BYRON BAY FILM FESTIVAL – VOYEURISTIC PURSUITS

There is something a little voyeuristic in watching movies. We gain an insight into the lives of others, empathise with strangers, peek through the curtains of our closeted lives into a world that is not ours.

Whether it is dreaming of gaining superpowers, finding that one, true love or simply travelling the world vicariously through the lens of a travel documentary, the power of film allows us to expand our lives in ways we could never physically accomplish.

The ninth Byron Bay Film Festival brings together over 220 feature and short films, documentaries, animation and music videos in a celebration of the silver screen and the artists that make it come alive. But, with such a myriad collection of cinematic offerings, it’s a challenging and abundant smorgasbord to try and pick the tastiest morsels from.

Not suggesting that they are the best, nor that they will be everyone’s cup of chai, here are four movies from the collection that we particularly enjoyed:

OCEANIC GIFTS: WHAT THE SEA GIVES ME

The big blue is many things to many people. It provides sustenance, income and pleasure to those that live at its shores, gives food, water and an ecological balance to even the most land-locked pockets of the planet. It is a precious gift and an essential part of global sustainability.

What The Sea Gives Me tells the tales of those whose lives have become intrinsically entwined in the ocean’s ebb and flow; surfers, artists, ecologists and fishermen whose every waking moment is steeped in the spume and brine.

Chris Burkard travels the globe photographing landscapes, surfers and the sea, producing breathtaking images of the ocean’s raw power, grace and beauty. Commissioned to travel, Burkard explores tropical paradises and icy extremes, for exhibitions, advertising and editorials.

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Crystal Thornburg-Homcy and Dave Homcy have built careers on the crest of a wave as a pro surfer and filmmaker respectively. Living on Hawaii’s North Shore, the ocean is their back yard, their playground, their office and their lifeblood rolled into one.

Brett McBride is a fisherman-turned-ecologist, building his life on the fruits of the ocean, but in doing so, witnessing its demise through overfishing and pollution. He now catches sharks, wrangles them onto submersible platforms and tags and releases them for scientific research, giving back to the ocean that has provided so much.

These are just a handful of individuals portrayed, all with salt water in their veins and a deep and profound connection to the sea.

FUEL INJECTED: OUT OF NOTHING

The high octane world of motorcycles has never really raced my heart. Some love the Easy Rider, wind-in-hair, bugs-in-teeth thrill of a throbbing engine between your legs, but bikes just didn’t rev my engine – until now.

Four friends, four bikes, one dream and five miles doesn’t sound like an amazing bike trip, but for Mark and Carl Bjorklund, Jason Omer and Bill Woods, it was the journey of a lifetime. Their dream was to race the 5-mile salt track of Bonneville, home of numerous land speed records, barren lunar wasteland and the destination for hundreds of speed freaks every year, intent on breaking a record or their necks in the process.

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Hand-building their bikes in their collective workshops, the quartet pooled resources and skills to create a collection of hogs that would make Dr Frankenstein envious. Cobbled together from vintage parts and hand-beaten sheet metal, the bikes received as many quizzical expressions as they did looks of admiration.

Out of Nothing follows the foursome through their preparation, telling the story of the workaday Americans as they prepare for the greatest thrill of their lives – gunning the five miles of Bonneville as fast as their choppers will carry them.

Through break downs of bikes and minds, the long trek across four US states and finally to victory (at least, victory for one of their party), Out of Nothing is a non-stop thrill ride that will have you trading in your suit for a set of leathers before the credits roll.

PLENITUDE IN SOLITUDE: CABRAS – WHERE FABLES ARE BORN

There is something about isolation that reinvents the human soul. The disconnection of confinement can crush us completely, the journey of the lost can bring us back to life. The solitude of Sardinia is the catalyst for the wonderful story woven by Cabras: Where Fables Are Born.

Off the west coast of Italy, half way between Europe and Africa, Sardinia has had a patchwork history of multicultural influence. Very much Italian, nuances of Turkey, Spain, France, even Morocco, permeate its people. From an island, a different perspective is observed, one that cannot be emulated or predicted, cannot be formed into words that fall upon a foreign ear with any sense of comprehension. But, through art, music, poetry and film, it can be alluded to, empathised with, and this is what Cabras achieves so well.

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Portraying the people and culture of Sardinia, Cabras not only exquisitely documents this unique island and those that call it home, it also unveils a social commentary about the necessities of life. This is what is subliminally conveyed by Cabras, and it is this that is taken with the viewer beyond the screen. Shown an existence so simple, so pure and raw, at the mercy of the elements, forced to connect with nature rather than try to overpower it, one can only question the importance of the ephemeral miasma we call ‘life’.

The people of Sardinia gorge themselves on the beauty in simplicity; the poetry of the wind, the art of the rocks, the song of the ocean and the sculpture of the land. With the fast-paced, materialistic world we have wrapped around ourselves, one can’t help but question, ‘what is truly important?’

ANOTHER LOVE STORY: CUT SNAKE

When you’re in love, you want nothing to change. The sun dawns brighter, your cheeks ache with smiles and the future sparkles in incandescence. Your life turns a page, leaving the past behind and writing a new chapter of joy and happiness.

But what if that past could not let go? Cut Snake reflects a life of polar opposites; a young man with a beautiful wife-to-be, steady job and ever-brightening future. But when his hidden past life of crime and prison sentences brings forgotten shadows back from the grave, his world is turned upside down.

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Australian movies have a realism about them. Whether because we better connect with the culture or perhaps that something intangible lies within our filmmaking industry, a deeper level of empathy exists, a recollection and a familiarity as if we are watching some distant deja vu.

Cut Snake lifts you up, drops you down, makes you switch loyalties a dozen times – and then turns everything on it’s head. Simple, understated, brilliant, dark – it brings back the art of screenplay and cinematography that has been lost to the miasma of CGI and special effects.

For more information, visit the website at: www.bbff.com.au

– This article first appeared on Common Ground Australia on Mar 1, 2015

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