The Pass: Queer Screen’s 24th Mardi Gras Film Festival

THE PASS is a tough watch yet a terrific choice for the Queer Screen’s 24th Mardi Gras Film Festival.

“Our guiding vision for this year to tell as many queer stories as possible through the most diverse range of characters, stories and genres yet” says Festival Director Paul Struthers as he announced the 10 ‘teaser’ films this week. And if these ten are any indication it will be an exciting season. The Festival will allow Sydney audiences to see, not only the most impressive films from the LGBTIQ film circuit, but many award-winners from Berlin, Toronto and other A-list film festivals.

One of the most exciting of these is THE PASS.

The film is taken from the 2014 stage play of the same name by John Donnelly. Though not a household name , Donnelly has a solid reputation, with his play THE KNOWLEDGE being Time Out London’s best play of 2011 and a background running the theatre and film writing MA at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. THE PASS played at the prestigious Royal Court Theatre and 2 of the cast reprise their roles in this film with Donnelly writing the film adaptation. Add in up and coming young director Ben A Willams and the opening crediting the film as Duncan Kenworthy Production. (Four Weddings and a Funeral/Notting Hill) and the film has quite a pedigree and it shows in every frame.

Set in three hotel rooms, five years apart the story opens in a Romanian twin single where two 17 year old English soccer players share a room. They are also sharing their ideas about today’s practice game and tomorrow’s big game where they will try and make a reputation for themselves. It will all come down to whether they will pass the leather to each other or strike out on their own. There’s an excess of sharing involving racism, class issues, religious intolerance, intellectual elitism. All of this conflict free until the pass raises its ugly head and truths are told and competition amps up the aggression. There is also a sexual pass which will reverberate through the next ten years of the film.

The two footballers are Russell Tovey as Jason and Arinzé Kene as Ade. Both men are well known actors. Tovey, who played the same part on stage, for the Doctor Who Christmas specials, 3 seasons as a werewolf in Being Human, the gay series Looking and now in the TV show Quantico. Kene has been in Eastenders, the wonderful Our Girl and this year in the Harry Potter Prequel: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. And what fantastic performances from these two men.

Tovey is blistering as the kinetic young man; the successful, paparazzi- ridden football star then the addled, injured, desperate has-been of the last act. Kene is just as exciting to watch as the driven, desperate-to-be, young man and the mature, settled and thoughtful adult of the final act. Sexual or athletic it is the pass of the first act that drives these men but it is not specifically a men’s film.

Admittedly these characters are beautifully shot with an homoerotic eye and they spend much of the film in their underwear or topless at least but the story, the claustrophobia and the raw emotion are what pulls the audience into the film.

There is a mystery element as well. If you are female I do suggest taking a male friend though because there are questions to be asked. Is this really how adolescent boys really behave in semi private? Where does the physical rend the emotional from the soul ? And is there redemption in the very public sculpture of one’s body?

THE PASS is a gripping, intense and thought provoking film which, by exploring one example of friendship and attraction contrasts internalised homophobia with the possibilities of acceptance. And another suggestion: take tissues. The climax is riveting, riven and very emotional.

The full Queer Screen’s 24th Mardi Gras Film Festival program will be launched on 11 January, 2017.

Tickets for the first 10 films are on sale now including flexi passes to 5 or 10 films. Queer Screen members receive discounted tickets and priority entry to movies. To become a member or to book tickets visit to book or call (02) 9280 1533.

For more about The Pass, visit