Sydney 2005

Sydney Screening Night 2005 Report (Back to Reports)
Reported by: Farnaz Fanaian and Sabour Bradley

The Harmony Film Festival celebrated another successful year in Australia in October, with 14 films from around the world watched by an audience of more than 600 people.

In a year when the theme was ‘woman’, female directors dominated the awards on opening night with the prestigious Best Film taken out by US filmmaker, Bita Haidarian, for The Arm.

And eight of the 14 films in competition were made by female directors - a gratifying result for Festival Director, Mehrzad Mumtahan.

“We chose ‘woman’ as the 2005 theme to draw attention to the issue of equality and the important role women can play as peacemakers in our troubled world,” he said.

“So to have the majority of the finalists be female is an incredibly positive result. It shows that we’re not just about words and platitudes – but really making a difference.

The festival in its second year has attracted 25 entries from filmmakers of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds - including Spain, Russia, Japan and the USA.

The films ranged from documentaries about genocide in Sierra Leone (Mussu) and female alienation in Russia (The Glass Island), to gentle coming of age exploration (32EE) and broad-based slapstick comedy (Footsteps Femme Fatale).

Mumtahan said the festival was successfully encouraging amateur filmmakers to make short films about issues such as peace and equality - inspiring not only individual filmmakers but whole communities from around Australia.

Shideh Faramand’s six minute comedy In Time – winner of the Audience Choice and Achievement Award - took a humorous look at the social pressures on single women to get married and start a family. Faramand said her inspiration was to “make an impact on the world.”

“They say the soul of society can be seen through the arts and we can see that its moral stance is so degrading. I would like to create its new soul,” she said.

The panel of industry judges shared a common vision: equality of men and women is an essential pre-requisite for peace.

Mitzi Goldman, Head of Documentary at the Australian School of Film, Television and Radio said, “If women ran the world we wouldn’t have as many wars as we have.”

Screen Sound International journalist, Sandy George, found the concept behind the festival and its aims, novel.

"Most festivals aren't so specifically themed,” she said. “They're not trying to get over a concept."

LA-based filmmaker Bita Haidarian took out the Best Film award for The Arm – a short she made while studying at an Australian film school during 2005. It captured the hearts of the audience and judges with its childlike perspective on the equality of women and men.

The film tells the story of an eight-year-old girl who’s sick of having to wash the dishes while her brother gets to mow the lawn. Her plea to swap jobs is ignored by her father because mowing is “for boys”. So she takes matters into her own hands and ends up with a very humorous and telling result.

“The thing that won me over with The Arm was the…attitude of the father saying that the daughter could be anything she wanted to be, but had to wash the dishes first,” said judge, Peter Butt.

Butt believes the Harmony Film Festival is building a new paradigm for the film industry, providing a new platform for film-makers to share their hopes and dreams of a new civilization with the world.

“You’re talking to the grassroots and you’re inspiring people to roll out new ideas to impact upon society,” he said.

“It may not be from tonight that there’s a big change, but it’s the practitioners (Film-makers) that have the greatest impact.”

Awards for 2005 were: Best Film: The Arm, by Bita Haidarian (USA). Most Original Concept: Remember Tomorrow, by Anis Fanaeian (AUS). The Achievement Award: In Time, by Shideh Faramand (AUS). Audience Choice: In Time, by director - Shideh Faramand (AUS).