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article imageReview: 'Gayby Baby' is a slice of life with a message Special

By Michael Thomas     Apr 29, 2015 in Entertainment
Though the gay marriage debate has been settled in some places, in Australia it still rages. One documentary examines same-sex parents through the eyes of children.
Maya Newell and Charlotte Mars shed a fresh perspective on same-sex couples with Gayby Baby by instead focusing on their children. Though the parents appear in regular scenes, all interviews involve children only, and despite being 11 and 12 years old, they're remarkably conscientious and clear-headed.
Being children, of course, what they'll come out with is impossible to predict. Gus is a huge fan of wrestling and exasperates his mother by continually playing rough with his sister (though his sister packs quite a wallop herself) — but he's also riotously funny, especially in a conversation in which he tries to argue that being told to do orchestra and debating is child abuse.
Ebony is an aspiring singer whose goal is to get into her local arts high school, but her younger, seizure-prone brother makes it difficult to focus on the music. Matthew finds himself questioning his religion and particularly why his mother still goes to church despite being seen as a sinner. Graham, neglected by his previous parents, struggles to learn how to read and adapt to life after being uprooted to Fiji.
Gay marriage and the efficacy of same-sex parenting are of course the underlying topics of the movie, but they're actually very small parts of the film overall. The themes factor differently into each child's perspective. In Matthew's story, he and his family are invited to have dinner with then-PM Julia Gillard to discuss their views on gay marriage. Graham's two dads talk briefly about keeping their relationship status in the more conservative society of Fiji. But in Ebony and Gus's stories, having two moms is incidental to the events.
Then in some ways, Gayby Baby is like a slice-of-life film with parents who just happen to be gay. But perhaps that's the point — Newell may be speaking more by putting in less. Maybe simply by showing kids having the same growing pains without a "complete" family unit is an attempt to clear up misconceptions.
Gayby Baby is now showing at Hot Docs 2015. To see Digital Journals festival coverage from this year, click here.
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