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Zero Limitations: Bondi Short Film Festival

Back in the early 80s when you went to the movies, there was an intermission. During this intermission, you got snacks and went for a pee. Ah, the good old days. Another neat thing that used to happen was that a couple short cartoons would be played before the “feature presentation” would commence. When you come to think of it, this generation is being robbed. We pay heaps more and yet have lost our ‘extra features’ and short film presentations. But fortunately this weekend, the best of the best of short films will be making their way to Sydney and bringing back the joy of movie-going in the process.

Bondi Short Film Festival eschews the usual film festival traditions and limitations, as the festival’s founder, Francis Coady, explains to Side Street, Sydney: “I had a group of friends who had made all these short films but once they had been shown at one festival, none of the other festivals would show them.” Understandably, Francis thought that was crazy, so he did something about it and set about launching a festival whose mission was to “show the 14 best short films in Australia right now.” Forget entry fees, themes and limitations – the goal was to trust the filmmaker’s imagination.

His approach has been very successful; every year the festival sells out. Francis attributes the success to the audience: “People get to vote and be engaged.” But of course they would not come if the films and filmmakers did not share one common feature: “excellent quality”.

Francis believes it’s pretty simple to pick a fantastic film – there are a few key factors they have in common. “A wonderfully well-structured script which is honest and sincere, a talented non-arrogant delivery by the cast, and production values that are appropriate to the script. It’s a symbiotic 360 degree relationship between those three things.” Filmmakers take note! It isn’t always easy to achieve but it sure is good when it does.

Putting on a film festival, particularly a short film festival, is a labour of love. The cost is extremely high and getting it done each year is nothing short of miraculous. But for Francis, there’s something that makes all the stress worth it: “When I call the finalists, their reactions, whether they are driving in the car or on set… that’s a moment I love.” All the panic and mad organisation that follows stops in one instant: “When the door closes, the lights go off and the first film starts, and the audience starts to respond to the film – that shared experience is what it’s all about.”

This Saturday, November 27, will mark the festival’s 10th birthday, which will be set in the warm sea-air surrounds of Bondi Pavillion. Judges have been announced (Marc Fennell, Triple J’s film critic, Gregor Jordon, director of the Heath Ledger classic Two Hands, and screenwriter Anna-Maria Monticelli), 14 finalists have been notified and the beers are chilling. Tickets to the one-day festival are almost sold out at the time of writing so get your skates on.

words: Kristen Hodges


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