DC Shorts Film Festival and Screenwriting Competition

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Wonders from Down Under: Australian Films at DC Shorts

As an international film festival, DC Shorts has the pleasure of welcoming film submissions from filmmakers around the globe.  In the 2012 festival, we are featuring the distinguished work of a handful of filmmakers from Down Under.

While filmmaking exists as a universal art form, there are striking differences between the film and arts scene in Australia compared to the United States.  Aussie, Joe Hughes and creator of the short, Devoted Husband, explains, “Most feature films in Australia are at least partly funded by the government.  Because our population is so small, we just can’t compete with the US, so we need government support.”  Jordan Fong, the filmmaker behind Cool Toys, adds, “It seems as though projects are more likely to get funding if your film touches on social issues.”

Fong is a 3rd generation Chinese American and filmed his short while on a one-year collegiate study abroad program in Australia.  Working in Australia has allowed Fong to garner a newfound appreciation for the global filmmaking scene.  Australia also offered its own influence in the social implications of Fong’s film, which depicts two young boys’ play date with an old revolver.  Fong says,

“On a broader scale it [the film] does touch on guns but not very directly.  In Australia gun control is extremely strict and it’s almost impossible for normal citizens to acquire a permit.  If it were up to me I would push for laws closer to those of Australia rather than the ones we have here in the U.S.”

 

 

Cockatoo’s director, Matthew Jenkin, elaborates on the Australian arts scene and the struggle the country faces due to Hollywood’s polarizing influence,

“Australians love film but as a whole, we seem to be a bit impartial to our own films.  Many films struggle to get cinema releases here due to the influx of Hollywood films.  But from time to time we get a ‘Shine’ or ‘Priscilla’ or ‘Animal Kingdom’ that really stands out from the pack.”

Australia also possesses a quirky sense of humor in its films. Cockatoo, for one, is about a man who hires a call girl on the six-month anniversary of his recent break-up to recreate a falsified experience with his ex.  Interestingly, Jenkin derived his influence for the films from actual newspaper ads.  He explains,

“I was reading a newspaper article about a companion service that is offered in Sydney. If you’re lonely and would like someone to join you when you go shopping or to the movies or the museum, you can contact an agency that will match you up with a ‘friend.’ The article also sighted a similar service in Japan where men who are soon to get married could hire a woman to play their future wife in order to prepare them for married life.”

 

 

Jenkin also discloses that the idea for the film “started as a dark drama/thriller.”  However, with the feedback of one of his “mates,” he was inspired to transform the burgeoning story into a comedy.

David Pyefich’s jocular farce, Showing the Ropes, about a hangman in Old England is also exemplary of the Aussie sense of humor; Pyefinch describes his short as “a whimsical film about a very bleak period in history.”  He elaborates,

“We are all influenced by the different things that our own home countries bring to us. I think Australian’s are great at irony for instance and I think we also excel at offbeat and observational humour; if I can carry that tradition on – well that would make me proud to be Australian!”

 

 

Pyefinch certainly carried that Australian legacy in his film, and cites the eccentric and wry irony of the Coen Brothers as a major artistic influence.

In the words of Joe Hughes, “Australia has an incredible wealth of film making talent and actors.  Our industry is tiny compared to the US, but I think that breeds a greater determination in the film making community. I’m proud to be part of it!”  It is filmmakers such as these that foster and promote the incredible artistic talent that comes from a country under-recognized for its cinematic ingenuity.

 

By:  Hadley Fielding

 

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Copyright 2012 DC Shorts/DC Film Alliance

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