Stills from 'Acts for the Invisible' and 'Mud Crab'.
AFTRS student films have again fared well on the international stage, recognised in the fiction and documentary categories at the CILECT CAPA Awards for the second year running.
David Robinson-Smith’s Mud Crab, a 2020 capstone project of the school’s Master of Arts Screen, won the Best Film – Fiction prize in the CAPA regional section and was placed fourth worldwide, while Kate Vinen’s Acts for the Invisible, also from the 2020 Master of Arts Screen, won the CAPA Best Film – Documentary prize.
CAPA is the Asia-Pacific Association of CILECT, the International Association of Film and Television Schools, which encompasses 180 institutions from 65 countries.
Voting panels for the awards include students, professors, and staff, with hundreds of members sitting on each panel.
AFTRS director of teaching and learning David Balfour said it was a “significant achievement” for the institution and its students to be awarded first prize in both the fiction and documentary categories for the second consecutive year.
“The CILECT Awards are highly competitive and recognise the very best in student filmmaking from film schools around the world,” he said.
“Our congratulations to the brilliant filmmaking teams and to the AFTRS teaching staff who have guided their film studies.”
Acts for the Invisible, which Vinen wrote, directed, and produced, tells the story of a philosophical fashion designer who loses his life partner and is propelled towards an entirely new life, far away from the fashion world.
The short features contributions from cinematographer Petra Leslie, production designer Emily Jansz, editor Liam Clark, composer Julia Potter, and sound designer Nathan Turnbull, all of whom are Master of Arts Screen students.
It premiered at last year’s Sydney Film Festival, before being selected for Mardi Gras Film Festival Sydney, Revelation Perth International Film Festival, and St. Kilda Film Festival in Melbourne. The film’s international premiere was at Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia in Japan and it was also chosen to screen at the Doc Edge International Documentary Film Festival in New Zealand.
Vinen, who has since completed a Playlab Films’ development lab stationed in the Amazon with Thai Palme d’Or winning director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, told IF she was inspired to work on Acts for the Invisible after becoming fascinated with the process of death.
“I was with both my grandparents when they passed away and in my grief, I researched a lot about grief and really noticed the way our society isn’t very good at it,” she said.
“[The film] has been challenging festival-wise because of COVID but it’s been amazing to have people show and share how moved they are and have a profound response in terms of their own grief.”
Themes of self-examination are also central to Mud Crab, in which a woman reflects on her culpability after witnessing the assault of a young man in a small Australian coastal town.
The film was written and directed by Robinson-Smith, whose Master of Arts Screen collaborators included producers Adam Daniel and Adam Finney, production designers Sharna Graham and Calum Wilson Austin, editor James Taylor, composer James Mountain, and sound designer Nathan Turnbull. Cinematographer Jaclyn Paterson is a 2017 graduate of AFTRS.
Mud Crab will have its international premiere in October, following its world premiere at Melbourne International Film Festival.
Robinson-Smith told IF the award formed “the fun part” of a process that began nearly four years ago when he first came up with the proof of concept.
“We’re starting to hear some good news [about the film] and that people actually like it,” he said.
“Especially with CAPA selection, which is voted for, it feels like audiences are responding to it, which is good.”