As integral to the Sydney summertime experience as its Bondi Beach setting, Flickerfest heads into its 22nd edition with a fresh breeze puffing its sails. The Best Australian Short Film honour now joins the festival's International Short and International Animation awards in Oscar-qualifying status and the flow-on effect for both the organisation and the local short film sector has festival director Bronwyn Kidd beaming.
“I was determined to say to the Academy that the quality of the Australian content was strong enough to be considered for The Oscar,” Kidd tells SBS Film.
When the Academy's Governor of Short Film, John Blum, accepted Kidd's invitation to visit our shores, she put all her faith in the films and the well-established professionalism of her team. “The Academy is very stringent as to which festivals are accredited, as they should be. An Oscar nomination is an incredibly prestigious honour. Flickerfest is all about the quality of the content and discovering talent and we hope that the accreditation allows more of that talent to be recognised around the world and by the Academy.”
The AMPAS acknowledgement of the strength of a nation's short-form cinematic output puts Flickerfest in prestigious company. The relatively short list of festival events with regionally-specific Best Film honours includes Locarno, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, Tampere (Finland) and Uppsala (Sweden).
Kidd's faith in the local sector seems to have been particularly well-served with the current crop of 47 Australian films on offer this year. Three screen here before travelling to the world's premiere short film event, the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival: Jessica Redenbach's Tender, Scott Manion's Anima and Andrew Kavanagh's Men of the Earth (pictured).
“There is some very sophisticated storytelling in Australian shorts at the moment, offering uniquely individual approaches to cinema,” she explains. “It is in the short films that the feature film trends of tomorrow are emerging. The short film format allows filmmakers to be passionate and experimental in their storytelling and the Australian works, just as there is in the international films, exhibit a highly-crafted level of filmmaking.”
Entrants have been culled from over 2300 submissions received from 21 countries across the globe, the 116 lucky finalists to have their works screened from January 11th until the 20th at the Bondi Pavilion (all late-night sessions will screen in the outdoor auditorium, weather permitting). The competition strands hold to the structure of past years, with filmmakers vying for awards in International, Australian, Documentary and the eco-minded Greenflicks categories. There will also be a screening series called FlickerUp, which highlights the talents of budding filmmakers of primary school and high school age.
Non-competition events include From the Oscars, a selection of past award-winners; the children-friendly FlickerKids screenings; and a comedy strand entitled Short Laughs. Certain to be popular with ticket buyers will be Celebrity Shorts, seven current works featuring such recognisable faces as Charlotte Rampling (The End), Anna Paquin (The Carrier), Jacki Weaver (Lois), Emma Thompson (Walking the Dogs), Alan Rickman (Dust), Martin Freeman (The Voorman Problem) and Michael Fassbender (Pitch Black Heist).
In line with the Blue Hawaii theme of this year's promotional short (directed by Matthew Jenkin, Flickerfest 2012 Best Screenplay winner for Cockatoo), there is an eight-film Elvis Presley-themed strand that features interpretations of The King's lasting impact from across the world (including the intriguingly-titled French/Palestinian co-production, Elvis of Nazareth). And returning in 2013 will be FlickerLab, the intensive one-day industry course designed to help short filmmakers more fully understand the process, from script and pre-production to distributing and marketing.
The event is now undeniably bigger than founder Craig Kirkwood could have ever hoped to achieve when he launched the concept at Balmain High School in 1991, but Kidd, who is in her 16th year as festival director, believes the event's original principles remain intact even if the practicalities of its staging have snowballed.
“Flickerfest is very much about providing opportunities for Australian filmmakers and the AMPAS accreditation is another step in ensuring our talent has further opportunity on the world stage. That's very important to me,” she says. “What is really wonderful about the industry here is the incredible level of support from experienced practitioners towards emerging filmmakers, based upon the realisation that we really need to support and nurture this part of the industry if our industry is going to prosper. It really does represent the pool of talent that will sustain the sector in the future.”