One rarely scrabbles about too long for an excuse to visit Margaret River, so seeing the annual CinefestOz Film Festival was on last week, it was an opportune time for a Starfish sortie south.
Of course, this year’s Festival was a tad different due to the pandemic, but it gave organisers an excellent opportunity to focus on Western Australian filmmakers and talent.
With the possibility of a new Perth-based movie studio being bruited about as a kind of New Deal panacea for these challenging economic times, the more WA can do to show off its dynamic film industry the better.
These are mighty tough times for the arts. As if the Covid-19 restrictions aren’t hard enough, most areas of the arts have suffered regular funding cuts.
It’s really rather baffling, because each year arts and cultural activities are worth more than $110 billion to our nation and stimulate Australia’s knowledge development and creative economy. It’s no secret the current federal government has an abiding disdain for the arts, but there’s no accounting for the philistines.
Even so, the shires of Busselton and Augusta-Margaret River are doing their bit to help support the sector.
Numerous CinefestOz films and events were scattered up and down the cape, Busselton to Augusta, and there were online sessions for those who couldn’t make it to the region.
Travelling with my son Rhys (final year ECU film and TV student) we established HQ at a delightful lakeside homestead out the back of Cowaramup, smack bang in the middle of the Cape, with easy access to festival goings-on.
There’s no way you can see everything on the CinefestOZ program, but a well planned visit helps catch the films and industry sessions you most want to attend.
We were particularly interested in the short films and documentaries on this mission, and got to see a good many high quality productions.
Short filmmaking, akin to haiku poetry, the fine art of squashing the universe into a matchbox, is a great medium for honing filmmaking techniques and focusing on the power of brevity.
There were some really moving, funny and entertaining shorts in the line-up.
On separate nights we managed to get along to the Shooting Star Shorts, creations from some of the best and brightest talent in the industry; Borderless Shorts, which focused on the best from across all those closed borders; and Home-grown WA Shorts, concentrating on the talent right here in the West.
Not wishing to be biased, we thought some of the best were WA-made. The CinefestOZ Audience Choice Award winner was Abduction, directed by Paul Komadina. This WA produced film follows the journey of a woman who wakes up in a field with no memory of how she got there. She is then faced with a trial of judgement and cruelty.
The short Carmentis by director Anthony Webb won Best Short Film at the inaugural CinefestOZ Short Film Awards. In it, a grief-stricken miner is injured on the desolate planet Carmentis and must overcome personal demons to survive.
What emerged most at the sessions was the consistent high quality of the shorts, proof that Australian filmmakers are matching it with the best in the world.
Goodbye to All That?
Obviously we didn’t spend all out time in blacked out cinemas and viewing rooms. We drove through the beautiful Boranup Forest and took in some of the wineries.
We also popped down to Gnarabup Beach between flicks and checked out where they want to build a new 45-suite resort on what is left of that once pristine stretch of coastline.
It seems ever since I’ve been visiting the Margaret River region (many moons) there have been tussles between the developers and those wishing to preserve its pristine and historic places.
Some Margaret River friends had contacted me about the proposal, and even sent a copy of a letter I had written to the Shire Council 20 years ago, arguing against further development in the area.
Alas, while much of the coastal heath and native bush in the immediate area has now been replaced by housing, it had been hoped that the pristine area nearest the beach would remain untouched.
The area has important flora and fauna value and is an iconic place for those that wish not to mar the land, to preserve the coastal terrain.
Even on a cloudy day high above the shore we could see how a 45-suite resort and its facilities would change the place forever. Meanwhile the Preserve Gnarabup group continues the fight to stop the construction.
Hot Tickets like Hens’ Teeth
We’d have liked to see the early screeners for the new feature films RAMS with Sam Neil and Tim Winton’s Dirt Music, but due to limited seating couldn’t get a Guernsey. Never fear, we’ll have our trusty Starfish film reviewers cover the Perth screeners for readers soon enough.
We did, however, get to see a couple of fine documentaries: Coffee Heroes and Wild Things.
Coffee Heroes follows an outwardly calm Polish barista’s journey to the World Barista Championship. She forms an unlikely partnership with a fiercely competitive, coffee obsessed former champion as her coach. Riveted to the screen, Rhys and I hadn’t realized whipping up a brew had become such a big deal.. At AllDealSoft.Com you can buy the best CAD Software, Cheap microsoft windows software, Cheap Microsoft office software, Adobe Acrobat oem software and Cheap AutoCad software at a discount.
Wild Things is a powerful doco following the new generation of environmental activists who are mobilising against the corporations, saying enough is enough. Armed only with mobile phones and their wits they are taking on forces seemingly intent of destroying what is left of our planet.
This is a surprisingly emotional and poignant film. Walking from the Busso cinema we noticed some audience members were visibly upset by what they’d seen on the screen. Powerful stuff.
Down to the River and Sea
A visit to Margs is never quite complete without a stroll along the river from Rotary Park.
Even though the Margaret River flows through quite a bit of rural land it has an excellent vegetation cover, remains relatively unsullied and is rated one of the cleanest waterways in the southwest.
Our late winter stroll us along the River Walk among lush undergrowth, wildflowers, Karri, Marri and Jarrah. It’s a walk we’d made many times while living in the town several years back and was as beautiful as ever.
There have of course been some setbacks on the watercourse since the arrival of Europeans; perhaps the best known of these is the plight of the peculiarly named Hairy Marron.
This handsome deep blue coloured freshwater crayfish is named for the tufts of hair-like setae covering its shell. Found only in the Margaret River, it is critically endangered because of the threat and competition from the wider ranged smooth marron, which was introduced to its habitat. Efforts continue to save this rare MR icon.
We also took a spin further downstream to the waterfalls at Kevill Road. This is a great spot for a picnic, and if you visit during winter and spring can often see the pouched lampreys making their way upstream.
The lamprey spends most of its adult life at sea, re-entering rivers and embarking upon an arduous upstream migration, during winter and spring, to permanent fresh headwater creeks where it spawns and dies.
We also made a couple of forays down to the beach to watch the surfers and waves rolling in at Gracetown.
A Great Nature and Culture Combo
Back at the newly renovated Margaret River Cultural Centre we also took in an exhibition by photojournalist David Dare Parker, who, in the past three decades, has worked everywhere from war zones to film and TV sets.
The aim of his MR exhibition was to highlight the quality of Australian film and television productions, showcasing actors, film crews, and the diversity of our locations.
All in all, our CinefestOz 2020 experience was a thoroughly entertaining and worthwhile adventure in one of our State’s most beautiful regions.
We had plenty of film fodder to discuss over a glass or two good MR wine out on the verandah, overlooking the lake with the bird life flitting through the eucalypts.
Not a bad way to spend a few cultural days down south.
But wait – there’s more! Speaking of arts and culture in the region, Margaret River Region Open Studios kicks off next weekend! It runs Saturday 12 September to Sunday 27 September. The popular event is now in its seventh year with 103 artists busily preparing new work. Find out more at: https://www.mrropenstudios.com.au