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From the Field: First Pasifika 48-Hour Film Challenge in Sydney

Posted on October 09, 2018

PIC-funded producer, Karin Williams shares with us her experience as a mentor in the Pasifika 48-Hour Film Challenge. 

Thirty minutes and counting down!  Two teams in the Pasifika Film Festival inaugural 48 Hour Film Challenge are uploading their short films, racing to meet the submission deadline of 6:00 p.m. on Friday night September 14.  There’s no sense of panic or drama at Challenge HQ, the Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) at Parramatta in Sydney’s western suburbs, although a few people look weary after all-night edit sessions.  

Ten emerging Pasifika filmmakers are divided into two teams with just 48 hours to write, prep, shoot, edit and upload their short films (up to five minutes), starting on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m.  There’s a range of experience including performing, writing, factual TV production, and several with film school experience, including one who is about to graduate from the prestigious Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS).

This first ever Australian Pasifika film challenge has been created by Eliorah Malifa and Kalo Fainu, founders of the Pasifika Film Festival, which showcases the art of Pacific storytelling through film while also working to inspire writers, directors and actors of Pacific heritage to explore links to their culture.  Pasifika holds screenings in Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane, and last year expanded to Auckland and Wellington.

The goal of the challenge is to create an opportunity for Pacific filmmakers in Australia to engage with each other and create a network while gaining skills and honing their teamwork under pressure.  With a theme of “underdog”, a budget of $200, and camera equipment provided by ICE, the group of strangers has bonded by the end of two days and are excited at the prospect of screening their films on Sunday at the festival.

The producing mentors are blown away by the participants’ skills, experience and talent.  The process has been respectful and efficient, and the films are surprisingly good for first-time directors with their new teams, featuring strong performances and powerful messages about the impact of intergenerational violence on families, and reclaiming one’s culture through traditional performance.

The mentors are Cara Florez, a Chamorro filmmaker from Guam whose beautiful short film, I Hinanao-Ta: Our Journey, is screening in festival; Bobby Romia, a writer/producer of Cook Islands heritage currently working as Screen Sector Investment Manager at the state funding agency Create NSW; and me – I’ve just finished a three-year stint as Development Executive at the New Zealand Film Commission to work on a Master’s degree focusing on indigenous film.

For each of us, returning to grassroots community filmmaking is a reminder of the power and passion of emerging filmmakers and the importance of telling our own stories from our specifically Pacific viewpoints.  Over my media career of nearly 40 years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with filmmakers of Pacific heritage in Hawaii, Guam, USA, Aotearoa, the Pacific Islands and now Australia. I’m always inspired by our stories and impressed by our storytelling talents.  This film challenge reminded me again of the importance of telling our own authentic stories, practicing and developing your craft, and working with others to collaborate, cooperate and create. 


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