Since 2010, cinephiles, movie buffs and filmmakers alike have looked forward to the month of September with anticipation, and the Darwin International Film Festival (DIFF) it brings. With an expanded program presenting almost 40 screenings across 11 nights and five locations, DIFF is back. Bigger than ever.
By Kate Conway
DIFF’s screening capacity has doubled with the introduction of the Sundown Screen at Darwin Waterfront. Emulating the iconic home of DIFF, the Peninsula Lawns transform into Deckchair Cinema 2.0, complete with bar service, deluxe catered seating and a giant silver screen.
“Northern Lights, a local projection company, is installing a 12-metre-wide screen, which is huge – it’s bigger than the one at Deckchair Cinema, and we’ve got a large projector, which is something that you would usually use in a drive-in theatre. The whole set up is going to be incredibly well put together,” says Festival Manager James Parker, also Deckchair Cinema’s General Manager.
After successfully navigating the turbulence of recent years, delivering DIFF differently over a split-year program, Parker says the focus in 2022 is on getting back to basics and the films at heart of the festival.
“We have really focussed this year on the screening program. There have been different ventures from DIFF in the past into some interesting projects, but we really wanted to bring it back to its core as a film festival. To achieve that, it really boils down to premiering films and celebrating that film and screen culture,” he says.
The meticulously curated program does just that, genres including documentaries and animation, sci-fi, drama and thrillers, in addition to industry events, live cinema experiences and NT premieres.
There’s also a host of special guest appearances, including Oscar award-winning cinematographer and legend of the Australian film industry, John Seale (The English Patient and Mad Max: Fury Road).
The highly anticipated Spark Film Initiative returns for a fifth year, premiering short films created specifically for DIFF from four teams of emerging local filmmakers.
“It’s one of the funnest nights of the festival! Darwin’s not a huge town, so everybody seems to know someone that is either in the film or helped out. There’s a real buzz about it,” Parker says.
While ensuring programming meets criteria to qualify as an international film festival, this year’s new exciting offering of the Sundown Screen celebrates homegrown flavour.
“We thought it would be really fun to have a play with some classic Australian programming, some of the old Baz Luhrmann films and some iconic Australian films.”
Local flavour is further showcased with episodes of Territory TV shows Outback Ringer, True Colours, Matt Wright’s Wild Territory, MaveriX and Barrumbi Kids, highlighting a record number of screen productions developed, and recognising the benefits supporting the local film industry can bring.
Darwin-born writer, director and producer Danielle MacLean says DIFF provides a vital opportunity to connect with audiences.
“It is a great way to celebrate local and international films, but also to actually share your films with people, talk to like-minded people, and really just engage with the films on the ground in such a beautiful place.
“I love showing anything at the Deckchair because local people support those films, they want to see local content. They come along and we always get really great crowds – people appreciate local people telling their own stories,” she says.
For those looking for a true film festival experience – think quirky, alternative flicks that you won’t see anywhere else – Parker says his picks are Flux Gourmet and Neptune Frost.
“They are going to be entertaining, they are going to be whacky and weird. You are either going to love them or you might be confused by them – but that’s fine! Whatever happens, you’ll have a good time.”
For Festival highlights and special events, click here.
Header & thumbnail: We Are Still Here screening at DIFF opening night
Inset: Photo: Nicholas Gouldhurst