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From Little Things...: Flickerfest

Every year around this time, when the sun is warm, the breeze is welcome and beer is a necessity, the Bondi Pavillion becomes home to Oscar contenders. Yes, of the Academy Award type… not the green puppet that lives in a garbage bin. Flickerfest is the mecca of Australian short films; frankly it’s where the best of the best go to show their celluloid wares.

I sat down with festival director Bronwyn Kidd, who puts together a show that every year delivers something to make you laugh, something to make you cry, something to astound and confound and a little something to remind you of who you are and of your place on the planet. She’s been doing it for 13 years, which is certainly no mean feat. Bronwyn describes it as a labour of love: “To do anything successfully you do really need to have persistence and commitment to see something grow.”

Still from Yajilarra

Mere days after the Christmas crush, Bronwyn and her team are back on deck, holidays a distant memory. With 1600 entrants, 97 films from 21 countries, and a 3-month national tour, this is not Bronwyn’s ‘quiet time of the year’.

On the sexy side of things (by which I mean celebrities and shiny statues, not moustachioed pool boys with bulging short shorts and a fondness for busty blondes), there’s plenty to catch. Australian animated film Cat Piano, narrated by Nick Cave, has been short-listed for the 2010 Academy Awards; Logorama, from France, won the Kodak Prix award at Cannes this year; Miente (She Lies) won a Goya award and two Kiwi films, Lars & Peter and The Six Dollar Fifty Man, were Cannes standouts. The field of competition is strong, and the quality of the films shows in the numerous awards they have received or been nominated for. Many of the directors of this year’s films are names you might know, such as Deborah Mailman (Secret Life of Us) and Peter O’Brien (Underbelly).

Flickerfest has a Human Rights program of which Bronwyn is, quite rightfully, proud. These are personal and powerful films and giving them such a visible platform ensures they can be seen and heard, such as Melanie Hogan’s Yajilarra, which Prime Minister Kevin Rudd championed at a United Nations screening earlier this year. It tells the story of a group of Aboriginal women from the Fitzroy Valley in the remote northwest who, after 13 suicides in 13 months, numerous reports of family violence and child abuse, decided not to wait for a government department to fix their problems and instead empowered themselves with finding a solution.

Still from Black Breakfast

The festival is a breeding ground for the future master filmmakers of tomorrow because “one of the great things about short film is that they are so immediate. If something is happening in your country you can get out there with a camera and make that story and you don’t need a big Hollywood budget and ten thousand people to invest”, however established directors and actors are just as likely to be involved too. Bronwyn believes that is because “a short film is a place where you can be independent, you can be playful and provocative without having to worry about the… box office.” Bronwyn wants Flickerfest to encourage that sense of freedom: “Australia has one of the most thriving short film cultures in the world. We very much get behind them and support them. There are so many short film festivals – that’s one of the things that I’ve seen over the years… that growth. Having been around for 19 years, I hope that we’re part of that. It’s exciting.”

Clearly passionate and never content to rest on her laurels, last year Bronwyn worked with MovieExtra to launch a TV show featuring Flickerfest talent, where the filmmakers could introduce and give context to their films and maybe let us in on a few behind-the-scenes secrets, too. “That’s always been a long-held dream of mine, to take it outside of a festival environment and bring it to a larger audience, with Flickerfest on Extra, so to be the first film festival in Australia to do that is very, very exciting”, she said.

Flickerfest begins on Friday (January 8) and runs until the 17th. It’s a Sydney institution, and a very pleasant way to spend a barmy summer night. The full program is extensive, from documentaries to dance films to kids animations (and grown-up animations), from comedies to human rights films and even a filmmaker workshop. Tickets can be purchased on the website.

words: Kristen Hodges


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