Arts / Canberra identities support ‘unique’ film awards

Award winners Jamey Foxton, Ryan Simpson and Julianne Nguyen with their certificates

THE $5000 National Religious Short Film prize was awarded to two students from the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney last night (August 8) at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture.

The winning film, “The Giver”, is a five-minute film created by Jamey Foxton and Ryan Simpson, shot on an iPhone 6s.

Foxton is also a skateboarder and the short film, created in moody black-and-white, draws parallels between the sensations and aspirations in the skateboarding experience and those in life, set against a reflection on the Book of Ecclesiastes.

The judges, David Millikan, Susan Murphy and Steve Mason, described the winning film as “a highly accomplished, theologically confident and visually deft contemplative short film”, praising the “low-key, parable-like exploration of the central problem posed within Ecclesiastes that mortal human life is essentially without intrinsic meaning or basis for any lasting joy”.

A “highly commended” went to the eight-minute film, “Grey“, by Julianne Nguyen, who has used a smart phone WebCam and head-mounted GoPro to explore the places to which mixed racial and religious heritage can lead.

A “commended” went to “Perdition” by Berlin based Australian film maker Josiah McGarvie, who explored the effects of belief in a God of fire and brimstone.

Donors of the prize, long-time Canberran business identities and former theology students at Princeton, Clive and Lynlea Rodger, stepped up to describe their own responses to the film, Mrs Rodger declaring herself particularly pleased that she had recently acquired an iPhone 6s, the very means by which the winning film has been made.

Mr Rogers said the winners had made a beautifully crafted film, which drew “theological parallels”.

Foxton and Simpson, as they stepped up to accept the prize, emphasised the importance of such a win and such a competition to them as emerging filmmakers.

The executive director of the Charles Sturt University Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Prof Stephen Pickard said the biennial prize, inaugurated in 2016, was of national significance.

It was, he believed, unique in Australia, and allowed filmmakers the opportunity to keep the religious spirit alive through film.

Professor Pickard emphasised the centre’s strong focus on poetry, drama, music, painting and film.

“Film is an especially significant medium through which issues to do with religion, meaning and social problems can be engaged with in an open, enquiring manner,” he said.

The next National Religious Short Film Prize will be held in 2020. The winning films may be viewed at



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