BY RITA BRATOVICH
Flickerfest returns for its 26th anniversary, kicking off the New Year with a celebration of creativity and unity.
It began in 1991 as a modest local festival in Balmain High School with shorts being screened on 35mm film. A few years later, Flickerfest moved to Bondi Pavilion and is now screened in 53 venues across the country. In that time it has grown significantly in size and prestige, having earned accreditations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, making certain category winners eligible for an Oscar or a BAFTA award.
Bronwyn Kidd has been Executive Director of Flickerfest for 20 years and has watched the festival develop and mature:
“I think the films have changed in the sense that they are more diverse, we’ve got a lot more female directors coming through now… [and] a more multicultural mix of stories and indigenous filmmakers.”
Where short films might once have been considered a stepping-stone to feature film making, they have come to be seen more and more as an art form in themselves.
Festivals are still the best way for films to be accessed and for filmmakers to gain a valid audience and network with their peers. The selective programming and ambient viewing is far superior to any online alternatives.
“We’re curating with the audience in mind as well as being a platform for discovering talent,” Kidd pointed out.
One hundred films have been selected for competition from amongst 2500 entries. Asked how they choose, Kidd explained:
“We’re looking for creativity, looking for unique stories, looking for a different vision of the world…”
That sentiment was echoed by filmmaker Dean Gibson as he described his festival entry, Welcome To Country:
“It’s a story that’s really different and a story that comes from Aboriginal Australia, and I think there’s a thirst for those kind of stories.”
Gibson has been making films for a decade, focusing on indigenous stories and trying to inform and entertain audiences at the same time. He prefers to create stories around real people who are trying to change the world in their own small way.
“I’m inspired by the normality of life in many ways and…going to places and meeting people who are doing things in their own little world…”
Welcome To Country is a comic tale about a white bureaucrat who comes to a small Aboriginal community to impose some “anglo wisdom”, but instead is confronted by his own ignorance and an unexpected twist of events.
Gibson finds the short film format challenging but rewarding. The short time frame means everything needs to be there for a reason, the lead character needs to have a transformation and the audience needs to find it credible and be entertained.
“It’s a challenge for my own learnings and my own craft to see what matters and what doesn’t…and also to have some fun around what you see on the screen and play with time.”
He feels indigenous film and artists are gaining more recognition, and he credits festivals such as Flickerfest and supportive bodies like Screen Queensland for helping this happen.
Equally indebted to Flickerfest is animator Dave Carter, whose short film, Fish With Legs is one of the stand-outs at this year’s festival.
“Actually it was Flickerfest where I was first introduced to Don Hertzfeldt who’s a very big independent animator…and it showed me that animation doesn’t have to be just produced by Disney, produced by Pixar, and so that’s why short film festivals are so important…”
Carter has had a very successful career in animation so far, working with Sony and MTV and having his work shown at most of the major film festivals around the world. Even more remarkably, he was born profoundly deaf, which explains his affinity with visual media.
While he predominantly creates in stop motion, Fish With Legs is a traditional 2D animation.
“At its heart this story is a fable and we wanted to evoke classic 2D animation of Disney’s ’30’s and ’40’s cartoons, so it was important that we didn’t go for stop motion because stop motion tends to be subversive and anarchic.”
And indeed, many of Carter’s cartoons are dark, humorously violent and a little sardonic. Fish With Legs, however, is a simple allegory: the story of the first group of fish to grow legs and how each of them interprets this phenomenon. It is subversive but not didactic.
“The story is an opportunity to have people question whether to place their faith in science or whether to place their faith in God,” Carter explained. The film is a co-production with long time friend and collaborator, Nikos Andronicos.
Carter is an ardent supporter of Flickerfest. In his own words:
“Without festivals there would be no way of curating what is good and what is bad.”
Other festival highlights include:
Nocturne In Black – from Syria, this film looks at the banning of music in a town occupied by ISIS.
Bon Voyage – a couple sailing in the Mediterranean come across a boat of refugees and are faced with the moral dilemma of what to do.
I’m Raymond – an ethical comedy about a young boy who takes on his family’s cheese factory for not being environmentally sustainable.
This year, ABC iview will also carry a Flickerfest channel showing some of the festival’s best ever films.
Jan 6–15, Bondi Pavilion, Queen Elizabeth Dr, Bondi Beach. Session Tickets $16-$18, Season Pass $155-$170, multi-passes available. Tickets & info: www.flickerfest.com.au