A young Iraqi doctor escapes a horrifying past in 'Great Western'

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Two Sydney-based filmmakers have been named finalists in the 2014 Shorts in Paradise Film Festival. Trent Bartfeld and Tanya Goldberg, both based in Darlinghurst, were nominated against 10 other short films.

Mr Bartfeld, who wrote and co-produced Great Western, said: “Short films are primarily a launch pad for people who have artistic vision and opinion and who have something to say. It gives them that stepping stone to creating potentially bigger things.”

The festival, which was held at Neal Shannon Park in Surfers Paradise on April 26, selected short films from around the country in a variety of genres. A live judging panel of industry experts selected the winner.

“You want artists to be supported. Festivals are where they can go to find that support. It’s not just about financial reward or recognition in the form of an award. Most importantly, [festivals are] something that encourages filmmakers to continue exploring,” said Mr Bartfeld.

Great Western tells the story of a young Iraqi cardiologist, who escapes a horrifying past by becoming a taxi driver in Sydney.

“A part of the story came from the 2007 election, when the Liberal government was trying to use identity politics to win the campaign.

“I was angered by the way the immigration issue and the concept of the outsider was being appropriated as a wedge issue to appeal to people’s prejudices and to motivate them to vote. It’s been an issue for a long time, and is definitely still topical today.”

Mr Bartfeld was working as a school teacher in the UK, after which he began work with the BBC.

“[Filmmaking] is a passion first and foremost, I like to learn new things. Synthesising that with storytelling gives me the vehicle to keep learning. It’s ultimately about having empathy for others and to elicit feelings from your audience.

That’s the primary job of a filmmaker and that’s what keeps me coming back.”

Great Western was shot over three days across various Sydney suburbs including Chippendale, Matraville and Homebush.

“The nature of filming long distances in a big city was challenging. The story is an Australian one and specifically a story about Western Sydney, so it had to be shot as close as possible to the location in the story.

“The end of the story takes place at Villawood Detention Centre. We obviously couldn’t shoot there so we had to find somewhere that approximated that. To suspend that disbelief was the real challenge.”