A MODEST but keenly observant documentary filmmaker with an eye for world events has been named the 2018 “CityNews” Artist of the Year, it was announced tonight (November 13) at the ACT Arts Awards evening in the Canberra Museum & Gallery.
The first filmmaker to receive the award, now in its 28th year, Kim Beamish was singled out by the Canberra Critics Circle judging panel for his deeply original and empathetic approach and sensitive observational style, which the critics said had brought a much-needed human dimension to the news grabs on our TV screens.
He received a $1000 cheque from “CityNews” and a bowl designed by the late Canberra artist Robert Foster of F!NK Design.
On learning of his selection as Artist of the Year, the astonished Beamish said: “There are so many great artists in Canberra, so many artists out there who would be just as worthy, if not more worthy, of this.”
Beamish shot to fame in 2015 for “The Tentmakers of Cairo”, his documentary feature about a small community of male artisans, filmed in Egypt as the Arab Spring unfolded. That won him the US’s Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award for artistic excellence and original cultural storytelling. It also won the Prix Buyens-Chagoll at Visions du Réel, and the El-Rey Award for narrative documentary excellence at the Barcelona Film Festival.
But Beamish had already been combining his observational doco style with a good look at world affairs in his 2006 documentary feature “Just Punishment”, which is about the case of the Australian Van Nguyen who was executed in Singapore in 2005 for drug trafficking.
His most recent film is “Oyster”, a feature-length study of a family of oyster farmers in Merimbula, for which he was director, cinematographer and co-producer with Pat Fiske.
Another intimate portrait of little people affected by major change – in this case climate change – it simultaneously premiered this year at the international film festivals in Canberra and Chesapeake, US, where it won for Best Environmental Feature Film. “Oyster” also screened at River's Edge in Kentucky and the Sydney Film Festival.
A product of the Victorian College of the Arts and the ANU, Beamish, the critics noted, has done the hard yards in a difficult profession where it often takes years to achieve success, first volunteering with community television, then working in media production for universities and government departments and for Canberra’s Wild Bear Productions.
The ACT Arts Awards evening, hosted by the Canberra Critics Circle at the Canberra Museum and Gallery, also featured the Critics Circle’s own awards, which went to music artists, Eloise Fisher, Louise Page, Brian Triglone, Robyn Mellor, Handel in the Theatre, Canberra Symphony Orchestra, The Street Theatre and Goulburn Regional Conservatorium; filmmaker Kim Beamish; musical theatre artists Ylaria Rogers, Sophie Highmore, Max Gambale and Canberra Philharmonic Society; dance artists Liz Lea, Alison Plevey and the Australian Dance Party, Michelle Heine, Emma Nikolic and Karen Brock; theatre artists Imogen Keen, PJ Williams, Hayden Splitt, Michael Sparks and Karen Vickery; writers Jacqui Malins, Robyn Cadwallader, Chris Hammer, Sam Hawke, Emma Adams and Zoya Patel, and visual artists Robert Boynes, Brenda L Croft, Valerie Kirk, Katie Haynes, Liz Coats, Peter Maloney and Canberra Museum and Gallery.
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Ian Meikle, editor