I was lucky to attend a Q&A screening of the film this week. My only context for the film was the outrage printed by the Daily Telegraph a few weeks before (as well as a number of people in my social feeds offering their own 2 cents).
I was expecting a highly emotive, political documentary that used innocent children to advance an agenda. This film was anything but.
Gayby Baby, distilled to its core, is about families. It’s about kids growing up and dealing with friends, family, sickness and school – the usual suspects in any child’s life. The film follows the stories of four children who all have same-sex parents: Gus, Ebony, Matt and Graham, and explores what their lives look like. The film endeavours to show that children who grow up with same-sex parents have a similar childhood experience to any mother-father family.
The narrative of the film centres on a particular story in each child’s life. Gus’ dreams to become a pro wrestler, Ebony’s mission to attend Newtown Performing Arts High School, Graham’s journey becoming literate, and Matt’s grapple with his mother’s spiritual beliefs. We follow each child with anticipation, and it’s hard to leave the cinema without feeling a sense of attachment and care for these wonderful kids.
As director Maya Newell (pictured below) commented after the viewing, the film was never intended to be political, and this is evidenced by the delivery of the story. That’s not to say this film isn’t important, as Gayby Baby is perhaps the only major look into the lives of children living with same-sex parents. Producer Charlotte Mars comments that there has been so much talk about the effects of same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting on children, both positive and negative, but no one has really stopped to ask the children and understand from their perspective. For that alone, this film is a must see.
It was a real pleasure to be part of the Q&A after the viewing with the director, producer and special guest Ebony (one of the stars from the film). It is a tribute to the film’s heart that most of the questions were about the children’s lives now, five years since the film began shooting. It was also heartening to learn that despite the educational pushback in NSW, the film was being shown in schools in QLD and Victoria, and that a curriculum was being developed in order to deliver the film in classes in NSW. No matter what you might believe personally, a discussion in schools about same-sex parenting is overdue. As the film shows, there are children in our schools with same-sex parents who need to feel safe and accepted.
Maya, who is a gayby herself, recalls the first time she ever saw a same-sex family depicted on screen, and how much that moment meant to her.
It validated her family and told her that she was understood, normal even. Her mission is to deliver that moment to as many other children of same-sex parents as possible.
The film has been in production for more than five years, and before being blown up in the Daily Telegraph, was expecting a limited cinema release across Australia before being taken overseas. Those plans remain, but thanks to the attention given by mainstream media, the film has seen much success in community organised screenings and pressure for an online release to a wider audience.
Impact Producer Hattie Archibald was optimistic of the film’s success, and recounts how they never expected the film to be so scrutinised. She welcomed the development however, and is looking forward to a long-lived project with the support of the crowdfunding community that got the project off the ground, as well as LGBTQI groups across Australia.
We at Agency are really excited about what Maya and her team have produced. We’ve always believed that stories can be a catalyst for change, and what better example than this powerful film giving light to a much discussed, yet often misunderstood issue. The film works hard to dispel the myths about gaybies, and is able to present the truth of the situation in a compelling way. Maya and her team have taken action on an issue they feel strongly about, opening the discussion and working towards change.
Gayby Baby is a way for you to gain perspective into a life that might be different to yours. Take the time to understand this perspective and see the film.