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The Media School Student Film Festival

UTas’ media school rolled out the red carpet at the Peacock Theatre on the ninth of November for the Student Film Festival. Opened by the heads of the new and evolving College of Media, the night showcased the talent of first-year and advanced students, from silent films and comedic skits, to music clips and panoramic documentaries.

Highly commended from the first year cohort was Peter & Roger, a Tassie-noir crime drama directed by Ryan Midson. Also highly commended was Paul Strk’s The Hamlet Café Story, a ten minute documentary about a community-minded enterprise. I found Peter & Roger to be a thrilling, violent and profanity-laden insight into the dark underbelly of drug dealing – with an unexpected twist. By contrast, The Hamlet Café Story took us into the volunteer-run café that helps people overcome barriers to employment, by providing work experience to disadvantaged community members. This film also won the People’s Choice in the latter half of the evening.

The winner of the first-year short films was Joe Brady’s Good Vibes, a 9-minute, brain-bending flick that had the audience laughing and scratching their heads. The film features a Top Gun-esque protagonist and his bow-tied, love-advice-seeking sidekick, as they move through a dream where a sleeping-bag-wearing gunman apprehends them in the bush, to a carpark where a communistic student urges them to join the resistance. A mashup of crime, humour and all-out parody, this film mixes classic cinematic techniques with an eclectic and zany storyline that is both entertaining and discombobulating.

Other highlights were Monte Bovill’s Missing, an intriguing silent film showing the disappearance of a student, and Crocodile Tie by Sam Horton, a light-hearted flick about a crocodile enthusiast and a stranger who encounter each other on a park bench. Peter Escott and Liam Cobham’s Escape deals with the scourge of hard drug addiction, while John Tanner’s Punching Durries offers a sobering view of the smoker’s plight. Robin Fisher’s Tasmania 2017 is a rush of GoPro shoots, documenting social experiences, road trips and landscapes of this beautiful island, while Shifan Patel delivered a feelgood but elucidating clip about living with deafness, titled Sound.

In the advanced students’ category, the award winners included the highly commended Profiting from the Pest, by Lykke Otzen and Katinka Fals, and Well Played, a game review co-directed by April Cuison, Nikita Riseley and Nathan Hennessy. Otzen and Fals documented the plight of the kelp forests in Eastern Tasmania, and the threat posed by burgeoning sea urchin populations due to warming waters. The filmmakers interviewed researchers and stakeholders in Tasmania’s fishing industry, uncovering the deliciousness of sea urchins and the possibility of harvesting the devastating pests. Well Played took us through the fantasy realms of gaming, in a montage of game excerpts accompanied by an engaging soundtrack, before providing an in depth review of the award-winning game Inside. This film is immersive and vivid as the games themselves, and reminded me of the ABC Kids programme Good Game Spawn Point (except without the malfunctioning robot and fan mail readings). All round, the variety and quality of the films in this section was impressive, showing the creativity and passion of the filmmakers.

The winner of this advanced level filmmaking was The Lark Distillery Story by James Kitto, an insightful mini-documentary of the twenty-five-year-old Tasmanian whisky industry. Taking us through the distilling methods, changes to legislation, and trends of the spirits industry, this film told the success story of a product that has piqued the world’s interest from humble beginnings to international demand. Shots of Tasmania’s cityscapes and the river at daybreak, combined with the storytelling of the filmed interviews, merge to create a film as sharp and memorable as its subject.

Among the advanced level films, Chelsea Wilde’s Imperfectly Perfect, a documentary-style film about body shaming, explores the impacts of social media and advertising on body image. The exposition on social pressure to conform to unrealistic and superficial expectations transforms into an encouraging affirmation of inner self-worth. In a similar vein, Elise Stansfield’s Hobart’s Hidden Homeless highlights the concerns of social housing bodies; that ever-increasing numbers of Hobartians are subject to housing insecurity – either living on the street, or without a secure, permanent place to call home. Walking by Chloe Oppitz shows a view of the mountains surrounding Hobart from the peak of Kunanyi. The film depicts a man and his best friend, a dog who leads us through the windswept scrub and brooks at the pinnacle, showing mesmeric trees and fogged slopes against the crystal sky. Complementing this theme, Jack Evans’ Scars provides a historical insight into the 1930s construction of roads on “The Mountain”, and its cultural significance to Hobart, before focussing on the debate surrounding the proposed cable car to Mt Wellington. Brendan Kays’ Blitzkrieg also has a historical flavour but is more light-hearted, using miniature models and CGIs to show war planes crashing into the sea and cliffs at Kingston Beach. Wolf Arrow Rain’s The Raven is a gothic, darkly romantic film told in black and white and music. The filmmaker’s self-composed music is jaunty yet evocative, as a pair of 19th century vagabonds sway by the cemetery gates, and a shadowy raven takes flight from its gravestone. To finish the evening, Keven Gintzburger’s Lake Meadowbank is an upbeat clip of the countryside locale, filled with panoramic shots taken from a drone, with a limitlessness and vivacious atmosphere.

All in all, the Media School Student Film Festival was a great night, with students’ work delving into the rich culture, stunning environment, up-and-coming industries, and current issues of Tasmania. Watch this space and maybe get some popcorn ready, because Utas’ media students have got some ace films in the pipeline.

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