Joshua Belinfante is an Australian film maker, photographer and artist. He runs the production company ‘Finesilver Media’, releases his own films and also teaches. He has worked on music videos, documentaries, experimental and fictional films – all of which incorporate Joshua’s unique perspective, artful storytelling and brilliant camerawork.

When explaining his love for film, Joshua states,

I first started to make art in middle school when a few visual arts teachers told me they believed in me.
I started watching the weird and wacky films of Jan Svankmajer, Roman Polanski and lots of other wonderful films. These films showed me that I could create the worlds I wanted to live in, or create worlds for audiences to project themselves inside.

With Joshua’s latest feature length documentary, ‘The World’s Best Film’ debuting at the upcoming Melbourne Documentary Film Festival (running from June 30th to July 15th 2020) we thought now was the perfect time to get to know Joshua and his art better. So we asked him some questions about his life, approach to film-making and a whole lot more.

You can read it all, and watch the trailer’s for many of Joshua’s films – including ‘The World’s Best Film’, via the interview below:

Getting Acquainted

Name and D.O.B?

My name is Joshua Belinfante and I was born on the 12th August 1989!

Sheesh I’m old and already lived in 5 decades now?!

City, State and Country you currently call home?

I currently call Sydney, NSW, Australia home, but over the last 9 years I’ve also called Stockholm home more than a few times.

City, State and Country you’re from?

Also from Sydney Australiabut as of a few years ago I’m also a Polish citizen! Long story.

Please describe some memories from key stages of your life: concerts, art, toys, romance, movies, hunting, school, politics, crime, religion… ANYTHING really!

* Age 5 – beginnings:

I remember I had an imaginary snake friend in kindergarten called ‘The Bone Snake’. Fond memories. Also in kindergarten at the age of like 3 or 4 I was teased for apparently being in a relationship with a girl named ‘Crystal’.

I also remember playing ‘tip’ with a friend, I think his name was ‘Waho’; while running after him I ran head first into a jungle gym. I think I was knocked out for a few moments and the staff found me on the floor, gave me a block of ice to put on my head and then I went to the bathroom and saw a dent on my forehead.
Then I ate the ice because I obviously thought it was ice cream and it was hot.
I think the reason I am so deranged is because of this experience hitting my head.

* Age 10 – continuations:

I remember I had a jumping castle party at the age of 10, and my parents bought me a big badge which said “I’m 10 today!”. Lots of kids came to the party and they all got lolly bags for attending. It was like a ‘participation certificate’ that you could eat.

Lots of memories of eating…

* Age 15 – getting serious:

I remember getting into 80s hair metal because of my brother Jeremy and getting a discman and walking around with lots of mix tapes that I got from Jeremy, thinking I was cool for listening to old people music like Starship, Survivor, Iron Maiden, Dokken, Rainbow and other cheesy bands.

I also had started to become obsessed with old 80s movies by here. As far as I was concerned, ‘Back to The Future’ was a documentary and ‘Rocky’ gospel.

Fairly sure I had made my first sets of short films by here too, the first film was called ‘the Legend of the Silver Scimitar’ about the evil quarter demon that terrorises Randy, a 45 year old former investment banker/warrior who must pass the legend of the silver Scimitar down the line.
Naturally I played Randy.
I acted in it and made it with a bunch of school friends. It won a chocolate Oscar at a school function.

Another memorable short was ‘the Amazing Disgrace’ which was a satire of the show of a similar name. I’ve included some stills from the Silver Scimitar for your viewing pleasure, this has never seen the light of day before now…
Thanks to the original team behind this when we were kids – Nelson Cairelli, Seb Szymeczko and Justin Di Lucca.

(Some stills from ‘the Legend of the Silver Scimitar’ below.)

* Age 20 – young adult:

I’d started uni studying communications and law and began my journey to become a filmmaker at 18.

I had my first relationship.
I made my first corporate video.

One amazing memory was being flown to Washington DC to screen a short montage documentary I shot on DV tapes in the middle east after high school. It was pretty surreal being 18 at a diplomatic conference wearing a suit in DC!
I remember being on the way to the conference one day and bumping into a De Lorean DMC 12 on the street. I got photos hugging the Delorean and I left a note on the car saying “You are amazing, thank you for allowing me to see my favorite car, Josh – Australia” or something like that.
Later that day a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and said “hold out your hands” and then he dropped a set of keys in my hand and said, “let’s go”. Next minute we were cruising around the streets of Washington DC with the gull wing doors up blasting 80s tunes.
The following week I flew to Peach Tree City and saw Huey Lewis and the News live, I even got to meet him backstage.

Here’s some photos of that experience!

At 21,I first moved to Sweden, where I studied law, worked for the Stockholm Film Festival and went on a bunch of adventures.
One such trip involved me arriving in my student corridor, meeting someone and them immediately saying “Nice to meet you Josh, want to go to Latvia this week? On a boat?” and me saying, suitcase still in hand, “Yes”.

I also made my first dialogue driven film in Swedish, ‘Because of the Hat’ while living in Stockholm and travelling around Sweden. It was a queer inter generational drama about a landlord trying to help a deranged wannabe sadomasochist.
It was a strange film and was my first experimentation with genre, generational differences and subcultures. It also became my thesis film at uni.
Here’s a trailer to it!

I also got stranded in Lappland with a bunch of French friends. It got so cold, about -46 that the buses, trains and planes stopped running. The one place we were staying in Abisko was fully booked and we were moments away from being out on the icy streets, with no way to get back to Kiruna and then Stockholm.
A French diplomat arrived, it was very Deus Ex machina in real life, heard of our struggle and decided it was not safe for his family. A bus then miraculously arrived and we were escorted back to town.

* Age 25 – adult mode:

I’d made a few experimental animated films by here, mostly inspired by weird Czech cinema and the likes of Jan Svankmajer, Jiri Barta and Jiri Trnka (My animated heroes).

One film about a puppet named Clunk that has to escape from the carnivalesque prison of his master ‘Herman Antipode’, played by my dad.

I’d screened a few films by now too and picked up some awards here and there at festivals like Oklahoma Underground Film Festival and Sydney Underground Film Festival. I’d had my second serious relationship which happened to be a long distance relationship. I’d gone through a lot of existential questioning here too.

Some of these existential questions are pretty well conveyed in these trailers to some of my experimental work:

I’d finished my studies to become a lawyer, cause I was always told to make an honest living growing up in an immigrant family, and was beginning to work as a solicitor and do my practical legal training. Then out of the blue, at the age of 24 I was diagnosed with a rare illness and had to confront my mortality.
Doctors discovered a 1kg tumour between my lungs and heart.

I had gained insight into the importance of having a health insurance system that actually functions. I began to understand that nobody is over tomorrow and we need to be thankful for each day we are up and breathing.
I began to think about what I would do if I was given a second chance…

I made my first ‘accessible’ film by here too. A short film about the world’s best town planner, Björn Lindqvist, titled ‘Requires Review.’
I searched far and wide for someone that hated their hometown’s urban design and infrastructure as much as I did. Suffice to say one day in Stockholm library I met Björn and we spent about 2-3 hours just discussing all the types of town planning we disliked. Björn told me about what he did for a living for Stockholm City and we decided to collaborate together on the telling of his story. We discussed how best to evoke the subject of town planning rather than conveying town planning in the mundane way that it sounds on paper.
How could we get audiences invested in Björn’s ideas? We wanted to make it fun, energising and present some of the concepts in a way that hadn’t been done before.
The film became a bit of a calling card for me and screened all over the world and picked up some ‘Best Short Documentary’ awards at the Around International Film Festival in Berlin, the Hong Kong Art House Film Festival, the Sydney Indie Film Festival and some others.
Just recently the short screened in Bucharest Romania as part of the ‘Great Picnic’ where more than 5000 people attended!

I’m also excited now to be releasing a special pin made in collaboration with Newcastle artist Ben Mitchell to celebrate the 5 year anniversary of the scene being filmed.

* Age 30 – fully formed:

I only turned 30 in August 2019. I still feel like I’m 10 years old inside and like to think I haven’t lost my inner dinosaur.

Because of working on my feature film project I was invited to apply for a PhD candidacy at the University of Newcastle. I’m currently badgering away at my thesis and feel pretty proud that my feature documentary I’ve spent 5 years working on led to the beginnings of a design thesis!

I like to think I’ll never truly be fully formed and I am always an amateur, always under construction.
Labelling yourself a fully formed professional leads to you no longer being curious and inquisitive. I never wish to lose my curiosity.

Even now amongst the COVID19 crisis, I am trying to think of new things to do with my time, but also being kind to myself and others, and not giving in to the toxicity of HAVING TO BE PRODUCTIVE.

Personal motto?

Nobody is over tomorrow. Rejection fuels your successes, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again…

Art Questions

When and why did you first start to make art of any type!?
… and any pivotal artistic moment(s) / influence(s)?

I first started to make art in middle school when a few visual arts teachers told me they believed in me. I started watching the weird and wacky films of Jan Svankmajer, Roman Polanski and lots of other wonderful films.
These films showed me that I could create the worlds I wanted to live in, or create worlds for audiences to project themselves inside.

A pivotal artist moment for me was when I began to study DADA and Duchamp and the likes of Joseph Beuys, Kurt Schwtiters and I began making my own form of readymade sculptures from things I found ‘pickin’ in clean up campaigns. I made a bunch of sculptures that way for visual arts and eventually I began researching ways I could make mixed media sculptures and video work.

The first large scale video work I created, aside from silly skits I made as a teenager, was an installation video called ‘Alone You Will March’ (2007). The film was born of my own connection to world war 2 and my families journey from Poland and Europe as refugees. More specifically the experience of being locked inside a concentration camp.
The film became less about articulating the specifics of such an experience and more about the idea of speechlessness being the only adequate means of poetically explaining horrors of war. I borrowed the idea from Theodor Adorno and I can still quote verbatim his words, “Speechlessness alone could reflect integrity, but to seek to portray reality with inadequate words would betray that reality and the voiceless dead its core”. The quote has stayed with me all these years and is a big influence on me staying a visual storyteller.

I was inspired, at the ripe age of 16 by the face melding works of Francis Bacon and Francis Picabia, I think I just really liked the name Francis.
The artwork the ‘Handsome Pork Butcher’ by Picabia still springs to mind when I think of this time, a great example of both construction and expression.

The Handsome Pork Butcher created during 1924-6 and 1929-35 by Francis Picabia (1879-1953.)

What do you do for a day job at the moment?
… and how does your day job impact / influence your artistic practice?

In the past I worked as an assistant editor or a post production supervisor/manager on TV shows. Currently I’m teaching quite a lot at various film and acting schools and still making corporate videos and ads where I can.

The most rewarding stuff I do is working for charities and making videos about social issues. Other than that teaching is my favorite thing to do as facilitating learning and inspiring up and coming filmmakers and actors gives me nothing but joy.
I love teaching students things that I was never taught in film school as well as some of the other knowledge that others have passed on to me. I’m not precious with this information and am currently looking at sharing it on Vimeo/Youtube.

Majority of the money I earn from my day job gets fed back into my artistic work. It’s become a bit of a struggle sometimes with eating and you know being able to afford things like rent!
Especially now with what’s happening, like a lot of people in the film and TV world my work has dried up and I’ve lost a lot of opportunities which were on the cards for this year. But I’m trying to stay optimistic and keep entertained at the least!

Describe the usual process involved in producing your art? – Dot point all o.k!

– your films and directing work?

Usually I start from just shooting something and brainstorming while shooting. It’s all free form expression, very rarely do I sit on a drawing board and try and come up with an idea.
My ideas are the world around me, and sometimes they hit me smack bang in the face and I pick up a camera and I follow it. I like what Werner Herzog says about this, that storyboards are for cowards!

I then film it, edit it and run away for a few months, even years. Then I come back with fresh eyes and viciously attack what I previously created.

When I feel it’s ready I then test screen it for people and address any feedback.

Once I feel like I’ve got a nice balance between my own vision, audience feedback and the film itself, I stop.
Sometimes it’s left raw, sometimes it’s laboured over. It depends on what I am making, it depends if it was scripted or unscripted, have I gone wild with the shooting or have I restrained myself like a good filmmaker.
Exercising restraint and working under restrictions is a very healthy creative method that I’ve always tried to embrace. I got that little handy rule from Lars Von Trier and Jørgen Leth, particularly the film ‘The Five Obstructions.

 – your photography?

– Usually I’ll find a collaborator online or in person.
– We’ll make some plans, work out if we need a make up artist or a stylist or there’s a brand we want to partner with.
– Snap the photos.
– Edit them.
I love this process because it can be very fast and the process from ideation to concept creation and execution is must faster than a film!

I recently completed a photography project that you even featured in all about the theme of ‘coping’.

(Two photos from Joshua’s recent series Coping below.)

Worst aspect of the art hustle?

Some of the worst things are needing to bargain with clients all the time and defending why things cost money. Cementing your worth can simultaneously be a liberating and powerful thing though!

Best aspect of the art hustle?

My favourite part is definitely the act of creating, the process of making something, working with other beautiful souls who also enjoy the process.
And then it’s always a bonus to see your work seen by audiences and have them respond meaningfully to it.  

Telling stories allows you the opportunity to learn from the world around you.

Favorite other artist(s)?

Jan Svankmajer, Jiri Barta, Jiri Trnka, Werner Herzog, John Cassavetes, Andrei Tarkovsky, Stanley Kubrick, Joshua Oppenheimer, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Kurt Schwitters and Anselm Kiefer; to name a few.

Any upcoming projects you want to hype?

If you want to see what I did with my second chance check out my debut feature documentary, appropriately titled, ‘The World’s Best Film’ – a feature documentary about people striving to be the world’s best at weird and wonderful things.
I’m excited to announce it’s screening as part of Melbourne Documentary Film Festival: Online from June 30th-15th July And also at Revelation Perth International Film Festival 9th July – 19th July!
You can find out more about the film here: https://www.theworldsbestfilm.com/post/trailer

If people wanted to work with you, have a chat or buy something – how should they get in touch?

My door is always open (now it’s a zoom, skype, whatsapp door thanks to COVID19, but that’s okay), I’m always looking for new collaborators and always happy to chat.

Head to my production company website to keep updated www.finesilver.com.au or stay updated at www.theworldsbestfilm.com

It would mean the world if you purchased a t shirt, a pin or a magnet at www.theworldsbestfilm.com/shop
The shirts are ethically handmade in Sydney by local champions www.lonelykidsclub.com

Odds and Ends

What role did toys play in your childhood?

Toys were probably the first way that I began to express myself creatively.
I used to make up storylines with my Lego play sets and action figures. Usually they spanned genres and scripts and I would make up all the words as I went along. Then I’d play with them maybe a week later and continue the storyline.

I also used to (and sadly still do) collect various action figures and collectables from things like Akira, Dragon Ball Z, He Man, TMNT, Back to The Future, Star Wars, Nintendo, Sega, weird zany puppets, weird obscure art, you name it I probably collected it.

Please describe what you think the Australian zeitgeist is today?

It’s a loaded question because there are several different pockets of Australian society…
I see Australian society dominated heavily by the narrative of sports, us vs them and Anglo Saxon heritage over other forms of immigration. Local over global.

Australia tends to be very inwards looking and we often don’t look at our place in the global space. I wish we would try to be encouraging more collaboration between Europe and Australia, Australia and Asia… across all boards like Art, Science, innovation.

The Australian zeitgeist RIGHT NOW as of 2020 is very different, and putting out any kind of content is extremely difficult. The news and social media have been dominated by COVID19, and now as of June 2020 rightly so with calling out discrimination.

Please describe your last dream in detail?

The trouble is if I don’t write my dreams down immediately I forget them. I’m going to sit on this article until I find a dream to write about…

Here is a dream I journaled in February 2020:

“Dream I was in South Australia, but not an actual city in SA, it was Darwin in SA.
And then there were NYE fireworks and then all these police showed up to raid an underground bookies while the fireworks were taking place. Then all the media showed up and they blocked off the road.
Then it was daytime and the media left and I couldn’t decide if I should run back and get my camera instead I met my friend Bryn to discuss new mirrorless cameras and try get him a package deal. We went into a store and I said hello to Bryn and he went straight onto the manager and said “no I’m not here for you he’s way more interesting” then the manager sat down and said “I’ll give you the package deal” and I said “which one” and he said “all of them”.
The end.

If you could live in any place, during any historical era – where and when would that be?
…and why would you choose that time and place?

I would love to live either in Poland in the 1930s so that I could try and change history and meet my grandparents when they were young (it would be my own personal ‘Back To the Future’ storyline).
Or live during the dinosaur age and see the dinosaurs to try and warn them of impending doom.
Or try and witness some mammoth biblical event, like the falling of Solomon’s temple, or Christ on the crucifix.
Or make friends with Marcel Duchamp as a kid.
Or try to prevent one of history’s biggest assassinations, like JFK, Bruiser Brody’s murder.

Really I just need a time machine

Who was your 1st crush and why?

My first crush was a girl in pre school apparently. Her name was Krystal and everyone teased me for being in love.

When I went to a co-ed middle school I had a crush on a girl in my acting class, probably cause I had dreams of us acting together on stages all around the world. Ironically we kept getting cast in plays together all through school because I think our teachers noticed our chemistry.

What are the top 3 items you own?

My Svankmajer artwork.

This camera I bought in St Petersburg.

The hard-drive with all my film’s footage on it.

In a fight between the following two classic directors, who would win and why: Quentin Tarantino Vs. Stanley Kubrick?

Kubrick would win because his films have patience, pacing, story, real emotion, vivid imagery, original thought and direction.

(The battle in all it’s glory – as drawn by Joshua.)

Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?

At the moment I would like to be remembered as the guy who went out and didn’t wait for permission or a green light.
The guy who gave himself the green light to do what he wanted to do.

Links

(Interview header photo of Joshua by Pixels and Spice.)