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Sunday
Jun112017

PREVIEW: 20th REVELATION PERTH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Flying the flag for two decades in the name of provocative, socially aware and artistically challenging films might test the mettle of your average film festival programming team. But not, it would seem, the Revelation crew. The 20th anniversary of Perth’s internationally recognised film event offers an expanded film line-up, bolstered academic strand and plenty of opportunity to party when it kicks off July 6.

Once again under the combined stewardship of festival director Richard Sowada and program director Jack Sargeant, 2017 Revelation Perth International Film Festival offers up an impressive list of statistics to woo local and, in increasing numbers, interstate and overseas patrons. 86 Australian films are amongst the 200 films scheduled to screen over the 14 day event, an exhaustive calendar that boasts 15 world premieres and 41 Australian premieres.

Opening Night honours have been bestowed upon Becoming Bond, Josh Greenbaum’s rousing celebration of the one-shot Bond, Australian George Lazenby. Starring Lazenby himself recounting his life and fleeting stardom and featuring actor Josh Lawson (pictured, right) as Lazenby in scenes recreating key moments in the Sydney car mechanic-turned-great non-actor's life, the film also stars ex-Bond Girl Jane Seymour and played to wildly enthusisatic crowds at SXSW, where it earned Audience Award honours. In a major coup for the festival, Lazenby will be guest of the fest, present a retrospective screening of his solo 007 effort On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and front a hot-ticket Q&A evening hosted by FilmInk senior contributor Travis Johnson.

An enticing array of feature film offerings run the gamut from starry vehicles from idiosyncratic auteurs (Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, with Oscar winner Brie Larsen; David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, with Rooney Mara; Colm McCarthy’s The Girl With All The Gifts, with Gemma Arterton; Todd Solondz’s Wiener Dog, with Greta Gerwig); festival favourites with indie cred (Liam Gavin’s A Dark Song; Claude Barras’ My Life as a Zucchini; Laurent Micheli’s Even Lovers Get The Blues; Geremy Jasper’s Patti Cake$; Bruce McDonald’s Weirdos) and, as is the ‘RevFest’ way, the truly bizarre (Peter Vack’s Assholes; Johannes Nyholm’s The Giant; Albert Birney and Kentucker Audley’s Sylvio; Xander Robin’s Are We Not Cats).

The feature documentary strand runs to an incredible 31 films. As one would anticipate, there are a great many from Australia (Gillian Leahy’s Baxter and Me; Kriv Stenders’ The Go-Betweens: Right Here; Jennene Riggs’ Secrets At Sunrise) and the USA (Keith Maitland’s Tower; Jennifer M Kroot’s The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin; William A Kirkley’s Orange Sunshine; Alexandre O. Phillippe’s 78/52); there are also two Australia/USA co-productions (Jai Love’s Dead Hands Dig Deep; Kate Hickey’s Roller Dreams).

Having solidified a global reputation, submission to Revelations were received from and slots allocated to factual films from The Netherlands (Susanne Helmer’s Melanie), Ireland (Colm Quinn’s Mattress Men; Brendan Byrne’s Bobby Sands 66 Days); Spain (David Fernandez’s The Key to Dali); Denmark (Max Kestner’s Amateurs in Space); and, Austria (Ulrich Seidl’s Safari; pictured, right). Co-productions include Matteo Borgardt’s You Never Had It: An Evening with Bukowski (USA/Italy/Mexico); Pierre Bismuth’s Where is Rocky II? (Germany/Belgium/Italy/France); Florian Habicht’s Spookers (Australia/New Zealand); and Ziga Virc’s Houston We Have a Problem (Slovenia/Croatia/Germany/The Czech Republic/Qatar).

Always the innovators, Revelation will launch Next Gen Webfest, a celebration of local web-content creators; utilise the interior of Perth’s historic St George’s Cathedral for the audiovisual spectacular, Suspended Voices; enter the burgeoning world of Virtual Reality with the presentation, Only at the Air Only at Each Other; present Night of The Living Dead Re-Composed, a re-imagining of Romero’s classic undead masterpiece to the music of local experimental music collective, Genrefonix; and, collaborate on Life in Pictures, a competitive film-making competition undertaken with the government sector and the arts community to present narratives that explore issues relating to the ageing in modern society.

Travelling from San Francisco for the festival will be Denah Johnston (pictured, right), an academic-curator-filmmaker and former executive director of The Canyon Cinema Foundation, a Bay area collective that promotes and makes accessible the works of experimental visual artists. She will be presenting a showcase of 16mm film works from woman directors collated from the Canyon archives, entitled Always Something There to Remind Me, as well as a headline-grabbing line-up called ‘Stinky Wieners and Dreamy Beavers’, a retrospective of the late Curt McDowell, a brazen and bold visualist in the style of his mentor and underground cinema legend, George Kuchar.

Returning strands include the now iconic ‘Revel-8’ film competition, which challenges entrants to construct an in-camera 3½ minute work on super 8 film; the Experimental Showcase, featuring 12 paradigm-shattering shorts certain to befuddle and astound; and, Mini Rev, a family-themed celebration of the art of filmmaking and the joy of film watching.

2017 REVELATION PERTH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL screens at various venues across Perth from July 6-19. Full session and ticket information can be found at the official event website.

Wednesday
Jun072017

WHAT WOULD NASHEN WATCH? DIRECTOR PICKS HIS BEST OF THE FEST

Having overseen the selection of the 2017 Sydney Film Festival line-up from 100s of hopefuls, the question is there to be asked…what would Nashen watch, again? With his bums-to-seats ratio growing annually and a new raft of films and venues in the mix, there’s an argument to be made that Nashen Moodley is the most successful festival director in Sydney Film Festival history. 

On May 17, a gathering of industry insiders joined journos and sponsors at the Abode Bar in Sydney’s Park Royal Hotel to get the scoop on the best of the fest from the man himself… 

WE DON’T NEED A MAP: Dir Warwick Thornton
Nashen says: “A couple of years ago, Warwick made a very controversial statement that the Southern Cross as a symbol had become the new swastika. He got into a lot of trouble for that but, instead of shying away from it, Warwick decided to make a film about it. It’s a clever documentary that, like the man himself, is funny and provocative.”
Critics say: Nothing, yet; the Opening Night film is having its world premiere at Sydney.

FELICITE: Dir. Alain Gomis
Nashen says: “So little is known about African cinema outside of Africa, which is a very sad fact. Set in the Congolese city of Kanchasa, this film is filled with music and magic as well as tragedy. It’s a remarkable film because it subverts the ideals of African cinema in many ways, presenting hardship but within a love story, a resilience against hardship.”
Critics say: “A formally complex work, too long perhaps and occasionally opaque in its meaning, but a daring ride to those wanting to glimpse the best of African cinema.” – The Film Stage

LITTLE HOURS: Dir: Jeff Baena
Nashen says: “This one will cause a little trouble, I think, but it’s very funny. It’s set in a nunnery, where some nuns are not as committed to their as they should be when a hunky deaf mute Dave Franco enters their world. The trailer has made some people angry, but it’s all loosely based on The Decameron, so they’ve had 700 years to be angry about it.”
Critics say: “as it delivers plenty of laughs for its duration it’s difficult to fault The Little Hours for *only* being a funny film.” – Film School Rejects

BLUE: Dir. Karina Holden
Nashen says: “This film paints a horrifying picture about what is going on in our oceans at the moment. Fortunately, we are introduced the film to a number of heroes who are challenging what has been accepted for too long and are changing how are oceans are being treated.”
Critics say: Nothing, yet; film is having its World Premiere at Sydney.

THE BEGUILED: Dir. Sofia Coppola.
Nashen says: “There’s sexual tension, heresy, the type of ‘southern hospitality’ that you’ve not seen before. Nicole Kidman is remarkable in this role, that sees her balance between extreme good and quite extreme evil.”
Critics say: “Although the picture is noticeably lacking in taut suspense of the conventional variety, it flies in close to a subtler, hotter flame: The sensuality of deceit.” – TIME

PATTI CAKE$. Dir:
Nashen says: "I’ve been to many Sundance festivals and I can’t recall any films that got a reaction like Patti Cake$. It is very inspirational, with a wonderful performance in the lead by Australian actress Danielle McDonald. It was the focus of a big bidding war and will be one of the best session at our festival.”
Critics say: “Every few years, an indie character comes along who so perfectly captures what it’s like to be mocked and marginalized, even as she refuses to let the bullies and abusers have the last word. That’s the kind of character Patti Cake$ is, and that’s why she stands to become one of the year’s most endearing discoveries” – Variety

THE UNTAMED: Dir. Amat Escalante.
Nashen says: “Escalante has made quite a few very controversial, very extreme films, most notably Heli. He changes tack once again with The Untamed, which is about…um, how to say this…I guess…a sex monster from another planet, capable of providing humans with the greatest pleasure they’ve ever experienced. It is science-fiction, erotica and social realism. It is not one for everyone, I admit.”
Critics say: “Imagine if H.P. Lovecraft had written The Joy of Sex, or better still a porn parody of Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker.” – CineVue

RUMBLE: THE INDIANS WHO ROCKED THE WORLD: Dir.Catherine Bainbridge, Alfonso Maiorana.
Nashen says: “It is about how native Americans and their music has impacted all kinds of music across many decades. It is a fantastic, surprisning film with so much great music.”
Critics say: “Along with showcasing the evolution of rock music, blues, jazz, folk, pop and even hip hop, Rumble also provides great insight into the hardships that Native Americans endured over the years.” – In The Seats.

ALI’S WEDDING: Dir.
Nashen says: “Australia’s first Muslim rom-com. It stars Osamah Sami, the very person upon whom the incredible true story is based. He told his story to a film producer friend, who said ‘We have to make this into a film’.”
Critics say: Nothing, yet; the film is having one of its first showings at Sydney.

OKJA: Dir. Bong Joon-ho
Nashen says: “I have admired this director for a long time; he’s one of the best filmmakers working today. In his homeland of Korea, his films are considered mainstream, where his genre films are blockbusters, earning upwards of 12 million admissions. We’ve shown almost all his films at Sydney; the last one was Snowpiercer.”
Critics say: A gleeful satire about the rapacious US food industry... wrapped neatly around a moving, almost Disney-esque story of a girl and her pet.” – The Daily Mail (UK)

Monday
May292017

STAR POWER AND SWEDISH SATIRE EARN CANNES 2017 TOP HONOURS

The Square, a Swedish social satire that utilises elements of performance art and conceptual design, has taken Palme d’or honours at the 70th Cannes Film Festival. The closing night gala was held at the Grand Theatre Lumiere and launched in glamourous style by Mistress of Ceremonies, Monica Bellucci, whose movie star moxie ushered in an evening in which old-school star power was feted in the key categories.

The decision to bestow the festival’s top honour upon director Ruben Ostlund’s follow-up to his Un Certain Regard winner, Force Majeure was met with bemused looks by some attending the ceremony. Critical toing-and-froing and passionate audience debate had greeted the bracingly original work, a response that has been the death knell for past Cannes competitors given the importance placed upon jury consensus in the final voting. In a moment the likes of which the Cannes closing night had never seen, Ostlund led the black tie crowd in a collective primal scream, echoing the descent into madness central to his film. (Pictured, top; Ruben Ostlund, director of The Square, with fellow winners and jury members

Acting honours were given to high-profile names Diane Kruger, for Fatih Akins’ In The Fade, and Joaquin Phoenix, for Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here. Kruger, who runs the gamut of emotions as the grieving, angry survivor of an act of terrorism, acknowledged the victims of such acts, saying, “Please know that you are not forgotten.” Phoenix was his typically enigmatic self, appearing stunned by the award and accepting the trophy wearing sneakers. (Pictured, above; a scene from The Square)

The Best Director award went to front-runner Sofia Coppola for The Beguiled, capping off a dream international launch for the director’s Civil War drama. The film’s lead Nicole Kidman, who had four separate projects on The Croisette, was officially crowned ‘belle of the ball’ with a special honour called the ‘70th Anniversary Award’ bestowed upon her.

The Grand Prix award went to Robin Campillo’s AIDS-era drama 120 BPM, set against the French LGBT struggle of the mid-90s. In an act that toyed with the one film/one trophy tradition of the Festival, screenplay honours were split between The Killing of a Sacred Deer, written by Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou, and Lynne Ramsay for You Were Never Really Here (for which Phoenix would be honoured, later in the night).

The full list of winners from the 70th Festival de Cannes are: 

FEATURE FILMS – COMPETITION
PALME D'OR - THE SQUARE directed by Ruben ÖSTLUND
The Palme d'or was awarded by Juliette Binoche and Pedro Almodóvar.

70th ANNIVERSARY AWARD - Nicole KIDMAN
The 70th Anniversary Award was awarded by Will Smith. 

GRAND PRIX - 120 BATTEMENTS PAR MINUTE (BPM – Beats Per Minute) directed by Robin CAMPILLO
The Grand Prix was awarded by Costa-Gavras and Agnès Jaoui.

BEST DIRECTOR PRIZE - Sofia COPPOLA for THE BEGUILED
The Best Director Prize was awarded by Fan BingBing and Gabriel Yared.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR - Joaquin PHOENIX in YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE directed by Lynne RAMSAY
The Best Performance by an Actor Prize was awarded by Jessica Chastain.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS - Diane KRUGER in AUS DEM NICHTS (In The Fade) directed by Fatih AKIN
The Best Performance by an Actress Prize was awarded by Irène Jacob and Paolo Sorrentino

JURY PRIZE - NELYUBOV (Loveless) directed by Andrey ZVYAGINTSEV
The Jury Prize was awarded by Maren Ade and Guillaume Gallienne.

BEST SCREENPLAY EX-ÆQUO – (TIE) Yorgos LANTHIMOS and Efthimis FILIPPOU for THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER; Lynne RAMSAY for YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
The Best Screenplay Prize was awarded by Marisa Paredes and Park Chan-wook.

SHORT FILMS – COMPETITION
PALME D'OR - XIAO CHENG ER YUE (A Gentle Night) directed by QIU Yang

SPECIAL DISTINCTION BY THE JURY - KATTO (The Ceiling) directed by Teppo AIRAKSINEN
The Palme d'or and the Jury Special Mention for Shorts Films were awarded by Uma Thurman and Cristian Mungiu.

UN CERTAIN REGARD
UN CERTAIN REGARD PRIZE - LERD (A Man of Integrity) directed by Mohammad RASOULOF

PRIZE FOR BEST ACTRESS - JASMINE TRINCA for FORTUNATA directed by Sergio CASTELLITTO

PRIZE FOR THE BEST POETIC NARRATIVE - BARBARA directed by Mathieu AMALRIC

PRIZE FOR BEST DIRECTION - Taylor SHERIDAN for WIND RIVER

JURY PRIZE - LAS HIJAS DE ABRIL (April's Daughter) directed by Michel FRANCO

CAMÉRA D’OR
JEUNE FEMME (Montparnasse Bienvenüe) directed by Léonor SERRAILLE presented as part of UN CERTAIN REGARD

The Caméra d'or Prize was awarded by Sandrine Kiberlain, President of the Caméra d'or Jury.

CINEFONDATION
FIRST PRIZE - PAUL EST LÀ (Paul Is Here) directed by Valentina MAUREL
INSAS, Belgium

SECOND PRIZE - HEYVAN (AniMal) directed by Bahram & Bahman ARK
Iranian National School of Cinema, Iran

THIRD PRIZE - DEUX ÉGARÉS SONT MORTS (Two Youths Died) directed by Tommaso USBERTI, La Fémis, France

The CST Jury decided to award the VULCAIN PRIZE FOR ARTIST-TECHNICIAN to: Josefin ASBERG for her remarkable artistic contribution to match the inventiveness of the film THE SQUARE.

Wednesday
May102017

PREVIEW: 64th SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL

A picturesque seaside backdrop is just one of the key assets that the 2017 Sydney Film Festival will share with the 70th edition of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Ten films will jet in directly from their French screenings to bolster the 64th Harbour City cinematic celebration, which launches June 7 with 2009 Camera d’Or winner Warwick Thornton’s documentary, We Don’t Need a Map.

Four films having their Australian premieres at Sydney are in contention for the coveted Palme d’Or. They are Sofia Coppola’s highly anticipated southern gothic thriller, The Beguiled; Fatih Akin’s revenge-themed terrorist drama, In The Fade, starring Diane Kruger; the latest from Austrian master Michael Haneke, Happy End, with international superstar Isabelle Huppert; and, from South Korean genre maestro Bong Joon-ho, the drama Okja (pictured, above), boasting international stars Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and An Seo-hyun. The director will be in attendance to introduce the film, which has been selected to close the festival on June 18.

Four more films heading to Oz from The Croisette are directorial debuts. Wind River is a rural thriller starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen and directed by Taylor Sheridan, the acclaimed screenwriter of 2016 Oscar nominee Hell or High Water; the New Jersey set black comedy Patti Cake$, starring Australian Danielle McDonald, from first-time helmer Geremy Jasper; SNL star Kyle Mooney plays the bear-suited outsider in Dave McCary’s offbeat character comedy, Brigsby Bear; and 80 year-old acting great Vanessa Redgrave will attend in support of her directing debut, the refugee crisis doco Sea Sorrow.

The other Cannes titles are Napalm, a personal glimpse inside North Korean society from legendary documentarian, 91 year-old Claude Lanzmann (Shoah, 1985; The Last of The Unjust, 2013); and an immaculate new print of Belle de Jour, Luis Bunuel’s 1967 masterpiece starring Catherine Deneuve which is headlining the Cannes Classic restoration program.

Twelve films will vie for the Official Competition top spot, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2017. In addition to The Beguiled, We Don’t Need a Map and Happy End, the competition line-up includes the Alain Gomis’ Felicitie, Silver Bear Grand Jury winner at the Berlinale; Raoul Peck’s searing documentary I Am Not Your Negro, narrated by Samuel Jackson (read the Screen-Space review here); the Georgian-set empowerment tale Happy Family, from filmmakers Nana & Simon; Berlinale Golden Bear winner On Body and Soul, from Hungarian auteur Ildiko Enyedi; Aki Kaurismaki’s latest, the warm and insightful friendship story The Other Side of Hope; Kirsten Tan’s one-man-and-his-elephant heartwarmer Pop Aye, a Sundance screenwriting honouree; Australian theatre heavyweight Benedict Andrews controversial battle-of-the sexes thriller Una, with Ben Mendelsohn and Rooney Mara; the fearlessly challenging erotic sci-fi drama The Untamed, from Mexican director Amat Escalante; the debut feature by Afghani filmmaker Shahrbanoo Sadat, Wolf and Sheep, a work that earned her the 2016 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight prize.

Sydney programmers have snared 18 World Premiere feature film screenings for the 2017 line-up. These include two works from director Kriv Stenders – Australia Day, his incendiary drama that probes the racial tensions and multicultural stereotypes that have come to define our society; and, the rock band documentary The Go-Betweens: Right Here. Other global firsts include actor David Wenham’s directorial debut, Ellipsis; Rhiannon Bannenberg’s teenage beachside drama, Rip Tide; sci-fi thriller Otherlife from Ben C Lucas; renowned documentary filmmaker Tom Zubrycki’s latest, the Sudanese refugee story Hope Road; and Amanda Sthers’ French production Madame, starring Toni Collette and Harvey Keitel.

Across a vast programme that boasts 288 films (long- and short-form) from 59 countries, visions that arrive with considerable critical and commercial cache include David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, Matt Spicer’s Ingrid Goes West, Cedric Klapisch’s Back to Burgundy, Stanley Tucci’s Final Portrait, Christian Mungiu’s Graduation, Eduardo Roy Jnr’s Ordinary People, Eleanor Coppola’s Paris Can Wait (pictured, right), Doug Liman’s The Wall and Lav Diaz’s The Woman Who Left. The feature documentary selection includes such lauded works as Pascal Lamche’s Winnie, Amanda Lipitz’s Step, Maite Alberdi’s The Grown-Ups, David Borenstein’s Dream Empire and Alexandre O Philippe’s 78/52 (read the Screen-Space review here).

The 2017 sidebar strands are particularly rich, with programming that reflects the festival’s ongoing commitment to diversity, both social and artistic:

  • Europe! Voices of Women in Film: A collaboration with trade paper Screen International and the European Film Promotion initiative, ten new films from the continent’s female director will play SFF 2017. They include works from Ireland (Neasa Ni Chianain’s School Life), Switzerland (Petra Volpe’s The Divine Order), Portugal (Claudia Varejao’s Ama-San) and Macedonia (Teona Strugar Mitevska’s When The Day Had No Name);
  • Feminism & Film: Sydney Women Filmmakers 1970s and ‘80s: Nine films (five features, four shorts) will recall the strong female voice of Australian feminist cinema from decades past. The works include We Aim to Please (1976), Behind Closed Doors (1980) and This Woman is Not a Car (1982);
  • Sounds on Screen: Sold-out sessions are assured in this hugely populat music-themed strand, which this year boasts Nick Broomfield’s revelatory Whitney Houston doco, I Can Be Me (pictured, right) and Michael Winterbottom’s On The Road, which provides unprecedented access to Wolf Alice’s tour of the U.K.
  • Smash It Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Punk Rock 1977-2017: Six features acknowledging the anti-establishment voice include John Waters’ Desperate Living, Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of western Civilization and the Julien Temple/Sex Pistols classics, The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle and The Filth and The Fury;
  • Restorations: In addition to Belle de Jour, the Restorations line-up celebrates the career of late Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami, with a restored print of his 1997 film A Taste of Cherry and a screening of the 2016 documentary, 76 Minutes and 15 Seconds with Abbas Kiarostami. Also, three reinvigorated Australian classics will screen – Pat Fiske’s Rocking the Foundations (1985), John Duigans’ The Year My Voice Broke (1987) and Samantha Lang’s The Well (1997);
  • Focus on Canada: In conjunction with the Canadian Government and as part of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, seven Canadian films will screen, including those of visiting directors Ann Marie Fleming (Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming); Simon Lavoie (Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves), Kirsten Carthew (The Sun at Midnight; pictured, right) and producer Christina Fon (Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World);
  • First Nations: A celebration of indigenous film culture, both local and international, the 13-strong line-up boasts works from New Zealand (Florian Habicht’s Brown Lips); Canada (Alethea Arnaquq-Barils’ Angry Inuk; Zacharias Kunuk’s Maliglutit); and, ten films from Australia, including a special event screening of two Season 2 episodes of Wayne Blair’s small-screen hit, Cleverman;
  • Freak Me Out: The always popular genre selection, curated by Richard Kuipers, that this year includes Chris Peckovers’ Better Watch Out (read the Screen-Space review here, under it’s original title Safe Neighbourhood); Joe Lynch’s Mayhem, with Australian actress Samara Weaving; and Portuguese shocker The Forest of Lost Souls, from Jose Pedro Lopes;
  • Essential Kurosawa: Legendary critic and past SFF Director David Stratton presents ten timeless works from the Japanese master, including Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Red Beard, Kagemusha and Ran;
  • Family Films: All ages entertainment features the Oscar nominated My Life as a Zucchini from director Claude Barras and Dash Shaw’s animated feature My Entire High School Sinking into The Sea, voiced by Jason Schwartzman.

A new platform in 2017 is the Screenability initiative. Launched in conjunction with Screen NSW and the Department of Family and Community Services, it provides an outlet for international filmmakers with disabilities to have their work seen by the broad festival audience. Programmed by Sofya Gollan, the strand includes New Zealander Alyx Duncan’s Drumming is Like Thunder, Irish auteur Simon Fitzmaurice’s My Name is Emily, Swiss filmmaker Manuel von Sturler’s Lust for Sight and local talents Stevie Cruz-Martin (Pulse) and Johanna Garvin (Milky Pop Kid).

The 64th Sydney Film Festival will be held June 7-18 at nine venues across Sydney. For full ticketing and session details, visit the official website.

Saturday
Apr222017

SCREEN-SPACE @ 5: MY FAVOURITE SCREEN-SPACE MOMENTS.

April 22 marks the fifth anniversary of this determinedly ad-free and search-engine unfriendly labour-of-love. A warbling discourse of approximately 30,000 film-related words, as a start-up we covered a forgotten Werner Herzog classic, the revival of a kitschy 3D spaghetti western and a review of something called The Avengers – none of which represent the best work I have done. Which begs the question, “What is?” Under the guise of shameless self-congratulation, I zero in on my favourite articles from the five key categories collectively called Screen-Space…

BLOG / ...
The ‘Blog’ content stems from an immediate, instinctive need to write (REMEMBERING BILL PAXTON; TONY SCOTT: UPON REFLECTION…; TIFF AUDIENCES STILL WARM TO THE BIG CHILL) or often random thought patterns (THE FEVER DREAM THAT IS SHARKNADO; WHATEVER HAPPENED TO…? HOLLYWOOD’S MISSING MOVIES; THE RISE AND FALL AND RISE OF KEVIN COSTNER). I had fun taking the great filmmakers down a peg in my 2012 two-parter THE WORST 20 OF CINEMA’S BEST; I still get choked up when I re-read THE BEAUTIFUL WORDS OF MELISSA MATHESON and REMEMBERING HAROLD RAMIS; and, my animosity towards the terrible stereotypes in Madagascar 3 led to ANIMATION IN BLACK AND WHITE: ARE HOLLYWOOD CARTOONS RACIST? I enjoy the silly dialogue I have with myself called IN BOB WE TRUST, in which my sane, informed pro-De Niro voice stands against my dickish De Niro-detractor voice. But the grandest Blog folly I have undertaken is the THE TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS, a mammoth 18,000 word dissection of the 2016 movie year. I had a concept going in, even a few of the categories headings (an In Memoriam list called TEN SOARING SPIRITS; a box office analysis titled SIX STUDIO SCORECARDS), but I soon realised that the daily output required to realise such a project was…daunting. Got it done, though. Earned four Facebook likes, too. 

REVIEWS / ...
If the Review pages have taught me anything, it is, “Don’t piss off misogynists or Seth McFarlane fans.” Scathing reviews of Cassie Jaye’s lopsided MRA doco THE RED PILL and Seth MacFarlane’s non-comedy A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST met a bitter backlash; “Simon, you’re a f***ing moron,” stated one eloquent wordsmith. Similar ill will from THE HOBBIT and MCU fans poured forth when I dissed their heroes, but I embraced their (mostly) respectful counterpoints. I take pride in supporting advocacy works that highlight crucial social issues (BULLY; GIRL RISING; GIVEN; LAST CALL AT THE OASIS; UNDER THE GUN; I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO) and little-seen indie work, for whom a good review can carry festival and marketplace cache (WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CONCRETE; ARROWHEAD; THE QUARANTINE HAUNTINGS; THE HUMAN RACE; SUNDAY; GIRL ASLEEP). Of the 297 reviews, two of which I’m particularly fond are the 2016 Cannes Film Festival opener, Woody Allen’s CAFÉ SOCIETY, and the personal perspective that infused my thoughts on the Brian Wilson biopic, LOVE & MERCY. None have flowed so freely as my 5-star rant for ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY; a childhood of conjuring my own expanded Star Wars universe was honoured by Gareth Edwards’ perfect tentpole blockbuster, which I think my words reflected.

FEATURES / ...
‘Features’ has emerged as the flagship section of SCREEN-SPACE, home to the majority of the film festival and award season coverage; all those ‘BEST OF… / WORST OF…’ pieces surface here. It is here you will find the interview content, my favourite part of the job (well, not the transcribing). I recently boasted that my chat with the Raw director, called IN THE FLESH: THE JULIA DUCOURNAU INTERVIEW, was a favourite, which I stand by. Certainly those conducted on the rarefied ground of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival are a highlight, amongst them BOGDAN MIRICI, NICOLE GARCIA, KOJI FUKADA, BRUNO DUMONT and ANURAG KASHYAP. I’ve had the extraordinary good fortune to chat with my film heroes, including actors MICHAEL BIEHN, TOM SKERRITT, TEMUERA MORRISON, MARLON WAYANS, CATHERINE KEENER and MICHAEL PARE; directors GASPAR NOE (Irreversible; Love), RAMIN BAHRANI (99 Homes), COLIN TREVORROW (Safety Not Guaranteed; Jurassic World); CATE SHORTLAND (Lore); cult hero STEVE DE JARNATT (Miracle Mile; Cherry 2000); and, Iranian auteur NIMA JAVIDI (Melbourne). My most enthusiastic interviewee was German director MAIKE BROCHHAUS, who couldn’t believe her X-rated romantic comedy Schnick Schnack Schnuck had been discovered in Australia; actresses ANNA MARGARET HOLLYMAN and NADIR CASELLI were also utterly charming. I am eternally grateful to the many independent sector auteurs who have contributed their time and personality. Arguably my most cherished interview was the face-to-face I had with an energised M NIGHT SHYAMALAN, whom I sat with just as his thriller The Visit was ushering in his career resurgence.

INDUSTRY / ...
Although envisioned as a ‘business section’, the ‘Industry’ pages have allowed for more personal writing. In R.I.P. DAVID HANNAY, I reflected upon the Australian producer’s remarkable career while lamenting the passing of a cherished industry presence; a work colleague from the VHS boom years, retiring distribution veteran Bob Wright granted me his only interview, titled 21ST CENTURY MAN. As he weathered the storm that blows in when a big-budget pic flops, director Alex Proyas vented to me in PROYAS CASTS DARK SHADE OVER OF GODS OF EGYPT DETRACTORS; similarly, Wyrmwood director Kiah Roache-Turner contributed an exclusive self-penned statement on the personal impact of film piracy in ZOMBIES, PIRATES AND ME: A DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT (the only content in our five year history not written by yours truly); and, THE HISTORY OF LGBT CINEMA IN AUSTRALIA PARTS 1 and 2 was the result of an immense research undertaking. The most satisfying of all Industry pages has been FOUNDER OF HANOI FILM HEAVEN REFLECTS ON REEL LEGACY, a melancholy chat with American expat Gerald Hermann and the movie memories he helped create as head of Hanoi Cinematheque, an arthouse outpost in Viet Nam’s bustling metropolis that was scheduled for demolition a matter of weeks after our interview.

HORROR / ...
I created the ‘Horror’ page to house edgier content from my beloved genre without fear of offending visitors. The search for content has led me to the organisers of such internationally renowned horror film festivals as The UK’s Frightfest, Brazil’s Fantaspoa, Toronto’s Midnight Madness, the Freak Me Out section of the Sydney International Film Festival and LA’s Hollywood Horrorfest. No mention of the ‘Horror’ pages would be complete without acknowledgement of Sydney’s A Night of Horror/Fantastic Planet and founder Dr Dean Bertram, who has supplied countless screeners and contacts since Day 1; check out this summary of the coverage I afforded ANOH/FP 2013. Ours is a relationship I undertook to honour with the sentimental piece, FEST ALUMNI RECALL GLORY DAYS AS GENRE LOVE-IN TURNS 10. Shout-out to the teams at SUFF, MUFF, Monster Fest and Revelations for all the reciprocal love over the years. ‘Horror’ has been home to young buck directors SEVE SCHELENZ (Peelers), BRYN TILLY (Umbra), DANE MILLERD (There’s Something in The Pillaga), JEFF RENFROE (The Colony), CHRISTOPHER AD CASTILLO (The Diplomat Hotel), JEREMY GARDNER (The Battery) and MICHAEL O’SHEA (The Transfiguration), as well as established greats JON HEWITT (Turkey Shoot, 2015) and TODD FARMER (Jason X). My favourite piece may be CANNES CLASSICS BOWS REFN’S RESTORATION OF BAVA BRILLIANCE, my account of that evening in Cannes when Nicholas Winding Refn presented the 4K makeover of Mario Bava’s Planet of The Vampires.

The future? A long-overdue refit is in order; I’ll be launching the SCREEN-SPACE Online Store in the weeks ahead; and, in true Sally Field fashion, I’ll continue to harangue and harass everyone I meet to LIKE, really LIKE my social media platforms (Facebook here, Twitter there). Thank you, for indulging me this outlet and responding with your kind words of encouragement. And, most importantly, a special thanks to a certain lady friend of infinitely superior talent and standing for supporting all I do here. X