The Australian-made drama One Less God took the Best Film Award at the 11th Byron Bay Film Festival Closing Gala. Telling the personal stories of Taj Mahal Palace hotel guests and staff caught up in the terrorist attack in 2008 – and of two of the Islamist attackers – the film held capacity audiences spellbound during two screenings at the festival, both at the Byron Community Centre and at Brunswick Picture House.
Director, co-producer and writer, Central Coast-based Lliam Worthington, who is taking the film to Mumbai this week, noted the “incredible value” of such an award on the international scene.
Co-producer Maren Smith said: “The packed houses and the audience buzz at Byron really bodes well for our upcoming theatrical release, so we can’t wait to share it with a wide audience.”
The film, though gruelling, had been an “absolute hit” with audiences, “sparking debate, passionate commentary and heartfelt appreciation”, said Festival Director J’aimee Skippon-Volke.
Best Dramatic Feature
Winner of the Best Dramatic Feature Award was Jungle, featuring Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe as Mullumbimby-based Israeli Yossi Ghinsberg, and rising Australian star Joel Jackson. Wolf Creek director Greg McLean made the edge-of-your-seat drama, which recounts the real-life ordeal that Ghinsberg experienced when he was lost for two weeks in the Amazonian rainforest.
An American in Texas, the David Wenham-directed romantic comedy Ellipsis, German psycho-drama Freddy/Eddy and One Less God were other nominations in the category. An American in Texas received an honourable mention.
Best Surfing Film
In the highly competitive category of Best Surfing Film, the feature documentary Heavy Water by acclaimed surf filmmaker Michael Oblowitz won the day. The story of surfing legend Nathan Fletcher and his “acid drop” from a helicopter onto a massive wave played to full houses at several screenings throughout the festival.
Best Byron Film - Locals Award
The Church of the Open Sky, from Nathan Oldfield, won the Best Byron Bay Film Award – fulfilling lauded Australian novelist Tim Winton’s description of him as “a filmmaker who wants a surf movie to say something important, to move us and make us grateful for the sea around us and the life within us”.
City of Joy was the winner of the Best Documentary Award. The grim record of the plight of women caught up in the war-zone of Eastern Congo, where they are routinely raped anD tortured by soldiers and militias seeking to terrorise the populace, offered some hope of recovery for them in the sanctuary City, and a life beyond their horrific experiences.
Also nominated were Heavy Water, Roller Dreams, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World and the Opening Night film The Freedom to Marry, an account of the battle for marriage equality in the US, which was won in an historic Supreme Court ruling.
Best Short Film
The Argentinian film Uncanny Valley took out the Best Short Film Award, with Backstory, while Australian films Found, The Kindness of Strangers (featuring Martin Sacks and Miranda Tapsell) and Serving Joy were also nominated.
The extraordinary work Loving Vincent – made entirely from 65,000 painted frames showing the late-blooming artistry of Vincent Van Gogh, and telling his tragic life-story – won the Best Animated Film Award from a worthy international field, which included Keiro, Portrait of a Wind-Up Maker, Schirkoa and Ztripes.
Loving Vincent showed to capacity audiences throughout the Festival, filling Pighouse Flicks on five separate occasions.
Best Experimental Film
Best Cinematography Award
Best Environmental Film
The Best Environmental Film Award was picked up by director Karina Holden and her co-producer Sarah Beard at an earlier screening of their documentary Blue. The shocking revelation about the state of the planet’s oceans screened five times throughout the festival, each time to a packed house. Frontera Invisible, Grey Space, Long Yearning and Suzy and the Simple Man were other nominees.
Young Australian Filmmaker of The Year
Our 2017 Young Australian Filmmaker of the Year was Nina Buxton, whose short film Mwah proved highly topical, examining as it does the terrifying experience of young women dealing with unwanted attention from predatory men.
Best Music Documentary
Best Music Documentary was awarded to Rumble, which revealed and celebrated the huge contribution made by Native Americans to the popular “Western” musical forms of blues, rock and jazz, and the rhythms we hear around us every day. Amplify Her, The Go-Betweens: Right Here, and Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy were also in the running.
The US$2500 Screenplay Prize went to Byron Shire resident Clare Sladden for her feature drama Broken Head, who said she was thrilled to be the winner of the inaugural competition.
“My winning screenplay follows two estranged siblings, a determined fiancée, and a tag-along backpacker on a laugh-out-loud road trip up the East Coast of Australia in a quest to recover lost memories in time for a wedding. I’m so grateful that the judges connected to a story with such a complex, flawed female protagonist, that, at its core, is about the universal experiences of forgiveness and self-forgiveness.”
Clare’s short film Consent screened at the Festival – a dark imagining of where an internet date could go when a woman allows a virtual stranger into her home to fulfil an unusual agreement.
Best Cinematic and Interactive VR Experiences
Canadas Felix and Paul took home the Festival’s Best Cinematic VR Experience Award for Miyubi, a long-form comedic Virtual Reality piece made in conjunction with Funny or Die and starring Jeff Goldblum. Nicole Mcdonald’s sensitive and beautiful animated experience Hue received the Best Interactive VR Experience Award.
BBFF’s Festival Director J’aimee Skippon-Volke said “There was an exceptionally high standard of entries to our 2017 Festival which made the selection and nomination process a real challenge to our team and the judges”.
The 12th Byron Bay Film Festival will run from the 12th to the 21st of October 2018.