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Byron Bay Film Festival showcases local shorts at Brunswick Heads

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Byron Bay Film Festival, Media Release, 6 October 2023

Spotlight on Byron – a long-standing highlight of the Byron Bay Film Festival – hails the work of Northern Rivers filmmakers in a showcase of nine films to be screened at the iconic Brunswick Picture House.

The diverse talent on display never fails to amaze BBFF’s audiences, and Spotlight on Byron provides an opportunity for filmmakers to have their work shown on the big screen for friends, family, and the whole community.

This year’s films include Mullumbimby creative and academic Dylan Kai Harris’s Doors Into Art, a journey through the creative mind of local artist Lindi Nielsen, in which a dancer finds inspiration for movement in some of Lindi’s colourful paintings. Dylan was born in California and came to Byron Shire at the age of seven with his family. A product of Steiner education, he completed a film degree at Griffith Film School in Brisbane, during which he developed a fascination with Japanese cinema, and the influence shows.

A dancer of another kind is the protagonist in Bangay Lore, a poignant look at one of the ways First Nations customs are crushed by whitefellas’ rules, from multi award-winning filmmaker Jahvis Loveday, who plays the leading role as well as writing, producing, editing and co-directing alongside Kiahma O’donovan.

Bangay Lore means spear in the Dyirbal language of Far North Queensland – Jahvis’s mob’s country, though he grew up fishing along the banks of the Brunswick River. It focuses on one night in the life of a young Indigenous dancer, whose culture is deemed acceptable when it is performed on stage, less so outside the theatre. “Both expressions need to co-exist for our culture to survive,” Jahvis says. The young Mullum resident completed his Bachelor of Film at SAE Institute in Byron Bay in 2020, creating over 12 short films and 200 online videos.

Hiraeth tells a tale that is sadly all too common along the North Coast. The title is Welsh and means a deep longing for home, and the film is about a homeless mother (well-known Byron actor Philippa Bennett) and her teenage son. A car is the Plan B home when their emergency motel room is no longer available. The trouble is, they are as distant from each other as they are from any real home. It’s a mature look at the bleak reality of a growing number of people’s lives, by 21-year-old Alexander Wardrop from Lismore.  

Mirabai Nicholson-Mckella is a self-confessed bee obsessive and her film The Secret Life of Bees offers viewers the chance to get up close and personal with one of nature’s hardest little workers – the honeybee. Shot entirely on an iPhone, this intimate journey into a honeybee colony provides a mind-boggling look into one of nature’s most intricate super-organisms. In 2015, Mirabai’s launch film for a crowdfunding campaign for the revolutionary Flow Hive beehive raised over $15 million and has been viewed over a billion times. She aims to spend her life documenting the importance of the world’s 20,000 bee species.

Small Town Mentality is a spoken word character-based videopoem developed by Heath Lines as his graduate film project for his BA in Film, completed this year. Intent on pushing the limits of conventional forms of media, Heath sees videopoetry as an outlier in media, due to its avant-garde nature and lack of narrative-based continuity. Videopoetry complements the words of the poem with sound and visuals, but also supplements the poem by visually expressing it, he says. Small Town Mentality does exactly that: it doesn’t tell, it shows, stirring up nostalgia for days past.

Ocean Shores teen Kaia Joaquin Walton was 17 when he filmed Ghost Roommate. It’s a light-hearted story of young social media addict Oliver Davies, who has chanced upon a too good to be true rental house in the middle of the housing crisis. The only downside? An impertinent resident ghost named Winston. The two young characters come from very different worlds and eras and each wants the space for themselves – but their arguments mask their need for each other’s company. This short mockumentary is inspired by the cinematic brilliance of Taika Waititi, and the no-fourth-wall approach of TV show The Office, says Kaia.

The tension rachets up in 18-year-old Miro Salom’s Kane, a teen horror flick set in a local schoolyard, at night-time when, despite the audience screaming ‘don’t do it!’ a gaggle of students go in to investigate the ancient story of a murderer’s ghost locked away in a cupboard. They find their prey – and come to have bloody regrets about it. Miro made his first fully developed short film at the age of 13. Since then he has worked on a multitude of films as a focus puller and camera operator, honing his skills as a filmmaker.

Related is a warm-hearted mum and daughter human comedy written and produced by Suffolk Park’s Emily Hutchinson. The enforced intimacy of a car-ride home speaks of over-familiarity and unspoken neediness and disappointment in an awkwardly funny examination of family dynamics, hilariously exposed when they are pulled over by a world-weary policeman for running a red light.

The highly experienced Shane Crosland returns following his successful Festival outing in 2022 with The Chieftain of the Pudding Race. Shane’s entry this year, The M Word, is based on his personal experiences while travelling from his home country of America to Australia and funding the trip with bar work along the way, meeting a colourful crew of international expats. Most of The M Word’s cast and crew have had some hospo experience and the film pokes fun at the industry and other curiosities, with the nihilistic barman, played by Shane, narrating straight to camera through a series of vignettes from the sordid world of late-night bars.

Spotlight on Byron screens at the Brunswick Picture House at 3.30pm on Saturday, October 21. Tickets for this and all Festival sessions, including the Red Carpet Opening Night World Premiere Gala, are on sale at bbff.com.au.

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