“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our audience to engage with the culture of these Festivals, the identity of these Festivals and of course films from these Festivals.”

The unprecedented ‘We Are One: A Global Film Festival,’ to screen on YouTube, will feature free offerings from major Festivals that in the wake of COVID-19 might otherwise have remained postponed or cancelled. Sydney Film Festival, having so called off its traditional run, will feature among the behemoths of the industry.

“There’s this great chance to see a selection of films from all around the world, a chance to experience the atmosphere in a way of these fantastic Film Festivals,” said Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley over Zoom. “I’ve been to about half of the Festivals that are participating in this global Film Festival, and I think what all 20 Festivals really share is an enthusiastic audience for cinema; they’re people banging down the doors to get into cinemas to celebrate these films.”

Streaming from May 29 through June 7, ‘We Are One’ will incidentally coincide with what would have been SFF’s opening week; the only Australian contingent to feature among the giants revealed by Tribeca and YouTube’s joint announcement. Lead by the New York stalwart, ‘We Are One’ is sourcing contributions from in effect the ultimate fantasy league of Festivals, among them Berlin, BFI, Cannes, Sundance, TIFF and Venice.

“It’s a great opportunity for Sydney Film Festival to put at the forefront some Australian filmmakers that we really adore and Australian films that may have had a big impact at Sydney Film Festival or in Australia but haven’t necessarily had the global exposure,” said Nashen, who alike Festival organisers worldwide has been tasked with curating several hours. “I think there’s no limitation in what we can show in terms of where it comes from or when the film was made, what type of film; we can show feature films, documentaries, short films, even talks from the Festival in the past.”

“What we really want to focus on though it’s such a broad remit is Australian cinema. We want to create a platform for Australian cinema so that these films can really be experienced in a global and very broad way. That’s what our thinking is at this moment; we’re going to be working on the program in the coming days and weeks and speaking to various filmmakers but that’s our plan at the outset.

A welcome alternative for yearning ticket-holders, the initiative means for the first time, and perhaps for the only time in many patron’s lives, that scores of film fans across the globe will be able to experience Festivals they could only have before read of or aspired toward. This is especially true as regards the likes of Cannes and forums traditionally closed to select industry, while subscribers worldwide will too for the first time share in an experience typically confined to those in Sydney. For the many bemoaned by its cancellation, this author included, the dates being ones where you can reliably see films and friends you mightn’t otherwise catch, this is really something to look forward to.

Importantly, SFF is not just an outlet for the most dedicated cinephiles but casual aficionados whose SFF run might be their one Festival experience in any calendar year. The Festival’s participation in ‘We Are One’ will better ensure that the thousands who this once spurn major releases for flexipasses seek out the unique global experience and prospective hitherto unseen gems to boot. SFF is further one of the only Festivals in Australia to possess the resources to deliver the volume of world filmmaking to which its patrons are accustomed; an experience only likely to be intensified by the range and calibre of participants in this project.

Irrespective of access, crucial to the Festival atmosphere is the communal experience begotten by the welcome limitations of such a forum. It’s one thing to watch something streaming, whenever you can, but a finite window means there’s a lot more people watching when you are and ready to react, with you. At this time when millions are isolated the limited selection, which those millions will tune in to see given those so carefully curated recommendations, is not so crucial as knowing one’s not just getting a dose of normality in what now remains a June fixture for decades-worth of film-goers, but knowing that you’re now sitting in a theatre with thousands more.

When we could still go to cinemas, you couldn’t talk but you knew others were there and most screenings were better for their communality. It’s more than nice to know, at least in this respect, that won’t change, and we can even arrange with those same friends to attend the Fest once the full programs are announced closer to the run.

“We’re still exploring very much how the detailed program is going to work, it’s a bit early for me to say but I think what all the Festivals in these projects want to do is create as closely as possible the atmosphere of our Film Festivals around the world, to create this atmosphere of interaction and experiencing new cinema, exciting new voices, and have some interaction with the filmmakers,” said Nashen. “What I think is also pivotal about this is that this is an opportunity for Film Festivals and filmmakers to one provide entertainment and relief to audiences around the world but also very crucially to support organisations that are helping during this horrendous COVID-19 pandemic through allowing the audience to donate to the World Health Organisation and to relief organisations that are playing a vital role in communities.”

“That’s how we see it, it’s a way of Film Festivals and filmmakers giving back to our audiences and for our audiences in turn to take the opportunity to support organisations that are helping people most in need.”

Glen Falkenstein

on FalkenScreen