Dungog Festival 2016, creativity on display

Award winner: A scene from The Coffee Man, directed by Jeff Hann, who will appear at the Dungog Festival with his film and in a panel discussion on documentaries.
Award winner: A scene from The Coffee Man, directed by Jeff Hann, who will appear at the Dungog Festival with his film and in a panel discussion on documentaries.

FROM little things big things grow. Just ask Dungog.

The Dungog Festival Oct 27-30 once again features a strong film component, with the emphasis on screening Australian-made documentaries and short films, as well as a few feature classics and a smart line-up of workshops led by personalities active in the Australian industry.

“I’m very excited,” says Annie Parnell, director of the film program for the festival. “We are a waving a big flag for short film, particularly as a regional festival.”

The audience is a mix of enthusiastic Dungog and Hunter locals and a cast of filmmakers from across the nation, many attracted by the $30,000 worth of prizes across 14 competitive categories. The top prizes are $3500 each for best short fiction film (under 30 minutes) and best short documentary (under 30 minutes). 

The main event of the film program is a digitally-restored version of Starstruck, the 1982 Australian rock musical comedy directed by Gillian Armstrong. Brian Thomson was the production designer on Starstruck and also worked on Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Thomson will  be featured in conversation with Dungog-based screenwriter John O’Brien at 5.30pm, Friday, October 28.

Starstruck will screen on Friday, October 28, at the historic James Theatre, with ‘80s rock band Pseudo Echo backing up the retro theme with a show at the Settlers Arms Hotel later in the night.

Among the documentary highlights:

 Winter at Westbeth  11am, Friday, Oct 28. This documentary was filmed over one year in New York City. It follows 95-year-old video artist Edith Stephen collaborate with 75-year-old dancer Dudley Williams and 82-year-old poet Ilsa Gilbert. 

The Coffee Man (including Q & A with director Jeff Hann) 10.45am, Saturday, Oct 29. Australia’s coffee culture doesn’t come easy. Hann’s brilliant documentary follows Bosnian immigrant and champion barista Sasa, on his journey to the top.

Destination Arnold (including Q & A with main subjects Natasha Lawrence and Kylene Anderson) 1pm, Saturday. Tash and Kylene are two indigenous friends on a quest to conquer The Arnolds, an invitation-only Australian bodybuilding competition. 

Motorkite Dreaming (including Q & A with producer John Cherry and executive producer Marcus Gillezeau) 5.15pm, Saturday. A 4000-kilometre journey across outback Australia. Seven amateur adventurers. Two second-hand microlights (“motorbikes with wings”). What could go wrong? 

Reindeer in my Saami Heart 9.15pm, Saturday. The inspiring story of Inghilda Tapio,  one of the last generation of Indigenous children born into a nomadic Saami reindeer herding family in the Arctic Circle.

The Farmer’s Cinematheque  11am, Sunday, Oct 30. Relvy Teasdale and son John spent more than five decades making films on their farm in the Victorian Wimmera region. This amazing catalogue connects past and present generations. 

The Music of Strangers: Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble 2pm, Sunday. The only non-Australian documentary, this follows renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma and his virtuosic group the Silk Road Ensemble, on their many travels across the globe. 

There are two other panel discussions:

Down to the Ground: Short Filmmaking on a Shoestring  4pm, Friday, Oct 28. Panelists Matt Day (Rake), David Field (The Combination, The Secret Daughter) and Kath Shelper (Samson & Delilah) will talk through tips and pitfalls of making low budget films. 

Dangerous and Daring Docos: A Walk on the Wild Side 10am, Sunday, Oct 30 Filmmakers, John Cherry, Ellenor Cox, Marcus Gillezeau and Jeff Hann, will talk about “extreme filmmaking”.