SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL 2011 – HIGHLIGHTS PREVIEW
FIRST THREE COMP FILMS SELECTED
Three of twelve Official Competition Films for 2011 have been revealed; the critically acclaimed adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood; award-winning Greek drama Attenberg and the second feature from the director of Me and You and Everyone We Know, Miranda July’s The Future.
The Official Competition winner receives a $60,000 cash prize “in recognition of courageous, audacious and cutting-edge filmmaking.”
Festival Director Clare Stewart says she “relishes Sydney Film Festival’s role in championing ‘new directions in film’. Our award criteria encourages the world’s filmmakers to be bold, adventurous risk-takers; to strive for the unique and the unexpected. Our annual search for international excellence uncovers some exceptional cinema and we can’t wait to show Sydney-siders in June.”
In addition to the Official Competition, the festival hosts a number of awards to recognise excellence in filmmaking, including the Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films (which are Academy Award eligible) and the FOXTEL Australian Documentary Prize. The finalists for these competitive sections, along with the remaining festival selection, will be announced Wednesday May 11.
The festival will again program events across the city at the State Theatre, Event Cinemas George Street, Dendy Opera Quays, Art Gallery of NSW and UNSW.
Director: Athina Rachel Tsangari | Starring: Ariane Labed, Vangelis Mourikis, Yorgos Lanthimos | Greece
Athina Rachel Tsangari’s striking drama, set in a Greek factory town by the sea, follows 23-year-old Marina (Ariane Labed), an unpredictable creature whose isolated habitat and limited human interaction have led her to mimic animal behaviour as portrayed in the David Attenborough documentaries she so hungrily devours. Winner: Best Actress, Venice Film Festival
Director: Miranda July | Starring: Hamish Linklater, Miranda July, David Warshofsky | USA
As peculiar and endearing as her debut, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Miranda July’s second feature film follows Los Angeles couple Sophie and Jason (July and Hamish Linklater) who decide they must fulfil all their life desires in the 30 days before their freedom is curtailed by the arrival of newly adopted cat Paw Paw – the film’s feline narrator!
Director: Tran Anh Hung | Starring: Kenichi Matsuyama, Rinko Kikuchi, Kiko Mizuhara | Japan
Loatian director Tran Anh Hung’s (The Scent of Green Papaya, Cyclo) visually ravishing adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s lyrical bestselling novel stars Kenichi Matsuyama as Wanatabe, a university student who falls for two different girls – the emotionally fragile Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi) and the bubbly Midori (Kiko Mizuhara).
Score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood.
PUSH ME TO THE EDGE
Director: Janus Metz | Documentary | Denmark
Winner of the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes in 2010, Armadillo is a tour de force from director Janus Metz who, with cameraman Lars Skree, spent six months with a group of young Danish soldiers on an army base in southern Afghanistan. Brilliantly edited, this documentary captures the tedium, fear and machismo prevalent in army life – as well as a callousness and brutality which caused considerable controversy back in Denmark.
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche | Starring: Yahima Torrès, Andre Jacobs, Olivier Gourmet | France
Tunisian-French director Abdellatif Kechiche (The Secret of the Grain) creates an emotionally harrowing account of the last five years in the life of Saartjie Baartman, the ‘Hottentot Venus’ of South Africa, whose ample proportions were exploited first in an early-nineteenth-century London freakshow act, then in debauched Paris salons and finally as biological specimens to illustrate then-prevalent racial theories.
Director: Paddy Considine | Starring: Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, Eddie Marsan | UK
Renowned British actor Paddy Considine’s (Dead Man’s Shoes, The Bourne Ultimatum) commanding feature debut as director expands on his short film Dog Altogether, which won BAFTA and Venice awards in 2007. Plagued by an appetite for violence, Joseph (Peter Mullan) seeks redemption through his burgeoning friendship with Christian charity-shop worker Hannah (Olivia Colman).
Winner: Best Director, Sundance Film Festival
All About Love
Director: Ann Hui | Starring: Sandra Ng, Vivian Chow, Eddie Cheung | Hong Kong
Queer Hong Kong gets a mainstream makeover in Ann Hui’s sparkling romantic comedy, which features more relationship permutations than an episode of Modern Family. Bisexual Macy (Sandra Ng) is a free-spirited lawyer who reignites a relationship with Anita (Vivian Chow) when they meet at pre-natal yoga class – both of them accidentally pregnant from incidental affairs.
Director: James Marsh | Documentary | UK
James Marsh, director of the Academy Award®-winning documentary Man on Wire, returns with a riveting documentary about Nim, a chimpanzee raised by humans and taught to communicate using sign language. The values and success of this 1970s linguistic experiment are questioned via an extraordinary mix of archival footage and revealing contemporary interviews.
Director: Tom Tykwer | Starring: Sophie Rois, Sebastian Schipper, Devid Striesow | Germany
Pulsating with his characteristic ingenuity, Tom Tykwer’s (The International, Perfume, Run Lola Run) delicious romantic drama follows Berlin intellectuals Simon and Hanna, whose harmonious relationship has reached a spectacular plateau. Then Hanna meets Adam and Adam meets Simon – and all three fall for each other while remaining oblivious to the others’ affairs.
FIRE ME UP
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
Director: José Padilha | Starring: Wagner Moura, Irandhir Santos, André Ramiro | Brazil
José Padilha’s (Bus 174) high-octane follow-up to his 2008 Berlin Film Festival-winner Elite Squad is also a nail-biting standalone that shifts the focus from drug wars in the favelas to political corruption via the continuing story of Nascimento (Wagner Moura) and his promotion from special forces operative to Rio’s intelligence chief.
Even the Rain
Director: Icíar Bollaín | Starring: Luis Tosar, Gael García Bernal, Juan Carlos Aduviri | Spain, France, Mexico
Gael García Bernal (Amores perros) stars as a film director who, with his hard-nosed producer (Luis Tosar), sets out to make a revisionist drama about the Spanish conquest of the Americas. Shooting in Bolivia, they soon encounter financial and political difficulties, which ironically underline their story’s theme of the impact of colonialism on the New World. This engrossing and multi-layered film-within-a-film is scripted by Ken Loach collaborator Paul Laverty and directed by Icíar Bollaín (Take My Eyes, SFF 2004).
Director: Asif Kapadia | Documentary | UK
Buckle up for an adrenalin-fuelled ride in this Sundance audience-award-winning documentary about Formula One champion and Brazilian sporting hero Ayrton Senna. Working exclusively with archival material, director Asif Kapadia delivers a thrilling account of Senna’s racing career, from his intense competitive relationship with Alain Prost to his tragic, untimely demise.
FREAK ME OUT
Mutant Girls Squad
Directors: Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Tak Sakaguchi | Starring: Yumi Sugimoto, Yuko Takayama, Suzuka Morita | Japan |
You’ve never seen a coming-of-age story like this before. On her sixteenth birthday, mousey schoolgirl Rin discovers she’s part of a mutant clan at war with humans. Suddenly sprouting a Freddy Krueger-like hand and an attitude to match, Rin slips into a spangly silver jumpsuit and joins a fighting force of foxy mutant femmes in a blood-drenched battle for nothing less than the survival of her species. Non-stop comic book carnage doesn’t get much better than this.
The Troll Hunter
Director: André Øvredal | Starring: Otto Jespersen, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Mørck | Norway
The legendary Scandinavian monster is the star of this scary and funny conspiracy chiller. Presented as surviving footage shot by a student documentary crew, Andre Øvredal’s nail-biter goes deep into the woods with Norway’s secretive Troll Security Service and weaves a complex and surprisingly touching story around the endangered creatures. The Blair Witch Project may have done it first, but The Troll Hunter does it best.
Tucker & Dale vs Evil
Directors: Eli Craig, Morgan Jurgenson | Starring: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden | Canada
In this rib-tickling reversal of spam-in-a-cabin horror movie conventions, Tucker and best buddy Dale are kind-hearted, innocent hillbillies. But try telling that to the college kids camping near their shack in the Appalachians. Convinced they’ve stumbled into The Hills Have Eyes territory, the hysterical visitors decide to eliminate their perceived enemies, with hilariously gruesome results. Winner of the Midnight Movies audience award at SXSW, this is splatstick of the funniest kind.
MAKE ME LAUGH
Director: John Michael McDonagh | Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong | Ireland
John Michael McDonagh (screenwriter of Gregor Jordan’s Ned Kelly) pulls off the perfect odd-couple pairing in his wickedly funny action-packed directorial debut, starring Brendan Gleeson as an acerbic Irish cop (whose law is definitely his own!) and Don Cheadle as an uptight FBI agent investigating an international drug ring.
Director: Anne Sewitsky | Starring: Agnes Kittelsen, Joachim Rafaelsen, Maibritt Saerens | Norway
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize-winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Happy, Happy is a sexy comedy that takes delight in indiscretion and snowy romps. Kaja (Kittelsen) is endlessly chipper (think Poppy in Happy-Go-Lucky), although sex is in short supply. She’s thrilled when a new couple moves in next door. They’re sophisticated, they’re beautiful and they can sing – in short, they’re everything she’d like to be or do. A charming and good-natured comedy – look out for the Greek chorus!
Director: Tom McCarthy | Starring: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale | USA
Paul Giamatti is at his angst-ridden best in this charming comedy about an attorney whose blundering scheme to keep his business afloat lands his family with an elderly client’s runaway teenage grandson. Extracting superb performances from the entire cast, Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) reveals great humour and dignity in human frailty.
TAKE ME ON A JOURNEY
How to Start Your Own Country
Director: Jody Shapiro | Documentary | Canada
“What defines a country?” is the question du jour in this fascinating documentary about micro-nations by Canadian filmmaker Jody Shapiro, who co-directed the Green Porno series (SFF 2009) with Isabella Rossellini. Amongst the visionary crusader interviewees are Prince Leonard and Princess Shirley, founders of the Hutt River Principality, situated in Western Australia, 595 km north of Perth.
Life in a Day
Directors: Kevin Macdonald, YouTube contributors | Documentary | UK
For this ground-breaking user-generated project, Academy Award®-winning director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, Touching the Void) teams up with YouTube and executive producers Ridley Scott and Tony Scott to create a feature-length documentary shot in a single day – 24 July 2010 – from thousands of hours of footage submitted by people all over the world.
Map My Summer
Director Amy Gebhardt, YouTube contributors | Documentary | Australia
Also premiering with Life in a Dayis the short film that was inspired by it, Map My Summer. Australians were invited by Screen Australia to upload their videos shot this summer to the YouTube Map My Summer portal. Dr. George Miller selected Amy Gebhardt to direct a film using the uploaded footage and was on hand as project mentor. The result reflects our nation’s collective experience of summer and its special place in our cultural identity.
Director: Kelly Reichardt | Starring: Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Will Patton | USA
Three families, led by an untrustworthy scout, deviate from the Oregon Trail in search of a shortcut – only to find themselves hopelessly lost. Kelly Reichardt’s (Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy) elegant revisioning of the American Western is seen predominantly through the perspectives of its pioneering female characters (Michelle Williams Shirley Henderson and Zoe Kazan).
Director: Ondi Timoner | Documentary | USA
Named by the Guardian as one of “50 People Who Could Change the Planet”, Bjorn Lomborg is the controversial author of bestseller The Skeptical Environmentalist. Director Ondi Timoner (Sundance prize-winner for both DIG! and We Live in Public) travels the world with this cool Dane as he explores our responses to climate change.
“A hopeful, tantalising counterpoint to An Inconvenient Truth.” – Los Angeles Times.
Director: Laura Israel | Documentary | USA
New York-based filmmaker Laura Israel has taken a local issue and made it global, much like Josh Fox with GasLand – only this time it’s wind energy under the spotlight. A tranquil upstate-New York community becomes fractured when the town board approves the installation of wind turbines and local naysayers uncover the negative impacts of this green technology. Israel’s film is ardent, even-handed and – given we’re poised for a boom in wind power – timely.
Published April 7, 2011
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