Shimmerlands are bringing risky, creative and edgy cinema to Melbourne’s summer

It's a busy time of year for most, but for talented Shimmerlands' Film Programmer Lauren Valmadre, a lot of hard work is about to come together in an amazing way.

Taking over the University of Melbourne in Parkville for two months, Shimmerlands is a mammoth summer festival set to celebrate music, cinema and the best food our city has to offer.
"It's really nice to be working on something like Shimmerlands, where I can program films that I'm maybe a little bit more personally passionate about," Valmadre says. "I love independent film, music documentaries, Australian films; it's been such a pleasure to be able to build a program including a lot of those titles. It's been a wonderful experience, and I've had the best time. I love this program, and I hope people like it as well."
Operating day and night throughout January and February, Shimmerlands is an experience from the creators of the well-loved Shadow Electric, a cornerstone of music, film, food and community.
Shimmerlands has risen as the team’s latest venture, incorporating those loved elements into a bigger, bolder venture. The experienced Valmadre — also a program director of the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival — has meticulously crafted a rich selection of the best that contemporary cinema offers.
"I think with a lot of them, especially the music documentaries, they really manage to reel people in and get people excited," Valmadre says. "In particular, I'm really thrilled to be holding the Australian premiere of the Rolling Stones'
Ole, Ole, Ole — their latest documentary. I watched it while programming for Shimmerlands, and I've been listening to Rolling Stones for weeks afterwards and getting excited about their music again.
“It's really great to promote more independent films and documentaries to audiences. All of these films have a really great summertime feel, so they'll be perfect for the end of a hot day — go out, have a drink, catch up with your friends, and sit back and watch a movie under the stars."
If you're inspired by the great soundtracks on display and require more tunes in your life, then Shimmerlands will have a powerhouse selection of outdoor music brimming with variety. If you're thirsty, The Pavilion will satisfy with multiple bars, lounge areas and DJs. If you're peckish, then feast upon 20 of Melbourne's most tasty with The Shimmerlands Food Quarter's hand-picked roster of culinary delights. It's looking to be all wins for anyone on the warm nights ahead, and Valmadre has relished every part of the creative freedom she's received.
“I’m encouraged to be bold and not just pick the commercial hits," Valmadre says. "I wanted to make those decisions that are a little bit more risky, creative or a bit edgy. In terms of the kind of programming, I think it's really quite exciting."
Valmadre's infectious passion for her craft can't be understated. From an addiction to Margaret and David's At The Movies in her high school years to now programming some of Australia's biggest and best events, the intriguing and invigorating world of movies has been an integral part of her life.
When asked what her personal favourite selections for Shimmerlands are, she finds it genuinely difficult — she enjoys them all so much. Valmadre's top recommendation is John Carney's coming-of-age musical drama Sing Street ("I saw it at Sundance earlier this year in January, and the euphoria in the room was palpable," she says), but it's hard to choose with so much on offer.
 "I saw La La Land recently, and I felt like I was floating on air afterwards. It's sumptuously romantic. The music is wonderful. The performances by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are fantastic,” Valmadre says. “It’s Damien Chazelle's follow-up from Whiplash, where it still maintains that real love of jazz music, but it's completely shifted in its genre and style, and that's really fantastic to see a director do that.
"American Honey, I thought, was one of the best indies I've seen this year.  Andrea Arnold, I think, is an absolute genius. Her film Fish Tank is one of my favourites. It's a really impressive debut by Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf is fantastic in it, the soundtrack is really incredible — it's one of those really memorable independent films that deserves to be celebrated, so we're really excited to be opening with that.
"There's something very special when you see a film, and it's unlike anything you've ever seen," Valmadre says. "It's so unique and original, and you're completely blown away by its artistry, but it also manages to touch you personally as well, and sometimes very inexplicably. It has that ability to stay with you long after you leave the cinema, and I think that's magical. I think that's one of the best things about film."
By Jacob Colliver

Shimmerlands will run at the University of Melbourne from Sunday January 2 until Sunday February 26.