AUSTRALIAN stars got a chance to shine in the Hunter last night at the opening gala of the Dungog Film Festival.
The James Theatre's red carpet was lined with a mix of Dungog residents, industry identities and cinema fans as a swag of Australian talent arrived for the festival's first screenings.
On the same day Australian screen legend Bill Hunter was farewelled in Melbourne, several stars including Rhys Muldoon and David Williamson raised their beers to the late actor before entering the theatre.
Composer Michael Yezerski led an orchestral performance to accompany Shaun Tan's Oscar-nominated short The Lost Thing as the first film shown at this year's festival.
The short was followed by much-hyped feature Oranges and Sunshine starring Hugo Weaving and David Wenham.
Earlier Williamson, Muldoon and other guests, including actress Sigrid Thornton, arrived in town aboard the traditional VIP "Festival Express" train from Sydney.
Playwright and screenwriter Williamson made the rail journey with his wife Kristin after friend and director Bruce Beresford encouraged him to visit the festival.
"I believe Dungog is a beautiful place and it comes with all the recommendations," Mr Williamson said.
The festival continues today with a program dedicated to students, including a masterclass
by Mr Yezerski.
Students will also have the chance to view youth-focused short films as well as several Hunter-made student films.
Indian-Australian drama Taj will have its world premiere.
The festival runs until Sunday.