“Four years ago when Charlotte [Mars] and I started making this film we couldn’t imagine that our country would be debating marriage equality when we released it”
Gayby Baby director Maya Newell addresses a sold-out crowd for a Sydney Film Festival screening of her timely, Australian produced documentary following the lives of four Sydney children who all happen to have gay parents. The film, supported by Screen Australia, was produced following a notably successful crowdfunding campaign and funding through Good Pitch Australia (an initiative whereby documentaries with a social message reach out to big business), which elicited widespread support, Newell noting; “It took a lot of communities to get this off the ground.”
“We started making this film with no money, some people took money out of their pockets and supported us in the early days, it meant so much to us at the time and continues to blow our minds,” said producer Charlotte Mars. “This is our first feature and I guess in this age of funding cuts we really appreciate the role of Screen Australia which we love and respect.”
The film revolves around the personal lives of the children as much as their family’s struggle with both subtle and overt forms of discrimination, including the now highly publicised issue of marriage equality. Jumping between classrooms, school auditions, pro-wrestling and the drawbacks of identifying publicly as LGBTI, the documentary delves into their personal lives, creating a deeply empathetic portrait of regular people who have to be careful how they act in different parts of Sydney.
Part of the film revolves around a dinner one family attend with then Prime Minister Julia Gillard along with a number of other same-sex couples. Not getting bogged down in the politics of the marriage equality debate, the film focuses instead on the individuals and human stories impacted by the current legislative framework, benefiting from its often vocal and engaging subjects, including one child who fronted the cameras outside the Prime Minister’s residence.
Gayby Baby astutely challenges what many would describe traditional conceptions of family, aptly framing the stories of several regular families who have the unenviable task of often concealing or being forced to address their sexuality in public. By fixing the focus on families themselves rather than the realpolitik, Gayby Baby highlights the current challenges facing LGBTI families, serving as an important documentary and milestone achievement.