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Saturday
Jan262019

THE PRODUCER WHO SEDUCED THE PRESS AND WON HIS WIFE A GOLDEN GLOBE

Will the passing of a 95 year-old businessman in Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv finally provide closure to a scandal that has plagued the Golden Globes for 38 years?

Israeli businessman Meshulam Riklis died quietly with his family by side on Friday, January 25. He spent most of his childhood in the city, having arrived there with his family from Istandul, where he was born in 1923. From these humble beginnings, Riklis would prove himself an astute money market manipulator, launching and destroying business enterprises riding a wave of investment surges and bankruptcy purges on his way to a US$1billion empire. 

In 1977, while holding court in Las Vegas as co-owner of the iconic Riviera Casino, the 49 year-old left his wife to woo and ultimately wed a 19 year-old starlet named Pia Zadora. Within three years, his wealth and influence had carved out for her a career before the camera, a remarkable achievement given her somewhat limited range (her only previous on-screen role was in 1964’s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, at age 10).

His grandest gesture was funding director Matt Cimber’s adaptation of James M. Cain’s 1946 novel, Butterfly as a vehicle for her. A sexed-up thriller about a devoutly religious coal-miner (Stacey Keach) who has an incestuous romp with his nymphette daughter (Zadora), the film featured some old Hollywood legends (Orson Welles, Stuart Whitman, June Lockhart) but was mauled by critics; in one of the kinder reviews, The New York Times referred to the “sleazy melodrama” as a “camp classic”, noting that “Miss Zadora is not a convincing actress,” calling her “spectacularly inept.”

However, Meshulam Riklis lived by the creed, “Whatever Pia wanted, Pia got,” (including photo shoots for Playboy and New York Magazine). Riklis cosied up the Golden Globe voting body, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), as only an ‘80s billionaire could do; he took an initial group to see Pia perform at the Riviera ahead of a lavish banquet and private screening of his wife’s comeback film, before repeating the hospitality for a larger HFPA contingent at his Beverly Hills mansion. (Pictured, above; Pia Zadora as Kady in Butterfly)

When that year’s nominations were announced (and with the film still awaiting a US release), there was Pia Zadora’s name shortlisted as The New Star of Tomorrow. She would then compete - and win - against fellow nominees Kathleen Turner (Body Heat), Howard E. Rollins Jr and Elizabeth McGovern (both for Ragtime), Rachel Ward (Sharkey’s Machine) and Craig Wasson (Four Friends). When presenter Timothy Hutton read her name, the room seemed to drain of air; there was almost total silence.

When the film was released six days later, and it became all too obvious that Zadora was perhaps the least likely to win an award for her onscreen presence, public and industry backlash became vitriolic. So stained by the rumours that the award had been bought and that the HFPA voting group were approachable, broadcasting partner CBS bailed on their ongoing screening contract; ABC and NBC networks also passed on the now floundering show (after 12 years in the broadcasting wilderness, it returned to network television on NBC in 1995). The Golden Raspberry Awards, aka The Razzies, redressed the balance somewhat, awarding Zadora the Worst Actress and Worst New Star honours.

Meshulam Riklis continued to accumulate wealth and blow it on Zadora’s acting projects. The same year as Butterfly, he produced Fake-Out (also for director Matt Cimber), a dire thriller not quite so awful as Butterfly but still unwatchable by any standard. In 1983, he bankrolled The Lonely Lady, a vulgar, trashy Z-grader in which Zadora (as a Hollywood screenwriter, no less; pictured, right) is raped by Ray Liotta…with a garden hose; it swept that year’s Razzie awards. Riklis bought his wife some studio time with Jermaine Jackson; together they recorded the duet When the Rain Begins to Fall, from her 1984 scifi-comedy romp, Voyage of The Rock Aliens). Riklis and Zadora would divorce in 1993; he left the film business, she retired from acting in 1999.

The late Israeli producer has always denied anything underhanded occurred between himself and the HFPA. “These rumors are ridiculous,” he insisted, when asked the time. “The by-laws say okay to a screening in the home. Other people take the judges out to fancy restaurants—what’s the big deal?” Perhaps; and, frankly, the HFPA have not done their credibility any favours with some left-field choices in the intervening years (let's say…Dudley Moore in ’85, for Mickey & Maude, over Ghostbusters’ Bill Murray and Beverly Hills Cop’s Eddie Murphy). There is no denying, however, that Riklis’ clandestine actions turned the name of his young wife into an industry punchline that lasts to this day. (Pictured, left; Riklis, right, with wife Tali Sinai and friend in 2011)

Saturday
Jan122019

PIERCING: THE MIA WASIKOWSKA INTERVIEW

Mia Wasikowska has spent the last decade establishing herself as one of the most daring and in-demand actresses working in film today. With only a handful of local credits to her name (including Greg McLean’s killer-croc romp, Rogue), Wasikowska hit the Hollywood casting circuit, where everyone noticed her immediately opposite Gabriel Byrne in the TV series In Treatment. In quick succession, she was sought out by such A-list directors as Edward Zwick (Defiance, with Daniel Craig); Lisa Cholodenko (the Oscar-nominated The Kids are All Right, with Annette Bening and Julianne Moore); Tim Burton (her breakthrough lead role in the blockbuster Alice in Wonderland, opposite Johnny Depp); Gus Van Sant (Restless); John Hillcoat (Lawless, with Tom Hardy); Chan-wook Park (Stoker, opposite Nicole Kidman); Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive, with Tilda Swinton); John Curran (Tracks, for which she was AACTA-nominated); David Cronenberg (Maps to The Stars, co-starring Robert Pattinson); and, Guillermo del Toro (Crimson Peak, with Jessica Chastain).

Her latest is the body-horror/romantic thriller Piercing, in which she stars opposite wanna-be psychopath Chris Abbott as a prostitute willing to go the gory distance with her latest john. The sophomore effort from The Eyes of The Mother director Nicolas Pesce, the film is playing a limited season in Australia before its US run begins on February 1. In front of a sold-out session at her local cinema, the Dendy arthouse multiplex in the cool inner-city Sydney suburb of Newtown (“It’s the first time I’ve been able to walk to a Q&A!”), Mia Wasikowska joined SCREEN-SPACE managing editor Simon Foster to discuss the light and dark of her latest challenging role… (Main photo: Sharif Hamza

SCREEN-SPACE: You were coming off a string of very big productions – Crimson Peak, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Man With The Iron Heart – when you took on the part of ‘Jackie’ in Piercing. Was part of the appeal its two-room shoot?

WASIKOWSKA: Yeah, sort of. I really wanted to do something modern, very contemporary, very different to the repressed women I’d been playing for the last few years; anything that means I didn’t have to wear a corset. This was the most obvious antidote. I was originally approached to play the wife, with an older actress set to play ‘Jackie’. Then, a week before shooting, shat actress fell out and Nicholas came to me and said, “How about you play Jackie?” I had 24 hours to decide and then I was into the role. (Pictured, right; with co-star, Christoper Abbott)

SCREEN-SPACE: So not a great deal of time was spent crafting a backstory for her?

WASIKOWSKA: I used to do that quite a bit, in my earlier days, but [now] I just like jumping in, not thinking about it too much. Especially with a character like Jackie, who is a character that could have overwhelmed me, it was better just to not overthink the part. As I get older, I’m looking for more and more movies that I just hope I am going to enjoy making.

SCREEN-SPACE: You put a lot of faith in your collaborators when taking on this sort of material. How did you find those early days with your director, Nicolas Pesce?

WASIKOWSKA: I was a little dubious (laughs). It is a bunch of men making this type of movie and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to get when I turned up. I couldn’t quite figure out who was going to make this movie. But when I first met Nic I was really comforted by the fact that he just seemed like a really genuine guy, someone I could trust, and then the excitement set in. (Pictured, left; l-r, star Chris Abbott, Wasikowska, director Nicolas Pesce)

SCREEN-SPACE: Did you draw upon the same source material as Nicolas? Did you read Ryû Murakami novel?

WASIKOWSKA: No, I didn’t. I still haven’t (laughs). I didn’t have time. Chris, Nic and I decided that this film talks about the affect of trauma, notably childhood trauma. You get an indication, in those flashbacks, of what Reed has been through and how that applies to who he is now. We applied a similar thinking to Jackie. Although there is nothing stated in the film, I took the notion of two traumatised souls finding each other as a starting point to understanding her and their dynamic.

SCREEN-SPACE: Despite all the on-screen nastiness, it is a very sweet film, a true romance in every sense…

WASIKOWSKA: When we were making the film, we were always conscious of both sides of these characters. Of course, there is their darkness but there’s also a kind of childlike vulnerability or sweetness that comes through in their interactions. That subtext was really fun to play, given the outwardly nasty nature of the film’s context. (Pictured, right; Mia Wasikowska as 'Jackie' in Piercing)

SCREEN-SPACE: Piercing exists within the same sub-genre as Secretary or American Mary; the author’s previous work was adapted into Takashi Miike’s shocking masterpiece, Audition. Are these stories you would gravitate towards as viewer?

WASIKOWSKA: I would much sooner make this movie than watch it (laughs). I loved the idea of playing Jackie, not least because it allows you to be somewhat removed from the stylised graphic elements of the story. When we shot the scene where I stab my leg, I was fitted with the prosthetic and two guys on the other side of the room pumped blood through the holes. That’s hard to watch, but it was fun to play. When I made it clear to Nic that on-screen violence is not something I am always comfortable watching, he rationalised it away by telling me, “There’s no murder in the film, there’s no sex.” (Laughs) 

SCREEN-SPACE: The slightly surreal sense of time and place adds to the film’s allure…

WASIKOWSKA: I love that so much about Nic’s vision. You never see daylight in the film. Part of the set was a window, and outside that window was a screen that showed Asian cities that kept changing. He wanted everything about the setting to be somewhat disorienting, never allowing the audience to be sure where they were. He allowed me to use my normal accent, as part of bringing this eclectic style and feel into the mix. That confusion, that sense of slight unreality, is so much part of what the film is. (Pictured, left; Chris Abbott and Wasikowska)

SCREEN-SPACE: You’ve made inner city Sydney your home. Does this mean you will be focussing on making more Australian films, or is this the hub from which you continue an international career?

WASIKOWSKA: I guess both, really. Of course, I’d love to do more work here at home. We have such a great industry, with wonderful storytellers and craftsman, so it is more just about if we have the funding to inspire them and increase the numbers of productions here. We have so much talent but sometimes we just don’t have the [financial] resources. That’s something that’s not necessarily in my control, but I’d love to work here more. I love living here and would love to be able to stay here to do my work.

Presented by Monster Fest in conjunction with Rialto Distribution, PIERCING is screening for a limited time via Dendy Cinemas. It is released in selected US markets and on VOD on February 1.  

Friday
Jan042019

SISTERS FOR SALE: THE BEN RANDALL INTERVIEW

In 2018, the U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report stated that, “The Government of Vietnam does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.” It has only been 12 months since Vietnamese penal code amendments criminalized all forms of labor trafficking took affect, yet they are changes that still fall short of outlawing all forms of child sex trafficking. For Ben Randall, the reality of the State Department findings motivate his every waking hour; the 2011 abduction and illegal trafficking into China of two of his young friends inspired the Australian filmmaker to make Sisters for Sale, a heartbreaking documentary that follows his attempts to not only find his missing friends, but also understand the social and political context in which such horrible acts can continue to occur.

Ahead of the film’s Australian Premiere at the 2019 Screenwave International Film Festival, Randall (pictured, above; in China's Guangdong province) spoke with SCREEN-SPACE about the extraordinary lives of May and Pang, the young women at the centre of his documentary; the nature of his relationship with the Hmong community of North Vietnam; and, the formation of his anti-trafficking organization, The Human, Earth Project

SCREEN-SPACE: How did this become your crusade? Where were you in your life when you decided that engaging with the girl’s plight was your mission?

RANDALL: In 2012, I went through a very difficult time in my life. I found myself suddenly and unexpectedly with no home, no money, and no job in a city where I couldn't speak the language. A few people helped me get back on my feet, and I understood what a difference a good friend could make - not just in a material sense, but just knowing that someone cared. I wanted to pay that forward. My Hmong friend May had been kidnapped from Vietnam a few months earlier. I hadn't done anything because it didn't seem like there was anything much I could do. The trail had gone cold, and there was only a one-in-a-million chance of ever finding her - but I decided to give it my best shot. So I launched The Human, Earth Project. (Pictured, above; a street kidnapping in progress, from the film Sisters for Sale). 

SCREEN-SPACE: It is coming up on a decade since your English teaching assignment in Hmong became a lesson in the local custom of marriage-via-abduction. How altered was your life path and goals by the kidnapping of your friends in 2011-12?

RANDALL: The decision to return to Asia to search for May and Pang changed my life completely. The life I've lived over the past six years since the beginning of the project has been a difficult and occasionally dangerous one, with a huge amount of work and very little money - but I've been working towards something that's deeply important to me, which has given my life a real sense of meaning and purpose. I'd rather have that than be drifting through an easy, meaningless life, as I have been in the past. I've learned a lot about myself, what I'm capable of, and where my limitations lie, and my entire outlook on life has changed. (Pictured, left; Randall with Pang, centre, and her mother in Sapa, October 2014) 

SCREEN-SPACE: Much of the film is pure guerrilla-filmmaking, capturing what you can we you can in often very tense situations. Did local officials or the trafficking industry ever compromise the shoot?  

RANDALL: Sisters for Sale was shot in regions where there is a large and profitable industry in human lives. While it was never our intention to criticise Vietnam or China, both countries are highly sensitive to foreign media. In a sense, we were caught between the law and the outlaws, and it was critical to hide our investigation from both. We were living a strange double life. We relied on private contributions to continue the investigation, so while we were being extremely secretive about our work in person, we were publicising it online. It was risky work; we'll never know how close we were to being caught, but we were certainly lucky at times. 

SCREEN-SPACE: Has Sisters For Sale screened in Vietnam? Have the people of the village seen the film? 

RANDALL: As a filmmaker, I feel it's extremely important to spend time with your subject and do everything you can to understand it. Otherwise you're only passing on your own prejudices. I spent 15 months in Vietnam and China; Sapa, the primary location, was my home, the subjects of the film were my friends, and I was working closely with local people throughout production. Some of my friends from Sapa have seen the film and been extremely supportive of it. A planned screening in the capital city, Hanoi, fell through last month. We haven't yet made any other plans to screen in Vietnam, but will do so in the new year. (Pictured, above; young Hmong women in Sapa, from Sisters for Sale) 

SCREEN-SPACE: Are organisations such as your The Human, Earth Project and the similarly motivated Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation backed by western government dollars?

RANDALL: Blue Dragon Children's Foundation is a larger and longer-running organisation, which receives support from governments, organisations and individuals around the world. Our own project, The Human, Earth Project, is yet to acquire any major funding, and relies on the support of individuals. The Australian government has had no direct involvement with our work in Vietnam, and I'm not aware of their involvement in the region. Over the past six years, our work has been supported by thousands of people from over 70 countries. We're aware that there's always more we can be doing to raise awareness of human trafficking.

SCREEN-SPACE: This has been a long journey – for you, the girls, and the film; in every sense, it has proven a mammoth undertaking. What are the tangible benefits of the project’s existence? And what role does it need to play into the future?

RANDALL: It has been a long, strange journey for all of us, and it's fantastic to finally be sharing Sisters for Sale with the world. In making the film, I've been very careful not to oversimplify the human trafficking crisis in terms of "good guys" and "bad guys", as it is often presented in the media. It's a very complex issue, and I've worked hard to understand all points of view. The first step in solving any problem is awareness, and that's our goal. Our work has already reached millions of people around the world, even before the film's release. Many people have been surprised by the depth and nuance in the story. It has already sparked countless discussions around human trafficking and women's rights, and encouraged many people to support anti-trafficking efforts. The film itself will be used to raise awareness and support for Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, Alliance Anti-Trafic, and our own ongoing work. We're making plans to tour the film, and have been approached by a major publisher interested to develop the story as a book, which I'm writing now. Sisters for Sale is a fascinating and unique story, one that can make a real difference in the fight against the global human trafficking crisis. We'll keep working to get it out there. (Pictured, above; Hmong women from the Sapa valley in North Vietnam, as seen in Sisters for Sale)

SISTERS FOR SALE will screen Wednesday January 16 at the Screenwave International Film Festival. Full ticketing and session details can be found at the event's official website.

SCREEN-SPACE supports the efforts of The Human, Earth Project. The organization requires the generosity of donors to continue its work. Please follow this link to contribute to their mission.

 

Wednesday
Dec192018

PENNY MARSHALL AND THE BEAUTY OF BIG

Post-2000, the typical Hollywood slate – comic book pics, YA franchise gambles, teen vampire romances, PG horror – has not suited the storytelling skills of Penny Marshall. The director, who passed away overnight aged 75, found occasional gigs on the small screen; her last directing credit was a 2011 episode of The United States of Tara. But in the mid 1980s, when studios developed a broad roster of projects with both commercial and critical ambitions, Penny Marshall became an overnight sensation when her second feature delivered on both. That film, in every sense of the word, was Big.

Penny Marshall had directed a few episodes of her iconic TV series Laverne & Shirley (1976-1983) and ceded control of the comedy Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) to Francis Ford Coppola when 20th Century Fox recruited her to rescue the Whoopi Goldberg vehicle Jumpin’ Jack Flash in late 1985. Director Howard Zieff (The Main Event, 1979; Private Benjamin, 1980) had been removed and Marshall would be stepping into a shoot behind schedule and leaking money. Her sitcom training and natural comic timing ensured Jumpin’ Jack Flash sped to the finish line and became a sleeper hit for the studio.  

Marshall was rewarded with her choice of projects and zeroed in on a fantasy/comedy script about a young boy who wishes himself into adulthood. Big had been written by Anne Spielberg as a project for her brother Steven to develop with Harrison Ford attached, but their workloads meant the Fox property languished. Oscar-winning industry heavyweight James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment, 1983), a staple at the studio with film (Broadcast News, 1987) and television (The Tracey Ullman Show; The Simpsons) works in development, brought the screenplay to Marshall. She warmed to it immediately, and began a casting search for the role of 12 year-old Josh Baskin (pictured, from left; Marshall with actors Jared Rushton and David Moscow)

Marshall’s attachment to the resurgent production meant the Fox brass started to weigh in on key pre-production decision-making. Marshall toyed with a rewrite that made the lead character female, hoping to cast Debra Winger (with whom she had almost shot her aborted Peggy Sue… project). When this proved unworkable, the casting call went out Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Bill Murray, Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Michael Keaton, Judge Reinhold, Albert Brooks, Dennis Quaid, Sean Penn, Gary Busey and Steve Guttenberg. Marshall zeroed in on two favourites, both of which were nixed by the studio – John Travolta, who was in the worst box office slump of his career, and Robert De Niro, America’s greatest living actor (and dear friend of Marshall) though untested as a comedy lead (pictured, left; Tom Hanks as Josh Baskin in Big)

Instead, the studio and their director decided to hold out for Tom Hanks, who had hit big with Bachelor Party and Splash (both 1984), though had lost momentum after a string of underperformers (The Man With One Red Shoe, 1985; Volunteers, 1985; The Money Pit, 1986; Nothing in Common, 1986). With young David Moscow cast as boy Josh (outfitted with contact lenses to match Hanks’ eye colour), support players Elizabeth Perkins, John Heard, Mercedes Ruehl and Robert Loggia adding dramatic heft onscreen and top-tier talent such as DOP Barry Sonnenfeld, composer Howard Shore and writer Gary Ross (who did a WGA-recognised polish on the script) in the mix, the US$18million film began shooting at locations in New York City and New Jersey in mid-1987, eyeing the prime summer release date of June 3, 1988 (pictured, from left; Marshall, DOP Barry Sonnenfeld and Hanks on-set).

Marshall has been forthright about her anxiety during the shoot. Dailies were certainly supporting the decision to cast Hanks; the now iconic scene in which he and Loggia dance on the giant piano keys had Fox executives thrilled. The comedic chemistry between Hanks and Jared Rushton, cast as Josh’s boyhood friend Billy and the only character in on Josh’s secret, was plainly evident. But the director spent much of the shoot diplomatically fending of studio interference, most notably their insistence that love-interest Susan, played by Elizabeth Perkins, make the journey back to childhood with Josh in the film’s final scenes.

Several of the film’s biggest laughs were workshopped/improvised, such as Billy and adult Josh’s classic silly-string fight or Hanks chewing on a baby-corn cob; the ‘Shimmy Shimmy Coco-Pop’ song was entirely Hanks’ idea, inspired by a tune his own kids came home from summer camp humming. Marshall had no idea if they would cut into the finished film at all, leaving her to ponder its potential as a ‘laughless comedy’.

To further complicate principal photography, four other ‘body-swap’ storylines hit theatres while Big was in production – in order of release, Like Father Like Son (1987), with Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron; the Italian comedy, Da Grande (1987); Fred Savage and Judge Reinhold in Vice Versa! (1988);and, 18 Again (1988) with Charlie Schlatter and George Burns. Each was met with middling critical and commercial interest, ensuring further concerns for Marshall and her producers.

In hindsight, any concern was unwarranted. Big became one of 1988’s biggest hits, earning US$114million domestically (in 2018 dollars, a whopping US$243million) and placing it as the years’ #4 box-office earner, behind Rain Man, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Coming to America. It was record-setting triumph for Penny Marshall; her comedy was the first film directed by a woman to break the US$100million barrier and would earn Academy Award nominations for Hanks in the Best Actor category and for its Original Screenplay. In 2000, the American Film Institute included Big on its ‘100 Years…100 Laughs’ list, honouring the best American comedies of all time (pictured, above; from, left, Marshall, Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks).

In an interview with The Washington Post following the film’s release, Penny Marshall was typically acerbic about her beloved comedy classic. "I hated it for a long time," she says. "You go through different phases, so I'm told. 'Oh, God. What did I do here? What is this? This is crap.' And then your saving grace is you see it with an audience. They give you feedback and they give you the energy to go on."

Saturday
Dec082018

PREVIEW: 2019 SCREENWAVE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

The strengthening of Coffs Harbour as a thriving film culture hub continues on January 10 when the 2019 Screenwave International Film Festival (SWIFF) rolls out the sandy red carpet. One of New South Wales’ most prestigious yet relaxed screening events, SWIFF has crafted a rigorously challenging roster, both artistically and intellectually, with bold new works from such fearless filmmakers as Lars Von Trier, Michael Moore, Lynne Ramsay and Gaspar Noé.

The two-pronged festival directing team of Dave Horsley and Kate Howat signal this year’s direction from Opening Night, with the hot-button social satire Terror Nullius kicking off the 16-day festival. A coarse, canny and brutally funny skewering of racism, patriarchy and social injustice, it is the work of Melbourne creative team Soda Jerk (pictured, below; Soda Jerk's Dan and Dominique Angeloro) who employ montage technique to rework classic Australian film scenes into fresh contemporary commentary. Closing Night honours have been bestowed upon Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate, featuring a Golden Globe nominated Willem Dafoe as painter Vincent van Gogh.

The 2019 program statistics are impressive -60 films from 20 countries, including 14 Australian works and 30 films from women directors. Female identity and gender politics are addressed in the strand ‘Women of Action’, which highlights five films shot through the lens of women filmmakers. These include ¡Las Sandanistas!, documentarian Jenny Murray’s account of Nicaraguan warrior women; Stephanie Wang-Breal’s Blowin’ Up, an insider’s perspective of the lawyers fighting for the rights of sex workers in America’s broken justice system; and, Maysaloun Hamoud’s In Between, an Israeli-French co-production examining the clash of old and new cultures for three Palestinian women.

The vast World Cinema line-up fully justifies SWIFF’s standing on the international festival circuit, with 21 films set to unspool. Arriving uncut after inspiring shocked walkouts at its Cannes screening is Lars Von Trier’s serial killer saga, The House That Jack Built; bad boy Gaspar Noé captures a drug-addled descent into dance-party hell in Climax (pictured, top); and, the enigmatic Lynne Ramsay explores the nature of violence with leading man Joaquin Phoenix in her hitman thriller, You Were Never Really Here.

Some of the most acclaimed films from our global region will screen in World Cinema, with Ana Urushadze’s Scary Mother (Georgia/Estonia), Hirokazu Koreeda’s Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters (Japan) and Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum (Lebanon) all earning kudos from the Asia Pacific Screen Academy’s award body. Other countries represented include The Netherlands (Lukas Dhont’s Cannes FIPRESCI prize winner, Girl); Kenya (Wanuri Kahiu’s Rafiki; pictured, right); Bulgaria (Milko lazarov’s Aga); and, Poland (Spoor, from the directing team of Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik).

Of course, Australian filmmakers are at the fore with strands covering fiction and non-fiction features. Heath Davis’ crowd-pleaser Book Week, Jason Raftopoulos’ father/son drama West of Sunshine starring the late Damian Hill, and Ted Wilson’s Tassie-set drama Under The Cover of Cloud are set to screen. The documentary sector will be represented by such acclaimed works as Ben Lawrence’s riveting Ghosthunter, Gabrielle Brady’s heartbreaking Island of The Hungry Ghosts, and Ben Randall’s teen-girl trafficking expose, Sisters For Sale, as well as the World Premiere of local filmmaker Ian Thompson’s Becoming Colleen.

International factual films will be presented under the banner ‘Pop Docs’, including Fahrenheit 11/9, the latest from political agitator Michael Moore, and Daniel J Clark’s flat-earther think piece, Behind the Curve. Mixing up fact and fiction will be the always popular ‘Music and The Makers’ line-up, which this year features Brett Haley’s feel-good hit Hearts Beat Loud, with Nick Offerman; Mantangi/Maya/M.I.A, Stephen Loveridge’s fly-on-the-wall coverage of the controversial UK rap sensation; and, Stephen Schible’s mesmerizing profile on the great Ryuichi Sakamoto, Coda.

SWIFF understand the breadth of its local audience and has ensured upmarket film festival types and the North Coast cool kids will be able to connect through the program. The surf film strand ‘Call of The Surf’ features the latest in ocean-themed cinema, including the late Rob Stewart’s final shark industry exposé Sharkwater Extinction and The Zimbalist Brothers profile of the Hawaiian surfing ‘new wave’ of the 1990s, Momentum Generation (pictured, right). And the amusingly-titled skater line-up, ‘Make America Skate Again’, will present three films including Bing Lui’s universally acclaimed Minding the Gap, a look at three friends who bond over their boards in America’s rust belt interior.

Two retrospective special presentations will delight cinema purists. The Coen Brothers’ cult classic O Brother, Where Art Thou? will screen accompanied by live music supplied by renowned local musos The Mid North Damn; and, in honour of the 130th birthday of the late master of cinema Charlie Chaplin, SWIFF with screen his timeless political satire The Great Dictator.

Indicative of the festival’s commitment to regional cinema and support of young filmmakers, SWIFF will screen the work of the 20 finalists in the Nextwave youth filmmaking contest. A year-long statewide high-school and community initiative which has seen 50 workshops held in 11 New South Wales’ regions will culminate with the award ceremony on January 18 at the C.ex Coffs Auditorium, where $40,000 prize money will be distributed amongst the next generation of Australian filmmaking talent. (Pictured, right; SWIFF festival director Dave Horsley)

Read the SCREEN-SPACE interview with Scary Mother director Ana Urushadze and star Nato Murvandze here.

Read the SCREEN-SPACE review of Book Week here.

The 2019 Screenwave International Film Festival will run January 10-25 at two locations, The Jetty Memorial Theatre in Coffs Harbour and the Bellingen Memorial Hall. Full session and ticket information can be found at the official SWIFF website.