Mardi Gras Film Festival: The Rugby Player

(6.45pm, Monday 17 February 2014, Event Cinemas, George Street)

Thank you, Andrew [Purchas, MC]. Hello, everyone.

Welcome to the Mardi Gras Film Festival. And welcome to this amazing film, which has already moved and inspired audiences around the world.

It tells the story of Mark Bingham who as a very young man decided to take control of his own life and live, openly and proudly, as a gay man.

It's the story, too, of his mother, and his friendships, and of his death with the other passengers on the hijacked United Airlines flight 93 in 2001.

Mark is thought to have been one of those passengers who stormed the cockpit in an effort to stop the plane hitting its intended target in Washington. They averted that catastrophe, but at the loss of their own lives when the plane crashed in a field outside the capital.

Before his death, Mark had been a keen footballer and helped found the gay rugby movement, successfully challenging some of the many stereotypes surrounding gay people.

His work eventually led here to the creation of the Sydney Convicts, today the most successful gay rugby team in the world. I hope you're all here this evening!

The film draws on Mark's own video archive - he was a keen chronicler during the last 15 years of his life - and it features his mother and friends, who continue Mark's work to promote the rights of gay people.

It is an important legacy, and a powerful film that will resonate here as we continue to fight for rights such as the right to marriage for gay people.

The City of Sydney is proud to support the Mardi Gras Film Festival and the Bingham Cup, named to honour this courageous gay man.