The Cycle Chic Film Tour succeeds to gather a real community of passionate people

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Yesterday night, I went to the Cycle Chic Film Tour in Melbourne. This one-night festival goes accross New Zealand and Australia to screen eleven short films about female bike riders.

Honestly, I went because I realise that I have to write an article about a film festival in Melbourne. I had the choice between the Korean Film Festival and the Cycle Chic Film Tour. I choose the latest because I’m interesting in topics regarding women and adventurous women who stretch their limits. But also because, thanks to the three other interviews I have made, I realise that everybody has very different ideas on niche festivals and I wanted to go into this topic in depth.

Brett Cotter is the Curator of the festival but he’s actually doing more than just being a Curator. He’s the Programmer, the Marketing Manager and even the Operation Manager. He prefers to refer to himself as the pedlar of the festival.

He doesn’t have any film pedigree, he’s just keen on bikes. He knows a lot about it and his passion allows him to know what is relevant to screen.

Bikes events in Taupo, in New Zealand where he comes from, gave him the idea of creating a festival to celebrate cycling: the Big Bike Film Night.

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Then, with proven success, he has decided to celebrate and encourage women to bike.

It took him three years to find all the material he needed. He has to be patient but as he said, the most important thing is “to keep the integrity of the collection, to be honest and to be present during the screening”.

Brett wants to show stories with real people, stories of passion, challenges and adversity. Stories on which we can rely on.

For him, niche festivals are about passion. “If you are not on your bike, you can watch bike films and add things to your bucket list”.

Even if he doesn’t have a big network here in Australia, he can rely on his sponsors such as Bicycling Network. Promotion materials from sponsors have been quickly screened at the beginning of the event and the founder of Wheel Women also gave a speech (a bit too long for me) for the Women Health Week.

If Brett just happens to become a curator, he feels very privileged to do so and he finds his work very rewarding.

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The Big Cycle Chic Tour is a small festival. Hosted in the theatrette of the Victorian Library, the room wasn’t completly full of people.

However, the festival succeeds to gather a real community of passionate people.

I had a very good time. Brett Cotter has screened very different and inspiring stories. All of them were about passion, courage and the ability of stand out against what you may think your life should be to discover yourself and creating new paths.

I have procrastinated on buying a bike since July but it looks like I’m about to have a new one this week-end.

Cycle Chic Film Tour Promo Trailer

“Festivals set the tone for the whole profession and for the audience”.

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Graduated with a bachelor’s degree of cinematography, Camille did several internships with the Forum des Images in Paris as an assistant manager then as a programming manager during the Carrefour du Cinéma d’Animation (Crossroad of Animation) and as a programming assistant during Séries Mania (Series Mania).

She then decided to enrol in the master’s degree of Promotion of Cinematographic Heritage.

When it comes to animation, she explained how central are short films. In this particular field, it is very hard to be funding. You need to have a very strong resume.

To the contrary, short films don’t have any space in the world of series. Even if the webserie format has been very successful the past few years, Camille has noticed that the big decision makers don’t really bother with that. The webserie area is managed by passionnate people with ideological claims.

“Festivals are businnesses. They don’t promote art or innovative initiatives” said Camille. “From what I saw, it’s all about marketing and money”.

But not all festivals are like that, she nuanced. Some festivals such as the F.A.M.E., are screening non-profitabe films from all around the world. Of course, they don’t seem to make a profit so it is not viable. “It depends on the budget you have. I understand the commercial necessity of festivals. Guests and big films cost a lot. Both, business festivals and non-profitable festivals, have to exist”, she concluded.

“The niche festival? It’s awesome !” she answered. “We need more people who share their passion, with surprising films that we can’t see anywhere else”, she added. For her, these initiatives need to be supported to provide original point of view. “If people have the time and the passion to do so, they should do it !” Especially as “big festivals don’t take risks. They make their choice on “this serie/film is going to be successful” “.

When I asked Camille about the film festival circuit and the life of films into this circuit, she regretted a big problem in the distribution of films. “Short films are well-known in the festival circuit and in the film industry. It is a way to target the new filmmakers. Nevertheless, the general public is not used to it. Those films are not in the cinemas. So festivals are always at the avant-garde because it’s mostly a professional audience. TV and cinemas don’t bring that to the general public therefore short films still look awkward to them while in the film industry, short films are a way to present and express yourself, to win your spurs. Of course, you still have channels such as Arte and I remember that UGC used to screen short films before their feature films. They should have more initiatives like that.”

Working in programming for a serie festival or for a film festival are two different things. Programming for a serie festival is more based on TV. You have to deal with all the major American channels such as HBO, Netflix, Hulu and so on. Big amounts of money circulate between studios. “Those kind of festivals are more about diplomatic relationships with studios so choices are more based on diplomacy than on artistic questions. Even if it means to choose a b******* serie”, she argued.

“The world of animation is different. There are a lot of emerging talents so we are doing a big programming work with schools, lecturers and students. It’s only people who try to make their best. It’s a penniless sector so they have to help each others”, said Camille.

She explained the fascinating but yet complicated process of film acquisitions. “Sometimes, it is a real conquest. You have to investigate. Sometimes you don’t find the last owners of the films. Sometimes the rights are not assigned anymore. If you can’t find the last owners, you have no legal document to prove your right to screen and you don’t have the high quality format of the films. Two choices then, you can give the screening up or screening it anyway with a lower quality. 9 times on 10, you won’t have any legal issues but still, it is risky”, she admitted.

Camille and I, we have discussed the issue of the International Chinese Film Festival in Australia and their volunteer translators. “Indeed, subtitles cost a lot. You need money for the translators and to insert the subtitles. It’s a lot of work”, she confirmed.

To conclude, when I asked her about the future of film festival, she said that for her, film festivals are a thriving business. “It sets the tone for the whole profession and for the audience. It sets the tone of what is going on in the moment. They are links between creators, distributors, producers, journalists and the audience. Festivals are the social spaces of the film industry. Half of the festivals are professional festivals where the general public can’t go. Film Festivals are meeting spaces”.

“There is a dynamic presence of Indigenous cinema across international festival circuits today,” said Greta Morton Elangué, founder of the Festival of Indigenous Australian Cinema in Paris

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Founded by Greta Morton Elangué in 2016 the Festival of Indigenous Australian Cinema in Paris is the only film festival dedicated to Indigenous Australian cinema outside Australia. 

In 1993 when Greta was completing her post-graduate year in Film & TV from the VCA School of Film and Television the Indigenous cinema industry did not exist. Tracy Moffatt (Bedevil, Nice Coloured Girls) was one of the only Indigenous directors working in the industry at that time.

Greta Morton Elangué has been lucky to grow up in a family where culture was given an important place. Her father promoted Aboriginal culture at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in the eighties, her uncle, Noel Tovey AM is a renowned theatre director. Greta’s passion is promoting the cinema of Black Australia.

There is a dynamic presence of Indigenous cinema across international festival circuits today,” said Greta. “A global decolonisation of minds has created a climate where Indigenous film makers’ storytelling is in high demand. Now is the time of Indigenous cinema.”

The current Indigenous Australian film industry is essentially made up of a generation born to the activists of the 60’s and 70’s, the generation who fought hard to have a voice” she said.

For Greta Morton Elangué, Indigenous cinema exposes the real face of a population and this face was invisible for a long time. “We’re looking under the veil, so to speak”, she said. “Cinema is very effective at breaking down stereotypes and like Aboriginal art, it helps the general public to be aware of culture, of country and the vitality of cultural expression. It’s the storytellers telling us all how it is”.

Indigenous Cinema helps to reset the scales and inject a balance into the representation of Indigenous people. It helps break the rigid societal stereotypes, for example that all Aboriginal people are spear holding bearded men or ‘troublemakers’. “For more than 20 years now wonderful multi-dimensional characters are being created by Indigenous writers for the screen”. However even if things are evolving, a lot of negative representations and misunderstanding of culture still exist and Indigenous people still feel the brunt of this on a daily basis, she admitted. “It’s so important to have Indigenous people in key creative roles”.

One thing is certain, the long battle for human rights by the Australian Indigenous population has always been inseparable from the artistic movements,” she explained.

Greta Morton Elangué feels that cinema is important for the transmission of culture. It’s also a reminder of the Aboriginal presence for those who would like to deny that presence, a counter force to what two centuries of colonisation attempted to destroy.

This year (2018) is the 25th birthday of the establishment of the Indigenous Department of Screen Australia. Prior to this no indigenous people were enrolled in the national film schools, said Greta. “The first important step was to train young Indigenous Australians and for this it was necessary to take on government bureaucracy. The battlefield was the administration,” she added.

It has been a very slow process, a long history related to the political history of Aboriginal people. The history of activism is parallel to the history of cultural production.”

Today there is government support for Aboriginal art, there is a lot of money available for artists,” said Greta Morton Elangué. 

… And in 2018 Indigenous Australian cinema has a prestigious place in the international market” she added.

In her opinion, short films are very important. They are the ground of experimentation, where ideas gestate, an opportunity for young filmmakers. It is a genre in itself, she argued.

The last few years have seen an effervescence of TV series created by Indigenous creatives such as Cleverman and Redfern Now. This medium has become an important ground for directors, seeing award-winning feature directors such as Rachel Perkins take on the TV genre such as the recent series Mystery Road demonstrates.

Titles like The Sapphires (2012) and the recent Warwick Thornton film, Sweet Country have been commercial successes in Australia and overseas. Historically speaking, however, it’s important to remember films such as Jedda in 1955, nominated at the Cannes Film Festival. Rosalie Kunoth-Monks was the first Aboriginal actress in a leading role and she was obliged to ‘black up’ for the part in order to look darker. The films racist narrative tells the ‘tragic’ tale of an ‘assimilated’ Aboriginal woman and an ‘pure blood’ Aboriginal man (Robert Tudawali) who cross the line between “savage” and “civilised” in their love for each other. 

Cinema reflects what is going on in a country”, argued Greta Morton Elangué. “Why at that time was it important for the director, Charles Chauvel, to do this film? These conversations need to take place to understand ourselves better particularly because there are very fast changes occurring as we speak.”

Film festivals rely on partnerships and government funding. So we are never really 100% sure of our future. The limited budget of the festival makes it hard to offer travel costs to the filmmakers but hopefully this will change soon. We have been very lucky to have had very loyal partners such as the City of Paris (Ville de Paris), the ‘Direction des affaires culturelles’ (DRAC) and the Australian Embassy”, she said.

For the first time this year, the Festival of Indigenous Australian Cinema in Paris included a film from Tahiti, Ma’ohi Nui, as a cinematographic response to Lynette Wallworth’s award winning VR film Collisions which recounts the extraordinary story of Nyarri Morgan, a Martu man, who witnessed at first hand the nuclear tests in Australia in the 1950’s. “The inclusion of films such as Ma’ohi Nui is important to the festival especially when there are shared themes of resistance”, said Greta. Adding new technologies such as Wallworth’s VR film, TV series or Web docs to the already rich slate of features, documentaries and shorts contributes to the ongoing dynamism of the festival whose aim is first and foremost to showcase “ a whole other vision of Australia”.