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The production prowess of 15 film territories infuses the 12 features vying for competitive honours at the 63rd Sydney Film Festival (SFF). Opening June 8 with the World Premiere of Ivan Sen’s outback-noir thriller Goldstone (pictured, below), the 2016 Official Competition boasts 8 Australian premieres from such diverse filmmaking cultures as Denmark, Portugal, Hungary, South Africa, India and Brazil, in addition to festival regulars France, the U.K., Germany and the U.S.

Four of the competitive titles will be hitting Harbour City screens directly from the 69th Cannes Film Festival. They are Boo Junfeng’s Apprentice, a locally-lensed psychological drama exploring the hot-button issue of capital punishment; Raman Raghav 2.0, a chilling account of India’s worst serial killer, from Gangs of Wasseypur director Anurag Kashyap; Kleber Mendonca Filho’s Aquarius, starring Sonia Braga as the last resident of a historic high rise who refuses to vacate; and, Canadian auteur Xavier Dolan’s latest, It’s Only The End of The World, a bittersweet coming-of-death drama with Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel and Lea Seydoux.

Other titles in the hunt for the $60,000 Sydney Film Prize are Martin Zandvliet’s WWII drama Land of Mine, a Danish/German co-production that examines Denmark’s mistreatment of German POWs; Certain Women, a three-tiered study in female empowerment that reteams director Kelly Reichardt with her Wendy and Lucy leading lady, Michelle Williams, alongside Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart; Portuguese filmmaker Ivo Ferreira’s Golden Bear-nominated Letter from War, a monochromatic tale of long-distant love set against Angolan colonial conflict of the 1970s; the UK docu-drama Notes on Blindness, based upon the life of writer John Hull, from co-directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney; actor-turned-director Brady Corbet’s Venice-honored dark fantasy The Childhood of a Leader, with Robert Pattinson and Berenice Bejo (pictured, right); The Endless River, a South African crime drama from Skoonheid director Oliver Hermanus; and, the Cuban-set queer-themed father-son story Viva, from Irish director Paddy Breathnach and executive producer Benicio Del Toro.

Competitive strands across the 12 day festival include the Documentary Australia Foundation Award, offering a $15,000 cash prize to 10 hopefuls, among them the World Premiere of Taryn Brumfitt’s body-image advocacy doc, Embrace; the popular Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films; and, Event Cinemas Australian Short Screenplay Awards.

Non-competitive features are as richly diverse as those in line for official kudos. From the ever-expanding roster of over 250 films, festival goers can see the latest from Steven Spielberg (The BFG, with Oscar-winner Mark Rylance as the titular CGI behemoth); Mel Gibson (Jean-Francois Richet’s Blood Father); Jake Gyllenhaal (Jean-Marc Vallee’s Demolition); Viggo Mortensen (Matt Ross’ Captain Fantastic); director Whit Stillman (Love and Friendship, with Kate Beckinsale; pictured, right); Temuera Morrison (Mahana, for his Once Were Warriors director, Lee Tamahori); Michael Shannon (opposite Kevin Spacey in Elvis & Nixon); director Richard Linklater (Everybody Wants Some!); Russian Ark documentarian Aleksandr Sokurov (Francophonia); Pedro Almodovar (Julieta) and, Daniel Radcliffe (as a corpse, opposite Paul Dano in Swiss Army Man).

There will be double the joy for fans of Ethan Hawke and Tom Hiddleston, each of whom have two pics in the mix - Hawke with Maggie’s Plan, opposite Greta Gerwig, and the Chet Baker bio, Born to Be Blue; Hiddleston with Ben Wheatley’s thriller High Rise and the Hank Aaron bio, I Saw The Light. Fans of animated films will be similarly delighted – in the Documentary strand is Roger Ross William’s Sundance honoree Life, Animated, the story of an autistic teenager and the curative power of his obsession with Disney films; the fifth instalment of the adventures of the acorn-focussed Scrat in Ice Age: Collision Course; and, Remy Chaye’s epic seafaring adventure Long Way North, a French/Danish co-production.

Gender diversity is high on the agenda for SFF 2016, notably in the programming of the sidebar European Cinema: 10 Women Filmmakers to Watch. Amongst the selection are challenging, engaging visions from Austria (Barbara Eder’s Thank You for Bombing), Greece (Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Chevalier), Sweden (Sara Jordeno’s Kiki), Poland (Agnieska Smoczynska’s The Lure; pictured, below), Germany (Nicolette Krebitz’s Wild; Icair Bollan’s The Olive Tree) and Denmark (Frederikke Aspock’s Rosita).

Other strands include focus programming on the territories of Ireland (John Carney’s Sing Street; Conor Horgan’s Queen of Ireland; Ken Wardrop’s Mom and Me) and Korea, particularly the region’s ‘Social Cinema’ movement (Jung Yoon-suk’s NonFiction Diary; Zhang Lu’s Love And…; Ahn Gooc-jin’s Alice in Earnestland). Returning will be the Sounds on Screen line-up, featuring the music of Sharon Jones (Barbara Kopple’s Miss Sharon Jones!), David Byrne (Bill and Turner Ross’ Contemporary Color), James Lavelle (Matthew Jones’ The Man from Mo’Wax) and Janis Ian (Amy Berg’s Little Girl Blue). And the frightening Freak Me Out horror selections take on a broader global perspective than in recent years, with co-productions from Jordan/Qatar (Babak Anvari’s Under the Shadow), Serbia/Bosnia and Herzegovina/Croatia (Nicholas Pesce’s The Eyes of My Mother), France/Belgium/Spain (Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Evolution; trailered, below), Canada/US (Tyler McIntyre’s Patchwork), as well Aussie contributors Craig Anderson (the locally-produced Red Christmas, with Dee Wallace) and Sean Byrne (his US debut, The Devil’s Candy).

As is the case with the very best of international festivals, Sydney will offer reverence to past masters as well as embracing and exploring the future of the film. Restorations include the vast, previously-announced Martin Scorsese retrospective; Yasujiro Ozu’s 1953 masterpiece, Tokyo Story; Filipino auteur Lino Brocka’s 1976 social drama, Insiang; the late Chantal Akerman’s 1975 droll, atmospheric feminist epic, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles; and, the Australian classics Bliss and The Boys. Futurists will flock to Down The Rabbithole: Virtual Reality, a series of panels, presentations and interactive eyewear opportunities exploring the next wave of interactive vis-tech co-presented in association with Jumpgate VR at the festival’s meeting place, The Hub.

The 63rd edition of the Sydney Film Festival runs June 8-19. Venue, session and ticket information can be found at the event's official website.



Independent: (adj) free from outside control; not subject to another's authority.

Australian filmgoers seeking to be challenged and energized will welcome a new cinema event called Essential Independents: American Cinema, Now. Featuring 32 films (including 11 Australian premieres), the 16-day program aims to contextualize the creative paths forged by American independent filmmakers, the current state of the sector and visions that suggest a vibrant future lies ahead. The rich schedule – presented under the strands Fiction, Intrigue, Experiments, Originals and New York - is the cumulative work of artistic director Richard Sowada, one of Australia’s leading film academics and event curators. His credits include the founding in 1997 of Perth’s iconic counter-culture film event, Revelation, and a nine-year posting as Head of Film Programs at the Australian Centre for The Moving Image. He spoke with SCREEN-SPACE ahead of the launch of the Sydney season on May 17 (other states to follow)…

SCREEN-SPACE: What is the current state of American independent cinema and how does your inaugural line-up capture that? 

SOWADA: It’s always been in a healthy state across experimental, documentary and feature film elements. I’m not sure why; it’s almost like that because the US walks such a precarious, perilous socio-political line with so many social and cultural divisions within itself, it engenders a kind of urgency amongst the creative community, like their world is about to implode and they have to act fast. Also, the sheer volume of work created forces the filmmakers to approach things in ambitious, inventive ways. The ambition isn’t always directed at scale of course, but perhaps something as small and simple as “I can do this”. The new works in the program grab hold of that actively. We throw weight behind quite experimental films, to high-quality political and socially oriented documentaries. The features also explore style, form, performance and technique. There are genuinely fresh ideas and exciting approaches, even in feature debuts.

SCREEN-SPACE: Given the dire 'superhero blockbuster' studio mentality, and funding/distribution struggle for truly indie cinema, might your byline 'American Cinema, Now' be courting disfavour?

SOWADA: What you’re talking about here are two different industries. One is based on selling popcorn, the other on working with ideas. The entire emphasis and tradition is different. Independent approaches always had to struggle against the massive amount of mediocre content; in publishing, art, fashion, music, business, everywhere, all the time. The whole independent approach is about finding a different way and they continue to do just that. This program is just one example. To see these films on commercial independent screens around Australia is a small miracle in itself. It’s opportunities like this that start to shift the funding and distribution possibilities for these kinds of films. If you can demonstrate an audience, you’re well on the way to breaking through and changing the status quo.

SCREEN-SPACE: Can we ever hope to regain the fever pitch state of indie film production that erupted in the wake of Pulp Fiction in the mid-90s?

SOWADA: The whole industry is a creative continuum. Pulp Fiction is used as a marker for the orgasmic explosion of independent cinema into (the) mainstream, but this revolution was going on before Pulp Fiction (and) has continued unabated since. Just because we don’t see a lot of it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Stranger Than Paradise and Blood Simple were on our screens 10 years earlier. Locally, Once Were Warriors came out in the same year as Pulp Fiction and changed the independent distribution and exhibition landscape in Australia. The brashness of something like Pulp Fiction didn’t create more independent works, it just bought audiences into the environment that was already there. The films also slowly morphed into a different kind of independent cinema which often has something softer, like what the the austere approach of the Dogme movement did for Danish cinema. Boyhood is a great and quite revolutionary example of that.

Above: Oren Moverman's Time Out of Mind, Opening Night film at Essential Independents

SCREEN-SPACE: 'Essential Intrigue’ profiles true cage-rattlers, like Robert Mapplethorpe (pictured, below; with singer Patti Smith) and Johnny Cash, as well as anti-establishment accounts of sectors like tech security and hip hop culture. Is independent cinema at its best when challenging the accepted norm?

SOWADA: I think that’s an accidental thing in many ways. Often these stories are personal and hidden. They’re buried deep in subculture(s) or forgotten corners of history. Those corners are hard to see by producers, funders, broadcasters and distributors who often feel they’re too ‘niche’ to explore. This word ‘niche’ is used by sectors of the industry to describe something they don’t understand. Therefore the misunderstood, specific or marginalised are deemed without audience. The independent sector, on the other hand, has a very different perspective; from lower down, they can get access into these corners and their inhabitants. I’m not sure if these filmmakers deliberately go out to challenge accepted norms but because they understand and respect their subjects and audiences so well, the works reflect their protagonists differently. The films are what they’re about, not simply a reflection of it. There’s a different, much more personal feel and approach where the magic overlay of style and content is very strong and individual.

SCREEN-SPACE: Does a correlation exist between the debut works featured in Essential Originals?

SOWADA: There’s a couple that play to genres like Near Dark and Blood Simple but I think the real binding element – and this cuts across all the titles throughout the program – is the respect they have for what’s gone before, just like Tarantino’s work. You can see Two Lane Blacktop in Kelly Riechardt’s River of Grass. You can see Cassavetes’ work in Stranger Than Paradise and Slacker. You can see Double Indemnity in Blood Simple. You can see Alien in Near Dark. What they do is take these inspirations, traditions, the special connections they have both with audiences and the sheer logistics of making a low-budget film and integrate them into their own signature. You can literally see the filmmakers taking the great moments and dissecting them to see how those moving parts work. It’s quite scientific study, experimentation and appreciation.

Above: Trailer for William Friedkin's Cruising, screening as part of Essential New York strand.

SCREEN-SPACE: One of the great coups of the festival will be a rare screening of William Friedkin's Cruising. How do you expect the millenial audience to react to such a confronting, non-PC work?

SOWADA: You simply couldn’t make a film like that for commercial release any more. It’s hardcore, with little left to the imagination. Not having been part of the NYC S&M club scene in the 70s, the depictions seem very authentic, which is fascinating and vibrant to watch. You don’t question the realism and there’s so much detail. It must have been a difficult film to make and Pacino does a great job. New audiences are going to lap it up, so to speak. It’s so surprising. It’s high quality in every way - widescreen, great sound, excellent soundtrack, brilliant costuming, a tense story and completely underground, subculture setting. I think new audiences will walk away asking what happened to these high risk/high reward films? Matching it up with Franco’s performance experiment Interior. Leather Bar is going to tip the whole experience over the edge. Now that’s what I call a double feature!

Essential Independents: American Cinema, Now screens at Palace Cinemas from May 17 in Sydney, May 18 in Melbourne, May 19 in Brisbane and Canberra and May 26 in Adelaide. Ticket and venue information via the event's official website. 



Under the stewardship of Jury President George Miller, the films competing for the 2016 Festival de Cannes Palme d’Or will be judged by a jury of eight – four men and four women – each with their own highly-regarded status in world cinema. 

Some will be known by many; others, only by the most fervent followers of international film. So who are the 8 and what have they done to deserve their place on the Croisette…?

Who? One of world cinema’s most respected actors, the 80 year-old Canadian’s career has encompassed star-making early roles (The Dirty Dozen; Kelly’s Heroes) iconic leading man turns (Klute; Don’t Look Now; Invasion of The Body Snatchers) and memorable support parts (Backdraft; JFK; The Hunger Games).
Cannes cred: Starred in Robert Altman’s 1970 Palme d’Or winner, MASH; in 2012, became a Commander of The Order of Arts and Letters, bestowed by French Minister of Culture for "significant contribution to the enrichment of the French cultural inheritance."

Who? A leading light in contemporary French cinema since his lauded 1991 debut, La vie des morts, the 55 year-old auteur has found unshakeable critical favour and commercial success both domestically (14 Cesar nominations, capped by a Best Director win in 2015 for his latest, My Golden Days) and abroad (official selection and trophy wins in Venice, Chicago, Munich, Lisbon and Avignon).
Cannes cred: Featured in the Official Competition line-up on five occasions - his debut feature, 1992’s The Sentinel; My Sex Life…or How I Got into an Apartment; Esther Kahn; A Christmas Tale (for which his leading lady, Catherine Deneuve, earned a Best Actress trophy); and, Jimmy P. In 2015, secured the Director’s Fortnight SACD Honour for My Golden Days.

Above: Arnaud Desplechin accepts his 2015 Best Director Cesar for My Golden Days.

Who? Mentored by the great Bela Tarr, the young Hungarian emerged triumphantly in 2015 with his debut feature, Son of Saul. The harrowing Holocaust drama scored 45 international film honours including the Best Foreign Film trophies at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit and National Board of Review (US) ceremonies, as well as festival prizes at Zagreb, Stockholm, Seattle, Sarajevo and Santa Barbara, to name just a few.
Cannes cred: Son of Saul earned five nominations at last years’ event, eventually winning the FIPRESCI Critics Award, the coveted Francois Chalais Prize (awarded to a work steeped in affirmative life value, named after the revered French journalist and film historian) and the Grand Jury prize.

Who? The headline-grabbing French multi-hyphenate parlayed early career success as a ‘supermodel’ into the fields of pop-music and acting; following a Cesar-winning debut in Claude de Brisseau’s Noce blanche in 1989, her presence enlivened such works as Patrice Leconte’s The Girl on The Bridge, Pascal Chaumeil’s Heartbreaker and Jean-Marc Vallee’s Café de Flore (for which she won a Best Actress Genie). In 2011, she also supplied her vocal talent to the French-language version of Bibo Bergeron’s animated hit, A Monster in Paris.
Cannes cred: French industry status and A-list, red-carpet glamour.

Who? Mikkelsen’s status as arguably Europe’s #1 star began soon after his breakout role in Nicholas Winding Refn’s Pusher trilogy. A decade of hits followed, including Anders Thomas Jensen’s Flickering Lights, Lone Scherfig’s Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, Susanne Bier’s Open Hearts and After the Wedding, Ole Christian Madsen’s Flame & Citroen and Nikolaj Arcel’s A Royal Affair. Off continent, Mikkelsen made his mark in commercial properties like King Arthur, Casino Royale, The Three Musketeers and Clash of the Titans; his biggest Stateside hit has been the title role in the hit TV series, Hannibal.
Cannes cred: Won the 2012 Best Actor award for Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt; his starring turn in Arnaud Des Pallières’s Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas premiered in the 2013 Official Competition.

Above: Trailer for The Hunt, with Mads Mikkelsen.

Who? Her breakthrough role at age 12 as a bloodsucking seductress opposite Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Neil Jordan’s 1994 hit Interview With a Vampire ensured Kirsten Dunst fame and notoriety in equal measure. Rarely out of the public spotlight, the New Jersey-native weathered the awkward teenage years with high-profile studio projects (Jumanji; Small Soldiers; Bring It On; Spiderman) and well-chosen indie projects (Wag the Dog; The Virgin Suicides; Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind). Recently, Dunst bounced back from critical duds (Wimbledown; Elizabethtown; an ill-advised third Spiderman film) with Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, Walter Salles' On The Road, Hossein Amini’s The Two Faces of January and Jeff Nichol’s Midnight Special, as well as an acclaimed guest stint on the TV series Fargo.  
Cannes cred: The Best Actress Award at the 2011 festival for her performance in Lars von Trier's Melancholia.

Who? The immeasurable contribution made by the 47 year-old Iranian to the international acceptance of her nation’s film output is remarkable. Having spent her formative years as a ‘film promoter’ with the industry support body Farabi Cinema Foundation, in 2001 she established Scheherazade Media International, an initiative to produce and distribute homegrown content that gave creative freedom to auteurs like Mohammad Rasoulof, Mania Akbari and Saman Salour. In 2012, launched Noori Pictures and found instant acclaim with Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s Tales and Vahid Jalilvand’s Wednesday May 9.
Cannes cred: In 2015, her production of Ida Panahandeh’s Nahid won the Un Certain Regard strand’s Avenir Prize honour.

Who? After a run of critically acclaimed films in her homeland (Little Flames; A Tale of Love; Three Sisters), the Italian model-turned-actress followed the ‘European ingenue’ route paved by the likes of Nastassja Kinski and Joanna Pacula and headed for LA. Following her debut in Randall Kleiser’s Big Top Pee Wee, she found high-profile work in Barry Levinson’s Rain Man, Sean Penn’s The Indian Runner, Jim Abraham’s Hot Shots! and Mike Figgis’ Leaving Las Vegas. Golina never forgot her continental roots, returning home frequently to star in such works as Giacomo Campiotti’s Like Two Crocodiles, Emanuele Crialese’s Respiro and Silvio Soldini’s The Acrobat.
Cannes cred: Her directorial debut, Miele, screened in the 2013 Un Certain Regard selection and received the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.

Above: Valeria Golino discusses her film Miele at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, 2013



The burden of past glories and the crippling impact of addiction are dissected in Broke, a new Australian film from writer/director Heath Davis. Featuring a typically intense turn from the great Steve Le Marquand, the working class drama tells the story of Ben ‘BK’ Kelly, a once-great rugby league star whose gambling and self-medication through booze has led to desperate times; Claire van der Boom, as Terri, and Max Cullen as Cec are the strugglers who never lose faith in their fallen hero. In his narrative feature debut, Davis nails a hard-edged realism tinged with real heart. Ahead of the film’s theatrical season, Davis spoke with SCREEN-SPACE about his small-scale, intrinsically ‘Aussie’ story that feels universally human… 

SCREEN-SPACE: There is a strong 'cinematic' feel to the characters, but more resonant is the 'blue collar' authenticity, the 'real people' that are BK and Cec and Terri. How did that dynamic emerge in the writing? Are these people from your background?

Davis: There's definitely a ‘real’ DNA, as I like to put it that runs through these characters. It was imperative that they and the movie ring true for identification purposes. BK for instance is a hybrid of people, ex-league players, I knew growing up in western Sydney. His character was pretty fleshed out on the page and then Steve made it his own. I encouraged that. He's been around these types of folk so it wasn't a big stretch for him. (Pictured, top; Davis on-set, with actors Claire van der Boom and Steve Le Marquand)

SCREEN-SPACE: Steve Le Marquand is that rare performer; an intense character-actor persona wrapped in a leading-man package. He must be an enormous asset in pre-production/rehearsal and then on-set. Describe what he brought to the character of BK and the relationship you, as his director, forged with him...

Davis: The obvious physicality and his unique bravado aside, Steve brought his life experience to the table. He's lived a rough-and-tumble existence and knows only too well the world these characters inhabit, so I knew we'd definitely have a believable lead character. He's really respected by his peers so when he came on board I knew he would draw other quality actors to the project. He's a very generous actor to not only his fellow cast but also crew. He made sure that there was no place for ego on set for anyone and that was crucial in creating the realism we were going for. (Pictured, right; Marquand with co-star Claire van der Boom)

SCREEN-SPACE: The National Rugby League (NRL) contributed to the funding of Broke. How and why did they become involved?

Davis: The NRL Education and Welfare Team came on board just before pre-production with some financial support. It was by no means a large sum but it was a lot to us. More importantly, we wanted their endorsement. And I think they realised it would be a good education tool to use for their players, especially juniors. (Pictured, left; Davis, left, on-set with actors William Zappa, Steve Le Marquand and Justin Rosniak)

SCREEN-SPACE: Thematically, Broke pits the facade of hero adulation against the reality of an addict’s self-destruction. Is it a celebration of hero worship or a warning of the dangers of fawning over false idols?

Davis: I've always been fascinated by the facade of celebrity. What you see is not always what you get. It's a human construct that simply isn't real yet we are so celebrity driven as a culture. I remember having troubles growing up understanding the context of how a footy player on a Sunday afternoon could be so adored yet so broken and lonely playing the pokies on a Tuesday night at the local. That juxtaposition makes for great drama. In the end I wanted to show that heroes in life are human and just because they have a specific skill set that doesn't necessarily equip them for life or make them role models.

SCREEN-SPACE: The final images in the film convey a beautifully complex, ambiguous future. Do you have hope for your characters?

Davis: Oh yes, I do. I see it as a bittersweet but honest conclusion. Without spoiling anything, I think BK gets what he needs and not what he wants, perhaps for the first time in his life, and he realises and accepts that. I think there's definitely good times ahead for this motley crew.

Following acclaim on the festival circuit, BROKE has its Sydney premiere on Wednesday, April 13 with other screenings to follow. Ticket and venue information can be found at the film's official website. 

Photographs by MK Creative Studios; Copyright Scope Red 2014



For a moment, imagine that the arduous slog undertaken by the next-no-budget short film auteur is not already daunting enough. How could a filmmaker make the thankless journey exponentially more difficult? For Chris Elena, the answer was clear – forego all the burden-easing advancements made in digital camera tech and embrace every production problem presented by shooting on film. The result - a 15-minute contemporary drama called The Limited – is a testament to the drive and commitment synonymous with the origins of the art form…

“Film's aesthetic is warm and cinematic, which we wanted and needed for a film mostly set in small places with cold individuals,” says Elena, a respected voice and popular personality amongst the young turks of Sydney’s film-writing community. His vocal passion for the works of Paul Thomas Anderson fuels his own directorial flair for ‘pure cinema’; The Limited is a small-scale examination of the impact of schoolyard stories and macho posturing that soars emotionally and thematically through the use of Kodak 16mm stock. (Pictured, top; Elena, centre, with crew during the shoot).

“We needed to tell this story on 16mm, which has its own unique cinematic language,” say Elena, his script drawing upon his own experiences at an all-boy Catholic high school in the 2000s. “We shot on one location, with very little coverage, a narrative that is essentially four people telling each other lies that will impact their lives. We knew film (would) elevate that simplicity.”

With a ready-to-go script, Elena also knew that timing was crucial if he was to realise his ambitious production; once-giant film supplier Fujifilm had shuttered its film stock division in March 2013, with rumours circulating that Kodak were poised to do the same. “This was the medium I had learned about, had believed in the magic of since deciding to be a director at the age of 9,” he confides. “I wanted The Limited to be greater than the script I had written and for that, for me to be a better director and do this story and everyone who believed in it some justice, I needed film.” (Pictured, right; the young cast of The Limited)

Mentored into production by industry veteran, the late J. Harkness and employing an experienced DOP in Kym Vaitiekus, Elena realised a dream when he called ‘action’ on a tight 2-day shoot in 2014. “We had eight 400-foot reels, 3,200 feet of 16mm film,” he recalls. “As soon as you start rolling, you have 9½ minutes, or one standard roll of film, to get it perfect. We would shoot each take, change reels, place the film in a black bag and have it sent to be processed at the lab, all at once.” The process made for a focussed, energised set, with cast and crew fully aware of the limitations of film. “Each take has to be better,” says Elena. “When you're shooting on film, you allow yourself to trust whoever is looking at that monitor; they trust your word as they know this footage is precious.” 

Throughout the shoot and well into post-production, the young filmmaker was reminded of why film had fallen out of favour in the face of the digital revolution. “It’s horribly expensive,” Elena bemoans, despite an end-to-end budget of just in excess of A$5000 and made without any grant assistance. “Then the lab could get it wrong, the dallies don't look like what you saw in the monitor, sound editing and mixing is a nightmare with the noise from the camera making an appearance in every take.”

Having spent the best part of 2015 in the edit suite with Vaitiekus and cutter Leslie Heldzingen crafting his vision, Chris Elena is now in a position to consider the end product of his obsession with traditional celluloid. “We didn’t get the amount of coverage we wanted, but we made it work in the end,” he concludes. “We could've created this on digital but it never would have looked and felt this way. The raw dallies - without a colour grade, with minor scratches and dust on the frame - looked like what I always imagined films to look like. Every take we got, the work and effort was on display.” (Pictured, left; the director preparing a shot on the set of The Limited)

And, no, the director is not finished crusading for the existence of film stock. “I'll try to shoot on film until there's not a single reel left that Kodak can give me,” he declares. “The effort and potential for magic that comes with it is worth it in every way imaginable.”