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May 15, 2021

Interview with Ben Alcock, Lyn McCarthy and Christian Pazzaglia

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Ben Alcock, Lyn McCarthy and Christian Pazzaglia, creators of the Bangalow Film Festival.

Three voices create one vision: Bangalow Film Festival

One of the positives of this Corona Virus is how it’s made many in the entertainment industry innovate how they present and what they present. Three Bangalow Creatives, Lyn McCarthy, Christian Pazzaglia, and Ben Alcock have created the Bangalow Film Festival – with indoor and outdoor screenings planned throughout January. There’s even a drive-in!

How did the idea come about for a Festival?

Christian:  Three creative people, living in Bangalow, and missing all the events that weren’t going ahead because of COVID. We all had cinema experience and were keen to bring people together after an extraordinarily difficult year. For me, as a curator of festivals, it was a particularly tough year for film festivals, not just in Australia but worldwide. At the core of the Bangalow Film Festival is a love of cinema and the belief that watching a film with other people deeply changes the way we are able to experience the film itself. So, we created a new festival for the Northern Rivers in a time when we believe people are crying out for that experience. It’s a carefully curated program of premieres, classics, documentaries, kids films and special screenings – something for everyone.

What made you think of a drive-in? Are people in their cars? How are you doing the sound?

Ben: I’ve been running an occasional, pop-up drive-in at the Bangalow Showgrounds for a few years now. It’s always popular, pretty much all-weather, and has a super-fun retro vibe to it. When the weather’s fine, our regular punters will spill out of their cars and set up blankets, beanbags, deck chairs and other comforts and settle in for a fun night under the stars. Others reverse their vehicles into their designated spots and set up, all cosy, in the back. Utes are especially good for this. And the sound? Through some modern technological wizardry, it’s broadcast straight to your car stereo. Tune into the special frequency and – presto! Movie magic.

You are revisiting classics like Fist Full of Dollars and La Dolce Vita – why did you decide to show those films?

Christian: All classics in the program are simply masterpieces of cinema and give us an opportunity to create events around their screenings. We open the festival with La Dolce Vita. It’s a very rare chance to watch Federico Fellini’s most beloved film on the big screen. We’re inviting people to head to Bangalow, dress ‘60s style and relive the era of the drive-in. We’re also encouraging anyone with a vintage car to bring it along. It’s going to be a glamorous and fun event under the stars. With Wake in Fright we wanted to focus the spotlight on one of our most influential Australian films. It’s also the film’s 50th birthday. And for Fistful of Dollars we have commissioned a new soundtrack by the Italio-Australian composer Chiara Costanza, which will serve as a tribute to the late Ennio Morricone’s music, through a re-interpretation of his original score. All three will be screened in digitally restored versions. 

We have the Byron Film Festival, and Flickerfest hits town soon – how is Bangalow’s film festival different?

Lyn: Byron Film Festival is a well-established and successful festival that focuses on films without distributors and has a fantastic competition as a key part of the program. It has also done a great job of promoting new technology such as Virtual Reality. Flickerfest is also a highly regarded national/touring festival that supports local filmmakers and it’s all about short films, and once again its focus is a competition. Byron Film Festival, as the name suggests, is very Byron-focused and Flickerfest is very much part of Mullumbimby’s culture. We believe that the region can sustain the three festivals, especially as Bangalow Film Festival does not intend to create a competition, will not be doing short films in the foreseeable future, and our program is geared towards classics and premieres of new films yet to hit the cinema circuit. We’re looking forward to working closely with and supporting all other arts organisations in the region, not just the film events. The key issue at the moment, and something all three festivals agree on, is supporting the arts, whether that be film, theatre, music or dance. We’re all in this together. 

What does Bangalow bring to the event?

Ben: Oh, Bangalow is built for festivals and, in ‘normal’ years, has an impressive calendar of them that draws folk to the village. The town has a creative hustle about it, and a connected community that really gets behind these things. Its showground is right in the centre of town, and the historic A&I Hall is just divine. To be screening brand new films and ‘remixed’ classics in a hall that was built in 1911, which has been used as the annual Show pavilion, and housed picture shows, debutante balls, soldiers’ farewells and welcome home concerts, dances and has even served as an emergency hospital during the 1919 flu epidemic, it’s pretty remarkable.

Highlights of the upcoming festival?

Lyn: Besides the classics that Christian has already talked about, the outdoor screenings promise to be wonderful. High Ground, starring Simon Baker and Jack Thompson, will be a great experience under the stars, as will Penguin Bloom, starring Naomi Watts. And of course, Truffle Dogs, also outdoors, where you can bring your well-behaved dog. Indoors, I’m looking forward to hearing our special guest Alex Proyas, (The Crow, Dark City), talk about his experiences shooting films here and in the US. The Adventures of Prince Achmed, the animation classic, will be accompanied by live music by jazz composer Phillip Johnstone and his band. That will be a real treat for all members of the family. We’re planning a special high tea to celebrate the screening of Ottolenghi and The Cakes of Versailles. And let’s not forget The Mole Agent, Descent, Papicha, Lemebel, The Dog Doc, White Noise, and the kids’ films… I’m really proud of the diversity in our first program.


Ben: Oh, crikey. Where do we start? Mostly, timing. We have pulled this thing together in no time at all. Throw in Christmas, New Year, school holidays and the ever-looming cloud of covid, and it’s all been pretty crazy, which, frankly, makes what we’ve created even more remarkable. We’re incredibly proud of the program and the promotional partnerships we’ve forged along the way. We’re so grateful for the support we’ve received from local businesses that have bought into our vision (and timelines!) and whose generosity has given the festival real momentum.

And covid. Whilst we’re extremely lucky in the Northern Rivers to have escaped the pandemic virtually unscathed, we want to assure anyone coming to the festival that their wellbeing and comfort is our number one priority. The festival team and our venue partners are committed to providing a safe environment for ticket-holders, staff and sponsors. 

What should we expect for the upcoming festival?

Christian: Eight kaleidoscopic days full of great films, amazing film concerts, film screenings ‘with a twist’ and plenty of surprises along the way. 

14–23 January in Bangalow at A&I Hall & Showground.
Program and tickets at: www.bangalowfilmfestival.com.au

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