History Behind the Screen: Archiving Sydney’s Queer Film Festivals

How do you tell the history of something that does not necessarily have a physical presence? How do you tell the history of an organisation that is inherently focused on changing the future of the media landscapes?
These are some of the questions I have been asking myself as I prepare to start work with the Sydney-based organisation, Queer Screen. They’re a relatively small organisation, staffed by only two full-time people, who rely heavily on the assistance of volunteers to see their film festivals take place each year. They aim not only to showcase the diversity of sexuality and gender on screen but also to help new and aspiring film-makers produce projects with a focus on diversity. In doing so, this organisation seeks to bring change to the Australian film landscape through a stronger focus on diversity.
Queer Screen has been at the forefront of creating a queer film culture in Australia and the world: they were behind the creation of the Mardi Gras Film Festival which has become one of the largest queer film festivals in the world; they organised queerDOC, which lasted ten years and was the first and only festival of queer documentaries in the world; and, since 2013, have hosted the annual Queer Screen Film Fest which not only screens films but awards a ten-thousand dollar production funding prize to a new and emerging film-maker each year.
The work I am doing with the organisation involves archiving and presenting the organisation’s early film festivals from 1993 (when the organisation was founded) to 2011. In doing so, the history of the various film festivals the organisation has organised will be presented as well as the history of how the organisation has grown over the years from when it started to the influentual presence it is now in queer cinema.