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Short film success for QUT alumni

Multiple awards and selections in local and international film festivals have led to high hopes for three filmmakers and QUT alumni behind Don't Call Me Beautiful.

A short film documenting the life of Gubbi Gubbi woman Zeitha Murphy has picked up numerous awards and may be due for more after recently being selected in the 2019 Manchester Film Festival. 

The 2017 film, shot as a piece of final-year assessment for Jill Robinson (Director), Tara Wise (Producer) and Doc Lyons (Writer), uncovers the life of a woman who has been able to overcome numerous challenges faced by Australia’s Indigenous population. 

The story is marked with tragedy. But Zeitha’s inspiring resilience is portrayed in a moving story arc, complimented with beautiful cinematography and direction as well as a compelling script narrated by Zeitha. 

A still from the award winning short film, Don’t Call Me Beautiful. Courtesy of the filmmakers.

Doc’s adaptation of Zeitha’s countless memoirs is a powerful narrative tool for the film. 

He said the biggest challenge was choosing the best moments to script for a short film format. 

“She’s such a character… She can just talk and talk and I’d just be writing frantically,” Doc recounted. 

“There was an abundance of information. My view after meeting Zeitha and reading her memoirs was that this could easily make a feature.

“It’s a challenge with a ten minute film to tell the story of someone’s life… But I feel like we got just the right mix.”

A still from the award winning short film, Don’t Call Me Beautiful. Courtesy of the filmmakers.

It would be hard for anyone to watch Don’t Call Me Beautiful without shedding a tear. The compassion the film can evoke from the audience is, no doubt, driven by Doc’s own sense of morality and passion for encouraging equality.  

Doc said he enjoyed the artistic license in writing a screenplay, which can deliver an emotionally-charged narrative to an international audience and bring issues like racial discrimination to light; something he would like to see more in cinema.  

“I feel like there’s something about filmmaking that elevates it to a level above where TV sort of sits around… And it’s less rigid than TV documentary,” he said. 

“With TV, I feel it’s too structured in its format to tell the story in a powerful way that’s going to translate to other nations. 

“I feel like this is a story, similar to a story of any Indigenous population that’s ever been suppressed and murdered, that needs to go around the world.”

As well as the Manchester Film Festival, Don’t Call Me Beautiful has been selected at the Liverpool Film Festival and the Hamptons International Film Festival in the US.

It has also seen great success in Australian film festivals, winning Best Youth Short Film at the St Kilda Film Festival, Best Documentary and Best First Nations Film at Canberra Short Film Festival, Best Tertiary Documentary at the ATOM Awards and a Special Commendation at the Gold Coast Film Festival. 

Doc proudly recalled an experience of watching a screening of the film at the Heart of Gold International Film Festival in Gympie.  

“I was there with Jill and Zeitha… and at the end, someone in the seat behind me said ‘that was a beautiful film’,” he said. 

“To have that impact on an audience and to hear people talk about in such high reverence for it, it’s a great feeling. 

“That’s what I got into this for, to be able to touch people emotionally, to bring tears and to bring happiness to people – that’s what I love.” 

Like so many good films, Doc credited Don’t Call Me Beautiful‘s success on a crew that worked well together. 

“We all kind of gelled together so well and obviously the film was a product of that,” he said. 

“As the three key creatives on the projects, me, Tara and Jill were so in sync with what we wanted for the film itself.” 

Doc also had high praise for Editor Jessica Berry and Director of Photography Joseph Meldrum. 

“I’ve only worked on a few of these films but it’s one of those films where everything came together pretty seamlessly,” he said. 

A still from the award winning short film, Don’t Call Me Beautiful. Courtesy of the filmmakers.

Don’t Call Me Beautiful will be screened before the UK premiere of feature documentary Leonard Bernstein – A Genius Divided at the Manchester Film Festival on 9 March. 

The film will also be submitted for selection in the Student Academy Awards later this year, which might open up more opportunities for it to eventually be made into a feature.  

Follow Don’t Call Me Beautiful‘s Facebook page for more updates.