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Filmfest’s future focus

AT THE FESTIVAL: A still from the film Otelo Surfing which was shot in Durban and made by the same person who directed Surfing Soweto, Sara Blecher. It tells the story of a group of township kids who discover the joy of surfing and is set in 1989, against a backdrop of brewing conflict between two political groups. When 16-year-old Otelo Buthelezi takes to the water for the first time, it's clear that he was born to surf. But then tragedy strikes. On the day that Nelson Mandela is released from prison, Otelo is forced to choose between surfing success and justice. This is a beautifully made, insightful and entertaining film that captures a turbulent time in the history of South Africa. Photo Contributed
AT THE FESTIVAL: A still from the film Otelo Surfing which was shot in Durban and made by the same person who directed Surfing Soweto, Sara Blecher. It tells the story of a group of township kids who discover the joy of surfing and is set in 1989, against a backdrop of brewing conflict between two political groups. When 16-year-old Otelo Buthelezi takes to the water for the first time, it's clear that he was born to surf. But then tragedy strikes. On the day that Nelson Mandela is released from prison, Otelo is forced to choose between surfing success and justice. This is a beautifully made, insightful and entertaining film that captures a turbulent time in the history of South Africa. Photo Contributed Contributed

WHEN the planet defied Mayan predictions and failed to implode in December last year - a sort of Apocalypse: Just Not Now - it gave Byron Bay Film Festival director J'aimee Skippon-Volke an idea for the direction of this year's cine-fest.

"In 2012, everyone was focused on what might be the end. But in a post-2012 world, we can see that we're still here, we're all okay and it's time to focus on solutions," Ms Skippon-Volke said.

"That's what this year's film selection is starting to reflect - a world where we work together towards a brighter future." Reflecting the potential for that future are two films from different quarters: the Spanish Quem Se Importa (Who Cares?) about social entrepreneurism, and Elemental, about indigenous activists in Canada fighting the tarfields development there.

They are just a taste of what is on the program being printed this week, which Ms Skippon-Volke said would champion the local culture and values.

Those values were centred around the environment, surfing, tolerance and respect, she said. But the theme - Open Your Aperture - was also a challenge to the community, she said, in that it was a call to maintain that openness of mind and resist the complacency that can come with living in a beautiful region.

Adding their heft to the festival, and making it more attractive to those working in the industry, are Don McAlpine, perhaps Australia's most famous cinematographer, who will be conducting a masterclass in the subject.

Mr McAlpine has credits for a string of best-selling films, from X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Moulin Rouge, back to The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, with Predator and Parenthood along the way.

Also present - and on a meet-the-buyers panel - will be Charles Scuerhoff, who is in charge of acquiring international films for the Public Broadcasting Service in the US.

If you have a project, you can come and pitch it, said Ms Skippon-Volke.

Among other workshops will be one themed Everyone Can Be a Film-maker the weekend following the festival.


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