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I don’t know about you, but I enter competitions for things under the assumption that I’ll never win. That assumption has been severely challenged the last week as I’ve won movie passes twice! One is for Dallas Buyers Club (so I’ll be reviewing that in the next week or so, yay!) and the other was for Flickerfest.

Flickerfest is an Australian short film competition held in Sydney, currently in is 23rd year, that is internationally recognised. It offers an opportunity for Australian, and international, film makers to have their work acknowledged and screened (and there’s a bit of prize money too).

So I entered a competition for tickets to Flickerfest, through the SBS e-newsletter, and I won a double pass to the Melbourne programme night, which featured some of the best entries in competition this year. The ‘Made in Melbourne’ programme comprised nine short films, the full programme and a bit about each film can be found here.

I’m not going to attempt to thoroughly review each one, just to give a brief comment on the few that stood out for me.

We Keep on Dancing

Still: We Keep on Dancing

The first film of the set, ‘We Keep on Dancing’, was the highlight of the programme for me. Sure it had a primacy effect, being first, and perhaps it was chosen for that reason, but that wasn’t all. The story is a heart-warming comedy about a guy who’s car breaks down and the mechanics who help him out. The acting was nuanced, believable, and comedic and the film comes together into a nice, neat package. There was nothing about this short that made me think it was amateur and it has stuck with me in the days since seeing it.

The Kingdom of Doug

Still: The Kingdom of Doug

At the other end of the spectrum was ‘The Kingdom of Doug’: a dark drama about Doug, a cult leader, and his followers. From the very first moment of the film Doug is creepy. At first I wondered if I was reading too much into it, that I was just hyper sensitised to find religious leaders and gurus predatory. As the story progressed, however, what started as mild discomfort with Doug developed into a powerful feeling of revulsion. I commend the film makers for going with a project that is so heavy and so unrelentingly dark for a short film. I would find it difficult to tell such a intense story in such a short time.

The other two films that I’ll just briefly mention were ‘Aboriginal Heart’, a comedy about a white doctor who comes to a remote outback community and has some difficulty with the local indigenous artists. The phrase ‘stupid white fella’ comes to mind. The second one that deserves a quick mention is ‘Off Course’, a black comedy about two guys who help a third guy get home one night.

Now, I just want to touch briefly on some gender stuff here. I don’t want what I’m about to say to be taken as an attack on any of the film makers individually, but to be read as a comment on my perception of the up-and-coming film industry.

There were a lot of men in these stories. Of the nine shorts, only one had a female lead character. Of the remaining eight films, three were of the form ‘two guys bond over some obstacle’. There was the reluctant journey, the estranged son (in which the female character is literally the obstacle), and the unlikely friendship. Sitting in the cinema I found myself increasingly irritated by the repeated offerings of male stories, told by men, about men. We need to do better.

On the other hand I was pleased at the indigenous representation in the films on the programme, and some quick research reveals that, of the two with indigenous characters, one was made by an indigenous production company.

Overall, I left the night feeling inspired to go out and start making my contribution to the independent film industry. Just one more thing to add to the list of things I want to do; another goal to work towards. Look out Flickerfest, I’m coming for you!