I had the pleasure of screening a new documentary by two talented Australian filmmakers about four kids and their families. The film showcased each child’s unique challenges and triumphs. There’s Gus, whose obsession with wrestling and his practice of his rough-and-tough techniques on his younger sister has his parents concerned; Ebony, who feels the pressure of an impending audition for a slot at a performing arts school; Graham, who struggles to read and yearns to make new friends at a new school in a new country; and Matt, who has philosophical differences with his mother regarding their church and religion. You also get to know the kids’ parents – patient, nurturing and loving – who also happen to be gay.
The movie is titled Gayby Baby, and tells the story of same-sex parenting from the child’s point of view. Each child is remarkable and presents his or her story with poise, insight and maturity, due, in part, to mindful, successful parenting.
Gayby Baby director Maya Newell got her inspiration for the film from living the life. She has two “mums” and tells the story of these wonderful families through her lens with great pride.
Newell remembers seeing the U.S. release of The Kids Are Alright, a film about a lesbian couple and their children, and the impact it made on her. “As I left the cinema and strode down the street, I felt unnerved, unhinged and soon realized I was streaming tears,” she explains. “I had never seen my family reflected on the big screen before. Watching the film, I recognized subtle similarities that occur when two women parent. I felt connected to these teenagers and wondered if this was how people with heterosexual parents felt every time they were immersed in a movie. I felt happy to finally see a story like mine, but also angry because this was the first one.”
Newell and the film’s producer, Charlotte Mars, developed the film but faced challenges common to most filmmakers, lack of resources and funding. “Of course there were a couple of small issues for our two-woman band,” Mars remembers. “Namely, we had no money and no kids. So we did what any passionate but under-resourced person would do. We looked to friends and families for advice, we borrowed cars, we asked LGBTI community groups for introductions. It was the beginning of what has become the defining feature of the film’s production – the spirit of grassroots people-power.”
After a successful crowd funding campaign, a thorough casting process, support from well-established foundations and organizations and almost a year of editing, the film was released in Australia in 2015 and is now being screened in select U.S. cities. I watched the 85-minute documentary with my 10-year-old, whose main takeaway was, “Those kids are so smart and cute and their parents are way more patient than you.” She, too, viewed this as a film about families first.
“The four years I spent making this film, hanging out with these kids and witnessing them grow has been such a joy,” Newell says. “I hope that in watching this film audiences will be inspired to interrogate ‘what is family’ and how and by whom it is defined.”
Gayby Baby is available on iTunes.
Watch the trailer here.