OF the 194 films screening at the Dungog Film Festival over the next four days, 159 of them are short films.
It’s only fitting, then, that the fifth annual celebration of Australia on the screen should open at the historic James Theatre tonight with a showing of this year’s little Aussie Oscar-winner, The Lost Thing.
Shaun Tan’s elegant animated version of his enchanting storybook will screen with live orchestral accompaniment by the score’s composer, Michael Yezerski.
The opening night feature, Oranges And Sunshine, is another fitting selection given that it stars Dungog’s favourite Hollywood “local”, Hugo Weaving.
The 194 films to be screened between tonight and Sunday night include documentaries, features, TV sneak previews and 159 shorts.
Four venues in the centre of the town will host screenings and workshops, including the James Theatre and the RSL.
David Williamson will host a class on screenwriting, actress Sigrid Thornton will present a showing of The Man From Snowy River and Rose Tattoo’s Angry Anderson will present the short film Benefit – a rock musical in which he plays a dead rocker who inspires a rising star – before performing at the festival’s closing night gala.
Here’s a taste of what’s on in Dungog:
THE WORM HUNTERS, Tomorrow, 11am
Meet the planet’s top earthworm scientists who set out from Turkey on a worldwide quest to unearth and name their ultimate discovery. They carry spades, of course, but also GPS.
AN IMPRINT IN TIME, Tomorrow, 4pm
Darryn Hahn’s documentary examines the life of artist Charles Blackman. The modernist painter talks candidly in his studio about the meaning of his paintings.
SKATE AUSTRALIA, Saturday, 12.15pm
A group of friends take a road trip into the thrill-filled world of extreme downhill skating. After skating beaches, mountains and big cities along the east coast, they finish up in Bathurst at the world championships of downhill skateboarding.
DUI (LET’S GET HIGH), Tomorrow, 4pm
One of 15 music videos and music-themed films in The Music (Wild Mix) session, this video clip is about two girls who will do anything to become famous, even posting their own mug shots online.
SCONE WARS, Saturday, 9.15am
Showing as part of the Big Laughs session of funny shorts, this nine-minute comedy focuses on Doris and Mavis, fierce jam stall rivals.
THE FORGOTTEN MEN, Saturday, 6.30pm
Cast members Gyton Grantley and Lincoln Lewis will attend the premiere of this 15-minute short based on an RMWilliams campfire story, shot around the Dungog area and also starring Jack Thompson and Kerry Armstrong. Screens before Gallipoli.
DEAD BORING, Sunday, 11.45am
Billed as a light comedy about death, love and sex in the afterlife, this 18-minute short is the story of a lonely ghost called Dawn who is stuck in a house with no one to haunt. Screens as part of the Fancy Some Lovin’? session of romantic shorts.
COCKROACH, Sunday, 2.15pm
Screening in the Awesome Animation session, Luke Eve’s 13-minute film follows Charlie, a groom reincarnated as a cockroach after being run over by his own wedding car. Can he convince his grieving widow that he has returned?
ORANGES AND SUNSHINE, Today, 6pm
Director Jim Loach’s drama stars Emily Watson as Margaret Humphreys, a British social worker who revealed that her government had forced the migration of 130,000 children. Also stars Hugo Weaving and David Wenham.
THE CLUB, Tomorrow, 1.45pm
Writer David Williamson will answer audience questions after this screening of his classic 1970s football drama directed by Bruce Beresford and starring Jack Thompson.
FRANK AND JERRY, Saturday, 4pm
Screenwriter Nick McGee makes his feature debut as a director with his own script, the story of a homeless car windscreen washer whose gift of the gab lands him a job with a Hollywood producer. Jeremy Kewley (The Underbelly Files) plays the movie big-shot and Benedict Hardie is the unlikely hero in this madcap comedy.
GALLIPOLI, Saturday, 6.30pm
David Williamson presents a new print of his classic World War I drama directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson and the late Bill Hunter. Williamson will take audience questions after the screening.
THE DRAGON PEARL, Sunday, 11.30am
Sam Neill stars in Australia’s first treaty movie co-production with China. The fantasy saga follows two children visiting an archaeological dig in China where they discover an ancient golden dragon trapped on Earth when it became separated from its magical “pearl”.
OOVIE STUDENT FILM PROJECT, Tomorrow, 1pm
Five-minute films by students from Newcastle’s Callaghan College, Port Stephens’ St Philip’s Christian College and Sydney’s Ascham School will premiere on the silver screen.
LOCAL KIDS STORIES, Sunday, 10am
Teenagers from Cessnock, Maitland and Dungog present films conceived, written and shot during a three-day retreat at Stroud monastery.
LAST CAB TO DARWIN, Saturday, 10am
Writer-director Jeremy Sims leads Michael Caton, Sigrid Thornton, Rhys Muldoon, Susie Porter, Peter Phelps and Andy Ryan in a script reading of this story about Max, a Broken Hill cabbie who finds out he’s dying. Max decides to drive his cab to Darwin to make use of the euthanasia law.
SEX: AN UNNATURAL HISTORY, Sunday, 4.30pm
First look at the new SBS series presented by Julia Zemiro. The show explores why humans began having sex in the first place and when the species became hardwired towards monogamy. And, now that babies can be made in test tubes, where to next for sex?
For the full Dungog Film Festival program go to dff.org.au.