A bass player in a 1970s one-hit Argentinian wonder band is now an unemployed 50 year
old who hopes to make a new start in life as a crane driver….. CUT…..Night shift
in a Brisbane pizza shop. The job's boring, but as the night moves on, we discover that
the six young shift-workers have more than mozzarella and pepperoni on their minds. A
bittersweet comedy . . . As much as anything, these two (Mundo Grau and City Loop)
snatches from the synopsis list of this year's Sydney Film Festival symbolise the
program's variety - and its appeal as a menu for a broad audience, with a dose of humour.
Festival Director Gayle Lake has picked several types of comedy; for instance, the
"charming and witty" Canadian film, New Waterford Girl (pic), by Allan Moyle. New
Waterford, Nova Scotia, is a dead-end town which 15-year-old Mooney longs to escape.
Things improve when she befriends her new neighbour, Lou, the feisty daughter of a famous
boxer from the Bronx.
By contrast, there's Volker Schlondorff's Legends of Rita (pic), winner of this year's Berlin
Film Festival Silver Bear: "a dramatically gripping study of a West German 1970s
political terrorist who ends up in the trash can of history . . . superbly
played…finely tuned on every level…" says UK critic Derek Elley.
But there's much, much more, of course, dozens of films from all over the world,
including Seventeen Years (pic), a rare Chinese/Italian coproduction directed by Zhang Yuan
(Best Director, Venice, 1999), to an equally rare Thai film, 6IXTYNIN9 (say 69) by Pen-ek
Ratanaruang. After losing her job due to downsizing, Tum despairs until a noodle carton
bulging with cash is wrongly delivered to her door. When a pair of thugs comes knocking, a
scuffle ensues and she almost inadvertently kills them both, setting off a bizarre chain
of events. "An energetic comic thriller that signals new life in the Thai film
industry," says the program.
Among the other exotics is the winner of the Camera D’Or at the 1999 Cannes
International Film Festival for Best First Feature, Indian filmmaker Murali Nair's
Throne Of Death (Marana Simhasanam). On a small island community in Kerala, an island
with no running water or electricity, death by electric chair (purchased from the US with
a World Bank loan) becomes a glorious way to die: even for its first victim, Krishnan, who
is caught stealing coconuts from his landlord, imprisoned and accused of a murder which
happened several years before.
The Festival pre-empts the commercial release of American Psycho (pic), Mary Harron (I Shot
Andy Warhol)'s 'transformation' of Bret Easton Ellis’s much talked about book. But
all the films showing on opening and closing nights have commercial distribution, as do
Jesus' Son (pic), Une Liaison Pornographique - and perhaps others that may find a distributor
during the fest. Festival directors have said that's beside the point: they are programming a
festival with outstanding, groundbreaking or otherwise relevant films, not by distribution
criteria. Besides, a festival screening provides a unique environment and early
opportunity to see a film.
And features are not the only attractions at the fest, with a range of documentaries
which bears some attention since docos are very rarely seen outside the festivals (except
sometimes on SBS TV). For example, Beyond Reason, from The Netherlands, by director
Marijke Jongbloed: Over 16-years of correspondence with death row inmate Bryan Jennings,
Gea Knol became increasingly attached to her prison pen pal. He helped her deal with her
life in Holland, even while his own life – 20 years in a Florida prison –
remained unremittingly bleak. Yet, there is one subject they scrupulously avoided: the
crime. When they decide to publish their letters, however, Gea is compelled to confront
Or: According to the US State Department, bad Kurds live in Turkey and good Kurds live
in Iraq. One receives moral and military support from the US government and the other is
forced to fight an enemy that brandishes American-made weaponry. Good Kurds, Bad Kurds -
No Friends But the Mountains, Kevin McKiernan’s award-winning documentary weaves the
two stories together: the plight of the Kurdish rebels in Turkey contrasted with the
treatment of Iraqi Kurds; and his efforts to get the story broadcast by mainstream news in
Closer to home: the 85 minute doco, Tosca, prodcued by Pat Lovell and directed by
Trevor Graham, who are given access all areas backstage as The Australian Opera prepares
for a new production of Puccini's famous opera, Tosca. It's a sort of Rats in the Ranks of