BY CHRISTOPHER HARRIS
Cinema goers in Newtown are expected to flock to see Gayby Baby over the weekend as Dendy Newtown released discounted tickets for students.
The film sparked controversy late last week after the state government introduced a statewide ban on the film being shown in schools.
Last Thursday, The Daily Telegraph’s front page headline “GAY CLASS UPROAR” with the caption “Parents outrage as school swaps lessons for PC movie session,” sparked an uproar of its own.
Speaking to City Hub, the film’s director Maya Newell said that it had been a tumultuous time.
“I think it is a bit of double-edged sword because last week was really hard for kids growing up in our families, and for the kids in our families and for the kids in our film. They’re pretty thick skinned but it’s never nice to be told that you’re not normal and have images taken out of context and planted on the front cover of a newspaper. So we were just making sure everyone was okay last week,” Ms Newel said.
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli and Premier Mike Baird banned the screening of the documentary at Burwood Girls High School and every other school in the state, telling principals that screening of the film should not impact on planned lessons.
But as so often happens, the imposed ban may make it more popular than ever.
Ms Newell said the film intended to provide a voice for children of same sex relationships.
“I am really glad that we’ve made the film to give an opportunity for children in our families to speak up, even though our parents can’t marry, even though they’ve been raising children for generations,” Ms Newell said.
“I was raised by two lesbian mums, and I was born in the 80s, so of course it is a topic which is close to home.”
Ms Newell told City Hub that it was absurd that this had become a debate about what was ‘appropriate content’ for the national curriculum.
Greens Newtown MP Jenny Leong told City Hub that politicians should be taking the lead from students who showed such leadership during the controversy.
Ms Leong, who saw the film at its premier at the Sydney Film Festival, said she was honoured to be able to introduce it to her parliamentary collegues where members from both sides were able to enjoy the film.
“One of the big concerns I had around NSW Education Minister’s response to the Daily Telegraph’s scandalous headline was the impact it had on young people living in same sex families, and on young people who are questioning where they might stand as part of the LGBTQI community,” Ms Leong said.
“We know that discrimination against LGBTQI community has a huge negative impact on young people. We were really concerned that the response to the Gayby Baby controversy could mean that this would worsen,” she said.
Ms Newell, who now lives in Newtown, was pleased that Dendy Newtown was able to offer discount tickets to students who may have otherwise missed out on seeing the film at school.
Publicist at Dendy Newtown, Chris Donelly, said that offering the film at a cheaper price was a good option for the local student community.
“We’ve got quite a few titles, and it was one that sat alongside the varied content in Newtown,” Mr Donelly said.
“The producers have been a pleasure to work with, and I think that hopefully that the film does get seen more broadly.”
Ms Newell said despite the fracas that had occurred, Gayby Baby was a highly entertaining story which had otherwise been missing from cinema.
“It’s really funny, and really interesting, as well as something that has the national eye upon it, because of our political climate,” Ms Newell said.
Ms Newell said she created the film to “celebrate” the emerging generation of children with same sex parents.
“When I was growing up I didn’t know many other kids with same sex parents and I thought it would be really wonderful to be one of this new generation of kids and have a film that reveals your family structure and reflects and celebrates it,” she said.
“We wanted to make the film because our stories are not out there, and I think there is a certain level of validation achieved and felt when you see your family on the big screen.”
She said she was completely shocked and overwhelmed by the range of leaders, politicians and celebrities who stood up last week and said the film was “completely outrageous”.
“I think even though it has been a hard week, sometimes you have to go to that dark place to get a change in the air, and I think this week we’re all beginning to feel the love, and hopefully in the long run it does make our schools safer and more inclusive spaces for everyone, no matter what background you’re from.”
“Successive governments have been a part of creating this mess – it’s time for them to step up and help resolve it.”