Feed Them to the Cannibals!” is a delightful tribute to Australia’s apparently open-minded acceptance of gays, at least within cosmopolitan Sydney. Colorful doc is limited by its principally regional interest; the historical/political themes played out here are delayed echoes of Euro-North American gay-lib currents. But as an alternative Chamber of Commerce plug, it’s undeniably persuasive.
Focus centers on a one-year period leading to 1992’s Sydney Mardi Gras, “the biggest gay event in the world.” Behind-the-scenes footage glimpses organizational efforts including orchestration of the spectacular, fundraising “Sleaze Ball” and related AIDS activism.
Most of “Cannibals” (its title drawn from an early Euro settler’s attitude toward homosexuals) is giddily affirming, offering candid glimpses of a bountiful drag scene and a strong, politically motivated lesbian/gay milieu.
A poignant moment occurs when the Mardi Gras parade pauses before a hospital AIDS ward in respectful silence. Aussie officials (including a police chief and parliament member) seem refreshingly genuine in their enthusiasm for the gay community’s presence.
Yet there are indications that life Down Under isn’t entirely liberated: At an AIDS quilt “naming,” not a single commemoratee’s surname is spoken aloud. And these hugely money-spinning festivities have yet to see a bit of promotion from the government’s skittish tourist bureau. Representing the moral naysayers, a fundamentalist Christian reverend prays for rain to cancel the “obscene and blasphemous” annual parade.
Despite such moments, the mood here is more party-hearty than political, with plenty of spectacular costumes and skin bared in various settings. Cinematography and editing are zippy, sound generally good.
This portrait of a community’s “marriage of art and politics” is essentially a progressive tourist-beckoning hallo; it does induce the desire to hop on the next plane and join the fun.