(January 26 – February 3, 2001)
ClermontFerrand sits in the centre of France four hours south of Paris. It’s the site of the Clermont-Ferrand annual short film festival and is, as the organizers and towns people proudly proclaim, “The premier short film festival of the world”. It is a joyous ode to cultural diversity. If you haven’t been there and you’re interested in short film and want a quick pen sketch of what filmmakers are doing all over the world it’s the place to go. Over 100,000 patrons, 10 cinemas flat chat for 10 days, people cue for hours to get into sessions. It is awe-inspiring. There is a respect given to the shorts that is quite unique. I was fortunate enough to have my film The Bridge (1997, 18 mins) chosen for competition in 1998 and Lost (2000), my latest film, for this year’s festival. Jane Manning’s Delivery Day (2000) and Rachel Ward’s The Big House (2000) were Australia’s other representatives for 2001. All three films played to full houses and attracted favourable attention.
To be there presenting my film in person was a privilege but to get the chance to see such an array of work of such a high standard was a joy. Some of the films took my breath away. Directed by Hadar Friedlich, Chagrin (2000), from Israel particularly moved me. It is the story of a man’s isolation when his son commits suicide while serving in the army. It was so beautiful it hurt. The winning film Ela na sou po (Katerina Filiotou, 2000) was the story of Sofia, a happily married Greek housewife who goes out one day to have the hot water system fixed. She meets a plumber who is particularly delicious and has hot sex with him. Her behaviour is totally out of character and she goes home somewhat ruffled. She finds herself confessing to her husband and tries to make him understand. “It just happened”, she says, “I don’t know how. I love you Yannis. But in that moment I just forgot you”. It is very funny.
When you see so many great shorts in a program it really makes you wonder why shorts are not more often packaged together for theatrical release. The Australian Film Commission (AFC) paid my expenses to be there and gave an amount to Clare Sawyer, my producer, towards her costs, as did Cinemedia. To participate in such a rich stew of ideas is advantageous for filmmakers and the industry as a whole, it is a key part of development. Many of the American film schools take their students there to participate in the market place. They see the value in learning the festival ropes so to speak. The industry is built on contacts, connections made between people. The earlier this is happening internationally for Australian filmmakers the more useful it will be. The Australian, Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) had a booth at the Festival but unfortunately not so for the Victorian College of Arts – Film and Television School or the AFC.