Sunday, August 30, 2015

Gayby Baby (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 85 minutes
Director and Writer: Maya Newell

Gayby Baby will open in limited release in Australian cinemas on September 3.

Maya Newell's debut feature length documentary Gayby Baby has been attracting an incredible amount of media attention of late and much of it for the wrong reasons by individuals who evidently have not seen the film, but are quick to judge what it is about. Gayby Baby has been labelled a "gay" film by certain media professionals, which is a label clearly based on the title of the film and not it's content.

Gayby Baby is a film that does not actively seek to promote a certain lifestyle or persuade anybody that gay marriage should be legalised in Australia. It is a film about children of same sex parents who are already here and exist in the world and in Australia, whether their parents right to marriage does or not. The unprecedented documentary takes one into the homes of four children to inform and educate about their different situations. Each story is different, just like the traditional family where no situation is truly the same. However, despite this notion of normalcy, there are some great challenges involved with a family comprising of same sex parents and their children. These challenges are what makes them different from the traditional family, but are the ones which truly show the innocence of the children in a situation which they have no control over...whether the situation is seen as right or wrong by the beholder.

This film is not a propaganda film, as it has also been described as. A "gayby" is a term coined for a child of same sex parents and is often used by these children so is not considered a derogatory term, especially as director Newell is herself a child with two mothers. It is a deeply emotional film that is close to Newell's heart as it is something she would have wanted to exist when she was growing up to help her understand that there were other's in her situation and to help other's who grew up in a mother/father household what her life was like. The question of same sex marriage remains background noise in the film and not something that is addressed openly. There is the example of Matt and his mothers who do meet with Julia Gillard to talk to her about legalising same sex marriage, but this is an issue that is talked about behind closed doors.

Gayby Baby is not about converting the public and gathering support for same sex marriage, it is about acceptance and understanding of the children who have grown up in a household with two mothers or two fathers. The children are the innocent party in this situation and have the right to be given a voice, which is what Newell truly does. The film does not sugar coat their living situations by painting a home life which is all happiness and rainbows, as no household is perfect in any situation. There are great challenges involved with being a "gayby", as is seen in the film. Some of the children experience bullying from their peers and criticism from those in their church parish for a situation which is out of their control and that they were often born into, while young Graham has to lie about his situation when he and his fathers move out of the country. There is also the personal dilemma of Gus, who is entering puberty and trying to understand more about who he is. Gus' favourite thing in the world is wrestling, a concept his two mothers cannot understand and call "stupid" and "macho". One feels for Gus, as he would benefit from having a male in the household who understood what he was going through, but also feel for his mothers trying to understand him as well and doing the best they can. The film opens one's mind to the inner thoughts and emotions of these children who are often forgotten and connects on an emotional level as an understanding emerges throughout the film that despite the challenges, the constant remains that same sex parents love their children just as much as their mother/father counterparts.

Filming for Gayby Baby took place over several years as Newell gathered the appropriate footage for the film. As a result, the editing is brilliant as it forms a complete picture of the world through the eyes of the chosen children over an extended period of time. The footage is pieced together so that it becomes easy to understand the normalcy versus the unique that Newell is trying to let the world see, as instances are shown which highlight both of these aspects. Each of these children has a story to tell and their story is told with clarity and the simplicity that even those their own age can understand when they view the film.

People are quick to judge what they don't know as it seems easier than taking the time to learn and understand. Gayby Baby is one current example of this. Those who haven't seen the film neglect to acknowledge that the film is about children growing up and doing so in what is presently still a unique situation, but they nevertheless have a right to be heard and understood as doing so would in turn lead to a more understanding and accepting society.


Note from Nicki: Before the media storm regarding Gayby Baby begun, I interviewed director, Maya Newell for Sydney Film School a few weeks ago. For a greater understanding of her personal journey with the film, please see here


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