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A vision splendid: Winton's focus on film as festival goes ahead

Culture

The Year of Outback Tourism hasn’t shaped up to what it should have been for remote Queensland communities in 2020 but one major regional event is proceeding this year, with Winton’s Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival forging ahead next month.

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Originally scheduled to be held in June, the festival will now take place from September 18-26 in the outback Queensland town, which is more than 1100km northwest of Brisbane and 177km northwest of Longreach.

The seventh Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival – which was officially launched in Brisbane yesterday – will be the only large-scale event in outback Queensland this year.

“To say this year has thrown up some challenges is a massive understatement,” festival director Mark Melrose said at yesterday’s launch, “and I honestly feel for all of those other festivals that have not been so lucky as we have.”

Melrose said COVID-19 had effectively “shut down the tourism industry” in Winton, and the Vision Splendid Outback Film festival would be a welcome driver of economic activity for the town.

(Photo: Peter Lik)

“Mark and his team have done a fantastic job getting this over the line,” Winton Shire Mayor Gavin Baskett said via a video message at the launch.

“The tourists are starting to roll through at the moment, so hopefully we can have a fantastic roll-up for the week of the film festival.” The 2020 festival is centred around the theme “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”, with the program celebrating Australia’s love affair with travel, adventure and blue skies and showcasing the nation’s pioneering spirit in films.

The highly anticipated feature film The Flood will screen at this year’s festival, and the Kriv Stenders-directed documentary Slim and I, which tells the story of Australian country music icon Slim Dusty and his wife Joy McKean, will also feature ahead of its wider release.

The nine-day program – which will involve screenings under the stars at Winton’s 102-year-old Royal Open Air Cinema and other venues as well as educational masterclasses and workshops – will also include feature films such as Babyteeth and Koko: A Red Dog Story, as well as crowd favourites such as Rachel Griffiths’ Ride Like a Girl! and Go Karts!

In addition to hosting what has become the largest film festival in the world dedicated to Australian cinema, the town of Winton has itself become a regular fixture on the silver screen over the past two decades.

The 2005 Nick Cave-penned feature film The Proposition, 2013 neo-western Mystery Road and last year‘s ABC series Total Control, which starred Rachel Griffiths and Deborah Mailman, are among the projects that have been shot on location in the town.

Chris Brown from Gold Coast-based production company Pictures in Paradise, who worked on The Proposition, will return to Winton for the screening of Slim and I, which he also produced.

“People are always complaining there aren’t enough stories told about iconic women of Australia and here was the most extraordinary woman,” Brown said of Joy McKean.

“She was the first co-host of a radio show ever in Australia, she had polio at a very young age and never let it hold her back. Here was a woman who started writing music when she was in her teens, who married Slim Dusty and probably wrote most of his iconic songs.

“She wasn’t the woman behind the man, she was the woman who was right beside the man.”

The Flood will be making its world premiere at the festival and writer and director Victoria McIntyre said she was honoured to be included in this year’s line-up, “because it’s one of maybe only a couple of film festivals that will actually have a live audience this year”.

“I like to think the film is a Tarantino meets Jane Campion sort of wild adventure,” McIntyre said of the film, a revisionist action-drama film set in post-World War II Australia that is described as “a brutal journey of retribution and revenge that transforms into redemption and reconciliation”.

“I really wanted to see First Nations people as kick-arse action heroes on screen because I feel like that’s something that’s really sadly lacking in our film world here in Australia,” she told InQueensland. “So I thought, well, the only way it’s going to happen is if I make one.

“The revisionism is that they come out on top in the end. There are 200 gunshots and it’s a rollicking roller-coaster ride with a lot of heart and meaning.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was pleased to see this year’s event proceeding in a year when many similar events around the nation and throughout the world have been cancelled.

“It’s because we’re continuing to manage the health response that we’ve been able to open Queensland up faster and focus on our economic recovery,” Palaszczuk said.

“It’s fantastic to see this wonderful event able to go ahead safely, which will provide a great tourism boost for the region.

“The Queensland Government is proud to continue to support the Vision Splendid Outback Film as part of the Year of Outback Tourism program which will ensure the festival remains at the heart of our arts landscape.”

For a full program of events and information about how to secure tickets and accommodation, visit visionsplendidfilmfest.com

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