The best of the best in the film industry will be out in force, lured by the unbeatable locations and the richest film prize in the country – $100,000 for the festival’s best movie.
A little context for my excitement at the forthcoming CinefestOZ Film Festival (2016 programme now available here) You know that old question ‘what famous person would you most like to have as your dinner guest?’ Well, for a couple of decades my Big Six Wish List has included the extremely versatile and charismatic Aussie actor/producer David Wenham.
I ran into him – literally – in the street outside Busselton’s Weld Theatre last year. He’d been rehearsing the opening event of Australia’s premier destination film festival, and very graciously acquiesced to my stammering request for a photo.
As the festival’s patron (and all round great bloke, I can attest) he’s a charming and extremely eloquent ambassador.
He was there to lend some starry presence to the festival of which he’s patron – CinefestOz. Last year, Australia’s greatest film prize of $100,000 at the CinefestOZ Film Festival, held in the Margaret River region, was awarded to an Indigenous cinematic feature documentary.
As the 2015 Film Prize jury chair, David and jury members Wayne Blair, Annie Murtagh-Monks, Sarah Snook and Liz Kearney (who produced Paper Planes) chose Putuparri and the Rainmakers from a field of eye-wateringly good films and, by their choice, made a clear statement about the quality of our Indigenous cinema.
The film was directed and produced by Nicole Ma and John Moore, and beat out finalists Now Add Honey, Backtrack, Pawno and The Daughter to the title.
Set against the backdrop of a long fight to reclaim traditional lands, Putuparri And The Rainmakers is a story of love, hope and the survival of Aboriginal law and culture against all odds.
David said he and his colleagues on the jury were enormously impressed by the quality and calibre of all five of the Film Prize finalists, but that there was a clear winner.
“Putuparri and the Rainmakers had a story and characters that were so compelling and emotionally engaging,” he said. “It was told in such a way that reinforced the power of cinema to entertain, touch us deeply and stay
with us forever.”
One of the best things about CinefestOZ is the festival and its films embrace so many excellent locations and towns throughout the Margaret River region.
It’s a massive undertaking that relies on an incredible volunteer army called The Movie Crew who cheerfully and unflaggingly make it happen every year.
The catchy name, CinefestOZ, reflects the French connection enshrined by the festival’s founders: all films shown have either an Australian or French link either by way of the filmmaker, production and direction involvement
GO WEST – CINEFESTOZ 2016
Set in the seaside centres of Busselton, Bunbury, Dunsborough and communities throughout the Margaret River region, CinefestOZ premieres feature films and events in cinemas, wineries, small bars and galleries, making it both a feast for the senses and an unforgettable five-day getaway.
The festival acknowledges its strong partnership with ScreenWest, Western Australia’s screen funding and development agency.
Previous CinefestOZ film festivals have attracted film luminaries including David Wenham, Bryan Brown, Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Joel Edgerton, Bruce Beresford and Margaret Pomeranz.
The submission process for the $100,000 CinefestOZ Film Prize closed in June, with the finalists’ films and attending guests announced in July.
Following a star-studded line-up in 2015, festival guests can expect another stellar array of film stars and guests to be heading to the South West for this year’s event.
CinefestOZ patron David Wenham became involved due to his strong affinity for CinefestOZ ’s vision to support the development of the Australian film industry.
“I met these people who had a love for film, a love for the region, but also had an ambition and a foresight to establish CinefestOZ as a significant event in South West WA and more broadly Australia,” he said.
Wenham believes a great achievement that CinefestOZ has pulled off in a very small amount of time is the fact that the festival has had a direct or indirect influence in films being made and specifically films being made in WA.
“Film festivals are the only occasions where film professionals and practitioners actually get the opportunity to mingle and meet each other. We get together, we talk and it is an opportunity to talk about collaborating. I’ve been involved in two Australian films in WA; the adaption of Tim Winton’s The Turning, and Paper Planes. Both of those films were helped along the way in no small part to connections made at CinefestOZ. The cultural significance is important, but CinefestOZ is genuinely helping the film industry at the moment.”
He says the success of the film festival is underpinned by the incredible support it has received.
“I have no doubt CinefestOZ will continue to grow because of that support and that in years to come the Margaret River region will cement its place on the world stage as a premiere film festival destination.”
And, with that purse of $100,000 for the winning film chosen every year, CinefestOZ attracts the best.
Australia’s richest film prize is supported by the Western Australian State Government through Tourism WA’s Regional Events Program, which is funded by Royalties for Regions.
At the time of writing this story, the state government had just announced a $16 million Western Australian regional film fund. It’s been hailed as excellent news for the West’s film industry and a certainty for more regional productions whose current crop includes Breath (Denmark), Jasper Jones (Pemberton) and Red Dog: True Blue (Pilbara).
Putuparri’s John Moore said the Film Prize was a great boost for the people of Fitzroy Crossing who appeared in the film.
“I hope it will encourage all Australians to value and better understand the culture of our first peoples,” he said.
Getting great Indigenous stories to a wider audience is a key reason Rio Tinto is stepping up again this year as a Premium Partner of the festival, including support of the Cinesnaps Schools Program and IndigifestOZ which showcases quality Indigenous film works and engages film-goers through a combination of features and shorts screening throughout the region.
Rio Tinto community engagement manager Shannara Sewell said the 2015 program had fantastic outcomes for the whole community.
“IndigifestOZ helped greatly to increase the profile of Indigenous film with the spectacular documentary Putuparri and the Rainmakers taking out the 2015 Film Prize. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of our Colours of Our Country Aboriginal art exhibition based in Perth, Rio Tinto coordinated the Colours: From Country to Coast Indigenous art exhibition,” said Shannara.
“This unique event formed part of the inaugural IndigifestOZ programme and exhibited artworks from the Pilbara in the South West community. It attracted more than 900 visitors over the two-week period, engaging new audiences and sharing stories through art.”
Impressive films and memorable events in beautiful places are the signature of CinefestOZ.