The ReelGood Film Festival is back.
Unlike many other venerable cultural institutions, RGFF was not felled by COVID during either 2020 or 2021. In 2020, the festival just squeaked in before lockdown started. In 2021, the summer had temporarily eradicated COVID from our thoughts, leaving the festival free to go forward before another round of lockdowns hit us in the winter.
Perhaps not having gotten the break others got, RGFF finally had to rest and regroup in 2022.
But it was never intended to be a permanent hiatus, and now the one-day festival of shorts is returning to the Lido in Hawthorn on Saturday, April 22nd. Appropriately, 22 Australian shorts will be shown to match the day on the calendar, grouped together in blocks starting every hour, on the hour, throughout the day. You can purchase tickets here.
Over here on the website side, we’ll be previewing what you have in store for you, once per week leading up to the festival.
There’s no place better to start than with a handful of animated shorts, of very different moods and modes, that will be highlighting the program. Including one that was just nominated for an Academy Award.
If you were filling out guesses for an Oscar pool a few weeks ago, you might have remembered one of the longest film titles ever nominated for an Academy Award: An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It.
The stop-motion animation film is from Brisbane-based animator Lachlan Pendragon, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting vibes of Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa.
The story concerns office drone Neil (voice of the director himself), a salesman trying to sell toasters with increasing lethargy and increasing threats of an imminent sacking from his boss. One day, Neil begins noticing certain things aren’t right – like the fact that his co-worker is typing on a keyboard that isn’t there – and this throws his whole world into existential crisis.
The film displays a love for the grand tradition of cinematic head trips that inspired it, as well as for the craft of stop-motion animation itself. To say more about it would be to spoil some of the best revelations of a film that’s only 11 minutes and 18 seconds long.
Shifting tones considerably is Freedom Swimmer, a 15-minutes short that blends live action and animation, with an emphasis on the latter. Ordinarily we’d tell you who is responsible for this powerful document, but in a moment it will be clear why we can’t.
The Arte France and Screen Australia presentation concerns a Chinese grandfather in Hong Kong recounting a tale to his granddaughter, a tale that involved his emigration by sea from mainland China. The stage is set with both historical and present day news footage, as well as fleeting images of the two main conversants, whose faces we can never see.
The grandfather’s story of many failed attempts to escape the draconian rule of communist China is told in an impressionistic form of animation that alternates between comparatively realistic and fantastical, resembling almost the squiggles of a gifted child at a chalkboard. We know it has a happy ending because the grandfather ultimately made it, but we also know there will be great sorrow along the way – and we know from the events of modern-day Hong Kong that the threat is not merely in the past.
Because of the potential retaliation against any artists who participated in the making of this film, none of their names appear in the credits. It’s unavoidable but still a shame, not only because of the risk to their safety that no artist should experience, but because you want to know who to congratulate for a triumph like Freedom Swimmer.
Shifting tones again, the final film we’re previewing today involves its creators being out there entirely, in all sorts of ways. The confessional Are You Still Watching? is a journey through the day-dreaming mind of Jamie (Zoe Terakes), a green-haired Melburnian who wiles away the early stages of COVID having bizarre sex hallucinations and confessing them to their therapist (Frances J. Clark).
A creation of Sissy Screens, the digital magazine championing queer film and screen culture, the story follows a person whose routines have been thrown off by having too much time to wank and too little else to do. It’s a fantasmagoria of imagined trysts in dog parks, swiping left on recognisable celebrities on dating apps, and visions of sexual intimacy with baked goods. And somehow it manages to capture the entirety of the early pandemic mindset in one six-minute short, with acerbic wit and a nod to the horniness that lives within us all.
Are You Still Watching? is from the directing team of Alex Cardy, Tali Polichtuk and Kitty Chrystal, and it’s especially at home in a Melbourne-based festival, featuring familiar local icons like Luna Park and vinegar mascot Little Audrey.
Get your festival tickets at this link and check back here next week as we continue to preview RGFF ’23.