Thursday, December 8, 2011

BOFA 2011: That's a wrap!

This is a striking ensemble piece, executed brilliantly through slick production, magical storytelling and the love of cinema…

With over forty feature films, six masterclasses, two Big Ideas debates, fifteen shortlisted films in the digital SLR short competition, three award winners, one major photography and film exhibition, six opening-, during- and after- parties, a ten by ten metre outdoor screen, a Tassie food and wine festival, a red carpet opening and twelve of Australia's leading directors and producers sharing their expertise over five days of film festival, BOFA lived up to every expectation of providing "new horizons and food for thought".
There's always 'writer's regret' when a festival is over, because it's just not possible to get to everything that's on the menu - even more so with BOFA, because of the incredibly extensive and clever programming over the five days of festival.

And what generous programming it was, with feature films, documentaries, previews and award-winning movies from around the world featuring some of the most talented actors, producers and directors. Through the various after-film Q & As, Masterclasses and festival parties it was possible to rub shoulders with cinema heavyweights such as Vincent Sheehan (The Hunter), Jonathan auf der Heide (Van Dieman's Land), Rowan Woods (Chopper), Michael Rymer (Face to Face), Yu Hsiu Camille Chen (Little Sparrows) and Gregor Jordan (Two Hands). Hearing firsthand from such esteemed film glitterati about their creative processes, successes, difficulties and future plans provided an incredible opportunity for up-and-coming Tasmanian writers and would-be film-makers to make connections, gain knowledge and, most importantly, confidence that it can be done from our tiny, remote island.

My 'picks' that I missed: the Australian Short Films, which everyone was raving about; the sneak preview of the Channel 9 and Southern Star telemovie about the Beaconsfield mine disaster with a Q & A by miners Brant Webb and Todd Russell; Ireland's The Guard, which fellow Write Response reviewer loved; and Fred Schepisi's Eye of the Storm which won The Age Critics' Award for Best Australian Feature at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

But I was privileged to make it to the swanky Opening Night Party followed by the endearing Happy Happy, the debut feature from Norwegian Director Anne Sewitzky and audience winner at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, Tarsem Singh's sublime USA/India feature The Fall, with its stunning visuals and magical storytelling, Todd Edwards' audience-polarising comedy Jeffie Was Here, the powerfully compelling but difficult-to-watch Van Dieman's Land by Australian Director Jonathan auf der Heide, Daniel Nettheim's classic Tasmanian drama The Hunter, with Q & A by Producer Vincent Sheehan, and three Masterclasses - The challenges of writing for Tasmania, The importance of story, and Tasmania, the perfect location.

And Launceston is the perfect location for such an incredibly well produced film festival. The boutique riverside city is a spectacular setting, with its Georgian architecture, gorgeous parks and gardens, and thriving arts and cultural scene. It's also the gateway to the Tamar Valley and some of the finest gourmet food and wine in the country, which were showcased at the Opening Night Party and throughout the event. The Inveresk precinct, with the Tramsheds and the grand Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, provided perfect film venues close to the city centre and with plenty of parking.

With almost 4,000 ticket holders attending, BOFA was incredibly well executed, particularly considering Festival Director Owen Tilbury doesn't come from a film or events management background. It was marketed incredibly well and was easy to book online and on site, with great support from the Launceston Tamar Valley Visitor Centre and screening venues, and the volunteers were exceptionally friendly and helpful. (Two in particular should be applauded for their emergency counselling skills, following my early - and nearly-traumatised - departure from Van Dieman's Land and subsequent need for an urgent debrief.)

BOFA can only get better and if I have a say in what I'd like to see next year it would be ratings included in the program (it didn't impact on me, but I could see how it might impact on people with kids), a blu ray player installed at The Tramsheds (not having one caused a not-too-significant half-hour delay for The Fall) and a stronger opening night film. And choc tops.

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