SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL 2006 - PREVIEW
DEEPER INTO AN OCEAN OF FILM
The vibrancy of a film festival can be measured by a willingness to juxtapose
films that confound thematic linkage, offering surprises and revelations in an
ocean of film from around the world: this year’s program, Lynden Barber’s second
as Artistic Director, suggests he is more interested in challenging us than
placating us. He wants us to ‘go deeper’. Andrew L. Urban previews the 53rd
Sydney Film Festival (June 9 – 25, 2006).
With over 120 feature length films and more than 60 shorts (all eligible for the
Urban Cinefile Audience Awards in one of six categories), festival patrons face
many dilemmas – the curse of choice. But the upside is that this program
connects to the current that flows through today’s cinema. For example, United
93 screens shortly after its Cannes debut, a sobering and intense dramatisation
of the infamous fourth plane hijacked on September 11, 2001, by Paul Greengrass,
a filmmaker seasoned in gritty material (terrorism in Northern Ireland in Bloody
Sunday and Omagh, racial violence in The Murder of Stephen Lawrence and one
soldier’s abandonment in Resurrected). With United 93, he makes the complexities
accessible, the reconstruction meaningful and the humanity deeply moving. The
fact that it’s an English production and Greengrass is a Brit may well help ….
Also hot on the heels of its Cannes premiere is the global warming doco An
Inconvenient Truth, featuring almost-President Al Gore, whose sophisticated,
well researched and entertaining slide show on the subject – which is the basis
for this film - is a convincing exercise in joining the dots, demolishing any
notion that humans are not contributing to the natural phenomenon. Alarming, as
it should be. Gore would have easily won the Presidency had he presented himself
in such fashion during the race.
Away from the troubles of this world, and picked up from Cannes 2005 (Directors’
Fortnight), the award winning La Moustache, is a wonderful and slightly surreal
comedy by Emmanuel Carrere about a man who is driven to the ends of the earth
(almost) after his wife fails to notice he’s shaved off his moustache. He never
had one, she maintains, as do their friends. Vincent Lindon is superb, as is
Emmanuelle Devos as his wife. It’s a gem to be discovered.
Likewise harvested from last year’s Directors’ Fortnight, The President’s Last
Bang, a South Korean political crime drama that is black, bleak and based on
fact, from Im Sang-Soo.
"We want to encourage our audiences to ... find gems
they otherwise might never see"
Artistic Director Lynden Barber says “We want to encourage our audiences to
go deeper into film and find gems they otherwise might never see. To watch films
that go beyond the headlines and show the world in all its complexity”.
And the bar is set pretty high from the start, with Ten Canoes, the Opening
Night choice, something of a coup and just two weeks after its debut at Cannes
(Un Certain Regard). As a bonus, the making of the film is documented in The
Balanda and The Bark Canoes, for screening the next day (June 10). It’s hard to
categorise, but may be called an indigenous period comedy and morality tale, set
in ancient northern Australia. It tells of a young man who covets his older
brother’s youngest wife and is warned off by a story of a similar incident in
the mythical past that led to much trouble, told to him by his brother during
the days spent making bark canoes and gathering goose eggs in the swamp.
Directed by Rolf de Heer and co-directed by Peter Djigirr, and with the
multi-skilled co-operation of the people of Ramingining, the film is
surprisingly funny. The humour is character driven (but also woven into David
Gulpilil’s narration), situation reliant and recognisably universal. The
humanity of the characters is so immediate and recognisable, that the only
reason to accept its period setting(s) is the accoutrements like tools, dress,
shelter and behaviour.
"world premieres and edgy works that may not be
Ten Canoes is only one of several Australian films in the program, including
world premieres and edgy works that may not be available commercially. In
Kanyini, respected Aboriginal elder “Uncle” Bob Randall tells his story and that
of the Indigenous community’s struggle to adapt to the modern world.
Solo, the first film under Project Greenlight Australia with funding from Movie
Network Channels will be presented as a Gala Event. Other Gala Events include
The Bet from Sydney based first-time director Mark Lee, Unfolding Florence, an
inventive tribute to late Sydney designer and identity Florence Broadhurst by
Gillian Armstrong and Andrew Denton’s God On My Side, recording the events at
the annual meeting for America’s televangelists.
Other films in Australian Made include The Archive Project, John Hughes’
fascinating documentary, George Gittoes’ uplifting and vibrant documentary,
Rampage, as well as The Last Valley a smartly constructed documentary about the
conflict between environmentalists and rainforest loggers in East Gippsland;
Footy Chicks, a candid documentary about the highly sexualised culture
surrounding football codes in Australia; Call Me Mum, an emotional drama from
director Margot Nash, 900 Neighbours about one of Sydney’s most notorious
buildings; and a moving and powerful documentary Mohammad Hossain’s Intensive
Care filmed at Liverpool Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.
And in the Indie Screen section, two more Australian films: Michael Frank’s low
budget drama, Ra Choi, set among the hungry and homeless kids in the Vietnamese
community in Sydney’s Cabramatta; and Burke and Wills (not about the explorers)
by newcomer filmmakers Matt Zeremes and Oliver Torr, who will introduce the film
and take questions afterwards. The film had its world premiere earlier this year
To celebrate its 10th year Anniversary, Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson’s
seminal documentary about Leichhardt Council, Rats In The Ranks will screen as
well as Bob Connolly Presents: A Career In Film in which Bob Connolly will
discuss the films that have influenced his career.
But to heed Barber’s call to go deeper, and perhaps to go wider, it’s worth
looking at the Latin Horizons segment, which shows nine of the latest wave of
films from this emerging cinematic giant. Teen Mothers from Brazil, for example,
documents a year in the life of four pregnant teens; Sandra Werneck’s riveting
glimpse into reality in Rio.
Another Latin female director, Alicia Scherson delivers Play (Chile/Argentina),
a playful and unique film that won the Best New Narrative Award at the Tribeca
Film Festival last year. And Brazil’s acclaimed Andrucha Waddington (Me, You,
Them) is represented with his visually sumptuous and award winning epic spanning
six decades, The House of Sand.
The Middle East, North Africa and Denmark are also brought home, the latter
including The Pusher Trilogy from Nicolas Winding Refn, which will screen at the
George Street cinemas (which was introduced last year to broaden the festival’s
geographical and symbolic reach). The three crime thrillers interlock, but can
be watched in any order or singly.
The underworld is also the subject of the Jean-Paul Melville retrospective;
among the great French director’s films to be included are Les Enfants Terribles,
Le Samourai and Le Cercle Rouge.
"Before, between and after screenings..."
Before, between and after screenings, there are Filmspeak Forums, live music
and the Stella Bar to enjoy, at the World Movies Festival Lounge (12 noon till
midnight daily), downstairs adjacent to the State Theatre.
Behind the scenes, the Festival has a refreshed Board, new General Manager and
new Marketing Manager, a Sponsorship Co-ordinator and newly appointed publicist.
Festival President Jacqui Feeney (CEO of World Movies Channel operator Pan TV)
says the rebirthing of the Festival is generating a terrific buzz, both within
the organisation and through its associates, from the State Theatre, its
traditional home, through to the designers, staff and supporters.
Now for the patrons …..
Full details at www.sydneyfilmfestival.org
Urban Cinefile Audience Awards: http://www.sydneyfilmfestival.org/page/urban_cinefile_awards.html
Published May 18, 2006
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An Inconvenient Truth