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October 8, 2022

A feast for the body and the soul

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A scene from Yuli.

Digby Hildreth

Byronites know only too well that music is the food of love, and they can enjoy an abundance of both at this year’s Byron Bay Film Festival, which kicks off with a red carpet gala opening at Palace Cinemas this Friday.

The food at both the opening and closing gala parties comes courtesy of Mullumbimby-based legends Byron Bay Catering, who promise a range of delectable fun canapés, made from fresh, locally-sourced produce.

Company founder Brendon Haras has cooked for Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Chris Hemsworth, so he knows his onions when it comes to preparing five-star food for film stars, and how to delight the cinephiles and fans who flock to the Festival’s now-famous parties.

The Festival also caters for the soul, of course, and the musical treats this year make up a nourishing international feast.

Documentaries from Cuba and Jamaica will sharpen audiences’ appetite for life and a concert film of INXS at their peak is guaranteed to get the nostalgia flowing and bums bouncing in their seats.

Eliades Ochoa From Cuba to the World looks at the life of Buena Vista Social Club guitarist Eliades Ochoa and his trajectory; from a poor farmer’s son to an international name, a much-loved artist and elder statesman who has spread Cuban music around the world and helped keep the son genre alive.

The actor Benicio del Toro describes Eliades as the Cuban Johnny Cash, but his music is more exuberant and colourful than the Man in Black’s and this documentary showcases it in all its glory.

The guitar holds no secrets from him, Eliades says. ‘In the guitar, you will find everything.’ Watch and listen, as the secrets all are told.

Also adding una pizca of Latin spice to the programme is Yuli, a dramatised account of ballet phenomenon Carlos Acosta, the Cuban child prodigy who just wanted to be one of the boys. The sometimes reluctant genius had to be pushed, brutally at times, by his ambitious father into continuing to pursue dance, and had to overcome bigotry in all its forms before becoming the UK Royal Ballet’s first black dancer.

The story and dazzling dance scenes are sure to have audience members leaving the theatre glissando.

George Mason, Rose McIver in Daffodils.

From high art to pop songs, which pour out of the characters in the delightful New Zealand musical Daffodils.

The story of a young woman inspired by her dying father’s reminiscences to imagine the romance between him and her mother, back in the 60s, will likewise bring memories flooding back for many who watch it.

Cue cute but awkward teenagers gazing starry-eyed at each other and singing hits from the classic New Zealand pop repertoire by artists such as Crowded House, Bic Runga and Dave Dobbyn.

Daffodils is wild and funny, though underneath all the daffiness there’s an incisive commentary about the Kiwi (ditto Aussie) psyche, and how we taciturn Antipodeans deal with our emotions.

There’s no holding them back in Live Baby Live, which sees Michael Hutchence in his full rock-god persona, in a full-blooded performance with INXS before an arena full of adoring fans.

If you were at Wembley Stadium on that summer night in July 1991, this is a direct channel to younger, crazier days, tinged with sadness about Hutchence’s untimely end.

Thalles Cabral in Yonlu.

Another who died too soon is Yonlu, the Brazilian teen who wowed the internet with his tunes. The dramatic film bearing his name records how, by the age of 16, Yonlu had a huge fanbase for his blend of Gilberto Gil-tinged bossa nova and tropicalia.

Secretly, Yonlu was also a regular visitor to an online forum for potential suicides. Aged 16, he locked himself in his bathroom and took his own life with carbon monoxide poisoning. Yonlu reveals him in all his brilliance, and his extreme vulnerability.

Death is the focus of From Music Into Silence, but in this case those passing are fortunate enough to be doing so accompanied by Australia’s only music thanatologist.

Geelong-based Peter Roberts is an expert in the process of dying and a gifted musician who uses harp, voice and silence to comfort terminally ill people in their last moments of life, helping them to die in peace.

His story is a remarkable one, invoking tears of joy and of sorrow, and offering a challenge to our notions of death as something to be avoided at all costs.

Very much in the land of the living, and doing it large, is Bakersteez, a Jamaica-born rapper who blends the contemporary sounds of his home country and the US to create a unique fusion between hip-hop and dancehall.

Louis Josek shooting Out Deh – The Youth of Jamaica.

‘Steez’ is one of three young men featured in Out Deh – the Youth of Jamaica who are set on forging a cultural and structural shift in the island.

He’s overcoming the notorious wariness of Jamaicans towards hip-hop and, like Eliades Ochoa, is taking his music to the world.

Out Deh director Louis Josek will be on hand to talk about his film.

Greg Schroeder in This World Wont Break.

Josh David Jordan, the director, writer and editor of This World Won’t Break, is coming out from Texas too.

His drama follows the meanderings of country-blues singer Wes Milligan during a hiatus in his career and personal life. Despite penning heart-breakingly beautiful songs and performing them with some stunning guitar work, Wes can’t seem to make a break away from the smalltime joints he plays for beer money.

His mates cheer him on, he gets guidance from a variety of odd ‘guides’ he encounters but he remains stuck – until a ghostly figure gives him the advice he needs. He quits drinking, is gifted a good guitar and makes a record. It’s a winner, and it looks like he’s on his way…

There’s plenty of food for thought in these films, and tickets are selling fast, so don’t miss out on your seat at the banquet.

Visit www.bbff.com.au for tickets


More on Byron Bay Film Festival 2019

Jam-packed program keeps bringing the joy

Following a dazzling start to the festival at the weekend, the second half begins today, providing countless reasons to be cheerful. Not least is the re-appearance in Byron of multi-talented Joel Jackson to introduce one of this year’s most uplifting films.

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Women destroy the joint in diverse BBFF dramas

Ukraine has been in the headlines more than usual lately, in a situation that would challenge even the satirical skills of its comic actor-turned-president Volodymyr Zeleniskiy, in dialogue with some other real-life clown. But there’s nothing funny about the ugly war that has been simmering in the east of the country since the height of the violence in 2014–15, and which provides the backdrop for a surprisingly gentle romance – Julia Blue – screening at this year’s festival.

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Beautiful films that inspire us to nurture nature

This year, four compelling documentaries deal with eco-concerns in corners of the world that aren’t seen much in the news, where Mother Nature is on the run: Macedonia, Kenya, British Columbia and Baja California.

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Locals enriched by exploration of wide, wild world

As much as possible, Northern Rivers filmmakers are included in the BBFF programme, invited to talk about their work, share screenings with their friends and family, and welcomed to the rich and fertile networking events that occur over the 10 days.

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Weaving, Leunig among the stars on screen at BBFF

Digby Hildreth With just four weeks to go until the Byron Bay Film Festival’s Red Carpet Gala Opening, excitement is mounting over the stunning selection of dramas, documentaries, short films, workshops and virtual reality experiences on offer. Actors, directors, and film...

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