An international film festival where all films, mostly docos, in some way resonate with life in The Centre and do so with “heart”: that’s the guiding philosophy of the homegrown and ambitious Something Somewhere, which launched the program for its second iteration last week.
Right: Alex Kelly with film-maker Robert Nugent at last year’s opening night.
Brainchild of Alex Kelly and collaborators Anneke Rose and Matt Woodham, it sold out all sessions last year and had an excellent turn-up for the free community screening on the banks of the Todd that launched the event.
This year that launch formula repeats, but on the Town Council lawns. With the choice of opening film, it’s not hard to see both the local resonance and the heart. Called Nice People, it’s set in the small Swedish town of Borlange, where a mainly white population is struggling to accept the growing presence of Somali refugees (below).
Local entrepreneur – and a man of obvious heart and imagination – Patrik Andersson sees the potential of sport to build bridges in the community. “Bandy” is the sport, a fiercely competitive form of ice hockey. (I had never have heard of it but, according to Wikipedia, it has a national federation in Australia, and in 30 other countries as diverse and dispersed across the globe as Afghanistan and Argentina.)
Andersson sets a goal for Borlange to turn out a Somali national bandy team; not only that but to send it to the World Championships in Siberia.
The scenario is a classic ‘underdog makes good’ one and it is described as a “heart-warming” story. An interesting talking point – and Something Somewhere is dedicated to provoking conversations – will be the extent to which the experience of the Somalis changes how they feel and live in Borlange, and on the other hand, how it changes the attitudes of the locals who were struggling to accept them.
After the opening film, the festival will launch its second strand of programming, called Secret Swag Cinema. The old Westpac bank will be the relaxed venue for showing a program of mostly short Australian Indigenous language films.
The launch treat will be a special one-hour cut of Black As, which follows a new band of bush mechanics – three Yolngu men and a Scot – in the croc-infested wetlands of the Top End. The idea for the films, made as four-minute episodes, came from the men themselves, Chico Wanybarrnga, Dino Wanybarrnga, Jerome Lilypiyana and Joseph Smith. They recruited David Batty of original Bush Mechanics fame (co-directing with Francis Jupurrula Kelly) to come on board.
Filming around Ramingining began (above, Australian Story), supported by crowd-funding. The series has since been launched by the ABC and is viewable on-line where it has garnered an international following and sparked the further film-making ambitions of the cast.
The Arrpenhe-nthenhe Indigenous languages program will also be screened in a single session at the Alice Springs Cinemas. Arrpenhe-nthenhe in Arrernte means “Where’s the other one?”. Highlights of the program include the launch of Warlungka, about the father-daughter music duo from the Barkly, Rayella, currently touring the country as the support for Violent Femmes; and the premiere of CAAMA’s songlines project, Artnwer: Desert Dingo.
A drawcard in the feature program will be the hard-hitting When Two Worlds Collide (at left), about the clash between Indigenous minorities in Peru and corporate government interests – again, not hard to see the local resonance. The conflict erupted violently in 2009, vividly documented by footage shot by participants on both sides. The film is described as “detailed and balanced” while “harrowing” at times, but the resolution is “inspiring”.
The festival will also present, in collaboration with Red Hot Arts, two live audiovisual performances of The Long Weekend in Alice Springs, the graphic novel adapted by Joshua Santospirito from an essay by Craig San Roque. They first presented this version at MONA’s 2016 MOFO festival in Hobart, with San Roque narrating and Santospirito on guitar, as guides to a unique road trip on Central Australia’s cultural highways and byways.
Festival screenings are at various venues, Thursday 20 April to Sunday 23 April; program here.
– compiled by Kieran Finnane