The full program for the Byron Bay Film Festival is now available online, introducing a stellar showcase of over 155 films, including 21 documentaries, 15 dramatic features, 20 music videos and 68 shorts as well as an extensive selection of Virtual Reality experiences.
Chosen from nearly 1,000 submitted works, the selection reflects the progressive, relaxed, yet engaged ethos of the idyllic coastal town, where surfing, the environment, music, art, health and social activism are key concerns of everyday life.
This year the span reaches from the surf off Sierra Leone to the limpid waters of Hawaii’s Kauai Island, from the smoggy bustle of downtown Manila to the infinitely clear and silent skies that dominate the night in Chile’s Atacama Desert.
Absorbing documentaries explore the hidden world of the internet’s ‘content modera-tors’, the ever-expanding role of Artificial Intelligence in our lives, two very different ground-breaking Japanese artists, young Buddhist monks, and how dogs can help us to lead saner lives.
The late Rob Stewart’s courageous inquiry into the horrific shark finning industry has particular relevance for the North Coast.
Local and talented young Australian documentary filmmakers are prominent alongside their international peers, with stimulating studies of men’s mental health, obsessive pop fandom, the importance of Aboriginal culture, and the crisis in the Kimberley – and the Latrobe Valley.
A standout film is Dying to Live from Frackman director Richard Todd, which looks searchingly at Australians’ seeming reluctance to donate their organs for transplant.
There are also Australian-made dramas showing that will launch their directors, writers and actors onto the world stage, although some, such as the creator of Jirga, Benjamin Gilmour, are there already, following the film’s sensational reception at the recent Toronto International Film Festival. The Byron screening is a sneak preview before Jirga has its theatrical release, and will be presented in person by Gilmour – now a Byron Shire resident.
Other dramas range from dark and almost surreal comedies from Latvia and Iran, romances blossoming within war zones (and an abattoir), and adventures from the Arctic to the south of France. A supernatural thriller, The School, is another product of a Byron Shire team.
The festival also has what is perhaps Australia’s most comprehensive offering of virtual and augmented reality experiences on offer, plus workshops, panels, parties, and even a breath work meditation with visual accompaniment.
It’s a 10-day extravaganza of entertainment, learning and fun –Byron Bay’s most colourful and glamorous cultural event – and everyone is invited.
The printed program will be distributed with The Echo in coming weeks.