2018 Religious Short Film Prize Winner

A highly accomplished, theologically confident and visually deft contemplative short film was how the judges described the winner of the 2018 Religious Short Film Prize.

Jamey Foxton and Ryan Simpson’s film The Giver received the $5000 cash prize for their 5 minute film which was shot entirely on an Iphone 6.

In awarding the winner the judges David Millikan, Susan Murphy and Steve Mason noted the film was

Using black and white cinematography to quietly powerful effect, the filmmaker maintains authority throughout a steady, low-key, parable-like exploration of the central problem posed within Ecclesiastes; that mortal human life is essentially without intrinsic meaning or basis for any lasting joy. The Giver manages to find expressive means to convey transcendence in the ordinary – not just in its judicious use of slowed, gravity-defying skateboarding imagery – but just as much in the dry leaves the skateboard passes through, or the sunlight bursting around a human head and shoulders as a person walks out from under trees. This is no small feat.  We’re left with a sure sense of what is so constantly and freely given, right in front of our eyes. This short film manages to give us the eyes to see it.

The filmmakers who are two Australian Film and Television Radio School (AFTRS) students said it was a real honour to receive the prize.


“It’s a film exploring meaning – I struggle to find it. The slavery I guess that can be found when you’re artist or someone who performs in various ways when you find the identity in the thing you do as opposed to the one who gives this to us to steward,” Mr Foxton said.

The judges also awarded a Highly Commended award to Julianne Nguyen for her 8 minute film Grey describing it as ‘A playful and energetic improvisation using smart-phone, webcam and head-mounted go-pro with confident, humorous aplomb in order to explore the funny and insightful places that mixed racial and religious heritage can land you in.’

Ms Nguyen said she began her spiritual journey during her university years. She went on to graduate in architecture, but felt her degree lacked in the engagement with people, culture and community. She encountered film by accident when she volunteered with production of a local film.

Josiah McGarvie also received a commended award for his film Perdition. Mr McGarvie is an independent film maker based in Berlin, Germany who is pursuing independent documentary projects.

The judges said of his film: ‘A well-crafted narrative attempt to negate the more baleful effects of belief in a God of fire, brimstone and perdition by testing for the presence of ‘the Devil’.’

The Executive Director of ACC&C, the Right Reverend Professor Stephen Pickard, hosted the event at the Chapel of the ACC&C and said the presentation of the prize has national significance.

CSU Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann announced the winners and the $5,000 prize was presented by the prize donors Mr and Mrs Clive and Lynlea Rodger.

religious short film prize
L to R: Clive Rodger, Susan Murphy, Jamey Foxton, Ryan Simpson, Julianne Nguyen, Lynlea Rodger, Stephen Pickard and David Millikan.

Professor Pickard said the Religious Short Film Prize presentation showcases the commitment of the ACC&C to the cultivation of the arts in relation to faith and life.

“The awarding of our second biennial Religious Short Film Prize continues the important development of religious film in Australia,” Professor Pickard said.

“The Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture has developed a strong focus on the arts through poetry, drama, music, painting and film. The arts open a way through which the vision of the Centre  ̶  to encourage thoughtful and robust interaction between Christian faith, other faith traditions, belief and culture – can be extended and realised.

“Film is an especially significant medium through which issues to do with religion, meaning and social problems can be engaged with in an open and inquiring manner. We are excited about the future of this prize and the opportunities it will give, especially to young filmmakers, to keep the religious spirit alive through film.”

Professor Pickard paid particular tribute to the generosity of the prize donors and long-time residents of Canberra, Mr and Mrs Clive and Lynlea Rodger, who have been deeply committed to making faith in God real in everyday life and society.

“The Rodgers come from a business and management background, studied theology at Princeton in New Jersey, USA, and have continued in theological and ethical engagements,” Professor Pickard said.

“Clive is a member of the Board of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, and member of the Executive. Both rejoice to see the short film prize as a way of encouraging the kind of new engagements sorely needed between faith, social issues of the day, and the human search for meaning.”