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AFTRS Shines at the Sydney Film Festival 2024


The countdown is on to the 71st Sydney Film Festival and once again The Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) is making a significant mark with a stellar lineup of films, alumni accomplishments, and inspiring events. Among the bumper 197 film crop are three student films and 19 alumni films, of which 12 are world premieres and seven are Australian debuts.  

Get excited, here’s the roundup!  

AFTRS Student Films Premiering at SFF 2024 

Stepping straight from its world premiere at Cannes Film Festival in the La Cinef competition is Withered Blossoms, written and directed by Lionel Seah. Producer Miki Clarke said, “It’s a delight to be programmed this year at the Sydney Film Festival. Withered Blossoms was shot with little to nothing off the back of a dedicated team whose passion for cinema and important stories drove our film to Cannes and beyond. Spoken in Cantonese and English, it’s a testimony to the importance of cross-cultural stories and the power of auteur-driven filmmaking. I hope it serves as inspiration for our film community to support unique and emerging voices.  

Giving our cast and crew the opportunity to bask in the Australian premiere together is an absolute treat. Thank you to the Sydney Film Festival, the staff and students of AFTRS, DCP Australia, Trackdown Studios, and Screen Australia for all their assistance in making this film possible”. 

SFF regulars will recognise projectionist Alan Butterfield as the subject of documentary short Of the Last Reel in Front of You. Crafted by Bachelor of Arts Screen: Production Year 2 students including Yan Geng, Tom Xiao, Wentian Jin, the film will celebrate its world premiere. Writer, director, editor Yan Geng said, “We are thrilled that Of the Last Reel in Front of You is selected to be part of the Sydney Film Fest 2024.  

What began as a second-year semester production, with the collaborative effort of a small crew, led to the final form of this short film. A heartfelt thank you goes to Alan, whose life served as inspiration and who entrusted me to interpret it with this film. Through the conversations I shared with Alan during the process, it evolved into a journey that felt organic and personal for the both of us, extending beyond what this film originally set out to achieve.”  

Celebrating its world premiere as part of SFF’s Screenability program is Rehabilitiating, by Master of Arts Screen graduates Inez Playford, Freya Brunning, Anna McGirr and Chimene Khoo. Writer & Director Inez said, “We are delighted to announce our film Rehabilitating will be having its world premiere at Sydney Film Festival for 2024. Being a part of Sydney Film Festival’s Screenability program is a massive honour for myself and our team. The one thing I’m the most proud of is being given the trust to help share and amplify the voices of disabled and chronically ill people with my work, in the representation in both my cast and crew.  

Having disabled people in the forefront of our creative process both behind the camera in HOD roles and on our screen was a non-negotiable for me, something that AFTRS fully supported from day one. This project could not have happened without the dedicated support of AFTRS in making this fully accessible set and shoot experience come to life. AFTRS championing the diversity in this film enabled it to become the success that it is. Female experiences of physical pain is a subject that is historically ignored, scientifically and artistically. Rehabilitating is a rare story in that respect and I’m so thankful to the huge team of people who helped share my vision and allow me the space to bring my story to life.” 

Dynamic Discussions and Events 

There are two must-see AFTRS events to slot into SFF calendars: the Resonance special Q&A screening and musical performance at the State Library, and the SFF Hub Talk: This Industry is Not for Me: How Training Can Kick the Door Down. 

Moderated by Yangkaal and Worimi woman, screenwriter and producer Skye Leon (2021, Bachelor of Arts Screen: Production), this panel promises to tackle head on the fact that sometimes the screen industry still feels like a private members’ club. It’s about who you know. And if you’re not an able-bodied white dude from Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, then forget it. In this conversation, practitioners, and trainers from all backgrounds chat about what the industry is really like, the barriers to entry, and how training can help kick the door down. They share advice on what they wish they’d known starting out, what opportunities exist for under-represented groups, and what it’s like starting out straight out of high school, vs transitioning into the screen industry from another career.  

Alumni Films in the Spotlight 

Once again, AFTRS alumni will be out en masse for SFF, including Sheila Jayadev (2011, Graduate Certificate: Producing) and Tony Krawitz (2000, Master of Arts (Film & Television) Directing) who are on the Official Competition Jury. Two 4K restorations will bring alumni Rolf De Heer (1979, Directing) and Philip Noyce (1973, Certificate in Directing) to Sydney with Ten Canoes and Rabbit Proof Fence respectively. Noyce will also deliver the Ian McPherson Memorial Lecture.  

From family friendly animations to prize-winning documentaries, to horror short films, let’s celebrate AFTRS alumni bringing their skills and craft to each of these productions:  

World Premieres 


  • Sam Griffin (2017, MA Arts and Business) 
  • Justine Kerrigan (1996, BA Cinematography) 

Chairman Clift Life Burns High 

  • Kenny Ang (2010, Graduate Diploma: Editing) 

Dale Frank Nobody’s Sweetie 

  • Jenny Hicks (2020, MA Screen)  
  • Andrea Lang (1998, MA Editing) 


  • Lucy Coleman (2014, Specialist Certificate in Screenwriting Fundamentals)  

In Vitro  

  • Tom McKeith (2010, Graduate Diploma: Directing (Fiction & Non Fiction)  
  • Rebecca Sawyer (2020, Bachelor of Arts Screen: Production) 
  • Tara Webb (2011, Graduate Diploma in Sound) 

Mozart’s Sister 

  • Rebecca Barry (2002, Master of Arts (Film & Television) Documentary) 
  • Madeleine Hetherton-Miau (2003, Master of Arts (Film & Television) Documentary) 
  • Vanessa Milton (2005, Master of Arts Film, Television and Digital Media Editing) 
  • Jessica Wells (2004, Master of Arts Film, Television and Digital Media Composition) 

Otto by Otto 

  • Karen Johnson (1995, Specialist Extension Course Certificate Editing) 


  • Gus O’Brien Cavanough (2019, Bachelor of Arts Screen: Production) 
  • Jayden Rathsam Hüa (2020, Master of Arts Screen: Producing) 
  • Petra Leslie (2020, Master of Arts Screen: Cinematography) 
  • Kate Vinen (2010, Graduate Certificate: Directing, 2020, Master of Arts Screen: Documentary) 
  • Jonathan Mendolicchio (2021, Master of Arts Screen: Sound) 

Welcome to Babel 

  • Tim Alewood (2002, MA Film and Television Cinematography) 
  • James Bradley (1994 Specialist Extension Course Certificate, Screenwriting) 
  • Liam Egan (1986, Bachelor of Arts (Film & Television) Sound) 
  • Karen Johnson (1995, Specialist Extension Course Certificate Editing) 
  • Caitlin Yeo (2002 Graduate Diploma of Screen Composition) 

Australian Premieres 

Every Little Thing 

  • Jessica Wells (2004, Master of Arts: Film, Television and Digital Media Screen Composition) 
  • Caitlin Yeo (2002, Graduate Diploma of Screen Composition) 

Head South 

  • Jonathan Ogilve (1989, Certificate Video) 

The Moogai 

  • Bethany Ryan (2012, Grad Dip Production Design) 
  • Serena Siow (2019, BA Production) 

My Freaky Family  

  • Andrew McMartin (2021 Master of Arts Screen) 

The Paragon 

  • Michael Duigan (2001, Master of Arts (Film & Television) Directing) 

Porcelain War 

  • Kelly Cameron (2017, MSA Editing) 
  • Jared Dwyer (2007, MA Sound Design) 
  • Alex Francis (2012, Grad Dip Sound Design)
  • Andrew Miller (2009, MA Sound Design) 

NSW Premiere 

You Should Have Been Here Yesterday  

  • Jolyon Hoff (2007, MA Film Television and Digital Media Documentary) 
  • Nick Meyers (1991, Certificate – Extension: Editing) 

Have we missed a film? Please contact us on alumni@aftrs.edu.au and let us know if your production is part of the Sydney Film Festival. 


AFTRS Student Films 

Of the Last Reel in Front of You 

  • Yan Geng (Student, Bachelor of Arts Screen: Production) 
  • Wentian Jin (Student, Bachelor of Arts Screen: Production) 
  • Tom Xiao (Student, Bachelor of Arts Screen: Production)
  • Barney Wilson (Student, Bachelor of Arts Screen: Production) 
  • Felix Leung (Student, Bachelor of Arts Screen: Production) 
  • Fletcher Turale (Student, Bachelor of Arts Screen: Production) 
  • Zac Cutcliffe (Student, Master of Arts Screen: Cinematography)  


  • Freya Brunning (Student, Master of Arts Screen: Producing) 
  • Inez Playford (Student, Master of Arts Screen: Directing) 
  • Naomi Gesti (Student, Master of Arts Screen: Music) 
  • Sheree Tam (Student, Master of Arts Screen: Production Design) 
  • Chimene Khoo (Student, Master of Arts Screen: Editing) 
  • Anna McGirr (Student, Master of Arts Screen: Cinematography) 

Withered Blossoms 

  • Lionel Seah (2023, Master of Arts Screen: Directing) 
  • Miki Clarke (2023, Master of Arts Screen: Directing) 
  • T. Oxford (2023, Master of Arts Screen: Cinematography) 
  • Jordan Taylor (2023, Master of Arts Screen: Production Design) 
  • Jack Needle (2023, Master of Arts Screen: Editing) 
  • Kevin Chan (2023, Master of Arts Screen: Sound Design)