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Watching this space

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A Curtin student’s animated astronaut is mesmerising film festival audiences around the world.

Still image from Radheya Jegatheva's film, 'The Quiet'.

After only a month on the world circuit, Radheya Jegatheva’s fifth film, The Quiet, has already collected three festival gongs. The tale of an astronaut and his startling self-realisation while hovering in space, The Quiet has just had a perfect Australian launch, winning the Open Award of the prestigious Port Shorts Film Festival in Queensland.

So, what is it about Jegatheva’s visual technique that is winning over the festival judges?

“I think people appreciate the use of the celestial visuals interwoven with a story set on Earth – I think it’s something new to them,” Jegatheva says. “And they like the plot twist.”

His creative process involves drawing elements frame-by-frame on a tablet plugged into a laptop, then using a digital camera within compositing software to craft the 3D environment for the animations.

He also layers his visuals with references to art masterpieces, including The Scream (by Edvard Munch), Girl with the Pearl Earring (Johannes Vermeer) and The Son of Man (Rene Magritte).

“I like bringing art into the mix. Sometimes it’s because they visually complement the sound design I’m aiming for, or because they complement the story I’ve based the film on.”

A fiery-coloured image of outer space beneath white a handdrawn lines version of Edvard Munche's The Scream

Still image from Radheya Jegatheva’s film, ‘The Quiet’.

The script for The Quiet developed from Jegatheva’s short story Silence, which begins with ‘Silence is the most beautiful thing that exists in the Universe’ and ends with ‘Silence is the most terrifying thing that exists in the Universe’. Clearly, his talent for creative writing is also contributing to the beauty, power and complexity of his films. In the film, those compelling lines are delivered by Jegatheva’s father, Jay Jay.

“We’ve had great feedback about his performance as the astronaut. The narration is definitely a strong point of the film – I’m very lucky that he wanted to be involved.”

Drawn to creativity

This year has been a demanding but exhilarating year for Jegatheva. As well as creating The Quiet, he participated in a Curtin student exchange program to China, where he made a live-action horror film called Hide & Seek.

“I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t sure about China and what it would be like to live there, but it was an incredible experience. And while I’m proficient in animation, I have much to learn about live action filmmaking – working with other crew members and how to operate equipment, for example.”

Now in his third year of a double degree in commerce and arts, majoring in Marketing and Screen Arts, a creative career is looking likely – particularly as his films have been selected for more than 500 film festivals around the world – and counting.

“I’m drawn towards the creative side of my studies, but there are aspects of marketing that I find really interesting. Like consumer behaviour – I’m fascinated by the psychological elements involved.”

Story-telling at its finest

The Quiet’s success began at the New Mexico Route 66 Film Festival in the US, in September. In competition with 270 films – shortlisted from 2,300 entries – the film earned high praise, with one judge commenting, “This is a beautiful piece of animation … story-telling at its finest”.

A few weeks later, at the Gateway Film Festival in Oregon, it appeared with another of Jegatheva’s films, iRony, which delivers a powerful message about the rise and influence of social media. At the closing ceremony the two films were awarded joint Best of Fest – “Hardly believable!” he remarks.

But we wouldn’t be suspending our disbelief to picture this young Perth man holding an Oscar. To date, iRony has gathered 170 festival awards, and, together with yet another of his films, Journey, has been selected for 10 Academy-Award qualifying festivals.

So, like festival-goers all over the world, we’re watching this space.

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