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Tuesday
Jun052012

SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL 2012 DAILY PLANNER

To help Harbour City filmgoers plan their Sydney Film Festival experience, SCREEN-SPACE is providing its inaugural FESTIVAL PLANNER - a day-by-day breakdown of the biggest movies, hidden gems and special events on offer. Bookmark this page and follow the links to reviews, interviews (including Festival director, Nashen Moodley) and the Festival website.

DAY 1 – WEDNESDAY JUNE 6
Hot ticket – Opening Night red carpet arrivals at the iconic State Theatre (pictured, above) for the World Premiere of Peter Templeman’s Not Suitable for Children, starring Ryan Kwanten.
Don’t Miss – Writer/director Keith Wright’s bizarrely original UK zombie-mockumentary, Harold’s Going Stiff.
First-run Reviews – Woody Allen: A Documentary; Whore’s Glory; Tatsumi.

DAY 2 – THURSDAY JUNE 7
Hot Ticket – Premiere of Rachel Perkins’ Mabo, an intimate portrayal of the political life of Eddie Mabo (Jimi Bani) and life-long love he shared with Bonita (Deborah Mailman).
Don’t Miss – Celebrity photographer Fabrizio Maltese at meeting venue The Hub, talking of his life shooting the stars at festivals all over the world; Matthew McConnaughey in William Friedkin’s redneck-noir thriller, Killing Joe; Paul Dano in the Sundance sensation, For Ellen.
First-run Reviews – Killing Anna; Vivan las Antipodas!

DAY 3 – FRIDAY JUNE 8
Hot Ticket – Australian premiere of Sundance winner Beasts of the Southern Wild at the State Theatre, followed by Wes Anderson’s star-studded coming-of-age story Moonrise Kingdom; both direct from Cannes 2012.
Don’t Miss – The second and final screening of iconic Italian directing brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s prison drama Caesar Must Die; two documentaries exploring the power of music to unite communities – Joe Berlinger’s Under African Skies and Polly Watkins’ Dr Samast’s Music School; the latest French horror sensation, Livid; Season of the Sun, Takumi Furukawa’s 1956 disenchanted youth drama, kicks off the centenary retrospective of Japanese studio giant, Nikkatsu.
First-run Reviews – Livid.

DAY 4 – SATURDAY JUNE 9
Hot Ticket - First screenings in the Bernardo Bertolucci retrospective, 1964s Before The Revolution and 1970s The Spiders Startegem, both at the downstairs auditorium in the Art Gallery of NSW.
Don’t Miss – Pietra Brettkelly’s New Zealand doco Maori Boy Genius, to be introduced by its subject, inspiring teen Ngaa Rauuira Pumanawawhiti; Woody Harrelson as a violent, corrupt cop in Rampart, reteaming him with The Messenger director Oren Moverman; Cate Shortland’s follow-up to Somersault, the Australian-German co-production Lore.
First-run Reviews – A Royal Affair; The British Guide to Showing Off; Despite The Gods.

DAY 5 – SUNDAY JUNE 10
Hot Ticket – The Australian premiere of Cannes-honoured Amour, from German iconoclast Michael Haneke.
Don’t Miss – Kirsten Stewart in Walter Salles’ adaptation of the Jack Kerouac novel, On The Road; Veteran documentarian Frederick Wiseman’s revealing documentary filmed inside Paris’ most famous gentlemen’s club, Crazy Horse; Lee Hirsch’s controversial documentary, Bully.
First-run Reviews – Captive; Beauty; Last Call at the Oasis; Excision.

DAY 6 – MONDAY JUNE 11
Hot Ticket – Walt Disney Studio’s presentation of the latest animated adventure from Pixar, Brave, with co-star Billy Connolly and a host of Australian industry types walking the Red Carpet at Event’s George St Cinemas.
Don’t Miss – The 2012 Ian McPherson Memorial Lecture, during which leading critic David Stratton and Aussie acting great Bryan Brown chat about their careers and the Australian film industry; All 310 minutes of Bertolucci’s 1976 epic, 1900; the World Premiere of the Australian docu-drama, Coniston massacre, presented in traditional Warlpiri and Anmatyerre dialects.
First-run Reviews – The Warped Forest; Marley.

DAY 7 – TUESDAY JUNE 12
Hot Ticket – To coincide with the release of the ACS book Shadowcatchers, a Cinematographers Panel gathers together the artists who shot Mabo, South Solitary and Little Fish, along with author Martha Ansara, to examine the art and craft of capturing the film image.
Don’t Miss – South Korea’s Official Competition entrant, Yuen Sang-ho’s animated social drama The King of Pigs; the French police procedural drama, Polisse; Richard Bates Jr’s surreal splatter/melodrama Excision, featuring ex-porn queen Traci Lords and trash-king John Waters.

DAY 8 – WEDNESDAY JUNE 13
Hot Ticket – Berlinale Best Director winner Christian Petzold’s Barbara, a study in isolation and paranoia in a repressed society.
Don’t Miss – Pen-ek Ratanaruang reinterpretation of the hitman drama; Headshot; a free presentation of the best 40 years of shorts films from graduates of the Australian Film Television and Radio School (amongst them works by Jane Campion, Rowan Woods and PJ Hogan).
First-run Reviews – Postcards From The Zoo.

DAY 9 – THURSDAY JUNE 14
Hot Ticket – The Blackfellas Shorts Program features over 2 hours of short-films from indigenous filmmakers; screening free at The Hub from 5pm.
Don’t Miss – Marc Fennel and cohorts dissect modern movie marketing with their Hub presentation Coming Sooner: The Art of the Movie Trailer; vying for the feel-bad film of the year award, Rick Alverson’s ironically-titled US-indie, The Comedy; the World Premiere of Dead Europe, the adaptation Christos Tsiolkas’ book by Jewboy director Tony Krawitz.

DAY 10 – FRIDAY JUNE 15
Hot Ticket – The latest version of Wuthering Heights, from Fish Tank director Andrea Arnold, spins the classic on its head with a radical new interpretation.
Don’t Miss – Lea Pool’s cage-rattling Pink Ribbons Inc, an expose of the financial practices of the breast cancer charity group; globe-trotting Australian filmmaker Benjamin Gilmour looks at the trials and tribulations of being a first-response Paramedico, in his gripping doco; slice and dice in the third dimension with the legendary Takashi Miike’s Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai 3D.

DAY 11 – SATURDAY JUNE 16
Hot Ticket – The final film in the Nikkatsu retrospective, Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter, is an anti-everything shocker celebrating individual style, personal privileges and a f***-you stance against political correctness.
Don’t Miss – Keanu Reeves interviews Hollywood’s leading directors in Side by Side, his doco on the digital-vs-film revolution that is changing how films are made; Canadian auteur’s Philippe Falardeau’s Oscar-nominated classroom drama, Monsieur Lazhar; director Costa Botes introduces the heart-breaking The Last Dogs of Winter, a personal take on the working dogs of Canda’s frozen North. 

DAY 12 – SUNDAY JUNE 17
Hot Ticket – At a headline-grabbing 320 minutes, and presented in 2 parts at The State Theatre, Anurag Kashyup’s sprawling, vividly cinematic crime drama Gangs of Wasseypur will test the mettle of even the staunchest last-day audiences.
Don’t Miss – ....anything you’ve missed already! The last day of the Festival is your last chance to catch up on the most buzzed-about titles; Bertolucci’s sexually-frank 60’s set free-love tale, The Dreamers, with Eva Green; The Closing Night film, Colin Trevorrow’s hipster-cool romantic/fantasy/comedy Safety Not Guaranteed.

FESTIVAL WRAP-UP....
Having watched the world flash by in widescreen ratio for the best part of the last two weeks, SCREEN-SPACE feels qualified to cast a critical eye over the 59th Sydney Film Festival (also feeling drained, unfocussed and tired, but will push on....). The selection of Yorgos Lanthimos' Alps as the Official Prize winner was certainly unexpected, as most of those I shared the long lines with favoured Beasts of the Southern Wild, Caesar Must Die or Neighbouring Sounds to take out the honour. The 'Greek New Wave' is not for everyone's taste (Ex-SFF director Lynden Barber was a vocal hater of Lanthimos' film - one of two he walked out of during the Festival), but in the Jury President's Rachel Ward's view, "Alps is intelligent, uniquely emotive filmmaking from an important new voice in Greek cinema, a finely calibrated, absurdist study of power and identity." Perhaps...
In his first year as Artistic Director, Nashen Moodley scored big with his Opening and Closing Night choices; the rousing reception afforded Colin Trevorrow's Safety Not Guaranteed set the party-mood perfectly for the Festival's State Theatre curtain call. Some other programme choices were met with raised eyebrows - Walter Salles' On The Road divided opinion ("long and shit", was one audience members boisterous response when queried); in hindsight, the inclusion of Anurag Kashyap's ambitious but flawed epic Gangs of Wasseypur Parts 1 and 2 may have seemed indulgent (Moodley is an avowed expert on Indian cinema); few considered Tony Krawitz's Dead Europe a serious contender amongst the Competition films.
For SCREEN-SPACE, highlights included Matthew McConnaughey's performance in William Friedkin's Killer Joe; New Zealander Costa Botes' documentary The Last Dogs of Winter; and, Side by Side, an examination of the pros and cons of the film industry's digital conversion. We struggled with Umesh Vinayak's Kulkarni's The Temple, Shunchiro Miki's The Warped Forest and Maiwenn's Polisse. The dubious honour of being named the Festival's biggest duds included Paul Gallasch's hardsell-mockumentary Killing Anna (inexplicably awarded the Best Documentary prize) and pretentious French horror film Livid.
Organisers have confirmed year-to-year growth for the Sydney Film Festival. 122,000 patrons, an increase of 10% on 2011, and a 27% uptick in Flexipass sales suggest Sydney continues to value the worth of its annual celebration of film culture. With Melbourne International Film Festival boldly upping its press release announcements during the SFF fortnight, competition for the top honour of being considered Australia's premier film event is at an all-time high.

Tuesday
May292012

NASHEN MOODLEY, FESTIVAL DIRECTOR / SFF 2012

Our interview with the Sydney Film Festival's newest director, Nashen Moodley, reveals a determined man driven to share his love of world cinema with Sydney audiences.

Most can recall that skip-a-beat moment in the job interview where your prospective employer puts your knowledge of their organisation on the spot with the question, “What are the greatest challenges you might face in this job?” For Nashen Moodley, it seems his good fortune at being named the Sydney Film Festival’s newest director began before he even took the job. “Um, I don’t think they asked me that question!” he says with a laugh.

Not that the state of the international film festival circuit offers Moodley too many surprises at this stage of his career. The experience that the debonair 35 year-old South African has amassed – Head of Programming for 11 years at the Durban International Film Festival and Director of Asia/Africa Programs for 6 years at the Dubai International Film Festival, to name just two of his high-profile credentials – ensures the unfurling of his fresh perspective on one of the Asia Pacific region’s key cultural events will be fascinating to watch.

“I think the challenge of all films festival is how to stay relevant, [defining] what makes film festivals important,” he tells SCREEN-SPACE in the week prior to the launch of the 59th edition of the SFF. “Sydney is in a great place in terms of attendance, but it is now about making this communal experience more impactful, more powerful than it has been in the past.”

He will draw upon the respected status of the SFF internationally to help achieve this aim. “We’ll be bringing more international guests to the Festival and creating more opportunities for international filmmakers to interact with the local Australian industry, so that synergies emerge from that contact,” he explains. “These are the important factors, not only for the visiting filmmakers and the local industry, but also the audiences. That’s what makes a festival a festival. Not just a series of screenings but a discussion about film, about creating an environment where cinema takes centre- stage.”

It is this balancing of the Festival’s key strengths in the eyes of the world film sector and ensuring local audiences are satiated over the 11 days of the Festival that is the professional tightrope Moodley walks. “I don’t think the two can be separated, or prioritise one over the other,” Moodley states. “In order to get the films we need for the Festival, we need to have strong relationships with overseas sales agents and producers and the local film distributors. But, at the same time, once we secure those films, we need people to watch them and to have a pleasant viewing experience.”

He understands that his professional future is linked inexorably to both the long- and short-term success of his SFF tenure. He openly admits that the Opening and Closing Night films – the hipster-cool Sydney-set dramedy, Not Suitable for Children, starring Ryan Kwanten (pictured, left) and the droll American indy, Safety Not Guaranteed (cast pictured, below), respectively – skew younger, clearly signalling a strategic consideration to attract new patrons.

“We need to secure a future audience for the festival. All festivals need to do that,” Moodley admits. “But with those two films, I also think they are really great films and will make for great Opening and Closing night celebrations. Both are also from first-time feature filmmakers, which is very exciting for me, introducing new talents to audiences. Both these films tick a lot of boxes.”

The vast knowledge of the Asian and African film industries Moodley’s experience affords him has also influenced the 2012 programme. A sidebar in honour of Japanese studio Nikkatsu’s centenary, a 5 film Focus on India strand and rarely-glimpsed films from Senegal (La Pirogue; Today), Cambodia (Golden Slumbers) and Qatar (The Virgin Copts and Me) undeniably reflect the Festival Director’s influence. But he wants it made clear that those films are screening because they meet the high standard he sets for all Festival entrants. “Those films are not included so that I can tick off some international quota,” he states, bluntly. “[This role] is about bringing the best of international cinema to the Sydney Film Festival, and the best of international cinema includes film from Africa and Asia. It is not a great agenda of mine to increase Asian or African film at the Festival, it is just that I believe the Festival should have a broad geographical representation. I believe the programme is fairly evenly balanced.” (below, the Festival Director previews the full programme)

When asked what he would like analysts to say about his first year in the Festival Director’s chair, Moodley says, “It’s not so much what someone might say but what they do during the Festival.” He understands the importance of the Sydney Film Festival to both the Harbour City’s filmgoers and the state economy. “If all the cinemas are full, all day every day, that would make me extremely happy.” But Nashen Moodley also wants to engage the intellects of a population that proudly embraces its arts culture. “I want people to find the selection really interesting and challenging. If they see 20 or 30 films, I don’t expect them to love every film. I want them to hate some as well. That’s what happens at film festivals; that’s what I enjoy about film festivals. If that happens in the end then I’ll be very, very happy.”

Monday
May282012

COMMENTS FROM CANNES WINNERS 2012

Courtesy of the official Cannes Film Festival website, winners from all major categories of this year's often contentious event reflect upon the moment their professional lives changed forever...

Michael Haneke, winner of the Palme d'or for Love (Amour) (pictured, above, with stars Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant).
The story I tell is based on the promise my wife and I made to each other: not to separate in a situation like the one in the film. We see that all the time and it is a widespread problem. I experienced it in my own family and that is what pushed me to make the film Love.

Matteo Garrone, winner of the Grand Prix for Reality (pictured, left)
I have not read much of what has been written. It was a surprise for me because I know there were many beautiful films. The Competition was tough but I am very happy because the Grand Prix will help the film to reach a wider audience.

Ken Loach, winner of the Jury Prize for The Angels' Share (La part des anges) (pictured, right)
We realized that if we spent time with people like the ones in the film, they have such optimism that it makes us happy. To speak truthfully about things, you have to present them in the form of comedy.

Cristian Mungiu, Best Screenwriter for Beyond the Hills (Dupa Dealuri) (pictured, left)
I am very happy to have this award, a little surprised because it is the longest film in the Competition. I kept on changing the dialogues, the actresses helped me a lot, we tried to give it a continuity.

Carlos Reygadas, Best Director for Post Tenebras Lux
My work comes from the desire to create, to share, to find fraternity in the world with you. I was asked if I was not sad because many people did not like my film. For many filmmakers, the goal is to please. That is not my goal. Mine is to be able to express myself with absolute freedom and to be able to leave someone with something.

Mads Mikkelsen, Best Actor (pictured, left)
It was a big moment for me and for the film. One cannot be a good actor in a mediocre film. During my stay, I didn't have a chance to see other films, but there is a lot of work to do in Cannes! Put me in the Jury and I will come to see films!

Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur, Best Actress in Dupa Dealuri (Beyond The Hills) (pictured, above)
The rhythm is different in film; after two months of shooting, here we are with this award, it’s incredible.

Benh Zeitlin, winner of the Caméra d’or for Beasts Of the Southern Wild (pictured, right)
For almost everyone who contributed to the film, it was their first film. We had worked very hard on small projects, short films in the past. We wanted to make this with friends, as a family. You never know, when you make a film, that success could come like this.

L. Rezan Yesbilas, winner of the Palme d'or - Short Film for Silent (Sessiz-be Deng)
It was amazing to be there, even before the ceremony. This is the second time that Turkey has won a Palm.

 

 

 

The Cinéfondation and Short Film Jury headed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and including Arsinée Khanjian, Karim Aïnouz, Emmanuel Carrère and Yu Lik-Wai, has awarded the 2012 Cinéfondation Prizes during a ceremony held in the Buñuel Theatre, followed by the screening of the winning films.

The Cinéfondation Selection consisted of 15 student films, chosen out of nearly 1 700 entries coming from 320 film schools around the world.

First Prize: Dorogno Na (The Road to), directed by Taisia Igumentseva, VGIK, Russia
Second Prize: Abigail, directed by Matthew James Reilly, NYU, USA
Third Prize: Los Anfitriones (The Hosts), directed by Miguel Angel Moulet, EICTV, Cuba

Sunday
May272012

HOOP DREAMS THEN AND NOW

The producer of one of the most acclaimed films of all time reflects on a deeply personal work and its  legacy.

“People always say to me, ‘when you get to the NBA, don’t forget about me’. Well, I should’ve said back, ‘if I don’t make it to the NBA, don’t you forget about me’.”—William Gates, Hoop Dreams

The ongoing celebrations surrounding the 50th anniversary of the New York Film Festival have been a boon to cinemagoers on America’s east coast. The Film Society of the Lincoln Center has begun screening highlights from the Festival’s first half-century, with works such as Jane Campion’s The Piano, Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and Manoel de Oliveira’s I’m Going Home getting all-too-rare big-screen showings in the lead up to the 2012 edition, which begins September 28.

One of the most anticipated events of the retrospective season will be the June 5 showing of Hoop Dreams, director Steve James’ 1994 documentary that followed William gates and Arthur Agee, two African-American basketball hopefuls as their lives took divergent and fascinating paths. The New York Times picked the 170-minute film as one of the 1000 greatest films of all time; it would be voted the greatest documentary of all time by the International Documentary Association.

Attending the event will be James and producers Peter Gilbert and Frederick Marx (pictured, right). Speaking to SCREEN-SPACE from the offices of his production company Warrior Films, Marx welcomes the opportunity to reflect upon a work that has touched millions. “In many ways it was the first of its kind. That combining of documentary methods with fiction strategies, of trying to combine verite documentary style with Hollywood story-telling structure and pacing,” he recalls, citing the interwoven dramatic flow of the story as being ground-breaking. “It is a longitudinal study combining dramatic sports action with sociological detail, stylistically different from talking heads and B-roll films like the UP series, which I deeply admire.”

Aside from the enormous critical acclaim (it has a 98% Rotten Tomatoes rating) and award season goodwill (it won Sundance and National Board of Review honours, amongst many others), Marx (pictured, left) most clearly recalls the impact the production had on the lives of Agee and Gates. “I remember returning from one interview with William and telling Steve we're doing William a great service by being there as confidantes,” he says, “just wanting to hear his truth and feelings as opposed to most people who were telling him what they thought he should do.” Both played some minor-league seasons but neither achieved NBL status. However both still provide inspiration for many - Gates as pastor at Living Faith Community Church in Chicago; Agee as a motivational speaker with his start-up initiative, ‘Hoop Dreams: Control Your Destiny Curriculum’.

Gates recently told basketball website Slam.com, ““It’s all about choices. That’s what I try to get across to my own kids and the kids we serve at my church. It’s about empowerment and choices. Instead of a basketball scholarship, get an academic scholarship. Broaden your horizons.” Frederick Marx agrees, bemoaning the fact that Hoop Dreams did not foster a greater degree of understanding and assistance for America’s inner-city youths in the long term. “Things are worse today,” he states, bluntly. “The socio-economic realities of many urban African-American families are far worse and the exploitation of athletes starts now in grammar school.  They're rated in spec sheets like horses are, starting in 5th or 6th grade, at ages 10 to 12.”

Hoop Dreams screens June 5 at The Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theatre at 6.30pm.

Wednesday
May092012

59th SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL PROGRAM ANNOUNCEMENT

Debutant festival director Nashen Moodley reveals his line-up for the 59th Sydney Film Festival before an eager throng of media, industry and political personalities. 

The 12 features battling it out in the Official Competition strand of the 2012 Sydney Film Festival are particularly diverse, with only the glaring omission of any UK films from the line-up standing out. It is the most notably divergent path that newly-appointed Festival Director Nashen Moodley (pictured, below) has taken in his first year in charge; all other programming choices appear to safely reflect the same dedication to international cinema that his predecessor, Claire Stewart, adopted whilst in charge and which helped drive audience numbers and reinforce the events global relevance.

The Festival Jury, led by actress Rachel Ward and to be announced in full over the weeks leading up to the Opening Night on June 6, will be asked to cast judgement over the following dozen, chosen because they adhere to the guidelines which dictate they demonstrate ‘emotional power and resonance; are audacious, cutting-edge, courageous; and go beyond the usual treatment of the subject matter’:
ALPS. Greece | 2011 | 93 mins
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos | Screenwriters: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou | Producers: Athina Rachel Tsangari, Yorgos Lanthimos | Cast: Aggeliki Papoulia, Aris Servetalis, Johnny Vekris.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. USA | 2011 | 92 mins
Director: Benh Zeitlin | Screenwriters: Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin | Producers: Michael Gottwald, Dan Janvey, Josh Penn | Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry.
CAESAR MUST DIE. Italy | 2012 | 76 mins
Directors, Screenwriters: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani | Producer: Grazia Volpi | Cast: Cosimo Rega, Salvatore Striano, Giovanni Arcuri.
DEAD EUROPE. Australia | 2012 | 84 mins
Director: Tony Krawitz | Screenwriter: Louise Fox | Producers: Iain Canning, Liz Watts, Emile Sherman | Cast: Ewen Leslie, Marton Csokas, Kodi Smit-McPhee.
GANGS OF WASSEYPUR PARTS 1 AND 2. India | 2012 | 160 mins x 2
Director: Anurag Kashyap | Screenwriters: Anurag Kashyap, Syed Zeeshan Qadri, Akhilesh Jaiswal, Sachin Ladia | Producers: Anurag Kashyap, Sunil Bohra, Guneet Monga | Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Richa Chaddha, Tigmanshu Dhulia.
THE KING OF PIGS. South Korea | 2011 | 97 mins
Director, Screenwriter: Yuen Sang-ho | Producer: Cho Young-kag | Cast: Yang Ik-june, Oh Jeong-se, Kim Hye-na.
LORE. Australia, Germany | 2012 | 109 mins
Director: Cate Shortland | Screenwriters: Robin Mukherjee, Cate Shortland, Rachel Seiffert | Producers: Benny Drechsel, Karsten Stöter, Liz Watts, Paul Welsh | Cast: Saskia Rosendahl, Nele Trebs, André Frid.
MONSIEUR LAZHAR. Canada | 2011 | 92 mins
Director, Screenwriter: Philippe Falardeau | Producers: Luc Déry, Kim McCraw | Cast: Fellag, Sophie Nélisse, Émilien Néron.
NEIGHBOURING SOUNDS. Brazil | 2012 | 131 mins
Director, Screenwriter: Kleber Mendonça Filho | Producer: Emilie Lesclaux | Cast: Irandhir Santos, Gustavo Jahn, Maeve Jinkings.
ON THE ROAD.  USA | 2012 | 140 mins
Director: Walter Salles | Screenwriter: José Rivera | Producers: Charles Gillibert, Nathanaël Karmitz, Rebecca Yeldham | Cast: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen.
TABU. Portugal, Germany, Brazil, France | 2012 | 110 mins
Director: Miguel Gomes | Screenwriters: Miguel Gomes, Mariana Ricardo | Producers: Sandro Aguilar, Luís Urbano | Cast: Teresa Madruga, Laura Soveral, Ana Moreira, Carlotto Cotta.
TODAY. France, Senegal | 2011 | 86 mins
Director, Screenwriter: Alain Gomis | Producers: Eric Idriss Kanango, Oumar Sall, Gilles Sandoz | Cast: Saül Williams, Djolof M’Bengue, Anisia Uzeyman.

Opening Night honours have been bestowed upon Peter Templeman’s Not Suitable for Children, a cancer-dramedy set amongst Sydney’s Inner-west hipsters and starring Ryan Kwanten. Closing the Festival will be the US independent release Safety Not Guaranteed (pictured, above), directed by first-timer Colin Trevorrow and described by the Festival guide as “a surprising and very funny sci-fi comedy with heart.” That the Festivals’ most high-profile slots are programmed with decidedly younger-skewing films suggests that Moodley is determined to keep the Sydney Film Festival (and his tenure) relevant to future generations.

The Dendy Organisation has re-signed as key sponsor for the Australian Short Film Award category, which contains films that have already found favour in Berlin (Matthew Moore’s Julian and Billie Pfeiffer’s Bino), the South-x-Southwest Festival (Marieka Walsh’s The Hunter) and Cannes (Michael Spiccia’s Yardbird). Eight factual films will contest for the Foxtel Australian Documentary Prize, won last year by Sophie Hyde’s and Bryan Mason’s Life in Movement; the scheduled works include Despite The Gods, Penny Wozniak’s character study of director Jennifer Lynch, and the world premiere of Utopia, the latest from SFF veteran Bruce Petty (Leisure, 1976; Global Haywire, 2007).

Also returning are other award categories such as The Community Relations Commission (CRC) Award, given to the film whose content best reflects Australia’s multicultural diversity, and the popular Showtime Movie Channels Audience Award, reflecting the punter’s Festival favourite (won in 2011 by Shane Meadows’ This is England ’86). Announced at this morning's program launch was the 2012 Peter Rasmussen  Innovation Award winner – Justin Wight, honoured for his multi-platform, trans-media project Double Happy vs The Infinite Sadness.

The breadth of films on offer over the 2012 event is statistically staggering - 157 titles: 56 features, 40 documentaries, 32 short films, 14 retrospective titles, 18 world premieres (11 features, 7 shorts), 107 Australian premieres, 30 Australian productions (5 features, 7 documentaries, 18 short films) and films from 50 countries in 48 languages. Experienced Festival goers will know that high-profile entrants can disappoint and bolters can unexpectedly emerge from the pack to win over unsuspecting patrons. With that in mind, the Best of the Fest on paper would include Nadine Labaki’s follow-up to Caramel, Where Do We Go Now?; Israeli writer-director’s Nadav Lapid’s Tribeca hit, Policeman; Nikolaj Arcel’s A Royal Affair, which return from the Berlinale with Best Actor and Best Screenplay honours; Gerardo Naranjo’s Mexican thriller Miss Bala; How I Met Your Mother star Josh Radner’s second indy feature Liberal Arts, starring It-girl Elizabeth Olsen (star of SFF 2011 hit, Martha Marcy May Marlene); from The Netherlands, Sacha Polak’s existential sex-vs-love dramedy, Hemel (pictured, below); Russia’s winner of Venice’s Golden Lion award, Faust, from director Alexander Sokurov; and, the world premiere of the Australian film, Being Venice, from writer director Miro Bilbrough.

The iconic State Theatre is back in all its glory after the 2011 event had the venue space truncated due to renovations. Film’s afforded the opulence of one of Sydney’s last great theatrical venues include Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, Michael Haneke’s Amour, Ken Loach’s The Angel Share, Rachel Perkins’ Mabo, Oren Moverman’s Rampart and Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights.

In addition to the first-run features, sidebar offerings will include a retrospective of Italian great Bernardo Bertolucci, a selection of classics from the library of 100-year old Japanese studio giant Nikkatsu, and a focus on the independent cinema of India. The influence of Moodley’s past-life as Director of Asia/Africa Programs at the Dubai International Film Festival can be strongly felt in that regard. Variety critic and genre buff Richard Kuipers returns to program the ‘Freak Me Out’ strand of horror and fantasy films, which this year includes works from France (Alexandre Bustill and Julien Maury’s Livid), the US (William Friedkin’s Killer Joe), the UK (Keith Wright’s Harold’s Going Stiff) and Japan (Shunichiro Miki’s The Warped Forest).

SCREEN-SPACE will be covering the events of the day as they unfold, with blogs, reviews and interviews being uploaded morning and night over the course of the Festival’s twelve days.