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Darwin International Film Festival

Darwin International Film Festival (DIFF) is back, celebrating its 10th year. Growing from five days in 2010 to 11 days in 2019, each DIFF is bigger than the last with exciting screenings and events for film lovers and makers.

By Tierney White

We have Mother Nature to thank for the Festival’s increase in films from our closest international neighbours over the past two years. Mount Agung, a volcano on the island of Bali in Indonesia, erupted five times November 2017; its ash sent billowing to the skies, disrupting air travel and stranding thousands of visitors.

Two of those visitors were DIFF Manager Blandine Ruffo and former Deckchair Cinema General Manager Alice Body, their plans to continue to Darwin and Central America respectively thwarted by the burning mountain. 

But in true Territorian style, they made the best of a heated situation, island hopping from Bali to Java to attend the Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival.

“Alice and I drove across Bali and caught a boat to Java to escape the closed airport – we were stuck in Bali and there was no sign of it reopening. Alice sent an email to the film festival in Jakarta explaining our situation and that she also manages a film festival in Darwin, so they invited us both along,” Ruffo says.

“They gave us the royal treatment – we were really looked after! The visit resulted in the 2018 DIFF having some of the films from that festival programmed, along with some special guests we met while we were there.”

After realising the success of this accidental international expedition, Ruffo ventured to Singapore to further expand DIFF’s international film network.

“We realised how worthwhile it was to do it. Last year I went to the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) with Neil Ludvigsen, one of our DIFF programmers, and it was amazing. 

“We want to continue to reach out internationally to our neighbours close-by.

"It’s really important for the health and development of DIFF to have those connections and relationships with other festivals around us, and to have that professional network – we can uphold our standards and understand how other festivals have evolved over time.”

The benefits of last year’s trip to SGIFF can be seen on the big screen.

“I’m so excited about one of the feature films, a mystery drama called Long Day’s Journey Into Night – when I saw it, it really blew my mind. It’s also the first 3D film we’re showing at DIFF, with screenings at BCC Casuarina. It’s really one of the most amazing films, I can’t recommend it enough.”

And the handpicked international flavour doesn’t stop there, with an entire short film program dedicated to showcasing South-east Asia.

“Our short program, Best of South-east Asia, includes lots of films that were screened in Singapore and also from our time in Indonesia. These short films are amazing, and we really wanted to share them in the 2019 festival.”

In true DIFF fashion, opportunities to celebrate, showcase and cater for Northern Territory filmmakers are sprinkled throughout the program. Check out The Best of Territory Shorts to see seven short NT films light up the Deckie screen. 

Spark returns for a third year – a joint film initiative between DIFF and Screen Territory – expanding from Darwin to the rest of the NT, unearthing emerging filmmakers from Alice Springs to the Top End and everywhere in between. There’s also the introduction of Youth DIFF with a range of  film screenings, and fun workshops facilitated by the talented folk at  Corrugated Iron Youth Arts.

Other activities and opportunities include the NT Screen Summit, the new Water Screen and, for the first time, industry passes for those in the local film industry to be able to engage with as much of the festival as possible.

“We’ve found over the years that the films that continually garner high attendance rates are Territory films – there’s a real thirst for locally made work. Our local film industry is undeniably small, but it really punches above its weight!”

Darwin International Film Festival THU 12 – SUN 22 SEP | diff.net.au | deckchaircinema.com.au

Image 1: Long Day’s Journey Into Night | Image 2: Slam 

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