A few hours before flying out, Western Sydney filmmaker Bina Bhattacharya still can’t believe she’s going to Cannes Film Festival.

“I never thought it was something I would do in my life,” she says. “It’s a dream.

“It’s also terrifying – it’s the longest I’ve been away from my two small children. I’m going for 11 days, and I had to buy a new wardrobe. I’m a Westie filmmaker who doesn’t put much effort into my personal appearance, and I actually had to go buy some decent clothes.”

Bhattacharya’s goals for her time at the world’s most prestigious film festival are two-fold: See Andrea Arnold’s film Bird, and find international buyers or distributors for From All Sides, her crowdfunded debut feature.

Bina Bhattacharya says she created From All Sides with a sense of urgency, feeling that she had to make her first feature while her two children were young.(Supplied)

It’s a drama about a multiracial, bisexual couple in an open marriage living in south-west Sydney. Written and directed by Bhattacharya — whose previous credits include 2021’s Here Out West — the title comes from a phrase she found herself using repeatedly while talking to other mothers, describing the experience of being criticised while juggling many plates.

“A lot of race stuff in Australia is about young people and their strict parents. A lot of [filmmakers] jump back to their youth, like ‘people teased me about my food’. But there wasn’t a lot that explored women who are middle-aged who are negotiating cultural issues,” she says.

“That’s where the plot came from, of people that have an alternative lifestyle, but kind of have to keep it on the down-low because they’re ethnic and live in suburbia. I thought, ‘Alright, I’m going to write a film that only I can write, about suburbia and my day-to-day life.’

“I wanted to make a film about racism, and how I experienced it, which isn’t people calling me slurs and spitting on me, it’s people being condescending to me. And that is how most people of colour experience racism in Australia in 2024.”

From All Sides is one of eight Australian films in the Goes to Cannes program, where seven festivals are invited to present five works-in-progress to the Marché du Film. The market, which runs concurrently with the festival’s glamorous world premieres, is Cannes’s business side, where sales, financing and distribution deals are made. Its motto is “the heart of the film industry”.

This year’s market features more than 4,000 films and projects from 140 countries; Goes to Cannes offers a chance for emerging filmmakers to stand out, backed by a respected festival.

Australia made its debut last year in the program with Queer Screen — the organisation that runs the Mardi Gras Film Festival. This year’s Goes to Cannes line-up sees Queer Screen returning, alongside the Adelaide Film Festival. Together, they’re presenting a collection of Australian films at the Marché, with a focus on LGBTIQ+ stories and South Adelaide productions – an unparalleled chance to showcase emerging voices on a world stage.

Queer Screen festival director Lisa Rose says the Goes to Cannes selections speak to “the spectrum of gay, lesbian, pansexual, bisexual and transgender experiences”.(Supplied: Queer Screen)

“It’s a really fantastic event, particularly for Australians to come to because it makes you feel connected to the global film industry,” says Lisa Rose, Queer Screen’s festival director.

“We’re thrilled to be back for a second year. It’s quite a unique experience. And there is certainly a little bit of a chaotic, celebratory, hardworking vibe. There are a lot of meetings that happen in cafes, on superyachts, on park benches.”

In addition to From All Sides, Queer Screen is also presenting Heart of the Man, a semi-autobiographical film written, directed and starring Butchulla man David Cook, and Strange Creatures, a road movie directed and written by Henry Boffin (Metro Sexual), where a pansexual man and his brother travel to scatter their mother’s ashes.

Strange Creatures writer-director Henry Boffin says the film was loosely inspired by a road trip with his own brother.(Supplied: Queer Screen)

As the only LGBTIQ+ festival included in the market, Queer Screen opened its submissions to international filmmakers, also presenting Under the Influencer (US) and Arms of a Man (India).

Most of their 2023 picks — including Triple Oh!, a five-episode web series starring Brooke Satchwell, now streaming on SBS on Demand — secured distribution deals and festival selections, thanks to their participation in the Cannes market.

Rose notes that, beyond any one deal, Goes to Cannes boosts the international eyeballs on Australian queer filmmakers and also on Queer Screen itself, a not-for-profit with funding programs for filmmakers.

It’s an intangible gain that Mat Kesting, the CEO and creative director of Adelaide Film Festival, believes will benefit South Australian films beyond the five selected.

Heart of the Man writer-director David Cook (pictured) says he’s excited to “represent emerging Queensland creatives” at Cannes. (Supplied: Queer Screen)

“Adelaide Film Festival is already well-recognised on the global circuit,” he says, referencing the festival’s state government-supported investment fund. Since 2003, it has funded films including Talk to Me, Tracks and Samson and Delilah.

“Being selected as one of just seven festivals to formally partner with the Cannes Marché has helped to reinforce this status and it has generated much interest in upcoming South Australian films,” says Kesting.

Adelaide Film Festival’s picks include: Kangaroo Island, a drama about a flailing Hollywood starlet returning home; fantasy animation Lesbian Space Princess; Mockbuster, a mockumentary about a parody film’s chaotic set; The Iron Winter, a documentary about herders in Mongolia’s Tsakhir Valley; and With or Without You, a drama about a mother-daughter road trip across Australia

Lesbian Space Princess sees the titular character go on a galactic quest to save her bounty hunter ex-girlfriend from Straight White Maliens.(Supplied: Adelaide Film Festival)

Diverse in terms of genre, scope and representation, the eight Australian films at Goes to Cannes are all distinct stories – the kind that rely on the support of festivals like Queer Screen or Adelaide Film Festival to receive funding and reach audiences.

“A lot of filmmakers get a lot of pressure to water their work down and appeal to sort of the broadest audience because it’s a numbers game,” says Bhattacharya.

“We live in a small country. America has 330-plus million people – so if something has a cult following there, 10 million people are still watching it.”

Bhattacharya says that Australia has no “truly great bisexual films”, and hopes From All Sides fills that gap.(Supplied: Queer Screen)

Bhattacharya hopes her film won’t be seen as niche at Cannes, given that it tackles her experience as a “third culture kid” – something that millions across the world can relate to.

As she says: “What better way to connect with all these sorts of globally disparate but unified audiences than at the largest film festival in the world?”