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Entries in Film Festival (7)

Monday
May072018

10 MUST-SEE MOVIES FROM THE 2018 SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL PROGRAM

The 65th Sydney Film Festival has announced its 2018 line-up – a whopping 320ish films, from 60 countries in 160 different languages. The programming team want audiences going in and coming out of the 12 day event with smiles on their faces. Opening night honours go to the New Zealand laffer The Breaker Upperers; closing the event will be Brett Haley’s daddy-daughter feel-good dramedy, Hearts Beat Loud. In between, however, there are emotions of all kind to experience. Here are 10 films that immediately earned ‘must watch’ status at this year’s SFF… 

BEIRUT (Dir: Brad Anderson; U.S.A., 109 mins)
Two of Hollywood’s smartest talents combine to provide Mad Men hunk Jon Hamm (pictured, above) with the meaty role he’s been biding his time for – Mason Skiles, a CIA negotiator sent into the Middle East to secure the release of a colleague. After a couple of hired-hand movies (Stonehearst Asylum, 2014; The Call, 2013), Anderson looks to have returned to the hard-edged drama of his 2004 break-out film, The Machinist; script is by Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, 2007; State of Play, 2009; Rogue One A Star Wars Story; 2016).

WEST OF SUNSHINE (Dir: Jason Raftopoulos; Australia, 78 mins)
Inner city Melbourne is the backdrop for this father-stepson drama, the directorial debut of Jason Raftopoulos. Cast is lead by Damian Hill (Pawno, 2015; Spin Out, 2016), whose life is crumbling under family issues and gambling addiction. The actor’s real-life stepson, non-actor Ty Perham, is remarkable in his film debut. Music by Lisa Gerrard (Gladiator; Whale Rider); world premiered at Venice 2017.  

A VIGILANTE (Dir: Sarah Daggar-Nelson; U.S.A., 91 mins)
Australian-born Daggar-Nelson makes her directing debut with this harrowing drama about a domestic-abuse survivor who turns vigilante to help others escape their attackers. Olivia Wilde is past due on the role that will put her on Oscar’s A-list (The Hollywood Reporter calls her performance, “nakedly emotional”); Daggar-Nelson’s willingness to muddy the morality of self-administered payback, makes this potentially one of the toughest yet most rewarding films of the festival.

 

MAYA THE BEE: THE HONEY GAME (Dirs: Noel Cleary, Sergio Delfino and Alexs Stadermann; Australia | Germany, 85 mins)
The first adventure of Maya the Bee was a solid global performer in 2014 before a huge ancillary life. Three of the animation sectors most respected artist/storytellers, with credits like Blinky Bill, The Lego Movie and Legend of The Guardians to their names, combine talents for this high-concept sequel, a riff on the hugely popular Jennifer Lawrence franchise. Voices include Richard Roxburgh, Justine Clarke and, returning as the lead insect, Coco Jack Gillies.

BlacKkKlansman (Dir: Spike Lee; U.S.A., 128 mins)
Ron Stallworth, an African American detective, went deep undercover into the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. His memoirs seem like perfect material for Spike Lee, who has continued making angry, race-based diatribe cinema (even if the audience hasn’t always turned out for his films). Direct to Sydney from Cannes, where it competed for the Palme d’Or; early Oscar buzz for Topher Grace, whose turn as Klan frontman David Duke is set to shock. Other key players are Adam Driver and John David Washington, son of Denzel. 

HOLIDAY (Dir: Isabella Elköf; Denmark | The Netherlands | Sweden, TBC mins)
Do not let the sunny imagery mislead you. Isabella Elköf’s debut feature is a bleak and brutal love triangle / crime thriller; Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne) accompanies her crime boss boyfriend on a trip to the Turkish Riviera, only to have things go bad very quickly. Reportedly contains a rape scene like no other; Variety stated, “a steady female gaze behind the camera tilts the film’s politics in unexpected, deliberately discomfiting ways.”

 

THE PURE NECESSITY (Dir: David Claerbout; Belgium, 50 mins)
Deconstructing cinema is part of what film festivals have to do to service the ‘serious cinephile’ audience; in 2013, SFF presented the brilliant cinematic montage essay, Final Cut – Ladies and Gentlemen. In 2018, Disney’s 1967 classic The Jungle Book comes under the knife; director David Claerbout has removed all remnants of a narrative, anthropomorphism, human interaction and music, leaving an idyllic paradise for Walt’s animals to live a life of freedom.

DISOBEDIENCE (Dir: Sebastián Lelio; United Kingdom, 114 mins)
All eyes will be on the Chilean director’s first film since his Foreign Film Oscar win for A Fantastic Woman. Having turned her back on her Jewish faith and orthodox family, Rachel Weisz must return to the place of her upbringing; a gay affair with her childhood friend (Rachel McAdams) stirs prejudice even further. Variety called the directeor’s English-language debut, “yet another triumph in what’s shaping up to be a major career.” 

THE LONG SEASON (Dir: Leonard Retel Helmrich; The Netherlands, 118 mins)
Director Helmrich had a heart attack mid-production, the difficult shoot being completed by artist Ramia Suleiman and producer Pieter van Huystee. And difficult it was; the small crew was embedded in the Majdal Anjar refugee camp, an enormous community of Syrian refugees who have fled their ISIS-ruled homeland. Shot sans narration, the cinema verite stylings of the Dutch crew has been called, “compassionate, camly observed, lyrical” by Screen Daily.

ONE DAY (Dir: Zsófia Szilágyi; Hungary, 99 mins)
The debut film for director Zsófia Szilágyi, who was Ildikó Enyedi’s first assistant on last year’s SFF Official Competition winner, On Body and Soul. Direct from a coveted slot in the Cannes‘ Critics Circle line-up, the tightly-wound domestic drama takes place over the course of a single day and stars Zsófia Szamosi as Anna,a mother of three dealing with a failing marriage in addition to her daily family grind.

Friday
Apr132018

CANNES 2018 LINE-UP ADDRESSES SHIFTS IN FILM FESTIVAL LANDSCAPE

Festival Director Thierry Frémaux faced some serious challenges and undertook some bold decision-making ahead of yesterday’s announcement at a press conference in Paris of the official selection of films to screen at the 71st Cannes International Festival du Film. (Pictured, below; Frémaux, left, and festival president Pierre Lescure announce the selection.)

After pressure from the French exhibition sector, no Netflix productions would be deemed eligible in 2018 (shutting out Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, Paul Greengrass' Norway and the restored version of Orson Welles’ The Other Side of The Wind); the axing of the traditional early morning press screenings, which allowed critics to pen their reviews and have them ready for publication in line with the film’s evening premiere; and, in a move met with disgust by self-absorbed film types globally, red-carpet selfies are outlawed from this year forward.

So has Frémaux, who joined the organizing committee in 2001 as artistic director before his appointment as festival director in 2004, continued in this statement-making frame-of-mind with his 2018 programme? Yeah, kind of. Despite being a longtime advocate for women filmmakers (he appointed the first female Jury President, Jane Campion, in 2013), he was not swayed by the current socio-political climate, anointing only three films with women directors in competition slots. Several Cannes alumni that most pundits expected to feature were no-shows,, including Claire Denis (in post on her 28th film, High Life) , Terence Malick (prepping his WWII drama, Radegund), Mike Leigh (readying Peterloo), Lars von Trier (the highly-anticipated serial killer thriller, The House That Jack Built) and Xavier Dolan (keen to find favour again with The Death and Life of John F. Donovan). And Frémaux has implemented a ‘World Premiere Only’ policy, effectively shutting out films that had premiered at Berlin, Venice or Sundance (hence very few American films will be competing for this year’s Palme d’Or).

The 71st Festival de Cannes will run May 8-19. Below are the full line-up of titles announced last night; films to screen in Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week programs, which run concurrenty with the strands below, and the coveted Closing Night attraction will be announced in late April (pictured, above, clockwise; Under the Silver Lake, Solo, Shoplifters, Everyone Knows)

In Competition
Everybody Knows (Dir: Asghar Farhadi) OPENING NIGHT
At War (Dir: Stéphane Brizé)
Dogman (Dir: Matteo Garrone)
Le Livre d’Image (Dir: Jean-Luc Godard)
Asako I & II (Dir: Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
Sorry Angel (Dir: Christophe Honoré)
Girls of the Sun (Dir: Eva Husson)
Ash Is Purest White (Dir: Jia Zhang-Ke)
Shoplifters (Dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda)
Capernaum (Dir: Nadine Labaki)
Burning (Dir: Lee Chang-Dong)
BlacKkKlansman (Dir: Spike Lee)
Under the Silver Lake (Dir: David Robert Mitchell)
Three Faces (Dir: Jafar Panahi)
Cold War (Dir: Pawel Pawlikowski)
Lazzaro Felice (Dir: Alice Rohrwacher)
Yomeddine (Dir: AB Shawky)
Leto (L’Été) (Dir: Kirill Serebrennikov)

Un Certain Regard
Angel Face (Dir: Vanessa Filho)
Border (Dir: Ali Abbasi)
El Angel (Dir: Luis Ortega)
Euphoria (Dir: Valeria Golino)
Friend (Dir: Wanuri Kahiu)
The Gentle Indifference of the World (Dir: Adilkhan Yerzhanov)
Girl (Dir: Lukas Dhont)
The Harvesters (Dir: Etienne Kallos)
In My Room (Dir: Ulrich Köhler)
Little Tickles (Dir: Andréa Bescond & Eric Métayer)
My Favorite Fabric (Dir: Gaya Jiji)
On Your Knees, Guys (Sextape) (Dir: Antoine Desrosières)
Sofia (Dir: Meyem Benm’Barek)

Out of Competition
Solo: A Star Wars Story (Dir: Ron Howard)
Le Grand Bain (Dir: Gilles Lellouche)
Little Tickles (Dir: Andréa Bescond & Eric Métayer)
Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Dir: Bi Gan)

Midnight Screenings
Arctic (Dir: Joe Penna)
The Spy Gone North (Dir: Yoon Jong-Bing)

Special Screenings
10 Years in Thailand (Dir: Aditya Assarat, Wisit Sasanatieng, Chulayarnon Sriphol & Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
The State Against Mandela and the Others (Dir: Nicolas Champeaux & Gilles Porte)
O Grande Circo Mistico (Dir: Carlo Diegues)
Dead Souls (Dir: Wang Bing)
To the Four Winds (Dir: Michel Toesca)
La Traversée (Dir: Romain Goupil)
Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (Dir: Wim Wenders).

Main photograph: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

Friday
Feb022018

PROGRESSIVE IFFR FILM ROSTER WELCOMES #FEMALEFILMMAKERFRIDAY

The five randomly selected filmmakers below represent a very small cross section of the women directors with works on show in Rotterdam. On any other day we may have profiled Lisa Bruhlmann (Blue My Mind) or Lucie Plumet (Damien Décembre); Rosine Mfetgo Mbakam (Les deux visages d'une femme Bamiléké) or Veronique Sapin (Secret, Lies and Death); Monira Al Qadari (The Craft) or Noemi Sjoberg (Shadows), themselves only a tiny fraction of those whose works are screening at the IFFR. In honour of #femalefilmmakerfriday, we offer these brief bios of five women directors contributing remarkable works to international cinema…

ANNEMARIE JACIR, Dir: Wajib
Having been recognised by the global film publication Filmmaker Magazine as one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Cinema, Palestinian-born Annemarie Jacir (pictured, above) is at the forefront of film culture, education and activism in her homeland. Her 2003 Oscar-nominated short Like Twenty Impossibles was the first Arabic short film ever granted official selection at the Cannes Film Festival. Her feature Salt of this Sea (2008) became the first film directed by a Palestinian woman and was the Palestinian entry for the Foreign Language Oscar, as was her follow-up, When I Saw You, in 2012. She founded Dreams of a Nation, an initiative to promote Palestinian cinema; was amongst the founders of the Palestinian Filmmakers Collective; and, in 2003, launched the nation’s largest travelling film festival. Her IFFR selection, Wajib (2017) is her third feature film.

DEBORAH HAYWOOD, Dir: Pin Cushion
Citing Jane Campion’s Sweetie as a major influence, Brit filmmaker Haywood announced her own presence when her short film debut, Lady Margaret led to her selection as one of Screen International's 2007 Stars of Tomorrow. She quickly earned acclaim for her films Tender (2009); Sis (2011), which received Best Short at the Soho Rushes Film Festival and Best International Fiction Film at WOW Film Festival; Biatch! (2011); and, Tender Tender (2013). Pin Cushion is her feature film debut, the eccentric mother/daughter story chosen to open Critics Week at the Venice Film Festival, ahead of selection for Glasgow and Rotterdam. (Pictured, above; Haywood on the set of Pin Cushion)

CYNTHIA CHOUCAIR, Dir: Counting Tiles
Born in Lebanon, Cynthia Choucair studied film at the prestigious Institut d'études scéniques audiovisuales et cinématographiques, Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut. She broadened her skills as an editor, director and producer on many Lebanese short films and documentaries, most notably Anonymes (1998), Pictures of Life (2000) and Al kursi (2002), her calling-card directorial effort that was selected by festivals worldwide. In 2007, she founded her own production house, Road 2 Films, where she produces documentaries, fiction films and cultural television programs for local Arab and European networks. Her roster of filmmakers includes such young female directors as Sandra Abrass, Lara Zakhour, Farah Kassem, Joelle Abou Chabke, Sabine Choucair and Pascale Abu Jamra. Counting Tiles exhibits all her skills as a documentarian, capturing moments of glee amongst the hardship of refugee life on Lesbos.

 

CHLOE ZHAO, Dir: The Rider
Of Chinese heritage, Zhao studied political science at Mount Holyoke College in the United States before completing the Graduate Film Program at New York University. Remaining based in the US, she wrote and directed a series of well-received shorts, including Post (2008), The Atlas Mountains (2009) and Daughters (2010). Her first feature film, the Native American family drama Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015) had its world premiere at Sundance in the US Official Competition category, ahead of its international premiere at Cannes; the film earned festival kudos at Deauville, Jerusalem and Mumbai, as well as the Audience Award at the American Film Institute Festival. Zhao's second feature The Rider (2017), a feminist western, comes to Rotterdam after its Cannes premiere, where the director won the CICAE Art Cinema Award. 

LUISA SEQUERIA, Dir: Who is Barbara Virginia?
Portugese-born Luísa Sequeria studied journalism before entering the the world of filmmaking via documentary projects. Honing her craft in Mozambique at national broadcaster TVM before returning to her homeland, where she spent a decade at Rádio e Televisão de Portugal. Since 2010 she is the artistic director of Shortcutz Porto, one of the region’s leading short film festivals, as well as overseeing the Super 9 Mobile Film Fest, a festival for films made with the mobile phone. Together with the artist Sama she created the experimental animated series Motel Sama (2014) for Canal Brazil. In her debut documentary feature, Who Is Bárbara Virgínia?, Sequeria examines the all-but-forgotten life and career of the first Portugese woman to direct a feature film.

Monday
Nov272017

MONSTER FEST FETES FIERCE FEMMES AT CLOSING NIGHT KUDOS

The closing night awards ceremony at Monster Fest 2017 became a celebration of girl power in genre cinema, with all four feature film prize winners centred by fearless lead actress performances. The 2017 festival jury, comprised of screening platform OzFlix boss Ron Brown, Events Cinemas programmer Jon Nilsen and Screen-Space’s own Simon Foster, noted the roster of quality films to feature strong female characters in this years line-up, which wrapped a sell-out season at Melbourne’s Lido Cinema last night.

The festival’s top honour, The Golden Monster, was awarded to Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Cold Hell (Die Hölle), a German/Austrian co-production starring Violetta Schurawlow (pictured, above) as a witness to a brutal murder who finds herself being stalked by the killer. The Monster Fest trophy continues the high-energy thriller’s award momentum; the director accepted the Best European Film silverware at Lisbon’s MOTELx Festival Internacional de Cinema de Terror, while Schurawlow collected the Best Actress honour at the prestigious Fantasia Film Festival.

The festival’s closing night selection, Coralie Fargeat’s directorial debut Revenge, a brutal, blood-splattered survival epic starring Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz (pictured, right) as a vengeful rape victim and Kevin Janssens as her toxic male tormenter, collected the Best International Film prize. The judge’s decision came on the back of some spirited debate, with both Rainer Sanert’s monochromatic arthouse-horror oddity November, starring Rea Lest, and Adam MacDonald’s slow-burn black-magic thriller Pyewacket, with Nicole Munoz, in the mix until the final decision was handed down.

Best Australian Film went to the crowdpleasing horror-comedy Tarnation, featuring Daisy Masterman, a raucous riff on Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead pics from Monster Fest favourite Daniel Armstrong (MurderDrome, 2013; From Parts Unknown, 2015; Sheborg Massacre, 2016). Turkish director Can Evrenol, who burst onto the horror scene in 2015 with the cult shocker Baskin, took out the Best Director award for his follow-up film Housewife, an typically disturbing ‘end-of-days’ vision that melds Rosemary Baby-type paranoia with Lovecraftian imagery with a game lead turn by Clémentine Poidatz.

Beyond the allotted categories, the Monster Fest jury also feted Gary Doust’s Horror Movie: A Low Budget Nightmare with a Jury’s   Special Mention. The fly-on-a-wall account of the traumatic process director Craig Anderson went through to make his passion project, the low-budget splatterfest Red Christmas, was deemed to have captured the filmmaking spirit that drives so many of those who submit similar works to Monster Fest annually.

The extensive contribution of the short filmmaking community to the Monster Fest program was also acknowledged with plaudits going to Alberto Viavattene’s Birthday (Best Overall Short Film); Mia’kate Russell’s Liz Drives (Best Australian Short); Seamus Murphy’s Reunion (Best Victorian Short Film); and, Remi Weekes’ Tickle Monster (Best International Short Film).

 

Monday
Nov062017

MARRIAGE DRAMA, SPACE RACE EPICS TAKE TOP HONOURS AT RUSSIAN FILM FEST

Boris Khlebnikov’s Arrhythmia was named The SCREEN-SPACE Best New Russian Film at the closing night of the 2017 Russian Resurrection Film Festival in Sydney last night. Also honoured with special jury mentions were Klim Shipenko’s Salyut 7 and Dimitry Kiselyov’s Spacewalkers (pictured, below), two audience favourites that revisited the glory days of the Soviet space program in grand filmmaking style.

Read our review of Arrhythmia here.

A contemporary take on the drifting commitment and strained emotions of a young Moscow couple, Arrhythmia (pictured, below) earned its leading man Aleksandr Yatsenko the Best Actor trophy at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival and recognition from events in Sochi, Sakhalin and Haifa ahead of its Australian festival run. Khlebnikov’s assured and moving film was the unanimous victor as judged by Limelight magazine’s Lynden Barber, Managing Editor of SBS Movies, Fiona Williams, and Screen-Space editor Simon Foster.   

High amongst the finalists vying for the top festival honour were two Holocaust-themed dramas, Andrei Konchalovsky’s Paradise and Pavel Chukhray’s Cold Tango; Karen Shakhnazarov’s highbrow literary adaptation Anna Karenina: Vronsky’s Story; and Valery Todorovsky’s The Bolshoi, the lavish dance drama that opened the 14th annual celebration of Russian cinema on October 26.

In choosing to break with tradition and give jury nods to the space epics, the judges cited a vast and ambitious scale rarely seen in international cinema, due largely to the costs of realising such immense visions. In praising Salyut 7 and Spacewalkers, the judges spoke of both films in the same breath as the American space race classics, The Right Stuff and Apollo 13, and deemed the quality of the work reflected the strong production and post-production infrastructure of the Russian industry.

The 14th annual Russian Resurrection Film Festival drew to a close after an eleven day run at the Event Cinema's George Street site, during which attendance levels were amongst the highest in the festival's history. The highly anticipated Closing Night film was a digitally restored print of Yakov Protazanov’s rarely-seen 1924 silent science-fiction classic Aelita, accompanied by a live score by the renowned Volotinsky Quartet.