Flickerfest International Film Festival director Bronwyn Kidd oversaw a record 2200 submissions for the 2012 event, so she has a unique insight into the innovation and creativity of a particularly driven brand of filmmaker.
“What I am finding really interesting is that there is such an incredible diversity,” she tells SBS, the sound of the festival's head office bustling in the background as her team prepares for the January 6 launch. “I think an increasing trend in Australian shorts, certainly with the films we are seeing at Flickerfest, is the level of sophistication. They are not all comedies, or gag films, but in fact a broad range of subjects across a large spectrum.” (That said, Flickerfest's own promotional short follows the gag film tradition; this year, it's a Jaws spoof.)
Kidd notes that the universal themes local filmmakers are tackling ensure that their work has relevance in markets beyond our shores. “The global stories that people are telling [indicates] we are looking outside of ourselves so we've certainly grown up and matured in that respect,” Kidd says. This world view is reflected in locally-produced works like Justin Olstein's AACTA-nominated Adam's Tallit (pictured), the study of a grieving Jewish widow; the international premiere of Ben Young's examination of skewed masculinity, Bush Basher; and 2011 IF Award Rising Talent nominee Julietta Boscolo's unique take on coping with the burden of one's past, Safe.
Flickerfest's status as an exhibition outlet for the international short film community continues to thrive. In addition to the 44 Australian works, there will be a record 36 shorts screening from a far-afield as France (Thomas Cailly's Paris Shanghai; Niko NoBrain's The Gloaming), Brazil (Aly Muritiba's The Factory), Ireland (Kealan O'Rourke's The Boy in the Bubble), Norway (Pjotr Sapergin's The Last Norwegian Troll) and Japan (Mitsuyo Miyazaki's Tsuyako). Also programmed are 13 documentary shorts (including Dutch filmmaker Susan Koenen's multi-award winning I Am a Girl!), 15 environmentally-focussed works running under the 'Greenflicks' banner (amongst them Tide of Change, the much-lauded short from Australian Amie Batalibasi) and the 14 finalists from the Flickerup primary and secondary school filmmaking competition.
As the only Australian short film showcase with both Oscar and BAFTA accreditation status, Kidd and her programming manager Rosie Crerar are conscious of the role they play on the world stage. “We are perceived as an A-list festival and are on that circuit,” she states, with no false humility. “We are working with all the key people in short film across the world today. People really want to have their films selected here, which is a great honour when you receive and see such exceptional entries.”
For the last two decades, Flickerfest's status has been carefully cultivated by dedicated contributors, often with little financial support from local government. Though certainly grateful for the partnership benefits with the public sector, Kidd knows that without the corporate sponsorship dollar Flickerfest would struggle. “We are the only short film festival funded to tour, so I certainly can't complain about that,” she says, referring to the post-festival road trip to 37 regional venues in partnership with Screen Australia. “I can only compare (our situation) with European festivals working in a similar space and the level of state funding they receive is certainly much more significant than what we receive.”
Their relationship with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) extends this year to welcoming festival guest Jon Bloom, four-term Academy Governor and Chairperson of the shorts and animation branch. Bloom will participate in Flickerlab, an intensive day-long initiative for emerging filmmakers designed to prepare them for the journey their films will undertake; also providing insight will be Animal Kingdom director David Michôd and Hopscotch Films exec Rachel Okine, among others. Kidd believes the wisdom Bloom will offer, based on three decades as a Hollywood powerplayer, will be invaluable. “We really want John to engage with Australian filmmakers, to watch Australian films, to find work here that he will perhaps take home and talk about with his colleagues.”
As always, Flickerfest's future depends on the ambitions of short filmmakers and Bronwyn Kidd is just fine with that. This most dedicated breed of artist has not let her down yet. “We continue to grow each year, we continue to present great short films. I love working in this part of the industry,” she states. “To be in a place where you are nurturing and discovering new talent and having the opportunity to bring it to a broader audience... well, I hope we can just continue to do that. There is a great appetite for short films out there in Australia.”