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Published on 17th November 2017

Melbourne Underground Film Fest director faces backlash for homophobic post

Founder and director of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF), Richard Wolstencroft, has sparked outrage with a Facebook post expressing homophobic views and his opposition to the marriage equality survey result.

In a boorish status posted just hours after the Yes vote was announced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, Wolstencroft wrote, "A Black day. The Decadence and Degeneracy of the Bourgeois Elite has been normalized and The Nation will be under direct attack.

"Homosexuality is created often through child abuse and it has been embraced by the Majority of Australians as normal. The Australian public really was fooled, bullied and cajoled in to [sic] this decision ruthlessly by the Government and Media Elite who wish to advance this abusive and destructive agenda.

"This is the beginning of the End of our Great County. – unless we fight back. This is a horrible black day of infamy. The Gay Community have allowed their politics to be weaponized by the Globalists. A Tragedy."

Wolstencroft has since seemingly deleted the post, but Australian screenwriter and producer Arden Pryor managed to capture a screen grab of the status, which has now been shared hundreds of times on social media.

Wolstencroft responded to the online furore with another, more contrite Facebook status.

"I am not against the Gay Community. I never have been. But I have seen, or Thought I have seen, their politics taken over by an insidious Agenda, emanating from above, in the Elite - and only tried to warn them, as a friend.

"Perhaps in a way that was a little too shocking. I may be off the mark - I may be incorrect. But essentially this post causing all the trouble is a warning to friends apropos Elite take over [sic] of Legit Left and Identity politics.

"Be careful of the Globalist Elite and Media - when they back your politics. Ask WHAT do they want? It's NOT your liberation I assure you. Now Peace to all and the Peace beyond understanding."

Despite this backpedal, a runaway backlash has seen some of Melbourne’s top cultural leaders and LGBTQ advocacy groups admonish Wolstencroft on his homophobic opinions.

Jonathan Holloway, director of the Melbourne Festival which this year was headlined by drag icon Taylor Mac, said of Wolstencroft’s post, "Quite astonishing. If you are vehemently anti-gay, anti-queer, anti-counter-culture, what the hell Underground Films can you possibly be showing?

"I don’t know the guy (I suspect we move in rather different circles) so can’t comment on him, but I guess it says something about Melbourne as a diverse, inclusive and vibrant city - a city in which 83% voted YES - that the way someone aims for 'underground' status is by being anti-gay and anti-inclusivity."

Program Director of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival Spiro Economopoulos also slammed Wolstencroft's comments when speaking to The Music.

"Underground cinema was built on the back of queer filmmakers," Economopoulos said.

"Artists such as John Waters, Jack Smith, Kenneth Anger and Barbra Hammer -just to name a few – paved the way for future filmmakers to think outside the mainstream and generally subvert the narrative of popular cinema.

"Richard Wolstencroft’s comments are not only hateful but completely tone–deaf for a festival that purports to champion outsider art."

Vote Yes For Marriage Equality Australia's response added, "This ‘film maker’ is so crap, in our opinion, he disguises his less than mediocre talent in trying to appear alternative and underground, when really he’s just not been successful.

"We suggest you boycott the Melbourne Underground Film Festival: he runs it, and look up this guy's demented political beliefs."

The online rant may also have jeopardised the future of MUFF, as partners of the festival moved to distance themselves from Wolstencroft.

Prominent Melbourne venue Howler, which is listed on the Melbourne Underground Film Festival website as one of the event’s principal locations, today pledged never to work with the festival again.

Howler’s manager, Graham Epsie, told The Music that everyone at the venue had been "particularly disgusted" with Wolstencroft’s comments and that they would seek legal action if MUFF did not remove them from their website.

Wolstencroft is no stranger to controversy, and has in the past appeared to actively cultivate it.

In 2010, a blog post written by the MUFF director, since deleted, expressed sympathy for Nazism, fascism and colonial imperialism, stating that "The Nazis only wanted a united Europe like the EU," and that, "Hitler would have protected the British Empire and it would exist in a greater glory to this day if he had been allowed to".

Another Wolstencroft scandal, also in 2010, ironically involved a MUFF screening of a hardcore gay porn film by legendary pornographer Bruce La Bruce.

The horror-themed X-rated flick LA Zombie was refused a classification for public screening by Classification Australia, but in defiance of this effective ban, Wolstencroft allowed his screening to go ahead.

While the stunt could have seen him receive a prison sentence of two years and a $28,668 fine, a court-ordered Wolstencroft to pay $750 to the Royal Children’s Hospital.