Review: Flickerfest short film festival 2014
Oliver Heath attends Australian international short film festival, Flickerfest, and reminisces about Bondi:
A quick glance at the sign (pictured, above) and you could be forgiven for thinking I’m at a Tinder orgy or a douchebaggery convention. Neither. It’s an ‘I’ not a ‘U’. I’m at the Flickerfest, set in the pavilion at my childhood love, Bondi Beach. When I attended the festival last year I was surprised by the films I saw; I had been expecting to see a selection of emerging local films, what I saw was closer to a short film Sundance, complete with eligibility for Academy consideration. There was a film starring Dame Judi Dench, and local heroes Blue-Tongue films had an expensive VFX heavy entry, with big studio production values. They were both excellent, but sitting on my plastic chair outside in my Bondi, their grand airs left me feeling uneasy. This world class festival was stirring my mixed feelings about how much the Bondi of my youth had changed.
It was the suburb that my granddad grew up in and couldn’t wait to afford to get out of, the screening was in the building where I did school holiday woodwork classes, and saw my first punk gig in my teens. From the balcony I can see the spot where my mate got punched in the face, and the other spot where I punched my first cone. Stoned on its steps, I chickened out of what might have been my first kiss.
I’m being ungrateful. I had often wished for something more culturally sophisticated by the beach in Sydney and now that it’s arrived I’m getting stuck on the $400 a week rooms and recently arrived beach yuppies taking me for the tourist. The festival made me realise I’m getting it all wrong; the conceited beach yuppies have a lot in common with other waves of Bondi arrivals, and this similarity is what I love most about the place: there’s something about Bondi that draws people to it and quickly makes it feel like home. It doesn’t matter if you were the child of a Polish watch maker, like my granddad, the Russian refugees that were the parents of many of my childhood friends, Brits, Maoris, roomshare French backpackers, or the endless flow of actor beach meditators, we all have in common a love of Bondi and a desire to identify with it. With all this nostalgia in my head, I really hoped I would be won over by this Bondi creation, and happily I was.
Gillian Armstrong opened the evening with a timely sly jab at that other Sydney short film festival where all the films have to be jokes. She emphasised the importance of opportunities for short films that are more akin to poems. When the festival director announced that there’s a new specifically Australian category open for Academy consideration, any misgivings were dispelled. Flickerfest, and Bondi, have become great examples of what Sydney is, at its best – an international port. Thanks to the decades of hard work from the Flickerfest people, there are now great opportunities and an international context for local filmmakers. Thank you.
There were five films shown: the first was ‘Today’s the Day’ a self-indulgent uninspired musical that, despite some slick editing early on, and a Danny DeVito appearance, didn’t even hit ‘Glee’ quality; there was a cute animation that would have had the same impact if it were a 10 second interstitial. Despite being based on a true story, the third, ’Best’, suffered from being too reminiscent of part of ‘Inglorious Bastards’, and the best moments were when Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’ were playing. The standouts were ‘Butter Lamp’, a touching, world movies type short; and my personal favourite, ‘Tango Underpants’, the latter based on a story originally printed by another Australian success, The Lonely Planet Guides. The scene where Emma Booth’s character is arguing with a shop lady is hilarious.
The night itself had a few hiccups. The projection was stuttering and losing sync so there was a long delay at the start. At the afterparty, Misschu provided pork buns in noodle boxes with forks but no sauce. Puzzled, we all discarded the boxes, only to be a greeted later by a tray of dumplings that the waitress was insisting she serve into the boxes we no longer had. My second biggest laugh of the evening (after ‘Tango Underpants’) was watching her, under duress, serve the dumplings into drunk peoples’ outstretched palms. Two thumbs up to Dan Ackroyd for his festival teaser cameo, and for providing some of that good Crystal Head vodka that he spruiks. I don’t even blame him for the “DJ” playing a bad mix of the Blues Brothers soundtrack and disco. Besides, the music provided us with a good excuse to sneak some beers down to the beach and reflect about how well Bondi has grown up.
What’s the point of this complaining? Well despite the poorly run event, it was a great evening. A couple of great films, and the location, could shine through anything. I’m excited for the opportunities for the new local entries, and that international Bondi has films from all over the world for a visit. The festival runs until January 19th, check it out. If you miss it, the pavilion also hosts other cinema nights and is home to a theatre company. It’s a great spot for a cultural adventure.
Words and pictures by Oliver Heath.