‘Freedom Swimmer’ wins CinefestOZ short film prize

'Finding Swimmer' producer Brooke Silcox. (Photo: Daniela Tommasi)

Writer-director Olivia Martin-McGuire’s Freedom Swimmer has taken home the top gong in CinefestOz’s Short Film Competition.

The project won the $5,000 Best Short Film prize from a field that also included Harry Quinlan’s Favour on the Fourth Floor, Sophie Saville’s Inspire Me, and Chantelle Murray’s Jarli.

A hybrid documentary animation, Freedom Swimmer, produced by Brooke Silcox, Ron Dyens and Martin-McGuire, follows the story of a grandfather’s perilous swim from China to Hong Kong that parallels his granddaughter’s own quest for a new freedom.

The film has previously won a number of awards including the Yoram Gross Animation Award at Sydney Film Festival in 2021, Best Short Form Documentary at the Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) Awards in March, a craft award at this year’s St Kilda Film Festival, the Mozaik Bridging the Borders Award at Palms Springs International ShortFest and Best International Short at Doc Edge in NZ.

Winners in the other categories included:

  • Best Indigenous Short Film – Finding Jedda – directed, written and produced by Tanith Glynn-Maloney. ($2,500 Prize)
  • CineWest Best Western Australian Short Film – Peregrinations of a Citizen Botanist– directed by Emma Vickery and produced by Susie Vickery. ($2,500 Prize)
  • Best Lead Actor – Kat Stewart for her performance in Victim
  • Best Director – Riley Sugars won for Hatchback for “showing initiative with combining a character’s story with the wider narrative in a seamless and engaging film”. 
  • Best Screenplay  – Ismail Khan for Sunnies
  • Best Animation –  Larry the Lightbulb by Winston Foo, Dung Nguyen, Christina Vernon and Frank O. Bear

Awards were presented to the filmmakers in a ceremony at Margaret River HEART.

Two juries reviewed and selected the winners, including chairs Narelda Jacobs and Krew Boylan, and panelists Douglas Watkin, Rob Murphy, Jason van Genderen and Macario de Souza.

Jacobs said she and her fellow panel members had a tough job determining the winners due to the range and quality of submissions.

“The Short Film program is fantastic –  so many clever filmmakers bringing inspiring and entertaining stories to life stories that inspire and entertain.

“The future of Australia’s film industry looks bright if these films are any indication.”

Boylan, who is the star and writer of Seriously Red, a finalist in the CinefestOZ $100,000 film prize, said that short films were “genius”.

“I’m so happy to be jury chair this year to support, champion and celebrate all these brilliant and diverse storytellers.”

CinefestOZ continues through to Sunday, with 270 screenings through 35 locations in WA’s South West.