THE little festival that could still can, with a fourfold increase in the number of movies screening at this year’s Dungog Film Festival since its inception in 2007, despite taking a body blow to its finances.
The festival, which injects $2 million a year into the Hunter Valley town’s economy, will feature 10 world premieres among 194 feature, short and animated films that will show on four screens.
The festival’s director, Allanah Zitserman, conceded that the ambitions of herself and her co-founder, Stavros Kazantzidis, were responsible for the ”lightning pace” at which it had grown, with an accompanying increase in costs.
The loss of the sponsor NSW Mining this year created a $400,000 gap in festival finances, forcing the organisers to cut costs and create new income streams, such as management staff deferring wages and creating new ticketing packages.
”We have closed up the financial gap somewhat … and we still have a slate of committed sponsors,” Zitserman said.
As many as 10,000 people are expected to attend the four-day event this month, up from about 7000 last year, and 1500 in 2007.
Among the world premieres is the black comedy Frank and Jerry, directed by the screenwriter Nick McGee, and a documentary of the artist Charles Blackman’s life, An Imprint in Time. The much-awaited Oranges and Sunshine, starring Emily Watson, Hugo Weaving and David Wenham and telling the story of child migrants who left Britain for Australia, will be screened on opening night. The Chinese mystery The Dragon Pearl, staring Sam Neill, will have its NSW premiere.
The festival has received a $10,000 grant from Arts NSW and an undisclosed sum from Events NSW for the past three years.
CountryLink will provide a party train from Sydney direct to Dungog.
This year’s program includes master classes with the playwright and screenwriter David Williamson and the composers Lisa Gerrard and Michael Yezerski.
Three schools chosen for the Oovie student film project, in which students receive help from professional filmmakers and scriptwriters to develop a film from scratch, will also screen their films.
The Dungog Film Festival runs from May 26 to 29. The full program will be unveiled today.