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Revelation Perth International Film Festival – Festival Director Richard Sowada On Amplifying Voices And Stories

'Lonely Spirits Variety Hour'
Anna Rose loves hard rock and heavy metal, but particularly enjoys writing about and advocates for Aboriginal artists. She enjoys an ice-cold Diet Coke and is allergic to the word 'fabulous’.

Renowned independent film festival Revelation Perth International Film Festival is back this year, bigger and better than ever.

People near and far are gearing up for the 25th anniversary of a festival which continues to redefine what a film festival can be. Indeed, such is the anticipation for the screening of some of this year’s entries that viewing on trailers for some of the feature films is well up there in the several thousands. “There’s no mucking around!” Festival Director Richard Sowada declares excitedly.

“We’re super pleased with the way the programme has come together,” Richard says. “Many of the films are the most sought-after and known films on the film festival circuit anywhere in the world. We’re super happy with them!

“They’re a different kind of film as well, both pre-COVID and after COVID, so a different turn of events, [but] we like that. We’re really happy with the programme, it’s very high quality.”

Unlike other film festivals, where some might keep within a theme or categorise entries for adjudication, Revelation Film Festival doesn’t have any particular criteria ascribed to its entries. “We do an international call for entries, where we get hundreds of films sent to us unsolicited, then we go out and hunt for others,” Richard explains of the content structure of the festival. “On our hunting list, there’s about 250, maybe 300 films that we try and get hold of to have a look at. From our call for entries we programme all our short films, probably around 40 films, and the feature documentaries come from there, too.

Freaks Out RPIFF2022
'Freaks Out'

“It’s a pretty wide mix, and we look to the local industry as much as we can as well, to local, independent screen production.

“We’ve got a tonne of local short films and feature films and feature docos, which is pretty awesome.”

The process for finding the festival’s films takes Richard and his team a long time – they begin in September, and look at films right through until the beginning of April. High density, as Richard puts it, and quite so, given how dynamic and ever-changing the film industry can be.

From that seven months worth of film-viewing for Richard and his team has come a superb selection of visual delights. Many of the highly anticipated choices, such as 'A Life On The Farm', 'Flux Gourmet', 'Sissy' and 'Make Me Famous', Richard admits he has yet to see. Of course, that just means he’s got something to look forward to come July when Revelation opens. Richard has, however, seen some “bangers” (such as Platon Theodoris' 'Lonely Spirits Variety Hour', featured on the cover of scenestr's June-July magazine). He spits out titles, synopses and reasons why he’s excited about these films and why people should see them, as excitedly as a fast wind blows. “In terms of documentaries, 'Navalny'. That is just a killer! It’s probably one of the best documentaries since 'Citizenfour', the doco about Edward Snowden, but this one, 'Navalny', it’s so stunning and surprising that when he’s being interviewed, you feel like you’re in the room with him. Far out. That’s a powerful movie, really brilliant.


“In a similar vein is a documentary called 'A House Made Of Splinters', which, strangely, is set in an orphanage in Eastern Ukraine. The film was made before the crisis in Ukraine that we now see unfolding, but the film is so heartbreaking. It’s really about growing up in difficult circumstances, beautifully constructed, wonderful to watch.

“From a feature perspective, there's 'Heavens Above' – it’s a classic arthouse film festival film, about a guy – not a likeable character – who wakes up one day with a halo around his head. He doesn’t know how he got it, he doesn’t particularly want it, and the story follows three people over ten-year intervals, each with an unwanted gift. A crazy, magical, realist film. A real crowd pleaser, and a great film festival type film.”

One of the aims of Revelation through the films it showcases is to provoke wider conversations, to spark varied social commentary. There are several topics among several styles of film which Richard says, though it’s a broad area to approach, can be expected at this year’s event. “We’ve always flown the rainbow flag high,” Richard says of LGBTQIA+ support within Revelation. “Our content around that community is very strong and is across all the forms that we programme. Films from women, also, and First Nations, too, which have been very strong.

'Where Is Anne Frank'

“That says to me that the very heavy lid has been lifted creatively off of voices that have traditionally been marginalised or felt that they had no voice, or felt they had no audience.

“This is an important thing – these are areas that we’ve always dealt with but are particularly strong now, particularly important to talk about, now that that lid has been lifted and they’re just boiling over, it’s great.”

For Richard, there are other ethical things to consider; social justice, human rights and environmental issues have always been with Revelations. “[They] are certainly the big things that we take beyond screening those kinds of films and integrate into the business itself,” Richard says. “We don’t take any kind of money from fossil fuel mining or resource companies. We do a lot of ethical diligence on films that involve people [involved] with the festival and [affiliate] companies.

Stage Changers credit Daniel James Grant
'Stage Changers' – Image © Daniel James Grant

“This is also a discussion we like to have in the public domain, particularly in WA, to look at how arts can be ethically sustainable. These are some of the issues that are important to us and are right on the surface of the festival.”

Film has a very particular power, Richard says, when you consider the cinema art form and how it enables a prolific impression on people, particularly when it comes to those sociopolitical areas. “If I could boil it down into one word, it’s 'amplification'. Film is amplified, as far as you can take it.”

Revelation Perth International Film Festival takes place from 7-17 July, and 18-24 July online.

Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2022 Venues

Luna Leederville - 155 Oxford Street, Leederville
Luna On Sx - 13 Essex Street, Fremantle
The Backlot Perth - 21 Simpson Street, West Perth
PICA - 51 James Street, Perth
WA Museum Boola Bardip - Perth Cultural Centre
DADAA Theatre - 92 Adelaide Street, Fremantle

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