Canberra Short Film Festival 2017

HerCanberra Team

It’s a fresh autumn morning and the sun is bright as I wander down to Canberra hotspot Smith’s Alternative; sleepy café by day, quirky bar by night.

Outside, a clarinet is crooning. Inside, a piano is purring. The scent of coffee is in the air, and the scene is well and truly set. What am I here for? The launch of the annual Canberra Short Film Festival.

The festival is officially back for its 22nd year, and it’s got more on offer than ever before. Let me break it down for you: five nights, four locations, over 300 films, and a whopping nine categories, including this year’s newest addition, Indigenous Films.

Joining me at Smith’s to mark the occasion is Festival Director and film industry veteran, John Frohlich, and local indigenous filmmaker, Marissa McDowell. The Indigenous Films category is a first for the Canberra Short Film Festival, and, in fact, a first for the Canberra region. As John explains, the introduction of the new category aims to become an avenue to uncover the talent found in the Indigenous community.

“Through this new category, we hope to provide a platform where Indigenous Australians can tell their stories and give them the chance to have their work seen throughout the film industry,” he explains. “The Indigenous community don’t necessarily have automatic access to opportunities like this like the rest of the community may. We’re just trying to ensure they do have that platform.”

Marissa, a Canberra-based writer, director and producer, runs workshops for Indigenous filmmakers around Canberra and is thrilled about the introduction of the new category. “This is so important to me. I’ve been contemplating introducing a film festival dedicated entirely to Indigenous films myself, but John took it on instead and I am so glad. Indigenous people have so many stories to tell, it’s great that they’re finally getting a chance to have their voices heard and their faces seen on screen.”

The criteria for entry into the new category is that the filmmaker and their team are Indigenous Australians. The CSFF team are seeking films made by, for and about Indigenous people, but that doesn’t mean the story must be specifically related.

“I think that’s a common misconception – that indigenous people have to tell indigenous stories,” Marissa says. “But that’s not the case. Rather, it’s using their different experiences in life to express themselves and tell a story, no matter the genre. This is just a much-needed opportunity and platform to show those stories.”

But let’s not forget the other nine categories on the Canberra Short Film Festival’s roster this year: Animation, Music Video, National, International, Canberra Local, Documentary, Two Minute Films and Schools and Under 18s.

“We’re really putting a focus on Schools and Under 18s this year, too,” John says. “Film is a main medium of communication for young people; they’re enthusiastic, bring new visions and innovations, and can really surprise you with their freshness. I know from my experiences in teaching that for students who aren’t strong in the traditional ‘three Rs’, they can often experience success through visual storytelling instead.”

As we finish our coffees in Smith’s (which also happens to be one of the four iconic Canberra locations hosting the festival this year) John and Marissa light up when asked what their favourite thing about the Short Film Festival is.”Apart from watching some wonderful films,” John explains, “I love meeting filmmakers who come from interstate and overseas, and witness the fermentation of ideas between them all.”

“Plus I love seeing the look on a filmmaker’s face as their film is played and the audience reacts,” adds Marissa. “There is such relief on their faces, a real sense of achievement and fulfilment.”

As I leave Smith’s, I find myself wondering: should I whip out the old iPhone and embark on my own two-minute-film-making journey? I might leave it to the experts this time around…

However, if you want to try your hand at filmmaking, there are nine categories on offer this year: Indigenous Film, Animation, Music Video, Schools and Under 18s, National, International, Canberra Local, Documentary and Two-Minute Films.

Otherwise, if you’re like me and you’d prefer to watch the films instead of create them, check out the festival details below.

the essentials

What: The 2017 Canberra Short Film Festival
When: 13-17 September. Calls for entries close 30 June
Where: Various locations across Canberra


Her Canberra

Sometimes a story is bigger than one person...that's when the HerCanberra Team puts its collective head together to come up with the goods. Enjoy! More about the Author