International Student claims 5 Martini Awards with powerful HIV Short Film

International JMC student, Ryan Macabenta, claims FIVE trophies at the annual Martini Awards with powerful short film 'POSI+IVE'. The film explores the journey of a man diagnosed with HIV and follows his reaction to the life changing news. The film is incredibly powerful and touches on issues not often explored by filmmakers. It has also recently been officially selected for the Caldas Film Festival in Portugal, the La Frontera Film Festival in the USA and most recently, Thessaloniki International LGBTQ Film Festival in Greece!

We spoke to Ryan about his film, why he was passionate about this issue and how it has been received by the public.

Tell us a little bit about your film ‘POSI+IVE’.

A spiraling drug use and numerous sexual encounters to cope from the loss of his mother and extreme depression, an ambitious young man grips into harder reality as he succumbs down an unexpected path of HIV.
POSI+IVE is a modern day drama that tells a moving story of a personal journey towards self-acceptance and eventually freeing himself from the shackles of the HIV stigma. It talks about rising through life tribulations especially of that with a mark of disgrace associated with being HIV positive. The film is dark and can be difficult to get through but is also captivating because it powerfully captures the pleasures and terrors of a young man forging ahead against all odds in a journey that angers, tests, and ultimately heals him.

What inspired you to make this film?

I am deeply drawn to stories that reflect society. I believe that when we go down the deepest core of humanity is when we get a very powerful story. More often, these stories are dark and hollow but that’s when the story speaks its truth.
The film is loosely based from a true story. A friend of mine confided that he is HIV positive and I reacted differently. It was a roller coaster of emotions for me in that very moment. I was scared for him but more so I was scared for myself. But I know my fear was deeply rooted from the stigma that goes with being HIV positive. The scenario kept playing over and over in my mind and I thought to myself that this is a story worth putting into film. The aim is to open a dialogue in the society, if not help break the stigma. I believe that these people are put in a very daunting predicament that is not their choice. Something drove them into doing things that resulted in them contracting the virus.  I also believe that there are stories behind everything so we should not put them into stereotypes.
In addition, the story does not just ruminate in HIV contraction, but also of a person trying to reengage in a world that has tilted off its axis. It’s a story of acceptance and hope thus our tagline is “How do you find positive in being positive?”

How has this film been received, both in Australia and internationally?

POSI+IVE is getting good reviews within the film community. In addition, it won 5 awards out of 10 nominations, including Best Short Film, in the recently concluded JMC Melbourne Martini Awards 2018 held at Australian Centre for Moving Images (ACMI). The film is also an official selection in Caldas Film Festival in Portugal and La Frontera Film Festival in USA and we wish to put the film into more festivals. Any recognition the film receives is a recognition not just for the entire production but also to everyone who is part of JMC Academy. Please follow our journey in our Instagram account @positive_shortfilm.

How did your time at JMC help you write, produce and direct such a strong piece of work?

The lecturers are very adept and experienced, honed from years of film learnings and trainings. They know right away when a script has good potential to be made into film. I am happy that the Lecturers at JMC Academy, in particular Peter Dodds, have been very supportive of our film. Peter was very keen to have our film made from the get go. He was also critical of every minute detail, making sure that our vision was carefully but clearly presented on the screen. He even went to extra lengths and provided us sample music as an inspiration for our original musical score. When the film was on rough cut, I asked some Lecturers to see the film so I could get feedbacks and they gladly did it without any hesitations. Needless to say, working with and learning from the Lecturers are my favourite parts of my JMC experience.

What advice would you have for current students?

My advice is to get yourself out there. Make yourself available in the film world, gather as much experience and make contacts as you will soon benefit from it. Take advantage of your time at JMC Academy and extract as much artistic juices from the academy, lecturers and students, but not forgetting to share yours as well. Lastly, choose your people very carefully and make sure you share the same vision with them. I am lucky that the entire production crew of POSI+IVE, though a very small number, were very invested in the film. It made the filming, especially the sensitive scenes, such a great ease.
To watch the offical trailer for 'POSI+IVE', click here.
To learn more about studying Film and Television Production, click here.