Preview: Dungog Film Festival 2012

The sleepy town of Dungog in NSW’s Hunter Valley seems an unlikely location for the ‘World’s Biggest Festival of Australian Films.’ For the sixth time, the town of just over 2000 will play host to dozens of feature films, documentaries, shorts and industry panels from June 29 to July 1, 2012. Housed in The James Theatre, Australia’s oldest cinema, Dungog Film Festival showcases Australian-only content in a non-competitive environment.

Fresh from its Australian premiere at Sydney Film Festival, Penny Vozniak’s Despite the Gods will be the first documentary to screen on opening night. Filmed on location in India, Despite the Gods observes Jennifer Lynch’s latest foray into filmmaking 15 years after her infamous debut feature, Boxing Helena. Now a single mother recovering from a drug addiction, the daughter of iconic director David Lynch returns to the director’s chair with an ambitious Bollywood film about a man-eating snake goddess. Documentary director, Penny Vozniak followed the production of Hisss over eight months and explored the story behind the camera.

In a recent interview, Vozniak described how she focused on Jennifer Lynch’s personal and professional experiences in order to avoid making a film about ‘moviemaking’. “I wanted to steer away from the 'movie about a movie' tag,” she says. “It's primarily an intimate portrait of Jennifer Lynch as a filmmaker, mother, and the prodigal daughter of Hollywood as she makes her third film.”

Ever wondered what the world would be like if there was no way of verbalising the past, the future or the passage of time? This concept is reality for a small Amazonian tribe in Brazil, the subject of Michael O'Neil and Randall Wood’s film The Grammer of Happiness (pictured) screening at Dungog on June 30. Challenging Noam Chomsky’s theory of universal grammar, this doc explores linguistics professor Daniel Everett’s 30-year study of the Pirahã tribe, whom he claims have no words for colours, numbers, fiction, art, or memories of their predecessors. Screening for the first time in Australia, The Grammer of Happiness offers a glimpse into one of the most unique language systems on Earth.

The adventure documentary about a young man’s two-year journey across the Atlantic Ocean will also have its Australian premiere at Dungog. Between Home follows amateur sailor Nick Jaffe in his voyage from the UK to Australia. Jaffe’s lack of funds and experience does not seem to perturb him from embarking on this journey which some would describe as crazy and others inspirational.

Dungog’s festival schedule offers plenty more feature films and shorts plus In the Raw, a program designed to assist screenwriters in developing scripts through a live audience focus group.

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