Four female-driven stories covering a broad range of subject matter make up the contribution of Rush Films to this year’s CinefestOZ program.
Documentary projects Under the Volcano and Girl Like You join will join shorts Sparkles and Tooly at next month’s festival, showcasing a healthy cross-section of the company’s slate.
The selections are an endorsement for founder Cody Greenwood, who started Rush in 2016.
She said told IF was “very exciting” to see the projects come together for the event.
“For me, I think it reflects an appetite from Australian audiences to view films that have different subject matter because when you look at them as a whole, they are four very different films made under very different circumstances,” she said.
There has already been a global appetite for Gracie Otto’s Under the Volcano, which premiered at this year’s SXSW in March and was due to have its Australian premiere at the Sydney Film Festival.
The film charts the rise and fall of AIR Studios Montserrat, the recording studio at the centre of the pop universe in the 1980s. Built by Beatles’ producer Sir George Martin, AIR Studios Montserrat was a custom-built, state-of-the-art recording facility tucked away on a Caribbean paradise.
Featuring interviews with iconic recording artists including Sting, Jimmy Buffett, Mark Knopfler, Andy Summers, Stewart Copeland, and Nick Rhodes, filmmakers were offered exclusive access to the studio as it stands today.
The documentary has been included in CinefestOZ’s Closing Night event at Margaret River HEART, which will feature a filmmaker Q&A.
Greenwood said the project was an example of how the creative process can triumph in a difficult climate.
“All the team are really proud of Under the Volcano,” she said.
“It was completed during COVID when we were all under quite immense pressure, but it was one of those films that really hit home how crucial the relationships are within the filmmaking process and so I think we’ve all come away really proud of what we have achieved and excited for it to be seen by an audience.
“For that film, the pandemic had a positive impact because it brought together Gracie, myself and our editor Karen Johnson together and the edit became a really collaborative experience during that period.”
All four of the Rush projects in CinefestOZ had stages of their development impacted by the pandemic.
With Girl Like You, it was post-production at the end of a five-year filming process that fell under the COVID cloud.
Directed by Frances Elliott and Samantha Marlow, the film follows the six-year journey of a couple as one of them transitions to change genders, moving pronouns from he to she, and becoming Elle.
The documentary will have its world premiere at CinefestOZ, which will be followed by filmmaker Q&A after the screening.
Initially created as 6×10 web series, the one-hour format is also set to be shown on ABC later this year.
Greenwood said while different to fellow documentary Under the Volcano in a lot of ways, the film also served to emphasise the role of human connection while shooting.
“When you are filming something across that period of time, your relationships with the subject matter are crucial, so for us, it was about building that trust with Elle and Lauren and maintain that relationship over time as they trusted us to move into the post-production period,” she said.
“Obviously you grow and change over a period of five or six years, so trust is first and foremost.
“The beauty of Girl Like You is that when you watch it, you are transported into the world of Elle and Lauren over a long period of time and I think the best format for Girl Like You has always been as a one-hour feature.”
Further insights into diverse communities can be seen with short film Sparkles, which follows a 30-something-year-old Down Syndrome woman that leaves her past behind, and runs away from a small country town, heading towards the city. Along her journey, she makes an unlikely friendship with a drag queen from the Outback.
Directed by Jacqueline Pelczar, the project was written, co-produced, and stars Tina Fielding, who has Down Syndrome.
Having filmed Sparkles in 2019, Greenwood is also executive producing Fielding’s upcoming web series Out of Here.
She said the short film shined a light on disability in a way that was not always seen.
“Given that Tina was so involved in the creative process, you really feel her and her story come through.
“I hope it gives an insight into Tina’s lived experience as someone that lives with a disability and is from the LGBTQI community.
“And people can obviously have a lot of fun with it because it is drag queens in the outback.”
Like Sparkles, the other Rush short Tooly also has a foundation in personal experience.
The story follows a young Indigenous girl struggling to engage with her culture that learns of Tooly, the sign of an impending death in the family.
Filmmaker, actress, and radio personality Karla Hart wrote and directed the film, which will have its world premiere at CinefestOZ.
Greenwood said she was looking forward to furthering her partnership with the 2021 West Australian of the Year going forward.
“Karla and I started our career in filmmaking around the same time and I’m sure we will have a long career collaborating together,” she said.
The CinefestOZ selections are another highlight in an already productive 12 months for Greenwood.
Last September, Zoe Pepper’s debut feature Fads & Miracles, which Greenwood is producing, was selected to take part in the Attagirl film lab, which is designed to support the trajectory of female-driven narrative features.
Greenwood said she had made a conscious effort to work with all-female directors across her slate.
“With Under the Volcano, it was really important to have an all female team, so we could tell a male story through a female lens,” she said.
“The kind of films I’m looking to make and the similarities that the four across CinefestOZ have is that they are all female-driven with female directors mostly dealing with diverse subject matter.
“That’s an area I’m really passionate about in terms of the future of Rush.”
CinefestOZ will be held from August 25-29.