The lion’s share of this year’s RGFF program can be characterised as dramas, so we can’t preview them all in one post. However, we can give you a taste of the sorts of things you might expect to see Saturday week at the Lido in Hawthorn. Tickets for the April 22nd day-long festival of shorts can be purchased here.
We start with Ayaan, a powerful perspective of the refugee experience from director Alies Sluiter. The 17-minute short finds an African refugee (Babetida Sadjo) on Australian shores, separated from the rest of her group, all except the young baby she holds in her arms and hopes to keep from crying, so as not give away her whereabouts. Crossing paths with an indigenous man (Trevor Jamieson) yields unexpected results. Will he be her saviour, or turn her into the hands of the authorities?
Sluiter’s film uses a restrained approach to capture the quiet desperation of its main character, who has a kinship with the other lead in that they are both disenfranchised from white Australia. The film is a profound slow burn over its brief running time.
Next up is Gem, a young person’s consideration of their gender identity told through a night with a stranger. A clothing store clerk (Joseph Limn) strikes up a conversation with a customer (James Mitchellhill), as both joke over the fact that the clerk is required to say the clothes look good on the customer. It’s their chance meeting outside a bar that takes their fledgling relationship in a new direction, made all the more poignant by the customer’s impending change in circumstances.
Director Jim Muntisov uses soft focus to give the film a look from another era, interspersing the action with the clerk’s visions of presenting themselves as they wish they really could, rather than as they believe society demands. Their connection with the customer suggests a certain trajectory of the story that may not actually be where it goes, but where it goes is just where it should.
Lime Parfait is a wistful consideration of the passage of time within a family. Dani (Hannah Camilleri, also the film’s co writer with director Pat Mooney) is painting her nana’s pergola in Melbourne’s western suburbs, but she’s got a tough customer to please. Her nana remembers the colour differently from when she and her husband, now passed, painted it a half-century earlier. They’re selling the house anyway, but it seems more important than it should to get the colour just right.
Mooney keeps the nana unseen, mostly a voice behind a screen door, creating the sense that perhaps she herself is between this world and the next — or will be soon enough. Dani is feeling contemplative during this moment of transition for her family, and may start “remembering” things for which she was not even present.
The last film we’re previewing today is a guest from New Zealand shores. Hot Mother is director Lucy Knox’s story of the strained relationship between a mother (Alison Bruce) and daughter (Erana James) attending a spa with its own hot springs. Naomi thinks she’s been a shit mum to Sofia, who seems put off by Naomi’s attempts to restart her love life in the modern age of dating apps and dick pics. It’s the lack of a phone that may get them in trouble when something unexpected occurs at the spa.
A story that starts out seeming like its stakes will be limited to the relationship between these two characters turns into something more serious as the story goes. Knox gets down perfectly the simmering resentment that can exist in both directions between a mother and a daughter, and the actors really lay the groundwork for the increasing intensity that lies ahead, as the title begins to take on a second meaning.
Come out to the Lido on April 22nd to see these and more, and get your tickets here.