Showcasing ambitious, diverse and uncompromising visionaries is what the St Kilda Film Festival does best.
It’s why many former winners and participants in the celebrated short film festival have continued to produce breathtaking cinematic works both home and abroad. It was in 2008 that Australian cinematographer Greig Fraser won the Best Cinematography award for Crossbow at the St Kilda Film Festival. This year, he won the Oscar for Best Cinematography for Dune at the 94th Academy Awards.
It’s stories like these that make the St Kilda Film Festival, now in its 39th year, one of the most exciting events on the Australian arts calendar as it continues to showcase the original and inspiring works of emerging and experienced filmmakers.
What you need to know
- The St Kilda Film Festival returns for its 39th year from May 27 until June 5
- It will feature a vast program of in-person screenings, as well as a digital program
- It’s Australia’s oldest short film festival with a reputation for unearthing talent
- You can check out the festival’s full program here.
Keep up with the latest Melbourne film and television news here.
“Even if it’s the first movie that a filmmaker may have made at the festival, I’m connected to them for life and I really like that,” says Richard Sowada, director of the St Kilda Film Festival. “I hope audiences feel the same, because those kinds of discoveries are rare.
“Seeing filmmakers and the craftspeople behind the directors, the cinematographers, the sound people and the editors – all these people are part of my journey and I’m part of their journey. I hope it’s the same for audiences, too, to feel that they’re connected to the future of these filmmakers. Being part of the St Kilda Film Festival, with the tradition that it has, is a great honour for me and I never forget the importance that it has to the life of not just the filmmakers themselves, but to the arts community more broadly.”
Presented and produced by the City of Port Phillip, the St Kilda Film Festival is Australia’s longest-running short film festival – featuring Australia’s Top Short Films Competition with prizemoney and numerous awards – where award-winning films are eligible for consideration in the Short Film Awards and Documentary Short sections of the Oscars.
While the festival will predominantly have a strong physical presence this year, there will also be online screenings. Despite the hardships of the pandemic, the festival has always continued to reach audiences in an authentic and honest way, which was proven by last year’s impressively high viewings.
“If there’s anything that Covid has done over the past couple of years, it’s that it made people look internally a little bit more, and made people really look at their relationship to each other and to communities that are immediately around them,” says Sowada.
“It really brings everything down to a base – a really authentic outside-my-front-door and inside-my-house type of base. I think there’s a going back to a really authentic, honest Australian type of story. It’s a story of looking at things in a very simple way and a very honest and forthright way – a really honest look at ourselves. We’ve got very high quality First Nations films in the program more than ever and a really great representation of women’s films, probably more than ever. These kinds of voices that have not really been able to surface creatively in the way that they have today are right at the surface, and loud and assertive voices – it’s a sense of we’re back to something being more authentic. This is much more personal, which I really like.”
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The festival’s exceptional program of top Australian short films includes Pride Without Prejudice: LGBTQIA+ Showcase, Australian Animation Showcase, Brave New Worlds: Australian Cinematic Visions, Australian Documentary Showcase, Under the Radar, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Dark Matters, Australian Drama Showcase, Shifting the Gaze: Women in Film, and Made in Victoria, and will feature special events, including One Night The Moon: A Day of First Peoples’ Film, Music and Conversation, and Forming Warwick Thornton.
“Endlessnessism – that one I couldn’t get out of my head,” Sowada enthuses. “After a few days of living inside my head, it’s like ‘I have to get you out of my head and into the program’. There’s a lovely film called Where It’s Warm – you look at that film and some of the others and think ‘that comes from a part of your brain which I don’t have, and I want it’.
“The quality of the local work is really sensational. The diversity of ideas and content is so striking, especially given the constraints of Victoria over the last 12 months of being able to get out and shoot, particularly if there’s numerous cast members involved. There’s a good amount from the regions, and they’ve explored scale and scope, and they’ve really done that in aces. It’s been really rewarding seeing what the local community have been able to achieve.”
The festival has been pivotal in supporting local creativity and storytelling, and with the support of VicScreen and the City of Port Phillip, is a vital part of a broader cultural eco-system that aims to build creative, critical and artistic communities. The festival’s free filmmaker development program helps emerging filmmakers attain a clearer context of the world in which they work and develop their own voice.
“We work from the bottom-up,” says Sowada. “Whether it’s virtual reality, games, traditional short filmmaking or experimental filmmaking, it’s really important for filmmakers and screen artists to see where they sit within that continuum of the image. It’s a competitive industry and you have to work incredibly hard.
“You have to have a sense of where you can go and a sense of what other people are doing and a sense of where your work fits into other people’s work. The professional development program is of a level that is as good as anywhere in the world at any film festival, if not better, due to the level of critical and provocative content that we try to inject into that discussion platform.”
St Kilda Film Festival runs from May 27 until June 5. For information and tickets, visit St Kilda Film Festival | SKFF.
In partnership with SKFF.