Filmed at Rossmoyne Primary School, the film took out the Children’s Jury Prize, for first place in the Live Action Short category.
Written and directed by 23-year-old Cassandra Nguyen, who was at the ceremony to receive the accolade, Play Lunch is inspired by Nguyen’s childhood. It follows Molly, a small girl who has promised her mother she will finish her banquet-size Vietnamese lunch before going out to play, a promise made more difficult by a group of boys outside playing football.
“As a young girl, my mother would pack me large lunches for school,” Nguyen said.
“So, every lunch I would unpack my food, and sit and eat and for most of the lunch period. I would spend almost every lunch time watching the other kids play, until one day I was befriended by a little girl.
“I didn’t know this then, but having a friend by my side made all the difference. Suddenly, every lunch was filled with the possibility of new games and adventure.”
Other Curtin alumni Tamara Small (producer), Deland Tay (cinematographer), and Adriel Bong (editor) helped bring the film to life, after first meeting while sharing many classes during their degree.
As well as its success in Chicago, the film has been screened at festivals across the globe, including the Tokyo Kinder Film Festival and Young Cuts Film Festival in Montreal, with plans to enter further festivals in the coming months.
22-year-old Small said the global reach of the film had taken its creators by surprise, as had its reception in Chicago.
“We were just excited to be screening there, let alone win an award,” she said.
“This is the first award we have won for the film, and are humbled by it even more because it is the Children’s Jury vote and shows that we really connected with our audience.”
“To see Play Lunch reach different corners of the globe makes you realise how powerful your storytelling can be as a filmmaker,” she said.
“And the fact that it is being recognised and acknowledged by different cultures is something we always hoped would happen and are overwhelmed by now.”