3 March 2024

'Something quite unique': student film returns to Canberra after festival successes

| Claire Sams
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The public can now see CAPTCHA, an award-winning student film, at a Griffith gallery. Photo: Postglacial.

During the 2021 COVID-19 lockdown, a group of University of Canberra film students came together.

The result – CAPTCHA, a 15-minute science-fiction short film which follows a test subject as he undergoes a series of evaluations – received several film festival nominations. It’s currently showcased at the M16 Artspace in Griffith until 17 March.

One of the students behind CAPTCHA, Lachlan Kendall worked as producer, first assistant director and sound designer on the film.

“I’m excited to show Canberrans what can be made in Canberra,” he said.

“You don’t hear a whole lot about films coming out of Canberra, and it’s exciting to be able to show Canberran audiences that we can produce some interesting, thought-provoking works here.

“We didn’t have very much money to work with – we were on a student budget – but we created something quite unique.”

The exhibition in Gallery 2 is the public’s first chance to see the award-winning film shot in locations across Canberra.

“My wife told me about how they [M16 Artspace] take submissions for exhibition,” he said.

“We put together a proposal and that was successful.”

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Mr Kendall said he was thrilled new audiences could see the film.

“It is recognition beyond the academic setting,” he said.

“At festivals, we could show it to an audience outside of our lecturers and peers, but this is the first time anyone can come by and watch it for free.”

CAPTCHA is on display alongside other exhibitions in Block 2.

“There are three other artists exhibiting alongside us, and it’s a really diverse range of work,” Mr Kendall said.

“There is sculptural work, paintings and our audio-visual installation.

“All three combined makes it a very interesting exhibition.”

The exhibition is the latest recognition for the filmmakers behind CAPTCHA. The film has been selected for the Academy Award-qualifying St Kilda Film Festival, taken home a gong for Best Sound at the Canberra Short Film Festival in late 2023 and been named a finalist in the 2023 Melbourne Cineverse Film Festival.

Mr Kendall said this festival success was unexpected.

“It started as a student project, so we expected it to exist solely in the university space,” he said.

“We’d never really expected it to move very far beyond that – it is quite surprising it’s had this recognition.”

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He said the core group behind CAPTCHA had also re-united for another project – this time a psychological thriller.

“We’re probably shooting sometime later this year or next year,” he said.

While he couldn’t give much away about the new project, Mr Kendall was keen to use new skills gained through real-world experience after graduating.

“It took about nine months to edit CAPTCHA, which sounds a bit crazy now,” he said.

“Nowadays, it could probably be done in a much shorter period of time, just with the knowledge and skills I’ve gained since graduating.”

CAPTCHA was directed by Matthew Francis and produced by Postglacial, starring Ankush Singh Khanchi, Josephine Gazard and Sofia Kendall.

It is on display until 17 March in Gallery 2 at M16 Artspace, with free entry.

M16 Artspace is open 12 pm to 5 pm (Wednesdays to Sundays) and is located at 21 Blaxland Cresent, Griffith.

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