Queen of the Desert

A person standing outdoors in the desert wearing colorful tights, pink hair, and a pink tutu, point a hairdryer out like a gun.

Alex Kelly
2012 | 28 minutes | Australia
New York Premiere | Director in Attendance

Starlady Nungari, a real-life Priscilla Queen of the Desert, is a flamboyant hairdresser trainer and youth worker who, armed with only a bottle of bleach, a pair of scissors, and an irrepressible nature, first opened a salon in the indigenous community of Kintore in Central Australia. Now she takes her show on the road, traveling thousands of miles to bring her mobile hair workshops to some of Australia’s most isolated teenagers. Her efforts to engage the kids in Areyonga, a remote Pitjantjatjara town, reveal the ongoing battle with depression and drug abuse that besets the entire region. Will she be able to pull off Areyonga’s first-ever fashion show against the odds?

Plays with How Far is Heaven

What compelled you to see for yourself?
I am interested in the characters and stories from our vast interior; the stories that are not part of our national narrative. I had known of Starlady for many years through social change movements and was always intrigued and inspired by her work. It occurred to me that she would make a great guide into remote Australia and would allow me to present the vibrant culture of a central desert indigenous community to a broader audience. The dominant framing of central Australian indigenous communities is negative, and I was keen to show the dynamic and positive side to these communities by making Queen of the Desert.
—Alex Kelly | Director, Queen of the Desert