Canberra is home to lots of things that are lovely. Some of these favourite things are publically known and others are hidden in the woodwork and it’s those things that make this place properly unique.
The Stronger Than Fiction film festival is one of those unique kinds. Much like how our little city encapsulates our whole country’s seat of government and is home to so many gems of art, music and food; so this festival somehow squeezes the great into the tiny.
Over just four days, from 2 to 5 August, Stronger Than Fiction will deliver the true stories of a woman training to be a Palestinian Authority police officer on the West Bank called What Walaa Wants; and the life of a Jihadist soldier and his family in Syria named Of Fathers and Sons. Those are just the incredible stories where the filmmakers ventured into war zones.
What is really important to note is that the festival is entirely independent, supported by local businesses and viewers who come along to the event! Festival’s creators and volunteers have gone the extra mile to keep the festival alive because they believe it’s important to get these movies onto our screens.
Nearly every film in this festival is something that theoretically shouldn’t have been caught on camera. The Cleaners is a telescope on the work of internet censors in the Philippines paid by a shadowy private company to “clean” social media of violence, pornography, and even political content. Genesis 2.0 sounds almost freakishly like Jurassic Park, telling the story of scientists trying to clone a woolly mammoth from remnants found in the edges of Siberia. The Backtrack Boys is a glimpse of life in a rehabilitation camp for troubled boys in outback New South Wales: the most secretive of stories, right on our doorstep, opened to us by the incredible diplomatic talents of the director Catherine Scott.
On the whole women may be underrepresented in the film industry, but this festival is begging to differ. Nearly half of the festival’s films are directed by women and they tell stories of real womanhood in a time when representation in fiction films is a continuing challenge. The energetic portrait of problematic pop star M.I.A., Maya, Matangi looks to be a treat. Though the one that the festival organisers are raving about is The Hobbyhorse Revolution, a story of a group of Finnish girls who develop an unlikely sounding sport – hobbyhorse racing – for themselves and each other. Stronger than Fiction’s producer Hannah de Feyter describes this view into the boundless imagination and commitment of teenage girlhood as “life affirming”.
And equally important are the films peeling back on our concepts of masculinity. The launch film Mind the Gap, is the story of a group of teenage boys, filmed completely by Bing Liu, a member of the group. It won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance, and you can see why. It stitches together Liu’s early videos from their youth with footage from his present day career as a director in a delicate exploration of domestic violence and manhood.
The festival launch is abuzz with excitement for what director Deborah Kingsland describes as “the most thought-provoking festival of the year”, filled with “things that are weird and things that are wonderful”. Opening and closing night are inclusive of a Canberra-centric spread, with cheeses laid on by the festival’s major sponsor Ainslie IGA (a.k.a. the cheese capital of the ACT) and drinks from Eden Road wines and Bentspoke.
Want some wine and snacks with your movie? Head to one of the special screenings with drinks and yummies at Palace Cinema’s Prosecco Bar. My pick of the bunch is the closing night, with Ian McKellen’s biography Playing the Part.
We recommend having tissues on standby and a loved one close by to hug. Tickets can be purchased on the festival website or at palacecinemas.com.au and trailers can be seen HERE.
Stronger Than Fiction runs from Thursday 2 August to Sunday 5 August 2018 at Palace Electric Cinemas and we have a double pass to giveaway to a documentary of your choice! To pick a film, head to StrongerDocs.com and let us know below which film you would choose and why. Winners will be notified by email on Thursday 26 July.