Ten short films were screened at the Byron Bay Film Festival (BBFF) as part of their Young Australian Filmmakers Programme. A winner was awarded by a jury made of film critic Peter Thompson, actor Martin Sacks, actor, producer, distributor Dustin Clare, actor, producer Camille Keenan and BBFF’s Festival Director J’aimee Skippon-Volke.
The delight of such a programme is the variety of the work often taking in many genres, tones and techniques. The short films from this year were no different boasting animation, taking us from outer space to the most happening rubbish dumpster this side of Sydney. While some films engaged more than others with their stories, all boasted ambitious visuals and communicated their themes effectively. The makers of these short films display the great talent of a new generation.
Heavy on metaphors and a variety of interpretations, ‘Nest’ directed by Rex Kane-Hart showed a clear mastery of sound and visuals to unnerve as an exceedingly cute young boy navigated his way through otherworldly creatures and ever changing locales in search of a safe harbour. In ‘Wolfe’, a young man sat and relayed to camera an imaginary friend from his childhood who manifested into more of a troubling figure as he grew up. Accompanied by animation the film is simply a young man laying bare his struggles with mental health issues and is all the more powerful with director Claire Randall’s dialled down approach which honours his courage and the power of his story.
‘Man on Pier’ directed by Ebony Maree focuses on ageing in a positive light with an artist making choices between how she would like to be remembered and how she is and whether the two can meet. James Fraser wanted to make a strong statement about lock out laws in Sydney with ‘Dirt Tin’. One of the more comic offerings from the programme, the film boasts some great performances.
‘Watchdog’ tells the story of a fisherman who stops jumpers from a nearby cliff on a regular basis. It is inspired by the late Don Ritchie, OAM who stopped several suicide attempts over five decades living at the Gap, Sydney. Director Cody-Cameron Brown met with the family of Mr Ritchie and inspired by him created a story with enough distance from Ritchie’s real life to have creative license but still honour his example. Cody wants to make films that when somebody watches them they don’t feel alone anymore, a sentiment that fits perfectly with such a moving piece. The production values capturing the location of the cliff face is excellent but it is the story making choices throughout that mark the Director as one to watch in the future.
Displaying similar skill is Director Nina Buxton whose short film ‘Mwah’ follows a teenage girl riding her bike home in the wee small hours. The work is all told from the point of view of the girl and how unnerving it would be, to be harassed in such a situation regardless of the outcome. A promising debut knowing exactly where to place the camera and fill the silences yet, far from being just an exercise in technique, incites powerful emotions on the part of the audience. Nina Buxton for ‘Mwah’ received the Young Australian Filmmaker Award.