Presenting its 14th edition, CinefestOZ continues to be Australia’s premier destination film festival
Returning to the magical Margaret River region for its 14th iteration this month, CinefestOZ Film Festival is a five-day celebration of all there is to love about Australian film.
Rivalling the likes of Sundance, Cannes Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival, CinefestOZ is about more than just an exciting line-up of new films that are shown there. Instead, it is a full-fledged entertainment experience in the region’s cinemas and picturesque venues, offering a host of immersive cultural events, food and wine, and glittering premieres and parties when you want to step away from the theatre.
Set against the stunning backdrop of Western Australia’s iconic South West region, film lovers, filmmakers and stars will immerse themselves in the magnificent program once more, consisting of 270 exciting film and event options, with 17 World Premieres, four Australian Premieres and 34 WA Premieres at over 35 incredible venues throughout the picturesque South West region.
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Delivering a mixed bag of Australian films across feature, documentary, shorts and experiential releases to entice audiences to the cinema, CinefestOZ CEO Malinda Nixon described this year’s program as a force of creativity and diversity, in a time when our arts communities are fighting strong.
“It’s an incredible time in Australia to be hosting a film festival, and we’re so proud of our team and the South West community for pulling together such an impressive lineup of premieres, events and workshops,” she said.
“We’ve proven before that our festival is adaptive, and this year will be no different. We have a program filled with innovative storytelling, unique voices and immersive events that will surely cater to anyone with an interest in cinema. Hosting in-person screenings, filmmaker Q&As and Gala Night celebrations, some of which can be streamed online to a global audience, is just one way we’ve expanded and grown from previous years.”
The unique festival program is packed with unique and immersive film experiences, such as red-carpet feature films, in conversation lunches at wineries and breweries, short film-themed events, local music, industry events with guest filmmakers and free community screenings across the South West region.
While the entire program is pretty special, a highlight of the entire event is of course the CinefestOZ Film Prize, of which four films compete to take the award title and Australia’s largest film prize of $100,000. Unsurprisingly attracting some of the country’s top filmmakers and actors, the Prize will be awarded to an Australian feature film or feature-length documentary showcasing excellence in the craft of filmmaking. Here Out West, Nitram MIFF@CinefestOZ, River and The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson are this year’s Film Prize finalists, which Nixon says are the must-see films of the program, alongside their unique In Conversation dining experiences.
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With a huge focus on celebrating Western Australia films, another must-see includes the world-premiere of Girl Like You, an emotive and powerful documentary from WA producer Cody Greenwood. Directed by Frances Elliott and Samantha Marlow, the film follows the six-year journey of Lauren and Lewis, as they navigate Lewis’ medical transition to change genders, moving pronouns from He to She, and becoming Elle.
Alongside these stunning feature films, further festival highlights include Akoni which explores the social and cultural struggles of a Nigerian refugee in Australia; documentary Big Deal which serves as a wake-up call on the frightening extent to which money has infiltrated politics; and Oleg: The Oleg Vidov Story, which explores the fascinating story of one of the Soviet Union’s most celebrated actors, Oleg Vidov, who was blacklisted, threatened with death, and forced to defect to the West.
There’s also Star Dreaming, a stunning creation from WA writer, director Perun Bonser alongside Prospero Productions; Iggy & Ace which explores friendship, addiction and recovery through the eyes of two queer friends; plus, Aussie dramas Little Tornadoes, Lone Wolf and Streamline which are three powerful and emotive cinematic stories the festival is proud to showcase.
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There’s also the endearing romantic comedy Love You Like That; Poppy the touching story audiences can get behind, featuring a rebellious young woman with Down Syndrome who has big ambitions for her future; plus the Cinesnaps, showcasing the short films of middle school and high school students from the South West and Great Southern Region.
In addition, incredible documentaries Araatika: Rise Up!, Blind Ambition, Hating Peter Tatchell and Uluru & The Magician, both MIFF@CinefstOZ films, Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra, Jaimen Hudson: From Sky to Sea, and Off Country, also a MIFF@CinefstOZ film, will screen across several South West cinemas and venues.
IndigifestOZ, the film festival’s Indigenous program, is also a brilliant addition, connecting with the community to showcase the talent of Aboriginal film works and an increased understanding of culture and appreciation of Aboriginal talent.
Already that’s a huge assortment of quality Australian cinema – and that’s barely scraping the surface of this year’s event.
“There are so many different types of films on offer; it’s such a diverse range and there is an interesting selection of different people that are involved with the festival because of their films.”
Complementing the incredible range of exclusive screenings and special events is CinefestOZ’s Industry Program, which showcases three days of inspiring talks, unique workshops and fantastic networking opportunities.
Having been one of the only film festivals in Australia to go ahead in 2020 as a hybrid event, CinefestOZ has been able to expand on its newfound delivery for 2021, celebrating film both in-person and through a spread of special ticketed online events.
According to Nixon, despite the inconveniences caused by the pandemic, last year’s event turned into a resounding success, with the internet providing accessibility to a much wider audience than ever possible before the pandemic. And this year, they intend to build on it.
“We’ve had such positive responses from industry and our potential audience about holding the festival this year,” she says.
“We were very lucky to hold one of the few physical and virtual festivals in August last year and that meant we were also able to develop a lot of the technology behind that. From that, we ended up being able to hold a festival with a national and international audience for Australian film, as well as having people attend in WA too.
“From our experience, it has meant that we’re continuing to build for this year. I’m always mindful of course that things can change rapidly. And that we’ve again, just sort of worked through the basis that we’ll have some online components and also the physical, the festival as well.”
Catering to those who can’t make it to Busselton or WA, the festival is offering Short Film Cinepass’s, an online-only pass giving audiences the freedom to stream On Demand over 30 short films in a series of four sets, and the Short Film Awards. These are the best new shorts from Australia’s talented short filmmakers, which will also screen in person at the festival.
While the festival would usually host filmmakers from across the country speaking about their films, this year will see virtual film introductions from filmmakers and pre-recorded guided conversations.
“WA often suffers from the tyranny of distance for key film guests to attend, and one of the few positives of the new world order is that film industry people can participate in an industry program from anywhere in the world. And that’s been a big strength for us as a festival,” Nixon says.
“We’re really conscious that even though filmmakers won’t be able to come here through no fault of their own, that, of course, they are still able to participate in the festival.”
Whether you consider yourself a movie buff, or just like to immerse yourself into arts and culture set against the incredible backdrop of Western Australia’s Margaret River region, or both, this one’s for you.
CinefestOZ runs from August 25 to 29. You can view the entire program here.