St Kilda Film Festival
18.05.2022

St Kilda Film Festival

St Kilda Film Festival

The St Kilda Film Festival is one of Australia's premier short film festivals and has today announced the full 2022 festival program

Taking place on Friday May 27, the famous opening night event for St Kilda Film Festival occurs at the Astor Theatre every year, so today also marked the day St Kilda Film Festival announced the shorts that will play at the jam-packed opening night. A perfect way to kick off 10 days of cinematic adventure, the films playing at the opening night are hand selected from across the country. This year, In Conversation with Kelton Pell & First Impressions First Nations Music Showcase is hosting an afternoon of music, film, drinks and talk at the Gershwin room in the Espy. A career development program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander musicians funded by the City of Port Phillip, this special afternoon includes a rare screening of One Night the Moon by Rachel Perkins. Additionally, there will be a curated selection of First Impressions showcases and performances.

Additional programming includes the LGBTQIA+ program Pride Without Prejudice hosted by the Victorian Pride Centre, the Australian Animation Showcase, the Australian Documentary Showcase, Under the Radar, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Dark Matters, International Family Animation Explosion, Australian Drama Showcase, Shifting the Gaze and Made in Victoria.

What you need to know about St Kilda Film Festival 2022

  • St Kilda Film Festival (SKFF) returns to the big screen across Friday 27 May – Sunday 5 June 2022
  • St Kilda Film Festival is Australia’s longest-running short film festival
  • They’re holding their opening night event at the Astor Theatre on Friday 27 May

Keep up with the latest Melbourne film and television news here.

The Opening Night films are:

  • Freedom Swimmer (director Olivia Martin McGuire) a hybrid, poetic documentary interweaving hand-drawn animation and film, which tells the story of a grandfather’s perilous swim from China to Hong Kong during the Cultural Revolution.
  • Hatchback (director Riley Sugars) a new black comedy about Vince (Stephen Curry) attempting to clean up a dead body for the mob, but when he enlists the help of his dim-witted brother-in-law Ted (Jackson Tozer), things don’t go to plan.
  • Finding Jedda (director Tanith Glynn-Maloney) where two girls go head-to-head for the role of a lifetime, in a reimagining of the 1954 auditions for the iconic Australian film Jedda.
  • There’s Someone Here (director Ryan de Rooy) about a young mother’s paranoia as she slowly discovers that a presence is looming
  • Nest (director James Hunter) where an isolated father haunted by his child’s cries of hunger takes up work as a timber feller only to be stopped by a mysterious alarm coming from deep in the woods.
  • Ishmael (director Toby Morris)
  • We’re Doing Well (director Andrew Mills), winner of Step Right Up Audience Choice at the 31st MQFF Awards 2021
  • Thomas Rides in an Ambulance (director Jamieson Pearce), a family watch from the living room on the night of Australia’s music awards.

St Kilda Film Festival’s current aims and ambitions

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.

“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 St Kilda Film Festival’s current director Richard Sowada, who impressively equals the passion of his predecessor.

“I hope audiences feel the same, because those kinds of discoveries are rare,” he continues. “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.”

St Kilda Film Festival heralds the return of the ‘authentic, honest Australian’ story

Part of the festival’s strength has been its resilience and the pioneering spirit in which it operates, as a publicly-owned festival without a board overlooking the decisions and profit concerns first and foremost, which can often encourage short-term thinking and risk-minimising. In 2020 during one of the highpoints of the COVID pandemic, when faced with the festival’s postponement or cancellation, Sowada and the SKFF maintained the mindset of, “Let’s just do it, let’s keep going and rethinking and reinventing.” Rather than throwing in the towel, he utilised the current circumstances as an opportunity to think creatively and experiment with the festival format.

“Being able to have the opportunity to create in a different way and to think about things in a completely different way, that doesn’t happen very often,” he says. “A lot of businesses and festivals have been thinking in the same way for a very long time and it’s very hard to break out of that way of thinking. If there’s any good thing about what’s happened over the last few months, it’s that it’s forcing people to think about what they do in a different way and embrace a different way of doing things,” he added.

The show must go on: Why cancelling this year’s event wasn’t an option for St Kilda Film Festival

The festival’s tradition of spotlighting First Nations talent continues

This year, masterful actor Kelton Pell shared his powerful perspective on the stories that matter at St Kilda Film Festival. Pell will be a special guest at the St Kilda Film Festival’s One Night The Moon: A Day of First Peoples’ Film, Music and Conversation, where Uncle Jack Charles will host the ‘In Conversation With’ session with Pell. “My bond with him is from here to the stars,” says Pell. “He’s family. On his country, the first thing I look for is that yellow bike of his, his scooter,” he laughs. “He’s still doing very powerful work, building new bridges. I’m really inspired by Uncle Jack.

One Night The Moon: A Day of First Peoples’ Film, Music and Conversation is on at the Esplanade Hotel on June 5 at 1pm as part of the St Kilda Film Festival. For information and tickets, visit One Night The Moon | A Day of First Peoples’ Film, Music and Conversation here.

Interview: Walking through fire with Kelton Pell at St Kilda Film Festival

The history of St Kilda Film Festival

We’ve been covering St Kilda Film Festival for eons, it started only two years after Beat’s first magazine issue back in 1984 and we’ve keenly enjoyed every year’s iterations ever since, with the festival similarly endearing itself to the entire city over the decades. Over that time we’d chat to the festival’s passionate former director, Paul Harris, nearly every year. There were a lot of chats – the remarkable figurehead in the local film industry ran SKFF for a whopping 21 years.

One of the major events in SKFF’s history was when it became accredited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and an Academy Awards qualified event – a milestone achievement for any film festival – and we spoke to Harris about it as a landmark achievement at the time: “If you think of the film community as a big chain, we are a very important link in that chain,” Harris said. “If you’re making a short film and you think you’ve got something pretty good, you enter it in various festivals – maybe you enter St Kilda, maybe you enter MIFF and if you’re successful then you might get picked for an overseas festival. We are one now one of four of five festivals in Australia that is Oscar accredited. It’s an indication of how seriously our festival is taken, and there is a lot of integrity and credibility within the film community.

“It’s so much easier these days to go out and make a film. You don’t have to wait to get a government grant and you’re not restricted by cumbersome film equipment and getting the film developed. You can make a pretty professional looking film on a phone. Irrespective of what equipment you’re using, you’ve got to take people by the scruff of the neck and you’ve really got to make them notice your work. We live in a very cluttered media landscape; there’s so many calls upon our time that it’s difficult to make yourself heard – not difficult to do the work though.”

St Kilda Film Festival’s history of supporting the local film industry

Which films make it and which don’t?

There’s no simple answer, as Harris explained, SKFF is principally a film industry democracy that prides itself on its variety, unpretentious nature and focus on the unique and captivating stories anybody can tell, regardless of budget and in many cases, technique and formal training. “It always starts with the concept,” Harris said. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve got no money. If you’ve got [a short film] which is technically crude but has taken me to a new place while I’m watching it, that means a lot more than a short film with big names and impressive production values, but is impersonal. Sometimes it’s a novelty, the way in which it’s told that makes it stand out from the pack. Sometimes it might be a film that’s non-narrative but has a strong atmosphere, something that grabs you and announces itself.

“The worst thing I think anyone involved in an arts festival can do is to program your own tastes,” he continued, thereby shattering my fledgling schemes for global film festival dominance. “You’re not there to please yourself, you’re there to excite an audience. Quite often I see films that I know have a certain quality about them but might not be to my tastes, so I get other people to look at them too. You don’t want to reject a film that goes on to win prizes elsewhere. But in 19 years that hasn’t happened, so I can safely say that the films that we’ve rejected are those that have also been rejected by everybody else.”

Why the festival shines in a crowded short film market

St Kilda Film Festival has managed to carve a prestigious place for itself in Australia’s crowded short film market. Back in 2014 we interviewed  about what has always made the festival stand apart from, say, Tropfest or Made in Melbourne?

“A unique quality of St Kilda Film Festival is the fact that we are a competition festival that screens only locally produced short films,” Harris told us. “We only show Australian films. We are a one-stop opportunity for emerging local filmmakers to get a heads up. There’s an international side bar but that isn’t in the competition. We have dramas, documentaries, animations,” Harris notes. “The films come from a national competition, a call for entries from all over Australia – it is representative of what film makers are doing on any given day of any year.”

What makes St Kilda Film Festival unique?

SKFF reminds us of the thrill of cinema in the streaming era

Part of what makes the southside short film festival so special is its increasingly valuable place in the history of Melbourne cinema as the locals are increasingly sucked in to the rampant global streaming market. While the debate about local content quotas on streaming services and the pros and cons of global film tax subsidies rages on around it, St Kilda Film Festival has been a consistent reminder of why independent films in boutique theatres are such a special and unique experience.

“You sit down, the lights dim, the curtains open and you get that sense of keen anticipation, the eagerness, and the sense of excitement,” Harris told us in 2015. “We’ve been going since 1983. The St Kilda Film Festival is Australia’s premier short film festival. We’re purely about Australian shorts. We’ve helped establish the career of several filmmakers – to be screened in this festival helps them in their future career; it plays an important role. We don’t rival the other film festivals, we complement them. We’ve got a huge field of films to choose from.”

At St Kilda Film Festival, the thrill of cinema never fades

Harris also had some very interesting advice for aspiring filmmakers in the digital era, which may contravene the general assumption around the best way to stardom for youngsters looking to pave their way in the industry. When the festival celebrated its 35th birthday back in April 2018, YouTube celebrated its 13th. The video platform’s content saturation has had a monumental impact on short films, making production as easy as a phone call. Harris, in his 20th year as director, experienced the effect of video-sharing, Netflix and illegal downloading of film entertainment first-hand. Downplaying any direct financial impact on the festival itself, Harris pondered to us at the time about the pros and cons its online “democracy” has brought.

“The media landscape is very cluttered, so how are you going to stand out from the pack? You’ve got more opportunity than ever to make mediocre films. If I were a filmmaker and I made a short film thinking it was good, I would try to enter it in as many festivals as I could and get exposure that way. As for YouTube, that’s the last stop, not the first. Once you’ve put it out publicly, you’ve lost all control over it.”

Going short in the long-run for the 35th St Kilda Film Festival

For more information on the festival, for bookings and for the full list of films, head here.