In early June, the grand State Theatre’s lobby is filled
with eager movie buffs, ready yet again, to endure hundreds of
hours of diverse celluloid. The four corners of the globe meet on
the silver screen for this annual cine-fest, and this year's
Sydney Film Festival, the 45th, seems bigger and more exciting
than ever before.
In keeping with tradition to open the festival with an
Australian film, the long awaited screen adaptation of Tim
Winton's dark novella In the Winter Dark featuring Richard
Roxburgh, Miranda Otto, the formidable Ray Barrett and British
Oscar-nominee Brenda Blethyn (Secrets and Lies) will be screened.
The low budget film, a first feature by James Bogle, will have
its world premiere at the Festival, and will be released
commercially in Australia in early September. Indigenous director
Rachel Perkins' Radiance is set to close. According to festival
director Paul Byrnes, now putting the finishing touches to his
last festival, there "would have been more Australian
features had I had my way, but Australian distributors are a bit
chicken-hearted some times.
"It's a celebration of
the best and most exciting films that world cinema has to
But of course the Sydney Film Festival is far more than the
glitz of an opening night film and party; it's a celebration of
the best and most exciting films that world cinema has to offer.
This festival will screen close to 200 features and shorts,
including a wonderful series of unique special events. Fans of
the legendary Frank Capra will enthusiastically embrace the
recent documentary on his life and work; Frank Capra's American
Dream will be followed by a retrospective of some of the films he
made with Barbara Stanwyck, including Meet John Doe and The
Miracle Woman. There's an interesting program of Welsh cinema,
old and new, a tribute to new Vietnamese cinema, and a close
examination of African cinema. The State's special Wednesday
night programs continue this year with evenings of French and
German cinema, respectively. Director Phil Noyce will vivisect
his classic Aussie film Newsfront in the series called In the
Frame: "Phil's coming out especially for this" comments
Byrnes. "Since he's a patron of the Festival, it'll be great
to have him here."
"There are events to
behold and films to savour"
Yes, there are events to behold and films to savour.
Highlights include Michael Winterbottom's heart-wrenching but
stunning Welcome to Sarajevo, which made its debut at the Cannes
Film Festival last year, and then subsequently screened at the
Toronto Film Festival. And from last year’s Cannes Fest, a
number of prize winners are here - a rare coup indeed: The Eel,
from Japan, The Taste of Cherry from Iran, Atom Egoyan's
extraordinary The Sweet Hereafter (Canada) and Happy Together
(Hong Kong). From Britain, the ebullient Twentyfourseven, a hit
at both the recent Sundance and Toronto festivals, will be
screened, featuring Bob Hoskins in a tour-de-force performance.
From Ireland, there's Neil Jordan's latest gem, The Butcher Boy,
which is currently receiving rave reviews in the US.
Included among the many fine US films, are Robert
Duvall’s The Apostle, Wild Man Blues, an entertaining and
absorbing documentary revolving around a unique Venice jazz tour
(Woody Allen is one of the clarinet players), and on the other
side of the spectrum, the poetic, sensual First Love, Last Rites,
a delicate first feature by ex-muso Jesse Peretz - another hit at
Too many films, too little time, but this year's 45th Sydney
Film Festival offers an irresistible glimpse into a cinematic
world we rarely get the chance to inhabit, and this could be the
best in years. As for the future of Paul Byrnes? "I'll
continue reviewing films for the Sydney Morning Herald and take a
break, while looking for other things to do."
The Sydney Film
Festival will be held at the State Theatre and the Pitt Centre
from June 5-19.