GAYBY BABY || 2015, Australia || Documentary || Directed by – Maya Newell / Produced by – Harriet Archibald, Thomas Mai, Charlotte Mars, Josh Pomeranz, Billy Marshall Stoneking / Music by – Max Lyandvert / Cinematography – Maya Newell / Editing by – Rochelle Oshlack / Running time: 85 mins.
It’s hard to believe that in 2016, the topic of same-sex families is still met with opposition by some, in fact far too many, on ethical and moral grounds that should frankly have been outdated a long time ago. Gayby Baby makes an argument in its favour by simply taking it to a strictly human level. Maya Newell’s film is the tender and warm portrait of four such families and their everyday lives.
During the course of its duration we meet Graham, a 12-year-old kid who had been neglected by his previous family and could not speak at all at the age of 5. Ebony, a 12-year-old girl who dreams of becoming a singer and taking her mothers out of her neighbourhood, where she believes they are not welcome. Gus, an 11-year-old boy who loves pro-wrestling. And Matt, an 11-year-old who helps his mothers campaign for same-sex marriage but refuses to go to church with them.
It is the children themselves who provide the most “institutionalized” narration to the film, especially when asked about what their reaction was when they found out about their parents being gay, or about the other children’s reactions when they find out. The lack of an authoritative voice is exactly what makes this film so rewarding. Firstly, it voices the human rights side of the issue by candidly revealing the absolute normality of the families’ lives, and the parents devotion and love for their children, despite their dealing with opposition and adapting to cultural values in their relevant societies and communities. They are never shown as victims of the system either, despite being subjected to occasional discrimination throughout the film. Secondly, it allows the viewer to look right past the subject as an issue. Many will simply be reminded of their own lives, and connect with the stories of Gayby Baby with an endearing sense of nostalgia.
In terms of language and structure, Newell blends the fine line between documentary and narrative filmmaking, aided by some inspired editing and rewarding attention to the soundscape of the film and music, that further dictate the emotional impact of the film’s events. Gayby Baby is a kind of documentary that feels cinematic, and is therefore accessible to a wider audience. – 4/5