Sydney Film School graduate, Maya Newell’s film Gayby Baby has been the subject of a media storm over the past two days after the New South Wales Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli banned public schools from showing the film during school hours. The move came after Burwood Girls High School had planned to show the film which depicts children of same-sex parents to the school during two periods on Wear It Purple Day this coming Friday.
According to Mr. Piccoli, the decision was made based on a view that the showing of the film would disrupt the school’s planned lessons and that no film should be shown within school hours that does not comply with the school’s learning curriculum. A statewide ban has been issued on showing the film in public schools during school hours, but it has been reinforced that it is able to be screened outside class hours and that this ban is not a result of the content of Gayby Baby. However, a great number of people who have seen the film will argue that the minister is indeed missing the point of the documentary and that people should watch and understand before they condemn it.
Speaking on RN Drive on ABC Radio yesterday evening with Patricia Karvelas, our 2006 graduate was quick to point out that she believes that the film fits within the curriculum. Sydney Film School supports her view. We see the screening of the film sitting clearly in the curriculum of Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE), which encourages being inclusive of all students and valuing diversity. As this is something Australian schools strive to achieve and do indeed include as part of their curriculum, it would seem Gayby Baby is not out of place within school hours.
Maya’s documentary has received an enormous amount of praise from its screenings at HotDocs in Toronto, Sydney Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival for it’s unprecedented ability to give children of same sex parents a voice. Gayby Baby, which has received a PG rating and was included as part of the Family program at the Sydney Film Festival, allowed audiences to see the normalcy of family life for these children, but also does not cover up the hardships they endure in growing up as part of their domestic structure. The film has screened to sell out crowds at festivals who have been keen to acknowledge and understand the intent behind the film and to connect with the four children whose lives are documented. As a child of same-sex parents herself, Maya’s intention in making the film is a desire to build a more understanding society.
Sydney Film School supports Maya wholeheartedly and encourages those who are expressing an opinion to see the film before passing judgment on it. We believe that education is a powerful antidote to discrimination and that education against discrimination is most productive when achieved early. It is difficult to think of a better way of addressing this issue with school aged children, given the subjects of the film themselves are school aged.
We therefore encourage Mr Piccoli to reverse his decision and allow NSW children to gain greater insight and understanding of their peers who may be in different family structures.
Ben Ferris – Artistic Director, Sydney Film School
Gayby Baby has been nominated for Best Feature Length Documentary at this year’s AACTA Awards which will be held in December this year and will be opening in limited theatrical release in Australia on September 3.