So here we are! You all got your entries in, right? Well, a lot of you did because the turnout for FOA 2017 has been massive! Record-breaking. Firstly, this is the most ever finalists the festival has had the privilege to present, with 210 films now in the running to win over $140,000 worth of prizes. Secondly, it's an absolute delight to note that nearly half of the entries have come from young people: another record, with 101 schools submitting films.
And while we're bashing out statistics … this year sees 53 international films from 19 countries participating, including 9 African nations and a debut appearance from Ethiopia. As we've now come to expect, New Zealand has fielded a strong contingent, and there's plenty of representatives from the rest of the world featuring the US, Canada, UK, Finland, Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, and the Phillipines.
Our judges are applying themselves to the task of selecting winners in a number of categories. That's plenty to get stuck into! Fascinating stories from Africa include Tanzanian wheelchair hip hop artist Ahazi and albino Zimbabwean Wiseman Giyane who starts his own radio station in his mother's hallway. There's incredible inventiveness everywhere you look, from claymation to an entire dance piece that takes place inside a wooden box. An intellectually disabled man's fantasy of life as a super spy. A tale of mind-reading powers that takes you all the way to heaven. Insightful explorations of a Vietnam vet's PTSD and the tricky task of negotiating a hospital admission for a non-verbal guy who communicates with just thumbs up or thumbs down.
As you know, this is a competition that is all about inclusion, and voting is no exception. From 25th July, three prize categories (international, schools, and open entrants) are available to anyone who wants to judge for themselves, or show some support for their school or friends – and there are $50 iTunes vouchers given away daily to voters. Just one vote per category, folks, so choose carefully! Start watching and select your favourites www.focusonability.com.au
The winners will be awarded their prizes at a fantastic gala night on September 6 in Sydney, where they'll dive into the full Oscars experience – red carpet arrivals, interviews, speeches, spectacular live performances … the works! It promises to be a truly special night. Check out the 2016 awards https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtyLocd4ouc