Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival 2012 report by Peter Krausz – AUSTRALIAN FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION

Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival Tasmania 2012 report by Peter Krausz

BOFA 2012

The third annual Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival, playing November 8-11, in both Launceston and Hobart, Tasmania, is emerging as an interesting hybrid of showcasing local films, and screening contemporary international films not shown in Tasmania. Managed by Owen Tilbury, and his creative team of Rowan Woods and Trish Lake, the festival screened around 40 films, with a good mixture of narrative, documentary and short films. In the landscape of film festivals in Australia, this young and growing festival has the potential to develop into a fine, internationally recognized, niche event, which showcases a range of films generally not seen very widely.

Of course the other key aspect of the festival is the informality, as well as the opportunity to rub shoulders with many filmmakers, participate in Q & As and panel discussions, and be immersed in film culture for four strongly programmed days. While not having established any film awards as such, apart from the curated Make a Difference short films, special awards were presented to actor Jimi Bani, producer/director Robert Connolly and producer/writer Andrew Knight, emphasizing their role in Australian film and television culture, and the importance of acknowledging screen contributions in a festival setting.  

Opening night was a lavish affair, punctuated by a series of classic cars delivering the guests of the festival. I felt very important in one of these historic cars, yet the celebration was all about film, where everyone was an essential part of the whole festival. The opening film was Julie Delpy’s Two Days in New York, featuring Chris Rock and herself amidst a riotous family set-up, which proved to be a reasonable, if more inconsequential follow-up to her Two Days in Paris. The full-house at the Tramsheds Theatre in Launceston loved the film, and set the tone for an audience –friendly jam-packed film festival.

During the next three days, various workshops were presented by filmmakers (such as the directors of Bait 3D) on genre, low-budget filmmaking, acting and directing master-classes, focus on Tasmanian screen culture and films, documentary filmmaking, and other screen related events. This all culminated in a panel discussion, the big debate, on the value of social media in today’s culture and society. The festival demonstrated its capacity to expand on merely screening films, but to showcase as much as possible about screen culture and Tasmania. As a niche film festival with a global outlook, it all seemed very impressive.

The other real highlight for me was the focus on Tasmania. The screening of First Fagin,  a well-produced documentary/docudrama about the real life convict who was the template for Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist, was very well received by the audience and elicited a lot of discussion with the filmmakers afterwards. Similarly, a rare screening of a film produced in Tasmania in 1962 They Found a Cave, a children’s’ film along the lines of the Famous Five, about some adventurous youngsters was quite a revelation and indicated that filmmaking in Tasmania may not be on a large scale but has existed and survived for many years. It was good to see Screen Tasmania speak so strongly about re-energizing filmmaking and film culture in Tasmania.

Finally, the wide selection of short films, premieres like Semi-Colin and the overall inviting atmosphere of the locations and the whole event indicate to me a vibrant re-emerging film culture in Tasmania, as well as cementing BOFA as a key lynch-pin to that film culture. Overall, I was very impressed with the effort and diverse programming that had been put into the festival, and the emphasis on grass-roots activities and local events. Now that three festivals have been completed, BOFA bodes well to be an important part of the global film festival landscape, and as long as the programming and related screen culture activities remain as diverse and inviting as they were this year, I see a very bright future for this Breath of Fresh Air.

Peter Krausz

Chair, AFCA

Peter was an invited guest of BOFA.