‘Runt’, ‘Audrey’, ‘Memoir of a Snail’, ‘The Moogai’ to contest CinefestOZ Film Prize

Top are stills from 'Audrey' and 'Memoir of a Snail'. Bottom are 'The Moogai' (Image: Elise Lockwood) and 'Runt' (Image: Court McAllister)

SXSW selections Audrey and The Moogai will battle it out against feature animation Memoir of a Snail and the WA-filmed Runt for this year’s $100,000 CinefestOZ film prize.

All four titles will have their WA premieres at the event, set to take place in the state’s South West region from August 31 to September 8, with the winner to be announced at the Film Prize Celebration on September 7.

CinefestOZ CEO Cassandra Jordan said each film showcased unique Australian stories, told through clever and compelling filmmaking.

“I’m excited to share our four finalists for the 2024 Film Prize, which recognises excellence in filmmaking from an Australian feature film,” she said.

“I am also delighted that these films will have their Western Australian premiere at Australia’s largest destination film festival – CinefestOZ – where festivalgoers have the opportunity to see these films first alongside visiting film talent as well as a Jury of film industry experts, who will decide the 2024 Film Prize winner, which will be announced at the spectacular Film Prize Celebration event on 7 September.”

Representing the state among the finalists is John Sheedy’s family feature Runt, which follows 11-year-old Annie Shearer (Lily La Torre) and her best friend, an adopted stray dog called Runt (Squid), who try to save their family farm in the fictional country town of Upson Downs by competing in the Agility Course Grand Championships at the prestigious Krumpets Dog Show in London. The film, which Silvey adapted for screen and Jamie Hilton produced, will be released in cinemas nationally on September 19.

Fresh from its Australian premiere at last month’s Sydney Film Festival, where it picked up the Audience Award for Best Australian Feature, Jon Bell’s horror feature debut The Moogai will continue a festival run that has already incorporated Sundance and SXSW. Led by Shari Sebbens and Meyne Wyatt, who also starred in the original short on which the film is based, The Moogai follows a young Aboriginal couple who bring home their second baby. What should be a joyous time takes a sinister turn as the mother starts seeing a malevolent spirit she is convinced is trying to take her baby. Causeway Films’ Kristina Ceyton and Samantha Jennings produced the film, alongside No Coincidence Media’s Mitchell Stanley.

Like Bell, Natalie Bailey also makes her feature debut with her entry. Written by Lou Sanz, Audrey centres on a frustrated mother, played by Jackie van Beek, who lives vicariously through the dreams she seeks to instill in her two daughters, Norah and Audrey. When the latter ends up in a coma, she gets her second chance at the life she wanted by taking on her daughter’s identity. Michael Wrenn, Dan Lake, Shannon Wilson-McClinton, and Diya Eid produced the dramedy.

Audrey will join Memoir of a Snail in coming direct from this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival, where the latter is the opening night film. Adam Elliot’s 1970s-set drama picks up with lonely hoarder Grace Puddle (Sarah Snook) having her family unit ripped apart and being separated from her twin brother, leading to a spiral of anxiety and depression, which she soothes with an addiction to collecting snail ornaments. But suddenly her life is filled with colour and hope again when she strikes up an enduring friendship with an elderly eccentric woman called Pinky, through which she starts to find her confidence and the courage to learn to love and let go of the things that clutter her home and her mind. Arenamedia produced the film, with Liz Kearney serving as producer and Robert Connolly and Robert Patterson executive producing.

The announcement of the CinefestOZ finalists comes ahead of the full program release on July 17, with early bird tickets available from today.