Most often, film festivals market themselves as a cinephile's haven; hallowed ground where like-minded buffs celebrate the medium of film. Very few festivals, however, promise to go that step further – to use film to celebrate the joys of life. The Heart of Gold International Film Festival (HOGIFF) was created to do just that.
The four-day event, held in the Queensland township of Gympie, proudly boasts of aiming to be the premier 'feel-good' short film event in the Australasian region. Its mandate is to program local and international shorts that are “entertaining, thought-provoking and express a positive view of the world and humanity.”
The fifth edition of HOGIFF, which opens March 17 at the sub-tropical township's Heritage Theatre, will be the last for the festival director, veteran programmer Malcolm Blaylock. Having spent two years moonlighting in the far north between his regular gig with the world-renowned St Kilda Short Film Festival, Blaylock is particularly proud of the impact he has had on the short film culture in the region, as well as the growing reputation of HOGIFF as a platform for a united global filmmaking voice. In 2011, the festival will feature over 200 shorts from 34 countries.
“I hope my legacy will be that there is an increased audience, an increased number of people interested in films in this area of the world,” Blaylock said. “I have used connections I have in different parts of the world, particularly Europe, to get some of the really great films that are produced there.”
2011 highlights include the Best Live Action Short winner at this year's Academy awards, Luke Metheny's God of Love (pictured), fellow nominee Ivan Goldschmidt's Na wewe and the Best Animated Short contender, Jakob Schuh's and Max Lang's The Gruffalo. (“It's already a classic,” said Blaylock ”and based on the bookings we are getting its going to be a sell-out.”)
Blaylock said that he was struck by the dichotomy of 'global vs local' in the films in the selection pool. “In a globalized society, which we clearly have right now, we know what is going on in the world so there is a universality in the messages in film, and in art in general,” he ponders. “But there is also a great localism at another level. Films from The Netherlands (feel like) they could only be from The Netherlands; films from Australia, there is something about them that makes them really Australian. So while a lot of the themes and ideas and stories have a universal appeal, they also come from a particular culture and a particular country.”
The most universal of concerns represented at this year's HOGIFF will emerge from the 'Green Screen' strand. On March 18, a retrospective of 10 shorts will screen that have featured at CinemaAbiente, the world's leading environmentally-themed film festival, and which have been acquired in conjunction with InterFilm (backers of the Berlin International Short Film Festival and an organisation with which Blaylock has had a long working association). “I saw 'Green Screen' when I was in Berlin and I thought 'What a fabulous idea' and that it would work particularly well in Australia,” Blaylock recalled. “CinemaAmbiente really are the pioneers of green film festivals. So we took the films that they had and added some Australian films, creating a combination of the three festivals.”
Amongst the provocative films on offer will be acclaimed shorts by Julian Temple (The Ancient Forest; UK, 2002), Nandita Das (Umbrella; India, 2004), Simona Risi (Mbeubeus; Italy, 2007), Ebele Okoye (The Essence; Nigeria/Germany, 2010) and Australian Marc Bright (Saving Mary, 2010).
There will also be two strands of the program that focus on Aboriginal culture, highlighted by Robin de Crespigny's charming Wee Dreaming (2009) and the Australian premiere of Benjiman Southwell's Dead Creek.
Other highlights include a collection of international shorts that celebrate the wisdom inherent to aging, entitled 'Young at Heart'; and films that capture the spiritualty of the subcontinent, presented under the 'Indian Shorts' banner. Closing night festivities will take on a Gaelic theme with 10 joyous Irish short-films scheduled, notably Tony Donoghue's audience favourite A Film from my Parish – 6 Farms (2008).
The Heart of Gold International Film festival takes place between March 17 to 20 2011.