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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Friday December 13, 2019 


For the first time, Sydney Film Festival patrons can buy a single ticket to a single film - the ultimate in choice and affordability, if not in movie-going excess. But the program is far too tempting to leave it at that, reports ANDREW L. URBAN.

A bass player in a 1970s one-hit Argentinian wonder band is now an unemployed 50 year old who hopes to make a new start in life as a crane driver….. CUT…..Night shift in a Brisbane pizza shop. The job's boring, but as the night moves on, we discover that the six young shift-workers have more than mozzarella and pepperoni on their minds. A bittersweet comedy . . . As much as anything, these two (Mundo Grau and City Loop) snatches from the synopsis list of this year's Sydney Film Festival symbolise the program's variety - and its appeal as a menu for a broad audience, with a dose of humour.

Festival Director Gayle Lake has picked several types of comedy; for instance, the "charming and witty" Canadian film, New Waterford Girl (pic), by Allan Moyle. New Waterford, Nova Scotia, is a dead-end town which 15-year-old Mooney longs to escape. Things improve when she befriends her new neighbour, Lou, the feisty daughter of a famous boxer from the Bronx.

By contrast, there's Volker Schlondorff's Legends of Rita (pic), winner of this year's Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear: "a dramatically gripping study of a West German 1970s political terrorist who ends up in the trash can of history . . . superbly played…finely tuned on every level…" says UK critic Derek Elley.

But there's much, much more, of course, dozens of films from all over the world, including Seventeen Years (pic), a rare Chinese/Italian coproduction directed by Zhang Yuan (Best Director, Venice, 1999), to an equally rare Thai film, 6IXTYNIN9 (say 69) by Pen-ek Ratanaruang. After losing her job due to downsizing, Tum despairs until a noodle carton bulging with cash is wrongly delivered to her door. When a pair of thugs comes knocking, a scuffle ensues and she almost inadvertently kills them both, setting off a bizarre chain of events. "An energetic comic thriller that signals new life in the Thai film industry," says the program.

Among the other exotics is the winner of the Camera D’Or at the 1999 Cannes International Film Festival for Best First Feature, Indian filmmaker Murali Nair's Throne Of Death (Marana Simhasanam). On a small island community in Kerala, an island with no running water or electricity, death by electric chair (purchased from the US with a World Bank loan) becomes a glorious way to die: even for its first victim, Krishnan, who is caught stealing coconuts from his landlord, imprisoned and accused of a murder which happened several years before.

The Festival pre-empts the commercial release of American Psycho (pic), Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol)'s 'transformation' of Bret Easton Ellis’s much talked about book. But all the films showing on opening and closing nights have commercial distribution, as do Jesus' Son (pic), Une Liaison Pornographique - and perhaps others that may find a distributor during the fest. Festival directors have said that's beside the point: they are programming a festival with outstanding, groundbreaking or otherwise relevant films, not by distribution criteria. Besides, a festival screening provides a unique environment and early opportunity to see a film.

And features are not the only attractions at the fest, with a range of documentaries which bears some attention since docos are very rarely seen outside the festivals (except sometimes on SBS TV). For example, Beyond Reason, from The Netherlands, by director Marijke Jongbloed: Over 16-years of correspondence with death row inmate Bryan Jennings, Gea Knol became increasingly attached to her prison pen pal. He helped her deal with her life in Holland, even while his own life – 20 years in a Florida prison – remained unremittingly bleak. Yet, there is one subject they scrupulously avoided: the crime. When they decide to publish their letters, however, Gea is compelled to confront the issue.

Or: According to the US State Department, bad Kurds live in Turkey and good Kurds live in Iraq. One receives moral and military support from the US government and the other is forced to fight an enemy that brandishes American-made weaponry. Good Kurds, Bad Kurds - No Friends But the Mountains, Kevin McKiernan’s award-winning documentary weaves the two stories together: the plight of the Kurdish rebels in Turkey contrasted with the treatment of Iraqi Kurds; and his efforts to get the story broadcast by mainstream news in the US.

Closer to home: the 85 minute doco, Tosca, prodcued by Pat Lovell and directed by Trevor Graham, who are given access all areas backstage as The Australian Opera prepares for a new production of Puccini's famous opera, Tosca. It's a sort of Rats in the Ranks of the Opera.

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JUNE 9, 2000:

Better Than Sex (Australia)
Written & Directed by Jonathan Tipletzky
Stars David Wenham, Susie Porter

JUNE 23, 2000:

My Mother Frank (Australia)
Written & Directed by Mark Lamprell
Stars Sinead Cusack, Matthew Newton, Sam Neill
Screens at 7.30pm

High Fidelity (UK/US)

Written by D.V. De Vincentis, directed by Stephen Frears
Stars John Cusack, Iben Hjelje
Screens at 9.40pm


All screenings at State Theatre, Market St.

Sydney Film Fest info:
Tel: (02) 9660 3844
Or Ticketmaster: 13 61 00


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