News & Reviews

A tribute to Lee Gambin from MQFF Program Director, Cerise Howard

Lee Gambin and Cinemaniacs co-conspirator Hande Hislop, MQFF Program Launch, 2011

Like so many others in Melbourne’s film and queer communities, I and all of us at MQFF are reeling from the terrible news last week of our friend Lee Gambin’s passing at but 44 years of age.

A louder-than-life figure whose passion for cinema fuelled a prodigious cinephilic output across the written and spoken word, across umpteen tomes and gazillions of booklet and video essays for home theatrical release, Lee also spearheaded the Cinemaniacs Film Collective’s curatorial team, whose programs could at once contain a queer miserabilist classic like The Children’s Hour (1961) and Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980) without either seeming the least bit out of place.

Moreover, Lee was magnificent company – a supremely hilarious human being who elevated the simple act of trolling friends and peers on social media to Dadaist heights of campy lunacy often imitated but impossible to better – some of it of a peculiar calibre of badinage that old media would immediately have deemed “unprintable” or “unrepeatable”, “lascivious” or “prurient”, or “litigious”. That there’s a glossary of Gambin-speak now being assembled by several of his closest friends and trollees speaks volumes for his singular wit and wordsmithery, his rare gift for mischief and for the esteem countless friends and film folk continue to hold him in.

Lee was a frequent guest contributor to MQFF, enlivening several festivals no end with talks and clip shows like 2011’s “It Came from the Closet! An Exploration of Queer Subtext in Classic and Modern Horror Films” and – Heavens to Murgatroyd, even! – 2014’s “Such Interesssssting Lives: A Celebration of the Cartoon Queer”. Later talks would see Lee joined by fab film-brain friends like Sally Christie and Emma Westwood for panel discussions and celebrations of John Waters, or Satanic ‘60s and ‘70s films, the latter in connection with a doco on uber-bombshell Jayne Mansfield that probed her relationship with Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey – a more perfectly Gambin collision of worlds you could scarcely conjure up!

I was, of course, delighted that Lee was keen to deliver a talk ahead of a screening of William Friedkin’s iconic queer slasher Cruising (1980) during my inaugural festival as Program Director last year, and I was relishing the prospect of being in cahoots for years to come. Lee was always incredibly generous with his time, and a great enabler and connecter; I had been eagerly looking forward to his intro-ing our “Witches and Faggots, Dykes and Poofters: 1970s Queer Resistance” session to open our Pride season coming up at the Victorian Pride Centre on June 14, a program that wouldn’t have come together without his considerable help joining the dots.

But most of all I’ll miss the person – a complete punk rock original. Loved your work, Lee Gambin. Loved you even more.

x Cerise Howard

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