Raining in DunBLOG. Great after-party to Kriv Stenders’ new film Lucky Country (which we didn’t make it to the town in time for) last night. The buzz in the room was electric – sounds like The Kriv has done it again. He must be challenging Rolf de Heer for the title of “Australia’s Can-Do, and Do It Without Compromise” Director. After-party was great. Film luminaries included Aden Young, The Kriv, Matt Newtown, Ewan Leslie and many, many more. Great staff, a great room and a great buzz. Newtown revealed to Film Mafia that his feature Three Blind Mice (playing in the prime slot of tonight – Saturday – at 6:30pm at the James Theatre) will get a cinema release from John L. Simpson’s Titan View, which was created in response to seeing The Jammed here at Dungog two years ago. Simpson had a great run with that film and at least a critical success with Men’s Group so it’s looking good for Newtown’s home-made flic which has already secured excellent international fest cred and (I believe) some distribution overseas.
Today saw a terrific series of shorts in the RSL! And the place was packed. A full house! Obviously the Festival has really caught the spirit of the locals – and those who live in the greater surroundings. Indeed, I heard a guy on his phone saying “Came in to Dungog for the film festival, seeing some shorts.” So obviously the region, not just the town, has gotten into the game.
Highlights from the shorts included Owen Elliott’s Soft Cop, about a puppet detective (a real crowd-pleaser and laugh-out-loud funny), Emily Bissland’s In The Same Boat, a beautifully rendered animated documentary about the unlikely friendship forged between an Aussie Vietnam Vet and a refugee in a psychiatric hospital, and Luke Eve’s Man’s Best Friend, a terrific dog-comedy from an outrageous – but meaningful – script by Michael Phelan. The audience enjoyed the ride.
The town really filled up today! People everywhere. You can spot the filmmakers a mile away, wearing black, wearing hats, wearing their Sydneyness on their sleeves. But the locals have embraced them, and have obviously embraced the Festival. The Festival also is surely plunging a lot of bucks into the town. Besides the obvious Sydney bucks flowing into the cafes and pubs (not many actual “restaurants” in Dungog) there are seventy-something local houses hosting “homestay” for an average of a hundred bucks a night. When I was here two years ago for the first one I think we were spied as suspicious and weird strangers, but now we’re obviously just those freaks that come every year in late Autumn.
Stavros has shorn off his huge grey beard that he was sporting at the launch and Alannah looks as magnificent as ever. Her energy is ceaseless.
As for the big controversy (the supposed shameless promotion of the mining industry in turn for Mining NSW’s massive sponsorship of the event: I cannot report that it is in great evidence. Perhaps it was on Thursday (Day One) and perhaps, as a result of the page 3 SMH article on Friday, it has been artfully reduced. Or perhaps it was never as huge as that article suggested. Regardless, no-one seems to be going around disgruntled. No-one has as yet pushed any form of pro-mining agenda to me. Interestingly, there is actually a fringe festival going on in town showing environmental / anti-mining films! How well attended it is I cannot say, but the main festival certainly is. The young lady presenting the shorts at the RSL today couldn’t quite believe the packed house!
Obviously this Fest is going from strength to strength. The next stage is figuring out how to accommodate its growth. The Dungog Film Festival Hotel, perhaps?