2002 WA Screen Awards: final cut

Mary O'Donovan

The WA Screen Awards (WASA) have moved from the wintry months of the last couple of years to a summer date. It is a time when balmy evenings beckon, international travellers succumb to summer’s lure and outdoor screenings are de rigeur in the West.

The move scheduled WASA hot on the heels of the national touring short film festival, Flickerfest, not to mention the newcomer on the WA short film circuit, the Grass Roots Short Film Festival. This gave the dedicated filmgoer the opportunity to soak up international, national and local short films, and come to an understanding of where WA filmmaking sits on the international stage.

Grass Roots ended up with a shortlist of mostly comedies while the exquisite cinematography and serious themes of the WASA entrants were more representative of the skills and depth of WA filmmaking. It appears that the judges of Grass Roots recognised this and the beautifully crafted and stylish film by Christopher Kenworthy, The Dreamer, took out first place.

Stump (which won 3 WA Screen Awards) is a comedy with a ‘gag’ ending but still a stylish piece of cinema. The film looks superb, the cinematography taking full advantage of the clear light of country WA. Structured in meticulous detail, each frame serves the final purpose, building to the payoff. Writer/director Robert Forsyth has an eye for detail and for what will work in a tightly written comic piece: the final product engagemed powerfully with the audience. It was no surprise that the film took out Best Short Film Under 30 Minutes, Best Writing for Forsyth and Best Acting for Talei Howell-Price (who also performed in The Dreamer).

Chris Frey, who has worked hard for years creating films that challenge the viewer, has done it again with Sol, a complex journey of spiritual investigation and confrontation. Rather than forcing a narrative on the viewer, he creates a montage of images. His strong focus on film as a medium outside conventional narrative made him a deserving winner of the best directing award. Sol also took out the best editing award for its seamless construction, but the strangely captivating Civilian Maimed must have created some great editing challenges for Ian Reiser which saw it deservedly shortlisted. However, it was the richly evocative work of Glen Knight which eventually won Civilian an award, Best Sound Design.

Pierce Davison was WA Young Filmmaker of 2000 and this year, with his brother, won the award for Best Animation and New Media with The Cows Side; unfortunately their equally bizarre My Mrs Tingwell didn’t make the shortlist.

Sue K’s Daz07/02/012038 was voted Best Experimental Production but was somehow overlooked as an entrant in the editing category, surprising given that the editing actually creates the film which is a series of stills cut together to create movement and the passing of time.

The John Butler Trio are a dynamic band who could make a video worth watching just by sitting around performing. That John McMullan took their song Pickapart and made a video for only $1500 speaks volumes about their dynamism. The shaping and the droll humour evident in this award-winning music video makes you appreciate what can be achieved with a great song, engaging performers and a man with a camera.

There was no chance that Sophie McNeill’s film, Awaiting Freedom, winner of the Triple J Independent Spirit if Award, was going to be allowed to pass unnoticed at WASA. A high school student, Sohphie knew a good story when she saw it, and created an Australian Story-style documentary about East Timor. She won Best Student Film and, with the strength of documentary filmmaking in WA, she will be in a position to pursue a career with some great mentors.

Bad Cred & Aliens is a detective story with a difference, and the production design by Shari Amber Finn (which took out the Open Craft section) sets the mood with precision. It seems strange that a film called Sightless should win Best Cinematography. The story of a blind man, April Ward has not shied away from the difficult shot, choosing darkness and reflection to create an uneasy feeling in the viewer with the warping of perspective.

This year, Andelko Jurin was named Young Filmmaker of the Year after receiving the Australian Writers Guild Award for writing in 1999 for Redman and the WASA for directing in 2000 for The Ballet’s Floor.

The diversity of subject matter and the uniformly high production values in the shortlisted films and the winners at this year’s WASA augurs well for the future of short filmmaking here.

WA Screen Awards, finalists’ screenings, Princess May Park, Fremantle, Feb 18-19; awards night, Novotel Langley, Feb 20, www.fti.asn.au

RealTime issue #48 April-May 2002 pg. 17

© Mary O'Donovan; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2002