DUNGOG FILM FESTIVAL 2009 – A PRACTICAL GUIDE
A full weekend of Australian films, festival fun and country ambiance has
rapidly turned the Dungog Film Festival into a unique event that is not just a
giant showcase of Australian cinema but a great example of a regional screen
culture initiative with a can-do attitude, reports Andrew L. Urban on the eve of
the 3rd edition of the event.
Countrylink’s dedicated three-carriage Festival Express will again deliver
festival guests, filmmakers, media and sponsors to Dungog on Thursday, May 28,
for the third annual, non-competitive showcase of Australian films, into the
waiting arms (and beds) of the Hunter Valley town on the outskirts of the famous
Barrington Tops range in NSW. The Festival Express leaves Sydney Central at
11.35 and arrives at Dungog at 15.03, with guests offered complimentary food and
beverages on the way.
Andrew L. Urban about to enjoy a beverage on The Festival Express (photo Enzo Amato)
The beds reference is not a salacious insinuation about freewheeling sex in
town: it’s just that with barely 50 actual tourist beds (in a couple of hotels,
a motel and some holiday apartments) Tourism Officer Wendy Farrow has developed
an extensive ‘home hosting’ arrangement, whereby locals rent out their homes to
festival visitors. (Many of them take holidays or make other arrangements, so
it’s not like you’re sharing with the owners.)Capsis will also be seen in Jon Hewitt’s Dark
Love Story, which will be screened in the festival program. (More program
information and film details in our Festival Preview, published April 30, 2009.)
Last year, Wendy was faced with the challenge of finding accommodation for about
3,000 visitors. Some people were reluctant to let their homes out to visitors;
what sort of people go to a film festival, they wondered. But the word – the
good word – spread fast after the 2008 event, and Wendy now has about 5,000 beds
to offer, at $50 per person per night. This compares to $100 - $160 for the
The locals, evidently enthused by last year’s event, are also getting into the
spirit of the celebration, with shopkeepers presenting Australian film-themed
window displays during the festival.
Once unpacked, visitors (and local festival-goers) will start getting the 2009
buzz from Martin Sharp’s first poster in 20 years, which will be auctioned off.
Autographed prints will be on sale at the box office, where other merchandise,
including stylish Frost Design T-shirts, DVDs of Australian films – including
Urban Cinefile’s 50 minute Doing Dungog doco covering last year’s festival –
will also be on sale.
With NSW Mining back as presenting sponsors, providing an even bigger cash
budget and lots of on-the-ground physical support (like volunteer drivers for
the filmmaker & cast guests), the Festival will kick off with the Gala Opening Night
party, a sit down dinner with celebrated cabaret artist Paul Capsis (with his
new, short haired look)performing parts of his solo show.
On the Friday night of the Dungog weekend, Dungog based high energy band Caleb
whose music features in another festival entry, Bad Bush, will play live at the
Royal Hotel on main street and on Saturday, it's the Rock n' Reel party - hosted by NSW Mining, on behalf of the 'Rock' and the festival provides the 'reel' . . .
The James Theatre, Australia’s oldest running movie house (opened 1914), will be
busy from 9am till midnight, and the RSL auditorium will again be used for
screenings – even more than last year. A third permanent venue is expected to be
ready for the 2010 festival, says Festival Director Allanah Zitserman. This will
be needed as the program expands even further. Already this year, the first two
films from New Zealand have been selected.
Several cafes and restaurants serve breakfast / lunch / dinner, the Royal Hotel
is slap bang in the centre of town, not far from the James, and they all make an
effort to welcome visitors and provide suitable services. In addition, there are
several stalls near the James, serving a range of inexpensive ‘stand up’ food
Supported by the NSW Film and Television Office (as well as Dungog Shire
Council), this festival grew from zero to hero instantly, becoming something of
a template of how a country town can seize the cinematic day. Of course, you do
need an enthusiastic, resourceful and dedicated team to make it happen.
Published April 23, 2009
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DUNGOG 2009 - Preview
Country Link Festival Express
DOING DUNGOG - making the documentary
(BUY YOUR OWN COPY)
Andrew L. Urban’s 2008
DUNGOG FILM FESTIVAL WEBSITE
DATES: May 28 – 31, 2009
Countrylink - XPT services daily, adult pre-paid fare $31.47 one way
222 kms from Sydney CBD, approx 2hrs 30mins (with tolls)
Dungog Shire Council
Tel: 02 4992 2212
Fax: 02 4992 2214