Familiar families

gayby babyFilm | Gayby Baby | PG

Review by Emmet O’Cuana

Opening with now very familiar statements from politicians, pundits, and the then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard, opposing gay marriage, this documentary is both timely and oddly dated.

The debate feels to have moved on, given recent events in the Republic of Ireland and the United States, even though in Australia the rhetoric remains the same (promises of a future-plebiscite notwithstanding).

What marks out Maya Newell’s film as a different kind of proposition – a break in this cacophony of talking points – is how it then cuts from politicians using the concept of a family as their own personal soap box to a boy named Gus.

Gus likes wrestling, loves his little sister, is a bit of a brat and a dab hand at pester power. He is obsessed with convincing his mother to let him go to a WWF wrestling show in Australia.

That he has two mothers – and the circumstances of his coming into his world do not follow the approved method laid out in the introductory sequence of family-values campaigners – is something Gus cheerfully dismisses with a shrug. The wrestling is what matters.

Newell concentrates on the ordinary lives of Gus and the other children interviewed, along with their families. This focus makes this a truly remarkable film. Instead of talking points and sound bites we are presented with families – caring, supportive families who are treated differently because the parents are of the same gender.

That awareness of difference, of what their lives will be like as they enter puberty, is shown to be shifting these children’s senses of self. Gus loves wrestling – but how much of his interest is framed by a desire to be seen as more manly? Ebony is desperate to be a performer but, again, her interest in Newtown’s school for the arts is influenced by her desire to have more liberal peers. Matthew has been raised in a devoutly Christian family, but is confused as to how his mother can believe in God when Leviticus is frequently cited in condemnations of homosexuality. Then there’s Graham and his brother, recently moved to Fiji for their father’s work, being instructed by their dads to not reveal they have been raised in a gay household for fear of bigotry.

The absence of any documentarian narration or framing device allows these stories to emerge – and confirm the ordinariness of these children. The recent school banning of the film in New South Wales only served to draw even more attention to the simple, yet powerful message presented.

These are families, just like yours.

Share Button



Comments are closed.