Rising Above the Odds
Earlier this year, the whole world watched the apocalyptic images of Australia scorched by devastating bushfires. For the land Down Under, the new decade began with a torrid battle against the ferocious infernos that burned across the nation for weeks. If there was one silver lining to come from the devastation, it was the human response. With a collective realisation that the fight against climate change is a global issue, people from all over the world provided support and showed solidarity with Australia.
On February 10, 2020, under the banner of “Every little bit of help counts” and in conjunction with Ponrepo cinema, we organised a charity screening of the Australian film Charlie’s Country. We raised 7,613 Kč and sent this to an account set up by Prague Zoo to help Australian flora and fauna. As of 20 July 2020, 22,822,395 Kč has been collected by Prague Zoo from an incredible 18,304 contributors! From this we concluded that Czechs are interested in Australia. Likewise, with its unique landscape, New Zealand is a frequent destination where our backpackers and mountain climbers go in search of adventure.
A few weeks after the bushfires were somewhat brought under control, another disaster struck and one that affected the entire planet – the coronavirus pandemic. Despite our progress, we live in a fragile ecosystem and our connection to the natural world and each other should never be forgotten. In times of crisis and change, it is digital access, real-time communication, and unity that can provide solutions and lead us to new horizons. And culture has an important role to play in this.
One of the beautiful but also sometimes heartbreaking things about life is that it can’t be planned and everything can turn upside down from one day to the next, as occurred in the spring of 2020. During this time of year, we are usually busy with fundraising. Instead, like most people everywhere, we waited to see if our world would be the same after lockdown and wished for the health and safety of our friends and loved ones.
We believe in the importance of culture, even in the time of crisis and that small cultural events like a festival of movies from the other side of the world can help share great ideas and practices. That’s why in spite of the circumstances and against all the odds, we went ahead with preparing this year’s Aussie & Kiwi Film Fest, to be held ONLINE on the cinema platform DAFilms.cz. We will screen this year’s new feature films as well as a selection of past festival favourites to audiences via the DAFilms online cinema platform 19 – 29 November so that you won’t miss out on quality films from Down Under.
Building bridges to the other side of the world
Australian and New Zealand films appear only rarely in the Czech Republic so in 2014 we decided to change this. We have presented both countries as multicultural and with extraordinary indigenous traditions. We show audiences the history, life, and culture of the local populations through contemporary features, documentaries, archive movies, and accompanying events. We have showcased aspects of traditional culture such as the haka, didgeridoo, and traditional songs, and audiences have had the opportunity to taste Aussie and Kiwi culture with pies and wines from both countries (courtesy of festival partner Foltýn Wine). We have also organised lectures and debates with experts on a variety of relevant topics and issues.
No worries, mate! Aussie & Kiwi Film Fest set to rise above the odds
During the lockdown, we had the opportunity to pause and to think about the world we live in and about the meaning and future of a small festival in central Europe which features the lives of people who live 16,000 km away. Even though this 7th year of the festival is being held in unprecedented conditions – the majority of sponsors can no longer support the festival – we are looking for new ways to maintain continuity. We want to rise above the odds and to stay optimistic.
Every year, aside from showcasing some box office hits or crowd-pleasers, we also include documentaries and features which highlight issues such as migration, immigration, personal freedom, indigenous culture, history, and the environment.
The 7th annual film festival will bring you films from the other side of the world straight to your living room at a time when both countries have closed their borders to us. So in spite of all the lockdowns, choose from nine cinema hits from both Australia and New Zealand which will be screened on the DAFilms.cz online cinema platform from 19 to 29 November, 2020. So no matter where you are in the Czech Republic, travel 16,000 km in just a few clicks, without any barriers or worries about your health and enjoy the festival ride!
New Releases from Down Under
We are very excited that in spite of the disruptions to movie releases and distribution around the world, this year’s festival will nevertheless feature three excellent new movies from Australia and New Zealand which did not have a cinema release in the Czech Republic.
The first of these is Hearts and Bones by director Ben Lawrence with Hugo Weaving in an outstanding lead performance as Daniel. This is a moving, powerful social drama which tackles the treatment of refugees and the way the world processes the traumas that lead to such urgent, widespread immigration.
The New Zealand action feature Guns Akimbo is a must for lovers of computer games, sci-fi or Harry Potter – sorry Daniel Radcliffe. As Miles Lee Harris, he portrays a bit of a nobody who is dumped by his girlfriend, so he now spends all his time hidden away at home, programming computer games. That is, until an unexpected visit forces him into a game for real. But this time he is playing for his life.
Anyone who knows the story of Australia’s most famous outlaw bushranger, Ned Kelly (an Australian version of Jessy James or Jánošík) will certainly not want to miss this new adaptation of his story called The True Story of the Kelly Gang. It‘s a fresh take and interpretation of the bandit’s life and not everyone might like it – but if you’re willing to accept the film’s unusual approach, you might just be pleased with something unconventional.
The best of Aussie & Kiwi
The remaining features in this year’s festival are a mix of thoughtful as well as thought provoking, funny, troubling and awe inspiring. Here are the highlights of just three of them to whet your appetite
At a time when the most important rule to follow is social distancing, you’ll be entertained by the movie The Little Death, an original comedy about sex, love, relationships and the secret desires of some very average people living in a quiet suburb in Sydney.
The film Sweet Country on the other hand is a magnificent Australian western about violence and racism trapped deep beneath the surface. It is one of the must see movies of recent years.
And a “best of” selection wouldn’t be complete without the visually magnificent documentary Blue which shows up close the impact of humans on ocean ecosystems. For instance did you know that 66,000 garbage trucks (or 500,000 tonnes) of plastic waste from Europe end up on beaches and oceans every year? The ocean is where life on our planet started and today, it has a major impact on the climate and environmental conditions of the entire planet. This amazing documentary chronicles not only our impact on ocean life but also the work being done by many around the world to try to help the oceans and its animals.
For more information on the festival, visit our website www.aussieakiwi.cz and follow us on Facebook and Instagram under @aussiekiwifilmfest or on Twitter @aussie_filmfest.
Our festival would not be possible without the financial support of our partners and sponsors, namely the City of Prague, the embassies of both Australia and New Zealand as well as our private sponsors and local Aussie and Kiwi expat organisations (CANZA and ABIE). Our huge thanks go out to all of these. But of course, our search for sponsors continues.