Multicultural Film Festival

A celebration of Australia's diversity on the big screen. Segmento spoke with the Multicultural Film Festival’s Project Manager, Dr. Atalanti Dionysus, about the importance of multicultural representation in Australia.

Despite the vibrancy of the Italian community in Australia, few stories that authentically depict the Italo-Australian experience have made their way into cinemas, onto network television, or even onto streaming platforms. Atalanti Dionysus, however, hopes initiatives like the Multicultural Film Festival in Melbourne, now in its fifth year, will inspire young filmmakers of all backgrounds, including Italians, to find their voice and utilize the platform to share their stories.

The Victorian Multicultural Commission is presenting the annual festival with Swinburne University of Technology. It celebrates multiculturalism through the lens of short films that explore stories of cultural diversity and living in multicultural Australia. Australia is home to people who identify with more than 300 ancestries from around the world, including Australia’s various Indigenous nations.

Dr. Dionysus explains at length how the festival celebrates Australia’s cultural richness.

It’s a short film festival screening films of up to 15 minutes that showcase cultural diversity and what it is like to live in Australia. Some of the films explore how immigrants arrived in Australia, whether as refugees or asylum seekers, how they live in a country where they don’t speak the language, and how they’ve found their way, not only through language but also culture, food, traditions, and jobs. We have created an opportunity to showcase contemporary multicultural life among second-generation Australians, which is refreshing to see. We get to hear new young voices that are coming through and that are not censored due to their cultural background and ethnicity. A festival supporting young filmmakers helps us as researchers understand the multicultural space. Is the younger generation still facing the same issues e faced in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s? These films showcase a wide range of experiences, including challenges related to racism, sexuality, mental health, acceptance, and bullying.

Dr. Atalanti Dionysus

The Multicultural Film Festival is an opportunity to showcase Australia’s diverse multicultural landscape. Dionysus believes the universal themes and conflicts presented also demonstrate that we are all fundamentally the same. “We all live similar lives,” she explains. “Nothing is that different aside from things like language, some traditions, and food.

”As the daughter of Greek migrants, Dionysus hopes that the representation that the Multicultural Film Festival offers will allow young second-generation Australians to not only see themselves, their language, their culture, and their heritage on screen but to inspire them to keep telling their stories.

Seeing these films keeps these traditions and languages alive and keeps second and third-generation Australians connected to their culture. It’s a way to not let go and to nurture multicultural stories. That’s the criteria, and it’s been accepted so well, and it’s something so great to be a part of.

Since its inception the festival has gone from strength to strength, and 2023 marked the first time the festival has been open to the public. Previous iterations were open only to filmmakers.

Multicultural Film Festival

The positivity has been enormous, and we can now open it to the public. It’s important that people are making new films, wanting to explore these themes and open up their lives. It shows us that in life, whether you are Italian, Greek, or Maltese, we are similar and many of the issues we face are quite similar.

In addition to the issues faced by multicultural groups, Dionysus points out how the festival allows viewers to see diverse celebrations of life, and how this visibility allows us to better understand each other’s cultures.

We get to see what life is like inside other cultures, how they live, how they care for each other, their elderly, and how they communicate. It’s like Greeks celebrate Easter, which for them is bigger than Christmas, and the Chinese celebrate Chinese New Year, and in Melbourne, if you walk into Chinatown at that time of year, it’s such a beautiful celebration that everyone can participate in. It’s about understanding more about other people’s cultures and learning about their traditions.

Images provided by Victorian Multicultural Commission