Last night was the finals of Tropfest 2013. Walking into Centennial Park under the final hour of epic golden sun was a perfect way to finish a summer weekend in Sydney. This year the theme was ‘change’ and the 16 finalists interpreted it in different ways, you can see the finalists here.
The finalists were all rather disappointing particularly the third place winner, a first person account of a young Australian soldier in Afghanistan. It was almost too painful to watch and listen as the narrator went on “I keep reminding myself there is a bigger picture, that’s why we’re here, fighting for human rights.” As it closed the regular applause was topped off by a few blokey howls. I was surprised that the majority of the crowd weren’t shocked by how awful the film was and I reminded myself of the same questions I when not too long ago a large portion of voting Australia elected an Abbott Government.
Amongst my group of friends as we waited for the winners to be announced we were unanimous that the the best film of the evening was Off the Meter. Off the Meter follows Daniel Folkmover an older Australian cab driver who refers to himself as a ‘people person’. D Folkmover initially evokes an idea of a character some people may know from their own large family gatherings or someone in attendance at a recent wedding. Daniel Folkmover picks up a van load of refugees in his maxi taxi ‘off the meter’ and takes them on a tour of Melbourne before bringing them home for a meal where his wife is waiting.
The power of the short film is in the closing scene and one of the last lines as Daniel Folkmover addresses the interviewer and says “we are just trying to do decent thing by decent human beings you know, we are all boat people just about aren’t we?” The character of Daniel Folkmover was significant for me as a day before I was in Wilton a western suburb outside Mount Druitt photographing South Sudanese soccer games. After the games as I said goodbye to some friends I also had a quick chat with the referees who weren’t dissimilar from Mr Folkmover in the film. Two older men in their 60s, they warmed down after refereeing three games of soccer and told me off hand they both had an hour drive home ahead of them but they each week turn up “to give these young fellas a go.”
While the finalists were disappointing, in some ways they weren’t that suprising but more a reminder of how far Australia still has to come.
SUMMER by Bernard O’Dowd
I see a grassy couch
Under a canopy of leaves;
A reedy river murmers by,
Crooning an old, old melody
Tuned to a long-forgotten scale,
Made when the world was young.
Why can the experience of going into the country be so powerful?
Why does is take leaving an urban environment to evoke that powerful feeling of excitement and wonder in us?
My girlfriend came to live in Australia 7 years ago and since then like many migrants she has called Sydney home. By contrast I was born in Wagga Wagga but by age of 6 we moved to Kyogle, a small country town on the north coast of NSW. We then relocated to Newcastle where I attended high school and journeyed through adolescence.
While I spent the first 12 years of my life living in rural Australia. It is now in adulthood that I have been able to appreciate the value of growing up outside the city. I currently share my life with a woman who grew up in a different city, culture and landscape. I love watching her explore the bush, bumpy roads and waterways, some of which I know well. Since exploring rural Australia together I have been able to capture moments of Maryam that highlight the wonder that also lives in my memory from a childhood in rural Australia. Photographing her exploration across this landscape and seeing the world through her excited eyes makes it possible for me to convey a sense I believe many of us can relate to.