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BIFF CLOSES - UP 25%

YOUNGEST & BRAVEST?
With a competitive festival for feature films in Queensland on the cards at some stage in the future, according to Brisbane International Film Festival general manger Gary Ellis, Brisbane is poised to be the youngest capital city festival with the highest film fest profile. In the meantime, BIFF has closed its 6
th annual event with a stunning 25 % rise in attendances, with films like Suzaku from Japan, which was one of the best films screened, according to our man at BIFF, DAVID EDWARDS.

BIFF boss Gary Ellis said that Film Events Queensland, which runs BIFF, is looking at establishing a competitive festival for feature films in Queensland at some stage in the future. In the meantime, audience numbers rose from about 14,000 in 1996 to nearly 19,000 at BIFF. This more than 25% increase was all the more significant when it is considered that the main venue only holds 400 people. The Festival was marked by at least one sell-out per day. In 1996, there were five sell-outs; in 1997 there had been five sell-outs in the first three days.

There is no doubt that the people of Brisbane got behind BIFF this year, probably aided by a more sophisticated marketing of the Festival, and the presence of high profile guests like Kevin Spacey (pictured with Faye Dunaway above), Maggie Cheung, Michael Pate, John Seale (pictured) and Miranda Otto (pictured below).

The downside of that success was a logistical nightmare for the house staff in trying to clear one large audience from the venue and then seat another. This resulted in some films being delayed for up to 20 or 25 minutes. Their task was not helped by problems with ticketing throughout the Festival.

The program of films was, in my opinion, probably the strongest yet.

(SEE DAVID EDWARDS' PERSONAL AWARDS LIST AT LEFT.)

The line-up ranged from silent films to the latest in experimental cinema. This variety no doubt grated on some patrons, but it is what makes a film festival great. The 1997 event has enhanced BIFF’s growing reputation as an important showcase for Asia-Pacific film. The particularly strong section of new Asian cinema was marked by Cannes Camera d’Or winner Suzaku (pictured), and Rotterdam grand prize winner The Day a Pig Fell into the Well.

US and Canadian independent films were also strong this year, generally playing to good crowds. Unfortunately, the selection of European films was probably weaker, generally featuring melodrama and light comedy. Also the Dennis Hopper retrospective was patchy, and suffered in comparison with the excellent Stanley Kubrick retro at BIFF ‘96.

There has been some criticism (ill-informed, in my view) in the local media that the Festival had become merely a preview session for films which will have a commercial release later in the year. So far as I can ascertain, of the 70 odd features shown, only about 10-15 have a confirmed or likely commercial release. This includes films which have previously been denied a Brisbane release, but which may now get one because of the response they received at BIFF.



WHERE TO NOW?

So where to from here? According to Gary Ellis, it is now a matter of building on the Festival’s growth. Given this year’s audience numbers, Ellis says that BIFF will need to look at its main venue. While he is committed to a central city venue, the main cinema will obviously need to be larger to accommodate the growing demand for tickets. Patrons can also expect that there will be more concurrent sessions and more repeats of films in 1998.

The timing of the Festival may change in 1998. The Melbourne Film Festival’s decision to move to a late July/early August slot created a clash of dates with BIFF. This led to difficulties in securing films and guests for both and created some friction. To avoid a repeat, BIFF may look at moving to late June/early July; ironically the time vacated by MFF.

Ellis says that he is happy with the number of films being shown and the length of the Festival, so no change can be expected in those areas. One other thing that will not change is that BIFF itself will remain a non-competitive showcase of film.


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DAVID EDWARD'S PERSONAL LIST OF HIGHLIGHTS (AND LOW-LIGHTS):

BEST FILM: A tie between Naomi Kawese’s beautiful and understated Suzaku (Japan), and Greg Mottola’s witty and poignant Daytrippers (US).

Suzaku

WORST FILM: Wang Tsai-Sheng’s confused and indulgent A Cha-Cha for the Fugitive (Taiwan).

BEST DOCUMENTARY: Another tie - Mabo: Life of an Island Man (Australia), Trevor Graham’s moving portrait of the land rights pioneer, and the chilling Licensed to Kill (US) by Arthur Dong.

Mabo

BEST AUSTRALIAN FILM: The frenetic and occasionally brilliant Kiss or Kill (pictured) from Bill Bennett.

BEST ASIAN FILM: [Excluding Suzaku] Hang Sang-soo’s The Day a Pig Fell into the Well (South Korea); a finely constructed and confronting story of urban love and hate. Honourable mention to two Japanese films, Sogo Ishii’s stylish Labyrinth of Dreams and Suwa Nobuhiro’s raw and honest 2 Duo.

BEST NORTHERN AMERICAN FILM: [Excluding Daytrippers] Keith Gordon’s powerful exploration of guilt and responsibility in Mother Night (US). Honourable mention to two Canadian films, Robert Lepage’s intricate The Polygraph, and Bruce McDonald’s clever mockumentary Hard Core Logo.

The Polygraph

BEST EUROPEAN FILM: Irma Vep (France), Olivier Assayas’ funny film-within-a-film tale.

CROWD PLEASER: Undoubtedly the Festival opener, Peter Cattaneo’s The Full Monty (pictured).

MOST OVERBLOWN DRAMA: Christmas Oratorio (Sweden) from Kjell-Ake Andersson.

BEST CRIME DRAMA: Yet another tie, this time between Kevin Spacey’s gripping Albino Alligator (US), and Another Lonely Hitman (Japan), Mochizuki Rokuro’s crime/love story which recalls Scorsese’s Mean Streets.

BEST ACTING (MALE): Peter Fonda (pictured) as the resilient patriarch coming to terms with his family under trying circumstances in Ulee’s Gold.

BEST ACTING (FEMALE): Pamela Rabe (pictured) as the repressed Hester in Samantha Lang’s The Well.

MOST EMBARRASSING PERFORMANCE BY A MAJOR HOLLYWOOD STAR: Retro subject Dennis Hopper’s drug and booze affected turn in Mad Dog Morgan. Thankfully he has recovered to give some fine performances since.

BEST GUEST: The talented, witty, down-to-earth and talkative John Seale (pictured at right).







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