THE world premiere of a film by Israeli-born local Pele Safra is one of the highlights of the Byron Bay Film Festival - confirming its status as an international event on the global cinema calendar.
The 67-minute McDonald Masada, set in Israel, "is basically a journey film", said Mr Safra, who grew up in a small village in the north of the country and first came to Byron 23 years ago, when he was 15. He returned in his 20s when he was an underwater photographer and now lives in Durrumbul with his wife and two children.
He returned to the Middle East to shoot the film - a study of a conflicted modern Israel, torn between idealism and consumption, religion and secularism, development and conservation.
The story is told through the experience of quixotic troubadour Eitan Ullman as he travels with a group of musicians from Gallilee in the north to the desert in the south, playing in village and city streets, shopping malls, Bedouin camps, rehabilitated rubbish dumps and historical sites.
His songs are ironic, self-deprecating and humorous but the underlying theme is serious.
Its theme is the loss of traditional cultural values in the face of rampant Western-style consumerism.
As much as it is an exploration of a modern state, it is Eitan's story - an inner exploration of his own vision and hopes, Mr Safra said. "The film takes us into his very heart and soul as he tries to define his place in the contemporary culture, and in relation to his elders."
The frequently breath-taking scenery is also a major feature of the film, Mr Safra said.
"It reflects the things Eitan talks about and goes through on his journey."
McDonald Masada - a reference to fast food and the legendary site of Jewish resistance to Roman conquest - is only obliquely political, he said.
"The Israel/Palestine situation would require another film of its own," - although it is concerned more generally with Jewish political culture and economics, the things that concern its idealistic hero.
Another film, by Byron Shire film-maker, takes the audience on another kind of journey - through the life of famed of Australia's greatest cinematographers, Don McAlpine.
Made by Cathy Henkel, Show Me the Magic documents the unique "eye" of the man responsible for classics such as Mrs Doubtfire, Baz Lurmann's Romeo & Juliet, Breaker Morant and My Brilliant Career. From a childhood in the outback town of Quandialla, Mr McAlpine emerged to soar in a career that took him to acclaim in Hollywood.
Mr McAlpine will be at the screening of Show Me the Magic on Saturday, March 2.
He will be accompanied by actors David Wenham and Jack Thompson, there to pay their respects to his massive contribution to film.
Kicking things off next Monday, (February 25) is the Sunset Cinema, a film night under the stars on the Main Beach foreshore.
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