Sue. "The same sex debate gave us the opportunity to contrast the protest marches of the 60s and 70s with societal norms and more of today. A lot of our younger audiences are shocked when they see that footage. Some of them didn’t understand the trauma associated with being out 40, 50, 60 years ago when it was illegal and people were closeted. However, none of this is new to our cast. These are people who have deeply examined, struggled with and mostly triumphed over these questions for many years. For some of them, it was a minor issue, for others it was evidence that Australia was coming of age, and for others it was an unpleasant reminder of their status in society. It was a controversial issue, an affront to their identities, an outrage that a government would actually invite Australians to vote no and deny basic human rights."

"The film is breaking down stereotypes, it is portraying older people as active, sexual, opinionated and complex who have a lot to contribute to society."

As important as it has been getting the stories of the subjects out, it's also been important to them. "A number of the cast say that the film has changed them," Sue reveals. "Michelle McNamara says that watching herself and hearing her story over and over again has helped validate her identity as a transgender woman and she believes the film has helped cement her relationship with her wife, Barb. Seeing themselves on screen, seeing their love for each other captured helped to reignite their feelings in ways that the stresses of the transitioning had eroded. Overall, the cast are delighted and very proud of the film and their involvement. Most of them feel that by being in it they are helping affect change, by having their stories told and re told, by helping shift attitudes they are working at making society more inclusive and respectful."

Click here to read our four-star theatrical review of ‘The Coming Back Out Ball Movie’.

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