There were moments in the movie, Riot, where I had to look away. I’m not one for violence in movies, as I often find the violence in films is somewhat gratuitous. Though you wouldn’t say that about this film, which recounts the events of the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 1978. In fact, I was told, the violence (the police bashings) was nowhere near as bad was it actually was.
When asked to respond in a Q&A after the film’s screening, the panel, which included original 78er, Robyn Plaister, as well as some NSW police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers, were all visibly moved. For me, it triggered some memories of having been gay-bashed twenty years ago. I’m fine now, but I can imagine the memories of that first Mardi Gras, and the violence, are still with the people who were there at the time.
What am I talking about? It’s a new film which screens Sunday night on ABC-TV, and which I was fortunate enough to see a preview of, tonight at the ABC in Ultimo.
Rather than merely concentrating on the weeks leading up to the first Mardi Gras, the film starts in 1972, when the gay and lesbian scene in Sydney was very “underground”, and the protests seeking equality, were very small. The film focusses strongly on an a small number of activists in Sydney, giving the view an insight into both their political and personal selves.
I feel privileged to have interviewed some of the people portrayed in the film, including Ron Austin, Lance Gowland and Robyn Plaister, for a Pride Centre oral history project for the twentieth anniversary in 1998. Vividly, I still remember the interviews and editing of the interviews, as if it was yesterday. Awesome people.
Tonight at the ABC we saw the film portraying their lives, and got to mingle with them (Lance has since died), and many other people, including many of the upcoming activists of today. Hopefully, the word of mouth from tonight’s screening will see lots of people tuning in on Sunday, or catching up with it on iview.