Mardi Gras Film Festival

(7.40pm, Event Cinemas, George Street)

Hello, Everyone.

Welcome to the Mardi Gras Film Festival - in the heart of the city for the second year.

Everyone knows that the annual GLBTI film festival is an integral part of Mardi Gras. Not everyone knows that Sydney's first gay film festival helped start Mardi Gras.

That festival was held in May 1978 at the old Paris Cinema in Liverpool Street, long replaced by the Connaught. One of the films featured images of the San Fransciso Gay Pride March, including shots of a man dressed wearing elaborate wings. He carried a placard which read, "In a world full of caterpillars it takes balls to be a butterfly".

Ron Austin was in the audience and he was particularly taken with this image. It inspired him to think about a different, more fun filled approached to protest and activism. A few weeks later he suggested holding a street party, with people in colourful costumes, similar to those in the film. Someone said "You mean like a Mardi Gras" … and the rest is history.

Tonight's film presents an earlier period in your community's history - when gay men took enormous risks to love, and to talk, write and publish about being gay.

It reminds us how far we have come, and encourages us to believe that the remaining barriers to full equality will be removed - perhaps even in spite of the objections of our increasingly temporary prime minister.

It should also encourage us to reflect that lesbians and gay men in many countries do not share the same freedoms, that life for gay men and lesbians can be very different in other parts of the world.

The Mardi Gras Film Festival plays an important role in reminding us of this, and bringing us stories that we might otherwise miss. And, through competitions like My Queer Career, it provides an opportunity for Australian gay and lesbian filmmakers to tell their stories.

I wish you every success with the Mardi Gras Film Festival which is opening tonight with a great film - 'The Circle'. Unfortunately I won't be able to see it, I have something else I have to go to, but I hope to see you at the 6th proud raising of the rainbow flag over Town Hall tomorrow night or at Fair Day on Sunday.

Have a great night everyone - Happy Mardi Gras!