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Taking up six separate venues ranging from the grandeur of the State Theatre to the drama of the Sydney Opera House, this year’s Sydney Film Festival (June 2 – 14) opens with an upbeat mood, after getting a dollop of cash from the NSW Government to help its balance sheet over the next three years. But now the focus is on the program: Shirley Barrett makes a welcome return with her playful new film, South Solitary, to kick things off in a massive program of 157 films from 47 countries, which includes seven world premieres and 47 Australian premieres. Andrew L. Urban reports.

Film festival hopping from Cannes to Dungog to Sydney gives a film journalist calluses on the eyeballs, but it also offers a broad overview of films from Australia and around the world – and underscores the vast differences between them. For a start, the Sydney event is the only one of the three to take place in a major city, where the audiences are almost entirely locals. They don’t fly/drive/train or walk to the location specifically for the event, and that makes programming rather more challenging. But it also makes it possible to be more diverse in content.

"Awards are the lifeblood of an industry that is built on reputations"

This is the third year that Sydney has an official competitive section, with the respected filmmaker Jan Chapman as president of the jury and a cash prize of $60,000 to the winning film. This element adds much needed kudos – a significant currency of the film festival circuit. Awards are the lifeblood of an industry that is built on reputations. (Dungog declines the competitive aspect in favour of a shared and embracing experience, which suits its charter as a platform exclusively for Australian projects.)

(From Left) - Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, Heartbeats, The Ghost Writer

“The 2010 Official Competition line-up is set to take Sydney by storm – daring, commanding films that have already made a splash on the world’s best screens alongside a significant Australian discovery and three films* from the 63rd Cannes Film Festival,” says Festival Director, Clare Stewart.

* Cannes Closing Night film, Julie Bertucelli’s Australian/French Co-Production The Tree, Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Palme d’Or winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and Canadian Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats (screening in Un Certain Regard).

The Sydney Closing Night Gala will (for the first time) be held on the Public Holiday Monday 14 June, with an Awards ceremony and the Australian Premiere of The Kids Are All Right, directed by Lisa Cholodenko (High Art, Laurel Canyon) and starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo and Aussie Mia Wasikowska. “Sexy, droll and just occasionally heartrending,” says Stewart.

"Foxtel came in to help realise the festival’s ambition to set up a new Australian Documentary Prize"

But there’s more … last year Foxtel came in to help realise the festival’s ambition to set up a new Australian Documentary Prize, by providing a $10,000 award, the highest cash prize in Australia for documentary filmmaking. First-time filmmakers and established documentarians are among the nine selected finalists to be shortlisted for this year’s Foxtel Australian Documentary Prize.

Clare Stewart has collated a vibrant program, and slotted them into sections with emotive titles: Love Me, Push Me to the Edge, Freak Me Out, Make Me Laugh, Take Me on a Journey and Fire Me Up.

For film enthusiasts, these sorts of emotional requests are irresistible – and for Sydney-siders, easily accessible.

Published June 2, 2010

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South Solitary


RED CARPET: Opening Night red carpet cast - Miranda Otto, Barry Otto, Marton Csokas, Bryan Brown, Rachel Ward, Essie Davis, Leeanna Walsman, Claudia Karvan, Brendan Cowell, Jan Chapman, Steve Bisley, Kerry Fox, Jeremy Sims, Ben Oxenbould, Daisy Betts, Peter Phelps, Justine Butler, Yonfan, Shirley Barrett, Sophie Lowe, Sibylla Budd ...and more.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

The Tree

The Kids Are All Right

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