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Entries in Film Festival (17)

Tuesday
Jun162015

2015 REVELATION PERTH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: PREVIEW

With East coast film buffs re-engaging with the real world in the wake of Sydney’s 2015 festival season, moviegoers of the Western capital are just getting revved up.

Revelation, Perth’s annual international film festival event, bows its 10-day screening schedule on July 2 at the city's arthouse mecca, The Luna, with director Jeremy Sims’ Last Cab to Darwin. Starring Aussie acting great Michael Caton (pictured, above; with co-star, Ningali Lawford), the wry comedy/drama follows a terminally-ill outback cabbie as he seeks a painless, dignified final few days in the care of Jacki Weaver’s right-to-die doctor.

The challenging, hot-topic pic may not seem to be the first choice for an opening night ‘party starter’, but program director Jack Sargeant (in conjunction with festival head Richard Sowada) saw a balance of light and dark in the work that was a good fit for Revelation. “It's a movie about life and what living means. I think that we open with films that feel right, that set a mood and inspire conversation,” says Sargeant (pictured, right). “Last Cab… does that, I think. It’s a very human story.

Revelation’s reputation as a key supporter of domestic film output is evident in the three world premieres of locally produced works. They are co-directors Jenny Crabb and Susie Conte’s retro-themed celebration of Perth’s iconic live music venue, Parkerville Amphitheatre: Sets, Bugs and Rock’n’Roll; feature debutant Platon Theodoris’ Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites (a co-production with Indonesia); and the third feature from Stefan Popescu (founder of Sydney’s Underground Film Festival), a melding of the porn and undead genres evocatively titled Vixen Velvet’s Zombie Massacre.

Sargeant was convinced that the three warranted the coveted ‘world premiere’ status, even if the ‘why?’ of Revelation programming remains elusive. “The qualities that we look for are shifting all the time,” he says, hinting at the free-spirited, enigmatic nature synonymous with the event. “A good movie has no set criteria but when you watch it, it works. Some films may not work one year but may another year. There's a sense that the process of curating is also about the relationships between movies as well as just the movies standing alone.

The program strand Get Your Shorts On! focuses on the talents of six locally-based short-form filmmakers (including Kelrick Martin's Karroyul; pictured, right), whose works have received funding from such local entities as ScreenWest, Lotterywest and the Film & Television Institute. International mini-movies feature alongside local works from Bryn Tilly (Umbra) and David Coyle (Enfilade) in the 13-strong Experimental Showcase line-up, which welcomes works from Russia (Andre Silva’s Cybergenesis; Alexei Dimitriev’s The Shadow of Your Smile); the United Kingdom (Point and Untitled014, both from Christopher Macfarlane); and, the USA (Irina Arnaut’s Working Title; Kelly Kirshtner’s A Nice Bowl of Soup).

International features bowing on our shores include expat Australian filmmaker Kane Senes’ moody western, Echoes of War (featuring It Follows star, Maika Monroe); Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia’s haunting sci-fi oddity, H.; Katherine Dohan and Alanna Stewarts’ left-of-centre coming-of-age feelgooder, What I Love About Concrete; the hauntingly beautiful The Creeping Garden, Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp’s study in the properties of plasmodial slime; Belinda Sallin’s melancholy biography Dark Star: HR Giger’s Welt; and, SXSW 2014 Audience Award winner, Yakona, from Paul Collins and Anlo Sepulveda. Festival hits making their Perth debut include The Tribe, Tehran Taxi, The Duke of Burgundy, Spring and The Forbidden Room.

Perhaps certain to mess with minds more than anything else at Revelations 2015 is the Australian premiere of Asphalt Watches, a Crumb-like work of animated surrealism from Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver. The story of Bucktooth Cloud and Skeleton Hat and their hitchhiked journey across Canada in 2000 rattled even the experienced eye of Jack Sargeant. “Asphalt Watches just made me think, 'what the hell?'” he recalls. “Its a glimpse inside some crazy nightmare/dream, a cross between something like South Park and classic underground comix. It has that sensibility that animation can be crazy and stupid and funny and do things nothing else can. I like that.

Sargeant’s encyclopaedic knowledge of and love for music is evident in his programming of Denny Tedesco’s The Wrecking Crew (pictured, right), a tribute to the largely unknown session players that created the LA sound of the 60’s; Theory of Obscurity, Don Hardy Jr’s profile of oddball San Francisco new-wavers, The Residents; Marc Eberle’s study in a country’s musical heritage and unique pop performers, Cambodian Space Project: Not Easy Rock and Roll; the genre deconstruction Industrial Music for the Urban Decay, from Travis Collins and Amelie Ravalec; Robert Nazar Arjoyan’s ethereal study of gender, race and electronic music, When My Sorrow Died: The Legend of Armen Ra and The Theremin; and, Wes Orshoski’s biopic-doco of punk trailblazers, The Damned: Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead.

The cinema of both Iran and Poland will be represented in sidebar events, as will a 10-strong shorts program suitable for family audiences. The RevCon Workshops and Panels feature Festival Patron, actor Steve Bisley (The Power of The Monologue), Last Cab to Darwin director Jeremy Sims (Building Director’s Skillsets; pictured, right) and digital pioneer Craig Deeker (Digital Filmmaking Masterclass). Launching in 2015 is the Film Festival Director’s Forum during which the likes of Sydney’s Nashen Moodley and Iranian Film Festival toppers Anne Demy-Geroe and Armin Milardi dissect festival curation. Returning will be the much-loved Revel 8 mini-fest, celebrating the 8mm film format, and Revelation Academic, the engaging gabfest that allows for voices from all corners of the industry to be heard on the most immediate issues.

I hope that with the academic strand they get the chance to think about new ideas, theoretical and cultural aspects of film, and I hope that with the workshops that they get inspired to pick up cameras and make their own works,” says Sargeant who, since he joined Sowada’s team in 2007, has helped form a unique film festival experience in Australia’s most remote capital city. “I hope that I've introduced audiences to things they'd otherwise not know about, and may otherwise never get to see on the big screen. If there's any legacy, I hope it is that people have the opportunity to see interesting work, meet filmmakers and become inspired. That would be a good legacy for Revelation.”

Full details of Revelation Perth International Film Festival can be found at the event’s official website.

Wednesday
May062015

THE 62nd SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL: PREVIEW

Impressive in scope and continuing to expand its vision even as it heads into its 62nd incarnation, the Sydney Film Festival launched the 2015 programme at Customs House in the Harbour City’s picturesque Circular Quay district this morning. Festival director Nashen Moodley beamed with pride when speaking of the 12-day schedule that kicks off June 3 and features more than 250 films from 68 countries.

Addressing a packed media gallery and in the presence of dignitaries that included The Honorary Troy Grant, State Minister for The Arts, and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Moodley described this years film roster as, “political, sexy and entertaining,” and assured all that the selection featured, “uncompromising visions, that were sure to provoke and challenge.” In his welcoming statement published in the festival’s programme, he referred to the event’s 2015 theme, ‘We Are Made of Movies’, revealing that, “it might seem obvious at first, but it’s one that unfolds to reveal just how complex and central the role of cinema is to the human experience.”

As previously announced, Opening Night honours have been bestowed upon actor/playwright Brendan Cowell’s feature directorial debut, Ruben Guthrie. The event will close out with Neil Armfield’s same-sex romantic drama, Holding the Man (pictured, right), on June 14. It is the first time homegrown fare has filled the coveted slots since 2001, when Ray Lawrence’s Lantana and Steve Jacob’s La Spagnola topped and tailed the celebration.

Twelve titles will vie for best of the fest as part of the Official Competition line-up. Local contenders include Kim Farrant’s missing-child drama Strangerland, with Nicole Kidman and Hugo Weaving; Jennifer Peedom’s affecting documentary Sherpa, shot against the rugged landscapes of Mount Everest; and, Simon Stone’s family drama The Daughter, with Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Miranda Otto and US actor Paul Schneider. Overseas fare includes Me and Earl and The Dying Girl (pictured, top), Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Sundance winner; Miguel Gomez’s 6½ hour reimagining of the classic, Arabian Nights, transported to the Portugal of today; and, Sean Baker’s highly-touted Tangerine, an urgent, often hilarious look at life on the streets of LA shot and entirely with an iPhone.

The Documentary Australia Foundation will again present its Documentary prize to the outstanding locally-made factual film. Amongst the ten films up for the honour will be new works from Gilliam Armstrong (Women He’s Undressed), Andrew Lancaster (The Last Aviator), Maya Newell (Gayby Baby) and Steve Thomas (Freedom Stories). Arthouse leader Dendy Films will reward our leading short-film artisans, with ten mini-movies bidding for one of the three categories on offer (amongst the contenders, Oscar winner Adam Elliot with his latest, Ernie Biscuit).  

Highlights from the vast array of World Premiere screenings scheduled include Jeremy Sims’ Last Cab to Darwin, featuring an all-star Australian cast lead by Michael Caton (pictured, right) and Jacki Weaver; Wide Open Sky, Lisa Nicol’s feel-good account of an outback kids choir (to screen in the newly-launched Family Films sidebar); and, a big-screen airing for Daina Reid’s mini-series adaptation of Kate Grenville’s bestseller, The Secret River, starring Sarah Snook.

Special event strands include Destruction Cinema, a rebellious genre from the 60s and 70s that brutally assaulted the conventions of contemporary film, to be represented by five films including Werner Herzog’s Even Dwarfs Started Small (read the Screen-Space feature on the film's production here) and Jackie Raynal’s Deux Fois; Focus: South Africa reflects the festival director’s roots in the cinema of Africa and will welcome filmmakers Sibs Shongwe-La Mer and Francois Verster; an evening of retro bliss, with the double feature Invasion of The Body Snatchers (1956; pictured, right) and the giant ant movie, THEM!, screening at Blacktown Drive-in; and, Essential Bergman, a mammoth ten film retrospective compiled by internationally-renown critic and former SFF director, David Stratton, that will span the great Swedish director’s career from 1955’s Smiles on a Summer Night to 2003’s Saraband.

Arguably the hottest ticket at the 2015 Sydney Film Festival will be Alex Gibney: In Conversation, a live Q&A with the acclaimed director who will screen and discuss his incendiary documentary, Going Clear: Scientology and The Prison of Belief.

Popular programme staples returning in 2015 include Variety critic Richard Kuipers’ horror sessions, Freak Me Out, which will feature two works from festival guest Ant Timpson - Deathgasm and Turbo Kid; for the musically-minded, Sounds on Screen will present the Australian premieres of Asif Kapadia’s highly-anticipated bio-doc Amy, and the French buddy-road drama Max & Lenny, from Fred Nicolas; and Restorations, which will present fully-restored director’s cuts of Mark Christopher’s 54, Armenian Sergei Parajanov’s The Colour of Pomegranates, Bong Joon-ho’s Korean thriller Mother (the 2009 classic remastered in monochrome by the director), and Djibril Diop Mambety’s 1973 landmark Senegalese work, Touki Bouki.

There was some muttering amongst cinephiles during the post-launch dissection about the notable no-shows, including Australian director Justin Kurzel’s Cannes-bound Macbeth, starring Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender; Woody Allen’s latest, Irrational Man, with Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone; actress Natalie Portman’s directorial debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness; and, Hungarian auteur Kornel Mundruczo’s canine thriller, White God.

Full programme details for the 2015 Sydney Film Festival can be found on the event’s website.

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