A coming-of-age film with Australian music at its core, 6 Festivals is the fresh offering from Bra Boys director Macario De Souza with a script co-written by De Souza and Sean Nash, starring relative newcomers Rasmus King (Bosch & Rockit), Rory Potter (The Dressmaker), and Yasmin Honeychurch (Disney’s Back of the Net).
Against the backdrop of a gorgeous Aussie summer, friends Summer, Maxie, and James glide down a lazy river into the backwoods of a music festival singing Powderfinger’s My Happiness. Very quickly, their scheme to sneak into the festival is busted and they’re on the run through the campgrounds to the safety of the crowds. Riotous and full of life, the three teens briefly taste the fruits of their labour before getting nabbed by police and remanded into their parents’ custody. It is then that James reveals he’s sick, really sick, and the trio decide to set off on a summer of festivals, travelling up and down the coast and ticking off all of James’ must-see artists along the way.
With the help of a friend and up-and-coming artist Marley (Guyala Bayles), James, Summer, and Maxie score backstage passes to every festival on the circuit. Rubbing elbows with big name performers like G-Flip and Bliss n’ Eso, playing onstage with Dune Rats, their summer is shaping up to be the best one yet. But with each festival James’ condition deteriorates, and the trio are faced with the grave reality that James may not make it to the end of their run.
In a world where music festivals like Lollapalooza, Coachella, and Glastonbury reign supreme, people often forget that Australia’s music festivals are top tier. Festivals like Soundwave and Big Day Out helped to solidify Australia’s status as art and music connoisseurs, paving the way for more localised events like Splendour in the Grass, Groovin’ the Moo, and Falls Festival to thrive and attract tens of thousands of music lovers annually. De Souza’s commitment to making 6 Festivals feel as authentic as possible by filming as much of the footage directly on the festival runs gives his film a truly home-grown feel and helps to shine some light on some of the country’s best acts like Lime Cordiale, Ruby Fields, and Peking Duk, as well as those mentioned above. This is unfortunately where the film’s positives end.
Sandwiched between each festival are some average B-plots that attempt to give a little more flesh to the bones of De Souza’s characters. Summer, a beautiful singer, attends a songwriting camp with Marley as her mentor while James goes through chemo and Maxie deals with his violent drug dealing brother Kane (played by King’s real-life brother Kyuss King). Marley’s character arc did a decent job of shining a spotlight onto the pitfalls of rising to stardom, especially as a first nation’s woman, and Kane is a true embodiment of the warped idea of masculinity in Australia with his selfish and extremely unlikeable personality.
Scenes between Marley and Summer are often tender and enjoyable, if not overly drawn out, and Kane consistently putting Maxie in dangerous, illegal, and compromising situations despite being the boy’s guardian, shows a blatant disregard for the interests and safety of those around him, a trait that is sadly all too common in young men of this country. Frankly speaking, however, neither of these characters were that crucial to the plot and took up a lot of the airtime that should have been allotted to James’ relationship with Summer and Maxie. By not using these characters more efficiently, De Souza sadly does his film a disservice.
Casting unknowns in your lead roles is always a gamble – some have raw talent, others require nurturing – and where 6 Festivals is concerned it’s most definitely the latter. While 6 Festivals has an abundance of heart and incredible features from Aussie music acts, it’s often bogged down by a clunky and awkward script that is underperformed by the film’s stars. Much of the dialogue feels forced and uncomfortable to listen to, as though it were being performed by high school drama kids.
All the above aside, there are some moments of quality that come mostly from the musicians, King and Honeychurch. To their credit, King and Honeychurch threw themselves in when required to produce some excellent moments of physical acting, but overall, De Souza’s main trio and their supporting cast fail to lift the film up to where it wants to be.
6 Festivals is playing as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival and streaming exclusively on Paramount+.
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