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NOOSA FILM FEST 99: IT'S A WRAP

THE PARTIES ARE OVER
The screenings and the parties are over and the post mortems begin; here, Editor ANDREW L. URBAN reflects on what the first Noosa Film Festival achieved - and where it may be going. And below, all the winners.

One film biz exec described it as Australia's first "media-led" film festival, and certainly, the unique combination of elements involved ensured high media interest - and presence. About 100 media representatives - a handful from overseas, like E Entertainment, and a couple of codgers from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association among others - converged on the boutique resort of Noosa, and the coverage has been extensive.

"focus on the film makers"

The elements that lured them to Noosa include the novelty of a new festival which offers competition and cash prizes; the attractive resort itself in sub-sub-tropical ambiance; and the attraction of some well known film makers and stars to photograph and interview.

But it is this latter that will test festival founder and director Luke Davis, who has vowed that he doesn't want Noosa to be a star driven event, preferring to focus on the film makers themselves. The positive side of this ambition is that he avoids having to constantly escalate the star value of the festival, not only adding costly trimmings, but skewing the festival towards a glitzy image - which conflicts with his basic programming slant towards the middle brow.

This resolutely idiosyncratic selection style - some call it haphazard, some call it cheerfully diverse - reflected in the programming of films as wildly un-matched as the profoundly effective, sensuous and sumptuous arthouse love story of two lesbians in wartime Germany, Aimee & Jaguar, and Forever Fever, say, an English language, Singapore-made frolick with echoes of Saturday Night Fever. Not to mention such vastly un-matchable films as The Sixth Sense which opened the fest, and The Cup, set in a Tibetan monastery where the young monks covet tv coverage of the 1998 World Cup. Or the ode to Ed Wood, I Woke Up Early the Day I Died, starring Billy Zane (festival guest) and American Pie (cast also guests). I could go on.

"well attended by Australian celebrities .. and foreign ones"

But the downside of sticking to his guns viz stars will be a perception that the festival doesn't have any clout - and a loss of some media coverage, since most mainstream media - especially television - are only interested in seeing stars. Their customers, they believe, don't want to see anything but stars. (Then there is the other side of it: one starlet was overheard leaving her poolside interview demanding the publicist insist on the 15 minute time limit for her interviews in spoiled brat fashion. Luckily, that's an exception; my own experience at poolside interviews with US stars was very happy.)

It is worth noting, by the way, that Noosa was as well attended by Australian celebrities as foreign ones; several, including actor Michael Caton, simply enjoyed the ambiance of the festival, while others, like Hugh Jackman, handled publicity chores with ease and style.

Right or wrong, star power is a fact of life, and it will require clever balancing to achieve the desired mix. And luck. Luck (fate is the word used when luck doesn't show up) has a lot to do with things in a festival as new as this one, but by and large Luke's luck stuck.

"to create a festival with a sense of fun"

Apart from the well recognised weakness of overall transport arrangements (and not all of it the festival's fault), Noosa went smoothly, minor glitches and squabbles aside. As Luke Davis says, lessons were learnt and transport will not be a weakness next year. Will there be a next year? No question: Davis has already begun renegotiating some sponsorship deals for a three year term, on request from the clients. "They are beside themselves with satisfaction," he says. "They've had an incredible response and great exposure."

As for changes to the basic mix, Davis says ruefully (after yet another long night), "maybe fewer parties!" But he's joking (we trust); his whole aim was to create a festival with a sense of fun. The competition will remain at a maximum of 12 films, and the new date (Oct 5 - 12) is more industry friendly in terms of both marketing window opportunities and in avoiding the clash or overlap with other festivals of note, including Venice, Toronto, Montreal and San Sebastian.

The five-screen AMC complex at Noosa Junction was augmented by an imported auditorium erected at the edge of Noosa in the small woods, used for additional screenings and symposia. Davis intends to keep the total number of films to around 70, and the festival to a maximum of a week or 10 days at the most.

And he dismisses any suggestion (rumoured in some quarters) that Noosa be joined to some other film industry event.

"I'd like the jury to be a little more international next year,"

Davis is responsible for around half of all of this year's program, the other 50% coming from two UK based film curators, Angelique Philips (World Cinema) and Mark Adams (European films). "I'll spend about four months on the road this coming year going to festivals and film events like Sundance, Palm Springs and the American Film Market in Los Angeles."

The jury selection will again be the responsibility of the president, who in turn will be chosen by the festival board and Patron, Gillian Armstrong. "I'd like the jury to be a little more international next year," says Davis, "and our informal charter requires a minimum of three Australians and preferably 50 - 50 male - female." (This year's JURY.)

Your say: whether you were there or just observing from a distance, we welcome your comments. Please write to the EDITOR, but make sure you include your name and location - and your position if relevant to your views.

READERS RESPOND

AND THE WINNERS ARE:
Grand Jury Prize - Golden Boomerang - The Cup, directed by Khyentse Norbu

Audience Award - yet to be announced

Scriptwriting Award - Eric Mendelsohn, for Judy Berlin

Cinematography Award - Kalo F. Berridi, for Lovers of the Arctic Circle

Director's Award - Julio Medem, Lovers of the Arctic Circle

World Cinema Award - The Birdcage Inn, director Kim Ki-Duk

Best Male Actor Award - Aidan Quinn, for This is My Father

Best Female Actor Award - Maria Schrader and Juliane Kohler, for Aimee and Jaguar

Short Film Awards:
Short Filmmakers' Trophy - Clare Madsen, for Edithvale

Best Director - Maree Denzey for Fetch, and Kriv Stenders for Two/Out (shared)

Special mention - Rachel Griffiths for Tulip

Best Script Award - Sunday Hungry

Special Mention - Currency

Best Cinematography Award - Lost

Special mention - Rise

Best Sound Award - Darwin' Evolutinary Stakes

Special Mention - Local Dive


Lovers of the Arctic Circle (left); Aimee and Jaguar (right)


Birdcage Inn (left); This is my Father (right)

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NOOSA FILM FESTIVAL

READERS RESPOND


Aimee & Jaguar


Channelling Baby


Savage Honeymoon

FAST CHECKLIST

* Festival program - diverse, middle brow, accessible
* Atmosphere/ambiance - relaxed, enjoyable
* Organisation & operations - relatively smooth
* Technical screening problems - minimal
* Industry support - solid, extensive #
* Media interest - high
* Media relations - professional

#Only Twentieth Century Fox among the distributors was absent, with no suitable film in its immediate line-up.

Criticisms: transportation, esp. airlines too inflexible; party tix too expensive; programming leaves little time for meeting/relaxing/lunching; timing clashes with other fests

Changes already signalled: transportation; ticketing/prices; timing

Foodnote:

We really liked the restaurants we managed to try, including Ricky Ricardo's, Season & Artis; and the apartments at the tropically spacious South Pacific Resort (10 minutes drive from the shopping/café centre but with bar, spa and pool) are recommended.

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Our Noosa coverage -

News reports & who was there

Competition films & preview

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