For the 26th year running, the Flickerfest International Short Film Festival will once again take over Bondi Pavilion in January to bring Sydney the best of the brief, screening short films under the stars.

It’s an exciting time for Bronwyn Kidd, with the
 2017 iteration marking one year shy of her 20th anniversary as director and 15 years since Flickerfest picked up Academy accreditation. The program naturally takes months to curate, and Kidd, her colleagues and an army of volunteers on the selection committee have whittled the screeners down to 60 from more than 2,500 submissions.

“We’re looking for unique stories,” says Kidd of the curation process. “I’m not looking for half-hours of television. I’m not looking for rip-offs of Hollywood blockbusters. I’m really looking for unique stories that people are going to find insightful, moving, contemporary and fresh.

“The great thing about short film is that people can make films immediately – they don’t have to wait to raise a budget over seven years like you do to make a feature.You can go out, you can grab a camera, you can do some crowdfunding, and you can make a film that you’re really passionate about … It’s not just that incredible creativity but also the immediacy of the stories that people are focusing on telling.”

For Kidd, the proliferation of technology has made her job significantly more interesting, as broader access to cheap filmmaking equipment has meant a greater variety of creatives with new perspectives, voices and styles can produce films of a high calibre.

“Once upon a time, back in the day when I started making films, we were making films on film, so only people with lots of money and access to that kind of rare technology … could go out and afford to get the film processed. The whole editing process, you couldn’t do it yourself on your laptop. So I think that the accessibility of technology has created a more diverse range of storytelling.”

While Flickerfest has no specific quotas for diversity, the committee’s passion for unique stories has allowed for a range of films to organically come to the fore.

“We support a lot of female directors, we support indigenous directors – I mean, we’ve got a full indigenous team that directed our trailer this year, behind the scenes and [with] a full indigenous cast,” says Kidd, referencing Dena Curtis’ Wizard Of Oz-themed trailer featuring Miranda Tapsell and Christine Anu.

“We’re really not about just the white Neighbours view of Australia; we’re very much trying to represent Australia as it really is, and the filmmakers coming through from a widely diverse range of backgrounds.”

Such support is, of course, greatly welcome
to filmmakers like Kidd who came up in an
industry that has always heavily favoured the Y chromosome. This was highlighted only recently
at the AACTA Awards, when the red carpet was hijacked by female protestors dressed as sausages and shouting, “End the sausage party.”

Hilariously, Kidd missed this rather spectacular moment, mired as she was in the vast amount of programming work required to get Flickerfest up and running. “I haven’t even watched the news, tell me what’s going on!” she laughs, before turning to the issue.

“There has been a male dominance, and I think female directors coming through, they can make some fantastic short films, but it’s really hard
for them to get to the next level of their career. Particularly in the ad industry, which is where people make their money between shorts and features … [it’s] very much a boys’ club in Australia.

“I think the efforts of Screen NSW and Screen Australia, who have been incredibly proactive in their funding over the last 12 months just to put in some schemes that really support female directors, and recognise the unique support that they need in their careers – these things, I think, will really reap great benefits in five to ten years’ time.”

With the future looking somewhat brighter, Kidd is focusing on the present, and the thrill of revealing the Flickerfest program to its mix of Academy judges, BAFTA reps and regular Aussie punters. After all, some of Australia’s most internationally viable directors – including David Michôd (Animal Kingdom), Cate Shortland (Lore) and Wayne Blair (The Sapphires) – are Flickerfest alumni.

Pressed for standouts, Kidd is tight-lipped about the hotly contested Australian competition, but is more than happy to speak to some of the international inclusions that she’s particularly excited to showcase.

“There’s a film called Nocturne In Black from Lebanon, and it’s set in Syria – it’s an incredible story of people living under siege where music is banned,” she says. “It’s just incredibly real, raw, poignant, and you feel like you’re immediately in that situation.”

Another short, Switzerland’s Bon Voyage, hits on a contemporary pressure point when a couple romancing on their yacht come across a boatload of refugees.

“Both of these films are nominated for Academy Awards, by the way,” Kidd says. “Well, they’re shortlisted at this point, so fingers crossed.”

Fear not, for there’s more to the fest than dark and hard-hitting dramas. Kidd points to Ready To Assemble, a comedy about “the power of IKEA to make or break relationships”, as just one of the festival’s many comedic highlights. Add to that the general good vibes at the Bondi Pavilion, a Young Henrys pop-up bar and food aplenty, and Kidd is certain that Flickerfest 2017 will be a truly memorable entry in her tenure as director.

“It’s going to be a fantastic experience of hanging out on the balcony overlooking the beach, watching films under the stars with like-minded people who love creative independent storytelling, and want
to experience some really moving and amazing stories.”

Flickerfest 2017 will be held at Bondi Pavillion on Friday January 6 – Sunday January 15.

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine