The film begins with what we share in common. Black and white images of faces in closeup. Old faces, slightly concerned faces, been-there faces. When the colour hits the screen, after a brief explanation, we know we are not in Kansas anymore. This is THE COMING BACK OUT BALL MOVIE, an observational feature documentary about a vibrant and celebratory ball held for, and to honour, older LGBTI+ people. Robyn Archer is speaking from the dais before singing with the 30 piece orchestra… but I am getting ahead of myself.
This film now takes us back 15 months from this colourful showstopper of survival to when the project was first mooted by Melbourne based All the Queen’s Men, creators of theatrical and participatory art experiences. We meet Tristan Meecham who is the Artistic Director and who is on a mission to honour Queer elders. His is the process voice, along with ally and joint AD Bec Reid, as we meet nine characters of community whose unflagging honesty will take them by roads less travelled to the Gala event.
Through much of the 85 minutes of this film audiences will hear first-hand about the lives of the nine and their response to the project. Some are feisty and liable to rant, some are isolated and afraid of a new coming out in a suburban environment. We meet people who have always been out, others who stayed inside traditional norms as a respectful choice to others, only to emerge late in life.
The film gives an insight into how the project connected with these LGBTI+ Elders, including a preparatory monthly Dance Club and some serious sashaying to Latin live. There’s resistance shown by some of the cast … around the type of music and various other aspects of individual taste. This is a diverse community after all. The ball, which happened to occur towards the end of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, is captured with pride of achievement. And the celebrity spotting is enormous fun.
Shot and co-written (with Roger Monk) by respected filmmaker Sue Thomson, (co- produced with Adam Farrington-Williams) the film gives voice to many issues which have faced LGBTI+ people and, unfortunately, continue to do so despite considerable progress. This film being one of those giant high-heeled steps forward.
The film is technically excellent with a seven camera shoot on the night, very well captured vision and audio and a thoroughly enjoyable soundtrack, pumped to poignant. The historic footage makes the point violently in places, without being overdone, but it is the nine’s own expression of their lives, edited with brilliant compassion by Uri Mizrahi, that contemporises the film. Nursing home issues, social isolation, living with HIV, guilt rooted in religion, active sex lives and so on are laid bare and honestly shared by them.
By the time we return to black and white at the end of the film we have loved having time with these men and women. There are tears for sure and words like ‘Pride’ strike home but THE COMING BACK OUT BALL MOVIE is deeply humanist and joyous. As a celebration of gender diversity, sexuality and identity this film cannot be bettered. Nor is it a niche production. As the faces fade under the final credits it is evident that their lives have paved the way for the acceptance many of us enjoy and that LGBTI+ elders are “significant and vital members of our society”.
THE COMING BACK OUT BALL MOVIE, which was the closing night film and won the Audience Award at Melbourne International Film Festival 2018 screens in select cinemas from December 6, 2018. For more information see the official website and All the Queen’s Men website. You can view the trailer here and catch up with the film on social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
With thanks to The Backlot Films , Sydney Arts Guide has ten in-season double pass giveaways to THE COMING BACK OUT BALL MOVIE. To be in the running, email (email@example.com) with COMING BACK OUT as the subject and your full name AND your mailing address. Competition closes Midnight on Monday December 3, 2018 when the winner will be drawn. Only the winners will be notified and passes will be emailed by the promoter.