The international short film festival ensuring Gympie gets noticed

Sabine Brix

A regional QLD city is turning heads on the film festival circuit, curating award-winning films from around the world, and championing the next generation of Australian filmmakers.
The international short film festival ensuring Gympie gets noticed

Heart of Gold 'Welcoming Fire Ceremony' 2017 Image: Supplied

Heart of Gold International Film Festival has grown from a small community gathering in Gympie, to the largest international short film festival in Queensland.

‘The festival started with the aim to program films that were uplifting and heart-warming – that’s the point of difference for our film festival and why it exists in Gympie in the first place,’ said Emily Avila, Artistic Director of Heart of Gold.

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‘It was an initiative of a group of volunteers who wanted to screen short films that celebrated the human spirit and was a really good way for the community and the region to connect with the festival when they hadn’t really been to film festivals before,’ she said.

This ethos has continued, with locals working on the festival all year around, which Avila said contributes to its unique feel.

‘The local community is full of people who are actively involved in the festival and have been working on it for pretty much the whole year. So, when the festival comes, it’s like this intense energy around town,’ she explained.


Q+A with Andrew Lee and Ashlea Ritchie, Writer/Director and Producer of short film Melon Grab. Image: Supplied

Now in its 11th year, Heart of Gold has grown rapidly and attracts a broad audience from all around south-east Queensland who connect with one another through their love of short films.

‘I feel like the festival really activates the city,’ said Avila. ‘It’s a really broad audience of people who attend; farmers, school teachers, lawyers and school kids. It’s a big mix of people and cool to have them gather to watch watch short films exclusively, and this extends once all the filmmakers who attend the festival get to connect with an audience who have a genuine love of the short film format and are critically engaged with what they’re watching.’

Integral to the festival is the contribution from community members who are also invited to help with the selection process, watching the films in small screener groups, after Avila has viewed them initially.

‘These are volunteers from all walks of life who really like getting together on a weeknight and having some wine and watching the short films of the week,’ she explained. 

In her third year as Artistic Director, Avila said the role has allowed her to focus on promoting some of the best talent within the Australian screen sector.

‘I was really interested in championing the current next generation of Australian filmmakers coming through, and whilst also bringing the short films that are playing at the bigger biggest film festivals across the world to Gympie and having a really reputable program on a national and international level,’ she said.


Music Video Masterclass with Nick Waterman. Image: Supplied

This year 120 short films will screen at the four-day festival, including – unusually – not one but two feature films. The festival’s traditional main feature –  director Catherine Scott’s documentary –  Backtrack Boys, is joined by a second feature film this year. 

‘For the first time we’re showing a second feature film. That will be Island of the Hungry Ghosts, a documentary from Christmas Island,’ Avila said.Programming special feature films gives us an opportunity to celebrate filmmakers who are making their first features, that next phase after short film acclaim,’ she added.

This year’s festival will also include film and editing masterclasses and an award prize pool of $10,000 for Best Film and Best Australian film.

‘I think it’s a really nice setting to enjoy a wide variety of films from all over the world,' Avila said. 'You’re in Gympie, which is a beautiful country region of Queensland, but you’re also watching the best films from Europe and America. It’s a lovely, good time,’ Avila concluded.

Heart of Gold International Film Festival runs from 4-7 October 2018.

About the author

Sabine is a writer, editor, podcaster and electronic musician with a specific interest in personal storytelling that captures the essence of why people create. She was the former Online Content Producer at Archer Magazine and editor of the LGBTI website: Gay News Network.

Her music has appeared on the SBS series Starting From Now, and she has forthcoming sound art work airing on BBC4 radio. She also produces the ‘80s music podcast Neon Mullet.

Follow Sabine on Twitter @sabinebrix