HIT: A scene from the movie Loving Vincent, the first ever fully painted feature film. Supplied by Madman Films.
HIT: A scene from the movie Loving Vincent, the first ever fully painted feature film. Supplied by Madman Films.

Byron Bay Film Festival: 5 gems not to be missed

WITH hundreds of films on offer in animation, documentary, fiction, virutal reality and more, Byron Bay Film Festival offers a varied selection of audiovisual gems curated for cinema lovers.

Five films from this year's selection surprised us and educated us, made us laugh, cry and, in some cases, watch the films a second time.

These are our pics:

1. Loving Vincent

Easily one of the most hyped films of the year, Loving Vincent tells the story of how friends of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh try to understand what happened to him, a year after his death.

The film has become famous already as each of the 65,000 frames was painted by hand by a volunteer painter.

The obvious risk here was that the film would be 'too much' to see and the story would become secondary to the style, but directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman really crafted a beautiful, entertaining and very sweet film.


2. The Freedom to Marry

The opening film of this year's film festival will be a documentary on the architects of the marriage equality campaign in the US.

The 86-minute Eddie Roestein film explains the behind-the-scenes story of the work done by same-sex marriage activist Evan Wolfson, civil rights attorney Mary Bonauto and others.

In June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 US states, after decades of a lobbying campaign that started in May 1970.

Talk about topical!

This film was an interesting analysis of the American struggle, but it differs from the Australian current process in that the US took this as a political issue from the start, state by state, and focused in court battles and political lobbying.

This documentary is a fantastic piece of information about why the movement was needed, unveiling the faces behind the legal arguments and the lives that touched and changed forever.


3. Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World


Possibly one of the most interesting and surprising films of this year, Rumble was a documentary with three fantastic features: great archival footage, a truly well researched script and a director who keeps the pace fast and furious, like a rock'n'roll chart topper.

The heavy distortion that carries from Link Wray's iconic tune Rumble was the current that ran through every rock 'n' roll song that ever came after.

His, and many other influential and musical talents, are of Native American descent, which is a traditionally overlooked culture when it comes to popular music.

This powerful documentary about the role of Native Americans in contemporary music history, featuring some of the greatest music stars of our time, exposes a critical missing chapter, revealing how indigenous musicians helped shape the soundtracks of our lives and, through their contributions, influenced popular culture.

Taj Mahal, Quincy Jones, Martin Scorsese, Slash, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Randy Castillo, Mildred Bailey, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Salas, Robert Trujillo, Link Wray and Steven Tyler are some of the artists interviewed or featured.


4. Jungle

This 115-min action/adventure/drama film by dircetor Greg McLean was the perfect vessel for a great actor, such as Daniel Radcliffe, to shine.

In this film, a group of friends join a guide for a trek into the Bolivian jungle, searching for an Indian village.

The men soon realise that the jungle was a difficult place to be.

This film was close to our hearts also because the jungle scenes were filmed at Bonogin Valley, 92km north of Byron Bay, on the Gold Coast, in April 2016.

This film was based on the memoir Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Survival, written by Yossi Ghinsberg.

Yossi Ghinsberg was an Israeli adventurer, author, entrepreneur, humanitarian, and motivational speaker based in Byron Bay.


5. Roller Dreams

Who didn't dream of rolling at Venice Beach in the 1980s dancing to the beats with Mr Mad and the rest of the crew?

Young people of colour seeking refuge from the turmoil of inner city life flock to the eclectic ocean community to create a brand new phenomenon: roller dancing.

The talent and vibrant personality of this multicultural roller 'family' draws massive crowds and influences Hollywood. But just as roller dancing flourishes, politics, money and gentrification conspire to take their dreams away.

This compelling and entertaining documentary not only digs up the how and why of the roller skating phenomenon in Los Angeles in the 1980s but also explains its demise and aftermath.

Directed by Kate Hickey and produced by Diana Ward and Cecilia Ritchie, this film was a true testament of why female voices are needed in film and the arts in general: it was not about women, but it does not only focus on the male perspective.

  • At venues in Murwillumbah, Brunswick Heads and Byron Bay. For details visit bbff.com.au.

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