Australia’s largest regional film festival, the Byron Bay International Film Festival, starts on March 6 and runs for ten days. Now in its 9th year, its program features more than 225 films from 36 countries. The program is an eclectic mix of feature films, documentaries, animation and short film. Films are playing at five different cinemas across the Northern Rivers region, from Byron to Ballina to Lismore and Murwilllumbah.
To celebrate the area, there are ten films created by the locals of Northern Rivers region. Despite this, the films in the category remain diverse – in Sue Whiteman – The Gift of Dance…ability, the life of Sue Whiteman, an integrated dance teacher from Clunes is showcased. On the other hand is Early Checkout – a seven minute black comedy about a battler who tries to help out another battler after the latter battler thinks he accidentally killed a young woman during rough sex.
The program also showcases a range of local documentaries on social justice. Frackman, directed by Richard Todd, sounds like a modern take on the Australian classic, The Castle.1 Dayne Pratzky moves to the country to find himself under siege from the CSG miners. In order to fight them, he transforms from a conservative pig-shooter to a sophisticated global activist – he becomes ‘Frackman’. Frackman has its world premiere at the Byron Bay International Film Festival. Janalan (Streetside), Daniel Ziv’s Indonesian documentary, is also playing. It portrays life as an Indonesian busker yielding insights into the frenetic lifestyle of Jakarta’s fringe population. It won the Best Documentary award at the Busan Film Festival and is of particular interest given the current state of Indo-Australian relations.
There are a few exciting Australian premieres, such as the documentary feature film Aspie Seeks Love, a story about an artist, David Matthews, who is diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the late age of 41 and the effects this has on his romantic and personal life. Also, in sticking with the region’s culture, there is an array of surf films from all over the world, including Oney Anwar – Chasing the Dream (from the UK), A Surfer’s Legacy (from India and Australia), Grass Roots (Australia) and 1970 Something (from Brazil), as well as a long list of films on social justice.
David Wenham will be in attendance, discussing the feature film he made with the Festival’s patron Paul Cox. The film is called Force of Destiny and tells the story of Cox’s struggle with cancer. Australian artist Garry Shead will also be in attendance to talk about the film Jack Thompson made about his 40-year obsession with D.H. Lawrence, In the Steps of Lawrence. Finally, there is a fascinating documentary showing on closing night. Brody Fox’s Zen and the Art of Dying is a documentary about the work of Northern Rivers’ very own ‘death walker’, the charming Zenith Virago, that calls into question the Western ways of dealing with death that we tend to take for granted.
You can find the rest of the festival programme and purchase tickets at the Byron Bay International Film Festival website.