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On the beach, two men pashing propel Brisbane back to the ’50s

Two men kissing on a film festival poster was too confronting for some in the northern capital. Is Brisbane regaining its reputation as “censorship city”?

That’s what Andrew Ross reckons. The former artistic director of the Brisbane Powerhouse arts centre, and one of the arts leaders who worked with the former Labor government in building Queensland’s reputation as a cultural centre in the previous decade, says the state is now going backwards.

“I have been away from Brisbane for a year and returned expecting to find myself in 2014 not some era pre-1953,” Ross said.

Powerhouse management endorsed a decision by Brisbane City Council’s “lifestyle chairman” Krista Adams to pulp promotional material — showing two men embracing in the surf in a parody of the 1953 film From Here to Eternity (pictured) — for the upcoming Brisbane Queer Film Festival at the riverside arts house. Adams branded the poster “too confronting” and has banned it pending an Advertising Standards Board review.

Current Brisbane Powerhouse artistic director Kris Stewart defends Adams’ decision, saying it’s the “very sexualised image” that caused concern. “The decision would have been the same whether it was two men or a man and a woman,” Stewart told Fairfax’s Brisbane Times on Friday.

Ross — who hasn’t commented on the Powerhouse since he departed as its director in 2012 — reluctantly told Crikey’s Daily Review: “I do believe that if the arts are to contribute anything worthwhile to our lives then they must be the subject of public conversations and those who hold positions of power must be subjected to public scrutiny.

“In Queensland where serving fizzy drinks at kid’s sporting events is a human rights issue, the removal of a poster by decree is surely worthy of some public attention. The occasional bad review is better than no reviews at all.”

The controversy comes hot on the heels of the Queensland Theatre Company line-cutting debacle . Ross said the the latest intervention promises to unfold with the same degree of “dissembling ineptitude”.

“Again we see the artistic director carrying the can while those he reports to scramble to keep their fragile reputations intact. The result is the same: the company becomes a national laughing stock. Like [former QTC artistic director] Michael Gow, I was distressed to see an organisation that had once been a big part of my life brought into disrepute,” Ross said.

In defending the removal of the poster, Stewart says the Brisbane City Council has been “more supportive of the gay community than any of its predecessors, both financially and with the public support of queer events and activities”. Ross points out it is the Brisbane Queer Film Festival that has returned a surplus to the Brisbane Powerhouse “for several years”.

The Powerhouse’s charter states it should operate at arm’s length from the council through a board appointed by the lord mayor, with the CEO reporting to the board. “Councillors have, in the past at least, played no role in programming choices, let alone the choice of images in marketing campaigns,” Ross said.

“When the QTC censorship story broke there was a laughable attempt to spin the line cut as a normal part of the dramaturgical process, inferring it had nothing to do with the fact that the line referred to the Queensland Premier. Now Brisbane Powerhouse is trying to sell us the idea that the ban is because the image is highly sexualised and has nothing to do with the fact that the embrace in the surf is between two men. Are we to presume then that a poster of the original image of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr would also be too sexualised for the bus shelters of Brisbane?

“I wandered into the CBD today and found no images of lovers embracing in the surf, just banners proclaiming ‘give me Brisbane any day’ — a statement that affirms that Brisbane is not only a city that tolerates the second rate but celebrates it.”

Daily Review sought comment from Brisbane Powerhouse management but did not receive a response in time for publication.

20 responses to “On the beach, two men pashing propel Brisbane back to the ’50s

  1. I cant help but be bemused though why they call themselves Queer. If they expect an immaturely-minded society to accept them, why use a term that is largely still seen as derogatory terminology used to isolate and ridicule?
    It is confusing for the poor rednecks when homosexuals and lesbians are on one hand saying to them, “accept me, I am another version of normal” to then in the other hand brand themselves as queer.

  2. Just further proof we are going back thirty years to the height of the Joh Era. The LNP appears to be ruled by its born-again-Christians from over the range. We have an Attorney General who can’t grasp the essence of our Westminster system of democracy and the separation of powers, who can’t differentiate between criminal gangs and bikies, who now wants to deprive the disadvantaged by requiring ID at polling booths.

    So we shouldn’t be surprised that censorship is starting to thrive.

  3. Four years ago, my partner and I were subject to a homophobic attack by staff in the inner Brisbane hotel in which we were staying. We made the decision never to holiday in Australia again. Too many throwback feral rednecks. No style. No substance. Now we holiday overseas every year and no matter where we go, our sexuality is never an issue…

    1. Stephen, I am very, very sorry you had that experience in Brisbane.

      As a gay man in my early 40s, I grew up in Joh’s Queensland – but I, like many of my generation, truly benefited from the (almost) 20 years of liberalisation under various Labor governments. Life IS better here now than it was before 1990, but it saddens me you and your partner had this experience.

  4. The LNP govt has everyone in Qld who relies on state funding cowering (public servants, arts groups and social services), lest they lose that funding. (if they are the lucky ones who haven’t already lost it).

  5. I am appalled that the poster has been trashed. I so remember the movie and if my mums comments were anything to go by when the movie this image was taken from was released it caused quite a stir in its day. I think it is a great image. We are living in 2014 and not 1954. If it offends look away.

  6. A photo of two blokes enjoying mateship gets banned in Queensland? In a country where mateship is cherished above much of anything else? This is indeed a confused place.

  7. I’m convinced that scenes like this upset people because the put themselves into the image.
    If they could just step back from their center of the universe syndrome and see the abstract picture for what it really is, an innocent picture of two humans being mildly intimate, then it wouldn’t be such a big deal.

    Stop thinking this picture is about YOU!

  8. Kris Stewart should be ashamed of himself. The idea that this poster would have been banned if it were a straight couple is absurd, given it’s a play on a famous scene from a 1953 movie and is an iconic movie image. Uncle Tom is alive and well and living in Brisbane, it appears

  9. There are reports emerging today that last year the Brisbane City Council heavied the Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre to remove the “EQUAL” graphic used to support marriage equality as their Facebook display pic. Seems that in the last year, the BPH has turned into a sycophantic lapdog of the ruling LNP, which reigns supreme in Brisbane on all three levels of government.

    Perhaps the organization that owns the Brisbane Queer Film Festival should up sticks from the BPH and find a more queer friendly venue that doesn’t kow-tow to puffed up LNP wowser politicians.

  10. I worked for the Powerhouse some years ago. I’m not sure when they lost their guts but I’m sure this would not have happened then. I’m glad not to be in Queensland any more. Brisbane had a brief bright period after Joh got sacked, now it is all to be undone and it will once again be just an oversized hick country town (with no bikers apparently).


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