SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL 2001 - PREVIEW
The films, the events, the guests; festival director Gayle Lake
talks to Andrew L. Urban and tells him why she’s excited
about the Australian film, Lantana, opening the fest; it’s a
If it wasn’t for Moulin Rouge, Lantana might well have
screened in Competition at Cannes in May this year, competing for
the Palme d’Or. As it is, the film’s world premiere is
an unquestionable highlight of the Sydney Film Festival (SFF). It
is an Australian film which festival director Gayle Lake calls
“an immensely satisfying drama – something the
Australian film industry has had trouble making,” she says,
instantly adding, “I’ll get shot for saying that.”
“The ensemble cast is a knockout,” says Lake, who chose
the “really different” Australian film, Steve Jacobs’
debut (as director) La Spanola, to close the festival, in tandem
with Belgium’s acclaimed and very entertaining (Oscar
nominated) Everybody Famous. Eclectic? You haven’t heard the
rest of it. Between the opening and closing nights, Lake has
programmed around 160 films. “It’s the best of the best.
We’ve probably had 1400 tapes and I’ve seen another 500
films. . . .of course, by and large the programme is formed by
what is available to you for various reasons. And I’m pretty
happy with it. We’ve embraced a different kind of audience.
Advance sales have held at projected levels and the more flexible
packages are very popular. Working people get access…”
The discussion about Lantana and Cannes belongs elsewhere;
suffice to say nationality is politics and Cannes festival
decisions are as political as they are judgmental. In the context
of the SFF, Lantana is a coup. Starring Geoffrey Rush, Anthony
LaPaglia and Barbara Hershey, it is a thriller written by Andrew
Bovell (Head On) and directed by Ray Lawrence (Bliss). A woman
disappears. Four marriages are drawn into a web of love, deceit,
sex and death – not all of them survive.
“We’ve embraced a
different kind of audience”
For those who care to sample the wares, examples of programming
diversity abound: Divided We Fall – Czech Republic –
Academy Award nominated humanist comedy; Faithless – Liv
Ullman (Cannes 2001 jury president) directs an Ingmar Bergman
script; 101 Reykyavik – zany black comedy from Iceland; Solo
Por Hoy – Argentinian slice of life doco made on the
streets; and The Day I Became A Woman, an Iranian film about
three women struggling with social expectations . . .and so on.
A film programme of new films from around the world is rounded
out by special event screenings – like the one off screening
of The Sorrow and The Pity, or the silent 1925 film, The Lost
World, claymation which inspired many others, including the
famous King Kong.
“special event screenings”
As well as singular films, there are (as always) special themed
groups of films, such as New Scandinavian Cinema, Latin Beat and
an Indian film retrospective introduced by David Stratton.
And of course, there are special guests, like writer Paul
Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Last Temptation of Christ,
Mosquito Coast, etc); three of his films will screen, including
Light Sleeper  which he also directed, starring Willem
Dafoe & Susan Sarandon. Your reporter will conduct a special
‘Evening with Paul Schrader’ Q & A at the UTS
lecture theatre on June 21 from 8pm. “His work and his film
criticism stand him in good stead to develop a relationship with
our audiences,” says Lake.
Documentaries in the festival include the 144 minute A Life in
Pictures, about Stanley Kubrick, where everyone he has ever
worked with talks about the man – between clips of his films.
“film could be a metaphor for
Among the little surprises you’ll find in the vast programme
is another Australian/world premiere, the Australian film, Silent
Partner, “a clever film set in the greyhound racing scene,
with David Field and Syd Brisbane playing punters down on their
luck, tempted by a deal . . .huge performances,” says Lake.
Directed by Alkinos Tsilinidos (Every Night Every Night), the
film could be a metaphor for Australia.
Published June 7, 2001
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The Sydney Film Festival runs from June 8 - June 22, 2001
Anthony LaPaglia stars in Lantana
Lantana opens in cinemas October 4, 2001
Solo Por Hoy
A Life in Pictures, about Stanley Kubrick
Read our FEATURE on Kubrick next week (June 14)