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The Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) student film, Withered Blossoms, written and directed by Lionel Seah, has been selected to screen at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival in the La Cinef section, where it will have its world premiere.

La Cinef, the prestigious student film competition, selected just 18 short films (14 live-action and 4 animated films) from 2263 submissions this year, from film schools around the world.

Lionel was an international student from Singapore when the film was made. He is the first AFTRS international student to have a film selected for La Cinef. Withered Blossoms is the third Masters film to be selected for La Cinef since the reboot of the AFTRS Masters program in 2016. Dots, written and directed by Eryk Lenartowicz, was selected in 2018 and in 2022 the musical MumLife, written and directed by Ruby Challenger.

The Withered Blossoms team includes producer Miki Clarke, cinematographer T. Oxford, production designer Jordan Taylor, editor Jack Needle and sound designer Kevin Chan who are currently all completing their second year of the Master of Arts Screen program at AFTRS.

The Cantonese and English-language Withered Blossoms is about a young woman who, after attempting to conceal her separation from a long-term partner, finally visits her grandma who is grappling with age.  The film follows Seah’s short Holding On, Letting Go, which screened at international festivals including Singapore International Film Festival and Brussels Film Festival, earning seven nominations in the National Youth Film Awards in Singapore.

“I am absolutely thrilled and honoured for Withered Blossoms to be a part of the Official Selection of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Withered Blossoms was undertaken over the summer holidays by a small group of dedicated, passionate individuals whom I met at AFTRS. With only 10 people on set and crew members taking on multiple roles, we found ourselves compelled to concentrate on elements that didn’t rely heavily on resources: the story that we wanted to tell, the performance of the cast, and the vision of the film—essentially, the essence of filmmaking. This experience proved to be both beautiful and instructive, serving as a powerful lesson learned alongside my collaborators on this project.” Lionel says.

Lionel describes the film as a meditation and reflection on the conversations he wishes he could have had with his grandmother; and an exploration of a relationship through the one thing that does not wait for us – time.

“A simple and unassuming day between grandma and her granddaughter, mirroring life. There is conflict between generations, grandma wants her granddaughter to settle down soon. A sentiment both normal and human as parents anticipate holding their grandchildren, and grandparents yearn to witness their grandchildren’s wedding.  Beneath the surface of these familial expectations lies the fleeting nature of life, the impermanence of one’s existence. Something so definite, yet uncertain. Something so devastating, yet beautiful.  Death is certain, yet we will not know when. And because death is certain, lies the value of life,” Lionel says.

“Just like when the Sakura petals wither and fall off the tree, I hope that Withered Blossoms will be a film that portrays that fleeting beauty.”

Lyn Norfor, AFTRS Director of Production and Technology, said:

Congratulations to the Withered Blossoms team. To have a student film recognised and selected for the Cannes Film Festival is a huge honour and very exciting for the team of student filmmakers who created and worked on the film. Cannes is a fantastic opportunity for these emerging talented creatives to be launching their careers. The students have formed strong creative partnerships as they progress through their course, supported by the dedicated teaching and production staff.”

AFTRS has a proud history at Cannes, with films by notable alumni including Jane Campion, Warwick Thornton, Gillian Armstrong, Phillip Noyce, Shirley Barrett and Samantha Lang selected to screen at what is considered the world’s most prestigious and influential film festival.  This year Cannes will present the world premiere of The Surfer, produced by AFTRS alumnus Robert Connolly.

L - R: T. Oxford, Jack Needle, Jordan Taylor, Lionel Seah, Kevin Chan, Rachel Young, Miki Clarke, Stella Ye, Tom Xiao, Skye Netting.


Writer/Director – Lionel Seah (Master of Arts Screen: Directing 2023)
Producer – Miki Clarke (Master of Arts Screen: Directing 2023)
Cinematographer – T. Oxford (Master of Arts Screen: Cinematography 2023)
Production Designer – Jordan Taylor (Master of Arts Screen: Production Design 2023)
Editor – Jack Needle (Master of Arts Screen: Editing 2023)
Sound Designer – Kevin Chan (Master of Arts Screen: Sound Design 2023)


Stella Ye – granddaughter
Rachel Young – grandmother