I am Emmanuel Still Online14

Review: 2015 Byron Bay International Film Festival

There is nothing quite like immersing yourself in a festival – be it art, music, writing or film. The senses are in overdrive and it is this intensity that gets the creative juices flowing.

Today I would like to share with you a few highlights from the sessions I attended at the 2015 Byron Bay International Film Festival*.

While my journalist’s heart always steers me towards documentaries, and there are several from BBFF I’m going to recommend to you in the next blog post, the beauty of a festival is that they always deliver a surprise or two – something unexpected that has you thinking about it for days afterwards.

So on that note, the surprises for me were the following three dramatic films – two dance-based, and one feature length.



Directed and produced by Nick Graalman, Erin Fowler

Nominated for Best Experimental Film and Best Cinematography, this film was exquisite to watch. The film started with a Butoh-style dance against the dramatic backdrop of the stark salt plains of Lake Gairdner in South Australia and intensifies as we are taken on a journey into what the director describes as  “Gaia’s (or the earth’s) struggle and her pain”.

Gaia reminded me very much of the (now classic) films Baraka and Koyaanisqatsi in the way they saturated our senses with stunning cinematography, but Gaia used dance to express the urgent narrative of the planet’s struggle for survival in an increasingly degraded and urbanised environment. Thought provoking short.


Watch the trailer here: https://vimeo.com/85051417

Website: http://www.gaiadancefilm.com/

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I am Emmanuel

Dir: Genevieve Clay-Smith | Prod: Eleanor Winkler

Synopsis: Emmanuel is determined not to let the past define his future. After fleeing from war-torn Sudan with his family, he finds the chance to start a new life in Australia offers many opportunities, and equally, many challenges.

This story could have been told in predictable ways, but using dance was an inspired choice and one I was not expecting, especially as the setting was realist, not theatrical. Emmanuel’s emotional journey is powerfully conveyed and beautifully filmed – camera angles were anything but boring. A clever short film that had me engrossed from start to finish.

Watch the trailer here: https://vimeo.com/78602598

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Dir: Michelle Joy Lloyd | Prod: Michelle Joy Lloyd, Dustin Clare

This feature-length romance (nominated for BFF’s Best Dramatic Feature) was a surprise package given Dustin Clare is probably best known for his warrior-style role in the Spartacus series.

Sunday is a gently told romantic drama starring Clare and his off-screen partner, Camille Keenan, set against the backdrop of earthquake ravaged Christchurch.

The story centres on the couple’s strained relationship as they come to terms with pregnancy. It’s a story of love under pressure: he’s Melbourne-based, with some kind of military work abroad, she’s in quake-devastated Christchurch and she wants him to stay.

Will they work out their differences and reconcile in time for the birth of their first child??? (Obviously I am not going to give away the answer to that question, you will have to see the film yourself!)

This was a lovely two-hander. Keenan and Clare had obvious chemistry, and perhaps because they are so comfortable with each other offscreen, they didn’t need to overplay the drama onscreen. With its universal theme of a relationship changing with pregnancy, the film could have been set anywhere and it still would have worked. However, setting the film in a city that has been earthquake damaged and in recovery mode added a poignant metaphor for their relationship.

Like the writing and acting, this setting wasn’t overplayed either. Just enough to set the tone and add a deeper layer to the drama; not too much to overtake the story. Really enjoyed this one.

Watch the trailer here: https://youtu.be/-MnzYI1uO_4


Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Seeker’s 2015 Byron Bay International Film Festival review!



* Disclosure – Seeker of the Lost Arts was a media guest of BBFF.

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Copyright Megan Kinninment