Gold Coast Film Festival program puts focus on local emerging filmmakers

'Girls' Night Out'.

Alongside a range of Australian and international titles, this year’s Gold Coast Film Festival is set to once again spotlight the city’s emerging filmmakers, hosting the world premieres of Lauren Ann-Smith’s Against the Tide, Jude Kalman’s Red Dust Challenge and Damian Hussey’s Girls’ Night Out.

They join an Australian line-up that also includes Monolith, The Survival of Kindness, Sweet As, The Giants, and The Road to Patagonia, which will screen as part of special surf strand.

Opening this year’s festival is British action comedy Polite Society, the debut feature from director Nida Mnazoor that bowed in Sundance in January. Starring Priya Kansara (Bridgerton) and Ritu Arya (Red Notice, The Umbrella Academy), it follows a British-Pakistani teenager (and aspiring stuntwoman) who attempts to save her older sister from a semi-arranged marriage by performing an elaborate heist.

Closing the festival will be documentary The Last Daughter, directed by Goldie local Brenda Matthews and Nathaniel Schmidt. Matthews’ first memories were of growing up in a loving white foster family, before she was suddenly taken away and returned to her Aboriginal family. Decades later, she feels disconnected from both halves of her life, and goes searching for the foster family with whom she had lost all contact. The film premiered in Adelaide last October, where it won the Audience Award for Feature Documentary.

Of the world premieres in the Local Filmmaker Focus, Girls’ Night Out is a slice of life drama about best friends Brie and Abby, who decide to celebrate after Brie is offered a new job. The cast includes Stephanie Kutty, Emily Rowbottom, Paris Moletti, Montana Jones, Emily Georgiou, Regan Sharp and Trent Owe.

Documentary Red Dust Challenge was made by Kalman of Little Drum Pictures during the pandemic, following a group of mates as they travel across the harsh landscape of the Simpson Desert/

Fellow doc Against The Tide shares the story of the director Smith and family, who risk it all to pursue a lifelong dream – to live aboard a sailboat and explore Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Other highlights include the first two episodes of Netflix series Sweet Tooth; the Oscar-nominated EO, from Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski; Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider, Lola Quivoron’s Rodeo; Cairo Conspiracy, from Tarik Saleh; Simon Depardon and Marie Perennès’ Feminist Riposte; Olga from Elie Grappe and Chandler Levack’s Canadian indie I Love Movies.

The Making Waves surf strand will include the Australian premiere and gala screening of Big Wave Guardians, as well as Queensland premieres of Big vs Small and Birth of the Endless Summer and The Road to Patagonia.

SIPFEST, the festival’s short film competition will return, held on the HOTA Outdoor Stage and showcasing a range of Australian and local films. Audiences have a chance to vote for their favourite on the night.

For industry, there are number of free panels to attend via REEL LIFE. This year creatives will discuss storytelling in documentary, actors and casting directors will give insight into the process of being on camera, and both emerging and experienced professionals give insight into the best ways to break into the industry on the Gold Coast and how to raise finance for both shorts and features.

Market event Pitch in Paradise also returns, with panels, pitching sessions and networking opportunities. Studios representatives from across the Gold Coast will also appear in a free event, explaining the benefit of studio facilities and budgeting.

Other industry events include the Screen Industry Gala Awards to be held at Warner Bros. Movie World and the Women In Film Lunch in the QT Gold Coast Ballroom, with a keynote speaker yet to be announced.

Gold Coast Film Festival head of programming Sasha Close said the line-up promised to be “delightful, insightful and fun.”

“Opening night and closing night feature films are directed by women, sharing powerful and engaging stories, and in between these gala nights are an array of feature films and shorts plus numerous panels and special events,” she said.

For a second year, the festival’s ambassador is actor and Gold Coaster Lincoln Lewis.  

Gold Coast Film Festival is held at HOTA, Home of the Arts as well as other various locations around the city, April 19-30.