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13th Byron Bay International Film Festival

With just two weeks to go until the Byron Bay International Film Festival’s Red Carpet Gala Opening, excitement is mounting over the stunning selection of dramas, documentaries, short films, workshops and virtual reality experiences on offer.

Held in the picture-perfect beach town of Byron Bay, the 10-day festival is a cinematic experience not to be missed. Narrowing the line-up down from a thousand submissions, organisers place an emphasis on content that raises social, cultural and environmental awareness. Plus, there is a whole event dedicated to innovation, showcasing films that use VR technology to immerse audiences in unseen worlds and allowing them to dream with their eyes open.

Actors, directors and film producers travel from around the world to participate in this fiesta of ideas, networking and screenings of their films. This year there is an impressive array of cinematic spectacles, ranging from short films made by talented members of the local community to some of the strongest international films on the circuit. There are World and Australian premieres aplenty – and something for all to enjoy.

“This year is bigger than ever, with over 70 public screenings,” says Festival Director, J’aimee Skippon-Volke. “Palace Cinema will really up the glam-factor at the opening Red Carpet Gala event, while for the first time ever the iconic Beach Hotel will host our Music Video showcase in their new Green Room. “We’ve got even more venues than last year helping to create an exciting, vibrant and Byron festival experience.”

And patrons can expect to be well and truly taken into the magical world of the film industry. “The festival is about so much more than films… there is the opportunity to meet the filmmakers and talent from both sides of the camera. We also create multiple events for the public to create connections and rub shoulders with the film crowd,” J’aimee says.

Here is a taste of some of the amazing films you can expect to see, 18th – 27th October:

Around the World [WORLD premiere]
Around the World follows the uplifting journey of eight unique freestyle footballers from around the world as they follow their dreams to become world champions.

A short film made by Byron Shire local, Ishka Folkwell, Nordurland follows three friends from the Northern Rivers – surfers Torren Martyn and Laurie Towner, and need ESSENTIALS founder and designer Ryan Scanlon as they go surfing in the North Atlantic. Ishka beautifully captures these vast and stunning landscapes on screen and Torren’s narration offers a personal reflection on the trip and a real glimpse into the challenges and rewards of traveling to frozen, distant lands in search of surf.

This World Won’t Break [Australian Premiere]
Prepare for some country-blues in this Texas-based feature. Too late to stop following the dream and too early in his career to be a legend, a Texas singer’s struggle for a better life begins to spiral out of control. In his darkest moments, he writes THE song. Both director Josh David Jordan and actor Greg Schroeder are coming to Byron, with the potential to perform to audiences live at the screening.

The Cave [Australian Premiere]
Director Tom Waller will also be visiting the Shire. The Cave is a dramatised story of the rescue of 12 boys and their football coach trapped underground in Thailand in 2018.

In My Blood It Runs
A close-up portrait of Dujuan Hoosan, a 10-year-old Arrernte and Garrwa boy who can’t reconcile his gift as a traditional healer and the history of his people with the whitefella system he is compelled to be part of. A self-described ‘bush kid’, Dujuan is disturbed by Captain Cook lessons in the classroom and news about the Don Dale detention centre on TV, and he rebels. Fun-loving, bright, and serious at once, his spirit and self-esteem look like being crushed, and he seems headed for prison. Just last week Dujuan, now 12, became one of the youngest people to speak in front of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva. He delivered a half-hour speech to the Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised from 10 to 14.

Always inclusive, BBFF showcases varied and memorable works by trailblazing filmmakers from all over the world, touching upon some of the most topical issues of the day – the conflict in Syria (For Sama), the role of psychedelics in treating mental health (Dosed), the history of Tibetan resistance to Chinese occupation (Rituals of Resistance), species extinction (Kifaru), teen suicide (Yonlu) and youth finding their feet (Around the WorldOut Deh). The shamanistic ceremonies of a tribe in the Amazon are the subject of a powerful VR documentary (Awavena), just as the fires that threaten their future compel our appalled attention.

Byron Bay International Film Festival runs from October 18-27.


Hugo Weaving, William Shakespeare and Pawno director Paul Ireland will conspire to bring a full measure of drama, style and cultural heft to the Red Carpet Opening Night of the Byron Bay Film Festival.

Not that the Bard will be there of course, but the audience will be wowed by Ireland’s re-imaging of his “problem” play Measure for Measure – neither comedy nor tragedy – here brought up to date, darkened, and set in Melbourne’s gritty underbelly, where ice, vice and inter-racial rivalries make for a tense urban landscape, with police pay-offs and violence the tactics of first resort.

True to Will’s original script, Weaving’s Duke, as invincible capo, must make himself scarce for a while, the modern twist being the move is provoked by a racist outrage by one of his lieutenant’s ice-addled customers.

But Duke’s not as far away as he wants everyone to believe, and he continues to run the show.

Meanwhile, a young Aussie stoner’s encounter with Lebanese Muslim Jaiwara leads to star-crossed love – the catalyst to plenty of subterfuge and “stage business”.

The young lovers are like babes in the wood and the wide-eyed performances of Megan Hajjar and Harrison Gilbertson are riveting, as is that of Fayssal Bazzi as Jaiwara’s lethally protective brother, who audiences may remember from his BBFF outing last year in The Merger.

Measure for Measure (or M4M) was a natural choice for Opening Night film, said Festival Director J’aimee Skippon-Volke.

“We support Australian filmmakers and this has everything: established stars and new faces on the rise; glossy cinematography; the glittering Melbourne cityscape in the background; topical interest, and a resolution that is a satisfying balance of joy and pain. Shakespeare would recognise the dichotomies and applaud.

“It’s a perfect film to get everyone in the mood, both for the party afterwards and the 10 days of Festival following.”

The evening is described as Byron’s most glamorous party of the year, where audiences will not only watch the screening, but are invited to walk the red carpet, mingle before the film and attend the exclusive after party!


***Update as at 27 September 2019***

The 13th Byron Bay International Film Festival, October 18-27, Australia’s independent showcase for cutting-edge films, documentaries and VR experiences, has announced its official programme selection for 2019 to screen across 10 days in a diverse set of venues in Byron Shire and the Tweed.


  • The Cave, a dramatised account of the rescue of the football team trapped underground in Thailand last year, with the factual force of a documentary. Chosen as our Closing Night film, with a special appearance from director Tom Waller at the Festival.
  • Around The World, a documentary following Freestyle Footballers from all corners of the world. A window into one of the newest sports in the world, its participants and rapidly growing fanbase. It captures freestyle football as a means to connect people with those around them, finding common joy across cultures without a need for shared language, only a shared love of sport.
  • Gloomy Eyes is a VR film narrated by Collin Farrell, set at a time when the sun, tired of the humans, decides to never rise again. Australian premiere.
  • In My Blood It Runs is a quietly powerful Australian film, an up-close study of a gifted, questioning10 year old Aboriginal boy, Dujuan Hoosan, who struggles to fit into the white system and keeps getting into trouble.
  • A Son of Man. Oscar nominated for Best Foreign Language film, featuring the real life characters, unscripted and shot purely by drone in the Amazon jungle. Stunning and surreal reality cinema.
  • Honeyland, the most awarded film in Sundance. Two worlds collide in this dramatic documentary, focusing on the last female beekeeper, whose way of life is disrupted by a new family who adopt beekeeping and yield to market forces. An intimate story highlight our era’s attitude towards the environment.
  • Out Deh – The Youth of Jamaica portrays the daily struggles of three young Jamaicans searching for a way to create bright futures for themselves. Featuring Shama, a Jamaican pro surfer and Bakersteez, a big name in Jamaican rap.
  • Live Baby Live sees iconic band INXS’s legendary 1991 Wembley Stadium tour restored. A special screening on the last Saturday of the festival will take the audience back in time to relive rock n roll at its finest.



Gala Red Carpet Opening Night & Closing Night parties at Palace Cinema and the Byron Community Centre. Film lovers and filmmakers mingle on the red carpet and at the after parties, enjoying a glass of something delicious from Zilzie Wines and sampling mouth-watering canapés from Byron Catering Company.

Q&A Sessions, Free and Ticketed Public and Industry Panels and Workshops. BBFF has established itself as a forum for filmmakers to share their unique insights and challenge our perceptions. The Filmmakers’ Breakfast on Tuesday 21st provides interview and networking opportunities over a delicious spread. Special panels relating on micro-dosing and also focusing on indigenous issues stand out, with more being added to the program.

Virtual Reality experience. This year’s XR (Extended/Cross Realities) Program is our biggest and most ambitious yet. Themed sessions of different curated experiences across multiple venues designed to entrance, thrill and enlighten.

Family Friendly Shorts on Saturday 19th October at the Byron Community Centre. An ever popular, fun-filled showcase of film that nurtures our young ones’ imaginations and appreciation of screen culture.

Young Australian Filmmakers Showcase on Saturday 26th October features 10 outstanding short films by filmmakers under 25, one of whom will win the Young Australian Filmmaker of the Year Award.

Music Video Showcase, on Friday 25th October at the new Green Room, Beach Hotel. A party celebrating collaboration and talented directors, with an Award up for grabs, guests join filmmakers and musicians at Byron’s most iconic venue.


The Festival is a 10-day extravaganza of entertainment, learning and fun. It’s Byron Bay’s most far-reaching, diverse and glamorous cultural event – and everyone is invited.

The 13th Byron Bay International Film Festival runs from October 18-27 at the Palace Cinema, the Byron Community Centre, Pighouse Flicks and venues in Brunswick Heads and Murwillumbah.  Further details about films are available at or on facebook.

Tickets for BBFF2019 – including 6, 10 or 20-ticket flexi-passes, as well as Gift Vouchers for between one and five films – can be booked online at


Byron Bay International Film Festival to screen Australian Premiere of The Cave, the story of the Thai cave rescue

The Cave, the film selected for the Closing Gala night of the Byron Bay Film Festival, tells a story that will be familiar to nearly everyone – the 2018 rescue of the Wild Boars football team from an underground cave in Northern Thailand, where they had been trapped by floodwaters caused by early monsoon rains. (trailer)

The tension felt as the world waited for a happy against-the-odds ending was almost unbearable. “Like everyone else on the planet, I was following the news of the 12 boys and their coach with much anticipation,” says The Cave’s writer, director and co-producer,” Tom Waller.

Having its Australian Premiere at the Byron Bay Film Festival, The Cave captures all of the drama and suspense of the situation – despite the audience knowing ‘what happens’.

People power and authenticity drive this, which had all the elements of a suspense movie, except in real life: a daring mission, impossible odds, and a happy ending. Without comprising the inherent tension, Waller focuses on the human element, showcasing a wide range of the estimated 10,000 people involved in the rescue.

Several key participants portray themselves in this retelling, adding to its verisimilitude. With Hollywood versions inbound, it’s appropriate that a Thai adaptation came first. This impressive film is likely to be the definitive realisation

People around the world watched the events unfold and their hearts were beating collectively,” Waller says. I realized that as a Thai filmmaker I was in a unique position to tell this story. My film focuses on the volunteer spirit of the rescuers, following the untold personal stories of those unsung heroes involved in the mission to bring out the 13 alive. It was a Thai emergency, but the whole world tuned in and tried to help.”

Indeed, with no contact for more than a week, more heavy rain expected and the situation becoming increasingly desperate, the international community leapt into action. Six AFP Special Response Group personnel, a Navy Clearance diver and Australian cave diving specialists Richard Harris and Craig Challen played prominent roles among the more than 10,000 people who were involved.

All nine were awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia “for service to the international community through their specialist response roles” and in January this year, Dr. Challen and Dr. Harris were named Australians of the Year.

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