|Rowan Woods addresses schoolkids waiting for multimedia presentation at BOFA.|
How many film festivals can a single country support? Each year more new events open in Australia than it’s possible to keep track of. Inevitably some turn out to be more justified than others.
The weekend before last I spent three days at Tasmania’s Breath of Fresh Air filmfest (BOFA) in Launceston , and two weekends before that, headed out on a ferry to spend an afternoon at Sydney’s inaugural Cockatoo Islandf FF.
As I observed in my report from BOFA at SBS Film, while I struggled hard to discern any rationale for the existence of Cockatoo Island event (run by the organizers of the rural Dungog filmfest) beyond the need of local authorities to find a use for a derelict former docklands site on Sydney Harbour, “nobody needs look hard to see that BOFA has an obvious community to serve. That there is no annual film festival in Tasmania and no specialist independent or art house cinema beyond Hobart’s State Cinema alone tells you an annual festival is long overdue. The organisers’ emphasis on the inclusion of new media also gives it a point of difference with many of the bigger festivals on the mainland…”
BOFA, I conclude stands a good chance of becoming a valuable permanent addition to the cultural life of Tasmania, but “to get there it needs to address a couple of issues, the first being some annoying digital projection problems (an increasing issue not only at the Tasmanian fest but also at major events including Venice and New York).
BOFA 'Devil Award' winners Jimi Bani (far left) and Robert Connolly (far right) with Screen Tasmania CEO Karena Slaninka and guest curator Rowan Woods )
“The second issue lies with the festival’s name: ‘Breath of Fresh Air’ has to be explained. Nobody outside the event knows where it is, nor what it’s getting at. And while the organisers are laying so much emphasis on not being a conventional film festival but a contemporary screen event taking in film, television, multimedia and digital media, it’s kind of confusing to see that it’s nonetheless conventional dubbed a ‘film festival’. Re-badging itself as, say, Screenfest, or Festival of Screens, would not only be more accurate but play up its obvious point of difference."
Before visiting BOFA (which this year also included a few screenings at Hobart's MONA and State Cinema) I talked with organiser Owen Tilbury and in Sydney met up with Rowan Woods, one of this year's two guest curators along with producer Trish Lake, for a chat about the event (see here).
Extract: "An important element of the ‘fresh air’ approach is the claim to be an event with a conscience, its programming aiming to provide innovative approaches to screen-based story telling that inspire “positive change”. But could this be a two-edged sword, given that one person’s Positive Change is another’s Politically Correct or Dry and Worthy? In addition, if at some future point a more conservative-inclined state administration comes to interpret this policy as code for ‘left-leaning’, does it put the event in a potentially vulnerable funding position?"