MAYA NEWELL & CHARLOTTE MARS
Jul 20th, 2016
Words by Laura La Rosa
Cover image by Jez Smith
Beautifully produced, and largely crowdfunded, the 2015 observational film Gayby Baby offers a level of authenticity you couldn’t craft if you tried. The film pulls at all your heartstrings as it shares the aches, nuances and laughter of four typically chaotic, striving families over the course of several years. Their stories, inadvertently humorous at times, bestows the intimacy of everyday household discussions, from high school applications, to gender idealism disembodiment, through to laying off wrestling your baby sister despite it being her favourite pastime.
The 2015 release of feature documentary Gayby Baby posed the question too often overlooked in the ‘discussion’ surrounding same-sex families – that is, what do the kids actually think? Through the viewpoints of Gus, Ebony, Matt and Graham, known as ‘Gayby babies’ (the children of gay parents), this gentle, heartfelt observational film explores that very notion.
Like most pre-teens, Gus, Ebony, Matt and Graham are simply trying to navigate this part of their lives and figure out what comes next. While each family is unique, there are strong parallels, the most obvious being the prevalence of love. Second to that, these kids are bright and possess an acute sense of awareness despite the conflicting messages encoded on them as they shift in and out of varying cultural structures within their communities.
The film made an impact on screen, and continues to do so with filmmakers Maya Newell and Charlotte Mars having recently launched the Gayby Baby School Action Toolkit – a comprehensive resource that aims to explore diversity and represent same-sex families within the classroom environment.
Of course, with art that makes impact, it is often accompanied by media turbulence. This was evident last year when Gayby Babywas set to screen in NSW schools for Wear It Purple Day and a minority of parents allegedly objected to it. Despite the enormous amount of support backing Gayby Baby, the supposed backlash quickly translated into the political realm, resulting in the NSW Education Minister banning it from screening during school hours across the state. This seemingly knee-jerk response saw filmmakers Maya and Charlotte contemplate the danger in messages filtrated from influential leaders, in this case, at the expense of the LGBTI community and their families.
Nevertheless, ahead of this year’s Wear It Purple Day (26th August), Gayby Baby will be celebrating LGBTIQ pride with screenings across schools with the full support of the Victorian Government. Ahead of Wear It Purple Day, schools can register at www.wearitpurpleday.org by ticking the box ‘I’d like to celebrate Wear It Purple Day with Gayby Baby’ and ordering the package containing your Wear It Purple Kit and Gayby Baby School Action Toolkit.
Gayby Baby was never about instigating a political rhetoric; its aim was always to transcend any divide and enable the experiences of Gayby kids to be shared firsthand. While the film continues to be screened globally, Gayby Baby has been one of the first to offer a rare representation of diverse families in Australian film, or as Maya puts it, it offers a narrative that “reflects their lives and the diversity of their family structures. In this way, Gayby Baby is not an ad for queer families, but a film where loving families struggle with competing needs and values, where parents overreact and sometimes kids get let down. Same-sex families are not perfect, but they are no less perfect than any other kind of family.”
Maya, a gayby baby herself, reminds us that “even though gay couples can’t marry (in the majority of countries), they have been having children for a long time already. In fact, the world is in the midst of a ‘Gayby boom’ and those kids are growing up fast, with voices and experiences of their own”.
The GAYBY BABY School Action Toolkit is $89 (plus postage) and includes:
- A Curriculum Resource, downloadable from the GAYBY BABY website.
- A Supplementary Video Kit containing:
- A 53-minute version of GAYBY BABY
- 4 x short teaching videos
- A free copy of the theatrical (85 min) version of GAYBY BABY
- A Family Diversity Poster for display at your school
- A license to screen the film in your school
For more information, visit www.thegaybyproject.com/schools