Film Review: The Coming Back Out Ball

Liza Dezfouli

A film celebrating a fabulous ball and some people who've changed the world.
Film Review: The Coming Back Out Ball

The Coming Back Out Ball directed by Sue Thompson.

The Coming Back Out Ball, directed by Sue Thompson and produced by All The Queens Men, is the film of the ball (which took place last October), how it came about it, the events leading up to it and the night itself, along with stories from some of the characters who attended.

Artist Tristam Meecham wanted to honour the seniors of Melbourne’s LGBTQIA+ population, people who fought for equality at a time when there were criminal laws attached to homosexuality. Concerned that some of these elders were now effectively having to return to the closet in nursing home environments or were feeling unsafe accessing aged-care services, Meecham felt a public event was needed in order to celebrate their lives and their stories. He was determined to hold the ball at the Melbourne Town Hall, as was fitting. The Coming Back Out Ball was also his way of saying thank you to people who made it possible for younger queers like himself to be out and proud today. 

The film introduces us to Meecham and nine of Melbourne’s senior queers as they share their histories, reflect on their lives and on what lies ahead. The timing of The Coming Back Out Ball couldn’t have been better: the events of the film take place at the time when Australians were voting on Marriage Equality. There were reminders all round of the homophobia of the past as well as that which still exists. The big night itself was the culmination of a series of monthly dance clubs, which still take place and during which more and more people became involved.

The Coming Back Out Ball was hosted by cabaret legend Robyn Archer and performers on the night included Carlotta, Deborah Cheetham, Gerry Connolly as the Queen along with the crème de la crème of Melbourne’s elder LGBTIQIA+ community. The good news is that the ball will happen again next year. 

The film, as it should, focuses more on the people involved than it does on the actual night. It's a gentle and respectful documentary which includes footage from protests from fifty years ago when these now senior people were putting themselves on the front line, being arrested for fighting for the right to lawfully be themselves and to love whom they chose.

The film beautifully balances the stories of the characters with the build-up to the ball, inviting the viewer to appreciate how much society has changed thanks to these individuals. It finishes on an especially tender and joyful scene, which I won't spoil. The Coming Back Out Ball is a film which will become a classic of queer documentary and should be seen everywhere.


4 stars ★★★★
The Coming Back Out Ball 
Director: Sue Thomson | Australia (2018)
Language: English
Genre: Documentary    
Themes: LGBTQIA+ Melbourne

About the author

Liza Dezfouli reviews film, live performance, books and occasionally music. She blogs about film and other things in a blog called Copy and Cake and writes another, somewhat less-measured blog about feminism and heteronormativity called WhenMrWrongfeelsSoRight. She can occasionally be seen in shows or in short films. For more: