The annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras bowed to a crowd of thousands Feb. 1 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, launching a month of local and international gay and lesbian film, art and live theater in what has become the world’s largest festival of its kind.

But the festival always has its share of controversy.

This year, the furor centers on a multi-award-winning 1986 Spanish release, “In a Glass Cage,” which has been banned by the Office of Film & Literature Classification on the grounds of indecency. Film festival director Jeff Mitchell is “confident” the decision will be overturned in an appeal hearing before the Film & Literature Board of Review that was skedded for Feb. 3.

“We refused to register it because we felt it was indecent on the basis that the scenes involving sexual exploitation, torture and murder of young boys go beyond what the reasonable person would consider to be within the bounds of decency,” chief censor John Dickie told Variety.

Mitchell said the movie, which was unrated in its U.S. release, is the first feature to be banned as part of a festival lineup “for a long time.” The contents of a festival are usually rated together, but it is understood the censors demanded “Cage” be considered separately.

“I will challenge it on the basis of their classification of indecency and say it has been in lots of overseas film festivals so it would be an embarrassment to Australia if the decision was upheld,” he said.

The American-and European-dominated film program includes 20 feature movies, six documentaries and one program of 10 short films.

The festival will premiere Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear winner “Strawberry and Chocolate,” U.S. film “No Ordinary Love” and UIP’s “Belle al Bar.”

Another noteworthy inclusion is “Wigstock: The Movie,” a tale of a drag fest in New York’s Central Park starring drag pop icon RuPaul; “The Last Supper,” which will screen at the Berlin Fest; and “The Queen.”

The live theater lineup includes the world premiere of “Tongues of Stone,” a play about women’s struggles for abortion rights at the turn of the century, by Dublin-born New York playwright Honour Molloy.

Also on the menu is the innovative dance piece “Body of Work” by Lance Gries and the Sydney debut of “The Death of Peter Pan.”