Saturday, May 29, 2010

4th Dungog Film Festival - New England films

The Dungog film festival is now on.

For those who don't know Dungog, it's a little town (population around 2,500 people) 74km north of Newcastle and set in beautiful surrounds. This is the fourth festival in what has become a very considerable success. The Festival describes itself in this way:

The Dungog Film Festival is something wholly unique to this country - a festival that celebrates Australian films exclusively in a non-competitive environment. Our principle objective is to increase the appreciation of Australian screen culture and heritage. We showcase new Australian screen content, honouring leading Australian filmmakers, and create a context for contemporary Australian works by getting the classics out of the vaults and back into the cinemas. By hosting the biggest celebration of Australian films in the world, Dungog has become a key event on the screen industry’s calendar and a must for lovers of Australian screen culture.

I suspect that this is a pretty fair description. In his report of the Festival in the Sydney Morning Herald, Young filmmakers drive forward into the past, Garry Maddox focuses on the return of the Australian horror genre. I suspect that's fair enough. However, I also looked for films with a New England connection as part of my current writing.lou-lrg

    The Festival Program describes Lou in this way:

Eleven-year-old Lou's life was instantly turned upside down when her father walked out on her mother and two sisters. She has coped by building a tough shell around her heart - afraid to let anyone hurt her again. Lou blames her mother for her father's departure and refuses to let her in. Life suddenly changes when her estranged Grandfather moves in to the family's rented home. Doyle is ill and befuddled and in his confused state, Doyle mistakes his granddaughter for his long departed wife. Lou, intrigued, plays along with the fantasy, using her bond with Doyle against her mother. As the game progresses, Lou's tough exterior is chipped away and ultimately she understands what it is to be loved - in the most unexpected of circumstances. Shot around the North Coast of NSW and inspired by Chayko's own family, Lou is not to be missed.

Checking the film's official site, I found a little more;

The film was made in and around the northern NSW town of Murwillumbah. The main location – Lou’s home – was an old farmhouse in a dairy farming and cane-growing area just outside of town. The beach scenes were filmed at the beautiful Cabarita Beach nearby and the scenes when Lou and Doyle run away were shot within the town of Murwillumbah itself. Murwillumbah is the hometown of writer/director Belinda Chayko and, she says, it’s a great place to make movies.

The movie opens in cinemas June 17. I will do some stories later when I know more about cinema details.

There was also a reading of a script by Marcus Waters. The plot is described in this way:

After being reared in the Aboriginal boxing tents by his grandfather, Elijah Waters, in his early 30’s, returns home after 17 years to find his grandfather’s legacy in tatters. A drunken useless father has died leaving the family property under foreclosure and Elijah discovers he has a younger sister (Katie) trapped in an abusive foster care system. The biggest problem is that Elijah himself is also in ruins. Once successful in business, he has lost everything. But now he has found Katie. He breaks her out and together they go on a journey of discovery with only Elijah’s two fists to rely on. The only way that Elijah can support them is to become part of the brutal and violent world of underground bare fist boxing, where gambling and high stakes dictate loyalty and support.

I hadn't heard of Marcus Waters. A Kamilaroi man, he is a writer who is lecturing now at Griffith University. I was interested not just because of the Kamilaroi connection, but also because the plot links to the show boxing round. This was one way in which Aboriginal people could achieve success.

Another New England linked work in progress was the showing of the rough cut of Bathing Franky. Described as the edgy debut feature of director Owen Elliot and writer Michael Winchester (both also produced), the film was shot in Dungog and around the Hunter Valley The plot is described in these terms. This:

is a contemporary romance with more than a pinch of surreal comedy. Steve, (Shaun Goss) a young man on parole, is finding it hard to deal with his time in prison. On a new job, he meets Rodney (Henri Szeps), a wildly irrepressible older man, who is the full time carer of his mother Franky (Maria Venuti). Rod is a 'backyard magician' who flies kites, tap dances, tells stories, juggles and speaks many languages. He brings the same vaudevillian exuberance to the way he 'cares' for Franky. Steve is captivated by the pair's eclectic and fanciful world. An intimate friendship between Steve and Rod develops, leaving Rod torn between the love and the loyalty that he feels for his ailing and dependent mother, and his desire to lead his own life.

In addition to these sessions, the Festival also featured re-runs of a number of films by Charles Chauvel, a film maker with strong New England connections.

This film festival has been on my must do list for some time. Next year?


Greg said...

Hi Jim,

The film festival is a remarkable success story for sleepy little Dungog. Now Dungog can boast being more than just the home town of one of Australia's cricketing greats from the 1970's.

As a former resident of Dungog Shire I should mark it down on my to do list.

Jim Belshaw said...

You should indeed, Greg. I am going to use the Festival as a base also for my next Armidale Express column.