Monday, June 8, 2015

Briagolong Film Festival: Short Film Overview

As a cinema enthusiast, attending a film festival was something I had been aching to experience for many years. Thanks to quaint little town of Briagolong, which I had never visited before, I was able to finally fulfil that long desire. The festivities which have been held annually for the past eleven years, now bring in audiences over 200. This year there was a number of big-screen releases popular with the viewing public being shown; including two Australian features, "The Water Diviner" and "The Babadook". However it was the variety of short films made by fellow Gippslanders that piqued my interest the most, leading to my last minute decision to attend this past Saturday night of June 6th. Unlike the rural cities of the region, towns like Briagolong present great character and exude the vibe of a simple, care free existence. Much of a community's essence is exemplified through it's people and natural surroundings; a beautiful message which echoes throughout the short features. 
A full house! Over 200 people in attendance at the Briagolong Hall.
Among the variety of films shot by the many talented individuals, the star of the night was undoubtedly Gippsland. Two shorts in particular utilised the natural beauty of the region to showcase an array of stunning photography and inventive filming techniques. This first of the two,"Captain Blotto's Waterhole" by Damian Whitman, captures the fun and energy of a summer's outing at a local watering hole with a simple Go-Pro camera and a quadcopter. The collection of spectacular aerial to aquatic perspective shots, brilliantly captivates the viewer from the start of the piece. The second work, "Soar" by Andrew Northover also exploits a day trip to successfully emphasize the art of photography. The filmmaker manipulates light to enhance the picturesque surroundings located around Wilson Prom's Squeaky Beach. Indirectly through experimental control of the environment around them, these talented individuals develop breath-taking cinematic postcards of rural Victoria. 

Showcased in series of short documentaries was another noticeable theme regarding the community; environmental preservation. In the short time-span of two to seven minutes, three key works brilliantly displayed the beauty of the region through naturalistic photography. In addition to the aforementioned techniques Catheryn Thompson uses
beautiful language in her work, "Love of Place - By the Grace of the Morwell River", to describe the landmark's significance and connection to the surrounding communities. Moreover, the filmmaker interviews a number of locals who express their passion and respect for the area of the river they frequent, thus explaining the importance of it's protection. "Citizen Science" by David Franjic similarly portrays residents who are dedicated to another local area, Mt Kuark, collecting scientific data on threatened species of local fauna. Utilising innovative filmmaking techniques the director portrays the area as one living entity, furthering the importance of it's survival. More simplistically Myles De Keersmaeker's, "A Coby Day", offers the perspective of an individual admiring the natural beauty of Gippsland. Originally a school project, the mostly silent and straightforward quality captures the beauty of an everyday bush-walk.  

Without a doubt the most important part of a community is it's people. In the comedic and uplifting "Scones for the Soul", a young woman on a reluctant journey to find herself discovers the healing nature of community spirit and generosity. Although fictional, this piece depicts how welcoming small town citizens are to outsiders, particularly those from the city. In contrast, "Harry's Big Chance" by Anna Larkin and "Something to Crow About" by Sebastian Broadbent, portray circumstances where residents gather together to help themselves. The first piece highlights the personal triumph of local teenager Harry Conway despite the lack of resource to send him overseas. The support and enthusiasm to help Harry peruse his dream is touching and embodies the essence of community spirit. The latter film depicts a 14 member string-band who use their love and passion for performing to help raise money and the spirits of residents affected by the Black Saturday fires that tore through the area.  While less community oriented, my favourite short of the night was "Return of the Magpies" by husband and wife, Bernd and Tessy Amesreiter. The semi-comedic piece brilliantly showcases how a matter like yard destruction, which may seem trivial to outsiders, effects a small group of people in a profound way. In each of the aforementioned works a problem is presented which is fixed through the help of others. 

Based on the impressive content and positive response, I'm sure the Briagolong Film Festival will continue to prosper in the years to come.

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