Content warning: this film review discusses mental illness, suicide, substance abuse and physical abuse
You’ve just got your 3rd drink, Peking Duk are about to headline the biggest music festival you’ve ever been to as the new year counts down. You’re 16, you grab your best mate’s hand on your left, and pull your other in on your right. You’re feeling sentimental as you’ve finally had a fun day, which came at perfect timing for one of your best mates who’s been struggling. In fact, you’re all struggling with something in your personal lives, but you’ve got each other, you’re here, you’re breathing that festival air and the vibe is finally high. You’re with your people and you’re calm, as the boom of the music soundtracks the rhythm of your heartbeat, the lights shine down glistening on your face and highlighting the exultant possibilities of a fresh new year with your mates by your side.
Welcome to 6 Festivals, the film that displays your teenage triumphs, euphoria, love, connections and struggles authentically, artistically and beautifully.
Warning: spoilers ahead!
6 Festivals is an Australian film released at the perfect time, post-COVID in late 2022 as young adults across the country looked to escape the immediate past and go back to the beauty of dancing, drinking and partying with their mates. Coming-of-age films are a staple of the Australia film landscape, with 6 Festivals being an absolute contender for the best one yet.
Plot, themes & how they’re important to the audience aka YOU!
6 Festivals follows the lives of 3 teenagers from Maroubra, each with their own set of traumas they’ve lived through despite their young age, whos comedic banter and love for music and one another trumps all . When one of the trio gets a cancer diagnosis, the teens plan the absolute summer of a lifetime as they attend as many big Aussie music festivals as they can squeeze in.
You immediately know the themes of importance in music and friendship, that will carry through in this film, as soon as it begins. The first scene displays the 3 main characters, teens Maxie, Summer and James rowing a boat down a river. They smile and joke, before starting to sing collectively “My Happiness” by Powderfinger.
The film then flows into an awesome scene of the trio enjoying the first music festival of the film. As Canberra music royalty Peking Duk take to the stage to send the crowd into the New Year, the trio end up locked up in a room by the cops after jumping the fence to get into the festival earlier. It is here, when the countdown to the new year begins, that James tells his two mates he’s just found out he’s got cancer. From this moment, the film kicks into gear, as the beauty in their bond only deepens as scenes start to show the audience the realism of growing up in Australia, with both triumphs and tribulations being displayed authentically on screen.
As James continues chemotherapy, Summer works on her confidence in performing her music, trying to learn from her old friend, artist and mentor Marley who’s shared the same childhood trauma of an alcoholic parent. Maxie continues to navigate dealing with his drug dealing, abusive brother who is also his primary carer as their mum is dead and dads in jail. Despite all this going on, the trio never waver in their support of one another. Their festival journey continues, and they start to permanently mark their journey in the form of homemade stick and poke tattoos, putting tallies on their wrists for each festival they attend. The film displays James’ struggle with motivation to continue on their festival journey as he begins to feel tired all the time. Maxie and Summer still make it to festivals, facetiming James as he sits in hospital.
The film them somewhat abruptly slows down, as Summer and Maxie sit on James’ bed watching a video he made for them. The pair cry, holding holds, as we realize that James has passed away. The films so delicately deals with this loss, as to close the film Summer and Maxie meet up with a bunch of artists from the festivals they went to as they put on their very own ‘Splendour in the Bra” to honour their fallen mate.
Issues the film covers with realism, respect and empathy
Alcoholism, physical abuse, miscarriage, loss of a loved one, anxiety, complicated home lives, misuse of drugs at festivals and honestly a lot more issues that are subtly included are displayed with incredible vision by De Souza and the cast in this film. Whilst writing and reading these descriptions sounds quite horrific and possibly out of realm, a lot of the Australian public, (perhaps without realizing as we generally don’t dramatize things), might not realize that they would have experience with at least one of these issues either themselves or within their families and friends experiences.
Despite this list being emotionally heavy, the way in which the film walks the line of representing these themes without dwelling on the negatives is exquisite. The themes are represented through visual scenes, but also a lot of the dialogue between characters. The heavy content isn’t swept under the rug per say, but the film also doesn’t get caught up in overly displaying the depressing parts of these characters lives. At the end of the day this movie is more focused on displaying the good and connection that can come from bonding over shared traumas, with a focus on the exhilarating adventure they are on during the festivals.
It’s all about the authenticity
The director Macario De Souza is an authentic artist himself, a rapper named Kid Mac, who used to run amok in Maroubra rubbing shoulders with Bra Boys big wave surfers and comedy gold in Mark Matthews, Richie Vasulik and Koby Abberton just to name a few.
De Souza has lived through hardship and knows personally that some teenagers are forced to grow up due to unavoidable traumas in their family lives. De Souzas soul is evident to be linked within this piece of film, and his process of casting authentic young talent to play these characters was done to perfection. The casts genuine performances are why the beauty of this film radiates into its audience, as the viewing experience feels seriously like watching your younger self on screen.
Special shoutout to the crew of the film, and De Souzas relentless (and so worth it) attitude to stick to his original idea of capturing live festivals. The mammoth effort of shooting the film at live music festivals is a credit to the production team and it turned out so well for continuing the goal of authentic storytelling.
Bit of a wrap up
I’ve never seen an Australian film be created so authentically, therefore connecting with its audience. This connection makes the film mean so much to its viewer, as they feel like they are the 4th best mate having the time of their lives at the music festival too. This film feels like warm sentimental hug, as you watch these teens who’ve been abused by their parents, their siblings, by illness and the effects of addiction, create their own little family.
This film is a love letter to Australia. It displays our vast and beautiful landscapes, our ability to rebuild from shit situations, and our peoples love for one another, and true connections formed in such tumultuous teenager times.
It’s also a love letter to those experiencing loss, not only loss of a close friend as displayed through the end of the film, but loss of childhood naivety, and the loss and rediscovering of yourself. 6 Festivals inspires a true sense of hope and reinstalls the calming notion that everything can be alright, life will move on and good will come when you’ve got great people by your side.
If the subject matter discussed in this review has raised any concerns, there is support available
For 24/7 support for mental health visit Lifeline
For 24/7 support for dealing with loved ones with substance issues visit Family Drug Support
Or head to the ADF Website if yourself, or a loved one needs support for substance issues, with a location finder to find support near your suburb