WESTERN SYDNEY SHORTS PREMIERES – A NEW ONLINE FILM FESTIVAL
It commenced on the 15th of May, with each film will be released via Blacktown Arts’ social media platforms, remaining available for only 10 days at a time.
The films have a strong connection to Western Sydney, with the program curated by Blacktown filmmaker, Vonne Patiag.
“I wanted to celebrate the diversity Western Sydney creatives have to offer by curating a slate of films each taking place in different areas of the region,” says Patiag. “These are local films, made by local artists, about local life.”
The program offers a variety of films from emerging to established filmmakers, with several online premieres included. Highlights include Being Kurd, from director Dee Dogan, a documentary following a Kurdish journalist reflecting on her childhood memories of escaping Saddam’s regime and rebuilding her life in Australia, as well as My Name is Mohamed and Raghad, We Don’t Exist Here Anymore, from director Ali Mousawi, a one-shot twelve-minute film about a day in the life of an Iranian-Ahwazi asylum seeker family surviving in Liverpool that was produced through CuriousWorks Beyond Refuge program.
“I wanted to explore different sides of the Australian identity, especially from cultural groups under-represented in our storytelling landscape,” confirmed Patiag. “These films played numerous festivals overseas, so it’s time these films are seen and celebrated locally – after all these stories are from our own backyard.”
The program has also attracted several high-profile short films – Melon Grab, directed by Andrew Lee, was funded through Screen Australia and nominated for Best Short Film and Director at the Dendy Awards (Sydney Film Festival) in 2017, and Prone To The Drone, directed by Daisy Montalvo, was funded through the Create NSW Screenability Fund, premiering at Sydney Film Festival in 2019.
Lee is excited to be part of the program, saying “I feel it is important to tell stories from ‘the west’ – there is a great need to reflect the identities of individuals that crave to be acknowledged and recognised.”
The program also features fan favourite queer short film Wild Dances, directed by Bina Bhattacharya, as well as a special retrospective screening of Blacktown, the independent feature by Australian director Kriv Stenders. “Most local audiences hadn’t heard of the Stenders’ film – a film shot in and named after their own hometown,” muses Patiag. “I’ve been waiting a lifetime to show this gem to a new audience.”
CuriousWorks and Blacktown Arts have joined forces to present this program in response to the COVID-19 lockdown. Pre-social distancing measures, both organisations presented arts and cultural programs in a range of venues and locations, often working in marginalised areas and communities. The organisations have both adapted to current circumstances by producing digital programs that profile the artists and creativity within their region and engage audiences with content and experiences relevant to them. “With the recent suspension of Australian content quotas, it felt important that there was a platform to celebrate the depth of filmmaking talent in Western Sydney and the diverse stories they tell,” remarks festival co-producer, Miranda Aguilar.
The program will also have a keen focus on the Western Sydney artists behind the films, with two live artist talks scheduled throughout the month-long festival. “We decided we wanted to push the artists to the front to ensure audiences connect with each film personally,” explains Patiag. “We have adapted this film program to online due to the current COVID-19 circumstances but are aware of the over-saturation of digital events in the marketplace, so hopefully the personal touch gives us some cut-through.” Patiag’s own award-winning short film Window opened the festival.
WESTERN SYDNEY SHORTS began May 15th and is running through till June 19th. For the full program and schedule, please visit https://blacktownarts.com.au/western-sydney-shorts/.