“Mate” by George-Alex Nagle wins the Clermont-Ferrand Grand Prix

In the opening scene of George-Alex Nagle’s short film, BoyfriendLocal hopeless John is on his way to pick up his son Jack when he hears a car horn sound behind him, prompting an outburst of obscenity-laden anger.

It sets the tone for a distinctly Australian examination of masculinity and maturity that made history as the country’s first film to win the Grand Prix at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival.

Established in 1979, the event is the second largest film festival in France after Cannes, traditionally drawing crowds of over 150,000.

Boyfriend follows John’s (Joshua Brennan) attempts to reconnect with Jack (Jeremy Blewitt) over the course of a single weekend in a working-class western Sydney outpost, with the former’s self-destructive nature threatening to derail any progress realized.

The 33-minute film was shot on location in 2020 and produced by Sydney production company Ten Alphas.

Nagle, who attended the festival in France alongside co-writer Daniel Corboy and co-writer and producer Ben Tarwin, told IF it was a “bit surreal” to return from France with the award after what had been a “very long, slow, difficult journey” to make the film.

George-Alex Nagle.

“Daniel and I started the early stages of writing in 2018, so it took about three and a half years to make this movie,” he said.

“I was writing a different feature that was similar in some ways but quite different in many other ways.

“[The short film] began as a therapeutic creative project in which to channel dark energy.

“Over time, that became our main focus instead of working on that other movie and it grew and evolved from there.”

Originally intended to be a small vignette series, the film’s length fluctuated during production, at one point being considered for a feature film.

Nagle said he was concerned about chasing “average” uptime at first, because of how they may be perceived in the industry.

“Strangely, they seem to be a thing in Europe and Asia, but they are sometimes maligned in Australia,” he said.

“But we had a story and it lasted as long as it needed to and we didn’t want to add to it, even though I could have.

Joshua Brennan and JR Laveta in “Mate”.

“We couldn’t really afford to do a feature film, but looking at the short films that were coming out at the time, we wanted to do something that had a deeper sense of narrative complexity and a deeper exploration of themes. , as well as a full narrative.”

One of Nagle’s early concerns was also how a film littered with references to the Penrith Panthers and Silverchair would be received outside of Australia.

Although it “specifically reflects a pocket of western Sydney”, he said BoyfriendThe themes and the central conflict of were identifiable in all cultures of the world.

“I think sometimes filmmakers need to sanitize or wash away cultural specificity in order to appeal to international audiences,” he said.

“A lot of the films that I watched as a reference came from France, Spain and Belgium, and what I liked about them was that they were also a window into a culture that I didn’t quite know .

“If there is this universal central story and theme, it makes you realize that beyond the superficiality of culture, we are all the same, in terms of anxieties, fears, blocks and passions. that we share.”

Boyfriend is currently wrapping up the film festival circuit and now qualifies for Oscar entry.

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