In 2010, down one of the gritty nondescript laneways Melbourne’s famous for, the doors to an underground club opened for the first time.
In what would become a legendary nine-year run, the club would stumble through a few early incarnations before becoming the iconic queer underground favourite, Hugs + Kisses. With a flash here and there of glitz and glam, it was mostly a grungy, dive kind of space. But for those in the know, and those seeking to find out, Hugs became the place to be before closing its famous doors for good in January 2019.
A lot happened in those nine years. Equal parts crazy, debauched and wild, some nights were a massive success, while others birthed and disappeared within a matter of weeks. But it was always about music. About being an underground scene. About fashion and culture and identity. And importantly, about the party. All of this intersected at Hugs to create and embrace a loose and liberating attitude which became the magical ingredients to the club’s enduring popularity and success. Because the punters came, and kept coming to Hugs right up to the end.
Love, Hugs + Kisses explores what made Hugs + Kisses special – the freedom to express identity, the fostering of community, the celebration of other, the fashion, the fun and the indisputable reputation for throwing parties with a wholly hedonistic and unpredictable bent.
Using Hugs as a starting point, the filmmakers also look back at the legacy and history of some of Melbourne’s iconic queer spaces – the underground bars and clubs, and - back in the day - cafes, that played an important role in keeping the city’s queer culture alive and evolving. Love, Hugs + Kisses pays homage to these diverse urban altars that brought together generations of people who make these spaces their own and re-define the boundaries of what Melbourne was, what it is and what it can become.
Through the eyes of punters, promoters, DJs, musicians and staff from Hugs and the venues that came before it, Love, Hugs + Kisses is a story about self-empowerment and identity. It’s about community, celebration of friendship, good times and the importance of having the space to be your self.