A scene from movie Otelo Burning, which won three awards at the Byron film fest.
A scene from movie Otelo Burning, which won three awards at the Byron film fest.

South African surfers score hat trick at Byron film fest

THE 7th Byron Bay International Film Festival finished at the weekend, and in a style that those attending had become used to over the previous 10 days.

There were top quality films to enjoy, a gala closing party and an awards ceremony.

The awards announced on Saturday night contained some surprises - not for the choice of films, but for the fact that one took out three prizes.

South African surfing/political film Otelo Burning was the first ever winner of the hat-trick. It picked up the Owners Club at Linnaeus Best Film Award, the Byron Bay Coffee Company Best Dramatic Feature Award and the Tavarus Best Surf Film Award.

The film, by Surfing Soweto's Sara Blecher, was one of the most talked about films out of South Africa and screened to a packed house in Byron and also in Murwillumbah.

Festival director, J'aimee Skippon-Volke, said "apart from being an exceptional film, Otelo Burning is a perfect reflection of BBFF's diversity because it's politically educational, has a lot of heart and in a way it's a surf film".


A scene from movie Otelo Burning.
A scene from movie Otelo Burning. Contributed

Australian-Egyptian comedian and Byron local, Akmal Saleh's, debut documentary film, Pharaoh vs The Egyptians, picked up Best Byron Film award, and the festival's opening night special, The World Before Her, won the Screenzone Byron International Documentary Prize of $5000.


American filmmakers Blis and Wayne DeVault, were present to collect their award for The Byron at Byron Best Environmental Film for their impassioned documentary, Sanctity of Sanctuary: Paul Strauss and the Equinox Farm. Guillaume Legrand, travelled all the way from France to screen his film, Le Souffle Court (Short of Breath), which won the SAE Institiute/Qantm College Best Short Film Award.

The GDC Best Cinematography Award was the latest in a long list for director Wim Vanacker for his superb short dramatic film, The Naked Leading the Blind, and Andy Prendergast of Melbourne production house Oh Yeah Wow picked up the Cheese Please Best Music Video Award for one of his two nominated music videos, Easy Way Out, by three times Grammy-award winning artist, Gotye.

The title of Young Australian Filmmaker of the Year went to Melbourne's Lucy McKendrick, for her short film and also Best Cinematography nominee, Toombaworth, which tells the story of two young women and the drugs and society that rob them of a childhood.

A gong that many in the Northern Rivers were keen to see awarded, the Sustain Northern Rivers Sustainable Shorts Award went to Ira Chute & Angus Cann for The Garden Pool, a film about a man living in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona who turns his backyard swimming pool into a nearly self-sufficient food production system for his family.

A very special part of the awards program, the BBFF Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Northern Rivers, this year honoured highly respected Northern Rivers film pioneers and documentary makers, couple Paul Tait and Jeni Kendall.

- What was your favourite film in the festival? Leave your comments below.

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