21.7 C
Byron Shire
March 3, 2021

Region’s talent shines at 9th Byron Bay Film Festival

Latest News

Forum to address housing emergency, March 8

A grassroots movement is bringing women, community and art together on International Women’s Day (March 8) in an urgent push to solve the local housing emergency. 

Other News

Rail trail

Peter Finch, East Lismore At last someone else has put their hand up to question the fluffery and misinformation surrounding...

Housing affordability on agenda at Ballina

With the housing crisis worsening in Ballina and across the Northern Rivers, councillors agreed that something had to be done about the problem at their meeting yesterday.

Mt Warning ban

Chris Gee, Byron Bay Indigenous readers be advised that the following letter contains references to persons deceased. I read with some...

Random Mullumbimby breath test leads police to cannabis and ketamine

Police say that a random breath test in Mullumbimby has led to the seizure of cannabis and ketamine.

Soli becalmed in NSW Pro surf series

Local surfer Soli Bailey has finished in second place at the Mad Mex Maroubra Pro World Surf League Qualifying Series event held at Sydney’s Maroubra beach last weekend.

Bangalow blackspot puts school children at risk

Will action ever be taken to protect school kids getting on and off the bus on Lismore Road, Bangalow as trucks fly by at 80km/h?

New feature film Sunday, starring ‘Ballina boy’ and co-writer Dustin Clare and Camille Keenan, will have its Australian premiere at the Byron Bay Film Festival. Photo Johanna Macdonald
New feature film Sunday, starring ‘Ballina boy’ and co-writer Dustin Clare and Camille Keenan, will have its Australian premiere at the Byron Bay Film Festival. Photo Johanna Macdonald

Digby Hildreth

Local actors, writers and directors will be among some of the brightest stars on the Byron Bay International Film Festival horizon this year – its ninth and most ambitious incarnation to date.

Their stellar talents will give meaning to the festival’s theme – that Magic Happens in the Dark – as will the glittering selection of about 200 films chosen from countries as diverse as Qatar, Denmark, Cuba, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Costa Rica and Slovenia, and 64 others.

Festival director J’aimee Skippon-Volke is putting the final selection together out of more than 1,000 entries and says the work by northern rivers filmmakers more than holds its own in what is an ‘increasingly high standard of offerings’ from around the globe.

One local who has shone on both the Australian and international scene is Dustin Clare, who will be familiar to many television viewers for his highly praised performances in McLeod’s Daughters, Underbelly and Spartacus.

Clare, a proud ‘Ballina boy’, plays the central figure, Charlie, a macho former military guy who can’t resist the lure of action, in the feature film Sunday, which has its Australian premiere at the festival.

He also brought his considerable screen experience to co-writing and producing the film, which he describes as a mature look at modern-day relationships and the kind of pressures created by our making the big decisions later in life.


Sunday represents a uniquely personal collaboration for Clare, as his former girlfriend Eve, now pregnant with their child, is played by his real-life partner and mother of their young son, Camille Keenan (Underbelly, Packed to the Rafters) – an on-screen relationship he says owes much of its power and truthfulness to the history shared by the actors.

‘It ultimately feels real, like this is two people you know (or maybe even have been),’ said entertainment website keepingupwithnz.com.

Sunday is also an international effort. Keenan is a New Zealander and Clare said he wanted to do something for the country after the South Island city of Christchurch was devastated by an earthquake.

The film is set in the city a year after the disaster, and the scenes of damage, poignancy and hope provide a fitting backdrop to the couple’s turbulent history.

Director Michelle Joy Lloyd, also a Kiwi, uses the ruined cathedral and other buildings to mirror the broken but once beautiful relationship both still hold dear. Whether they can resurrect it is the question that keeps the audience in suspense throughout.

Perhaps reasonably claiming ownership of the film, the New Zealand website Stuff.co said it is ‘a wee gem’.

‘It’s our own indigenous Before Sunrise, made with some real craft. This is an honest, heartfelt, skilful, admirable, and truly likeable film.’

Emerging talent

At last year’s Vivid Awards ceremony in Sydney the BBFF was given a special commendation award by deputy premier Andrew Stoner for its innovation, its huge contribution to helping regional creative industries onto the global stage, and its encouragement and showcasing of emerging talent.

There are few more talented than up-and-coming musician Dan Hannaford, whose work is the impetus behind Lay Down Your Guns, a charming and often hilarious short film dramatising his song of the same name.

In this spoof of the western, with a high-noon standoff, ambushes and a ciggy-chomping, yeller-bellied ‘hero’, Byron Shire’s Hannaford shows a flair for comic acting.

But both the song and the film are more than parodies of the genre: the music has an integrity all of its own, which the film builds upon to create a magical world where children still dress up and play Cowboys and Indians.

It also has a sharp message about guns.

The musical short is a collaboration between Hannaford and Juliet Carrington, who last year was a joint-winner of the Best Byron Bay Film award for her surf feature Burra Jurra, a documentary which showed how surfing could be a life-changing experience for indigenous youngsters.

Lay Down Your Guns was filmed in Myocum but the north coast landscape features in a much grimmer fashion in Babe In the Reeds: A story of Massacres and Resilience.

Brutal history

This powerful documentary made by Lois Cook, a traditional owner of Nyangbul country in the Bundjalung nation, shares the brutal untold story of what happened to her people. Cook acts as a history detective, tracking down people and documents with the help of the staff of the Ballina ­Library.

The special project for ABC North Coast had a live broadcast from Cabbage Tree Island last year and is part of the festival’s extensive high school program, which is themed Love and War.

There’s both a local and a universal – even cosmic – focus in the festival’s red carpet closing gala event, a study of the work of self-proclaimed ‘deathwalker’ Zenith Virago, a long-term Byron Shire resident and an iconic personality in the region and beyond.

Virago is a celebrant and facilitator whose portfolio covers love and weddings, death and dying, and includes working with youth in grief and supporting families who are dealing with the loss of a loved one.

She met US-based filmmaker Broderick Fox at the Byron festival three years ago and a collaboration between her and the creator of the ‘unflinching, autobiographical’ The Skin I’m In became inevitable.

The relationship spawned a full-length documentary, Zen and the Art of Dying, which is sure to be one of the highlights of the 2015 program.

Zen … uses Virago’s multi-various roles to explore the way we, as a society, behave around death and dying.

Dying well

With death something of a no-go conversational zone, the film is sure to trigger emotional responses and stir discussion, as it examines this difficult topic, reveals the woman who faces it daily and looks at the work of the Natural Death Care Centre, a Byron-based charity that supports ‘living well, dying well’.

Fox and his partner and cinematographer/director Lee Biolos made up the entire production team for the film.

‘We embedded with Zenith for five weeks, during which she and the community of Byron Bay offered us access to some of their most intimate and vulnerable moments. The experience was both humbling and inspiring,’ Fox reports.

Once again, magic is likely to happen, illuminating what many see as the darkest of subjects.

Five venues

The 9th Byron Bay International Film Festival runs from March 6 to 15 and pre-sale tickets will be available soon. It will be held across five venues in the shire, plus at satellite venues in Murwillumbah and Ballina.

The full program will be released on February 23. For updates, ticket sales and to see who’s attending, check out www.bbff.com.au or follow the developments on Facebook.

BBFF is becoming a feature on the international film calendar and, says Skippon-Volke, ‘This year’s program is sure to be the best yet.’

More BBFF 2015 News & Articles

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. All local actors, writers and directors will converge for a celebration of the 9th Byron Bay International Film Festival from March 9 to March 16.
    There is wonderment in seeing your work on the screen so take a ticket to ride and come on inside and feel the width of a sound boom. Take one. Forgot your lines. Take 10. A ten minute-recess. Then we start from the top.

  2. Iggy Azalea was just nominated for 4 GRAMMY’s.!!?? WTF is wrong with you, Echo?? Local girl got to the AAA list of entrainment and…nothing. Do a search of the Echo files and see how many times she’s mentioned. Pathetic, Echo. You’re the Grand Ponce of Tall Poppy cutters.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Bangalow blackspot puts school children at risk

Will action ever be taken to protect school kids getting on and off the bus on Lismore Road, Bangalow as trucks fly by at 80km/h?

Lifting the lid on plans to build a retirement village in Ewingsdale

The letter sent to the residents of Ewingsdale last year by holiday park owner Ingenia seemed fairly innocuous at first glance...

Byron’s new road: the good and not so

After more than 30 years of talk, debate, disagreements, tears and political gridlock, Byron Bay has a new road to divert traffic from the CBD to the southern end of town.

Interview with Janet Swain

Janet Swain is 14. She’s in love with the tragic and brilliant cellist Jacquleine DuPré. But one day her mother arrives home with a bassoon.