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Friday
May022014

THE ROCKET TAKES FEATURE DIRECTOR HONOURS AT PEER-VOTED GALA

The Rocket upped its award season tally further with director Kim Morduant (pictured, below) taking home the top honour at the Australian Director’s Guild annual ceremony, held tonight at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney’s CBD.

Morduant’s trophy cabinet has grown heavy since the film hit the international festival circuit; in addition to the honours he has amassed as director of the low-budget drama, his script was recognised by the Australian Film Institute and Australian Writer’s Guild.

The win represents the 26th international trophy that the Australian/Laotian/Thai co-production has snared, which has previously won kudos from such renowned judging bodies as Berlin Film Festival, Calgary Film Festival and Film Critics Circle of Australia; it has also won audience awards at the Tribeca, Leeds, Cinekid, Sydney, Melbourne and American Film Institute festivals.

The Feature Documentary Award went to Sophia Turkiewicz (pictured, right) for her autobiographical chronicle, Once My Mother. The deeply moving film tells of the director’s investigation into her family heritage, where she explores why her Polish mother might have abandoned her when she was only seven years of age.

Julietta Boscolo received the Best Director Short Film Award for her drama, Sam’s Gold, a project that was awarded Screen NSW’s Emerging Filmmaker Fund. It is the first win for Boscolo, who has enjoyed warm acceptance for her film from such festivals as Perth’s Revelation Festival (where it premiered in 2013), the Brisbane International Film Festival, the recent Byron Bay Film Festival and will screen at the prestigious St Kilda Film Festival on May 28. Her previous short, Safe, was nominated for top honours at the Canberra Film Festival. (Read the SCREEN-SPACE interview with Boscolo here).

In a cross-cultural show of support, the Director’s Guild of America partners with their Australian colleagues and funds the Finders Award, an initiative that ensures US exposure for a feature film that has yet to find American distribution. The 2014 recipient was Catriona McKenzie for her film Satellite Boy; the director will now accompany the film at industry screenings in Los Angeles and New York.

The honorees reflect the progressive industry stance adopted by the Australian Director’s Guild, with seven of the sixteen category winners being female filmmakers; all six directors nominated for the Documentary Feature honour were women.

The full list of winners from the 2014 ADG Awards can be found here

Wednesday
Apr022014

R.I.P. DAVID HANNAY

Few come close to the unbridled joy that David Hannay felt for cinema. The Australian producer was at the forefront of the local film resurgence in the 1970’s and remained a passionate promoter of talent up until his passing, on Monday March 31, having been diagnosed with cancer in April 2012. He was 74.

Known for shepherding such productions as the Ozploitation classics Stone (1974) and The Man From Hong Kong (1975), Hannay was, in fact, the true ‘multi-hyphenate’. He stepped before his own cameras to fill bit parts, most recently in his 2001 family film, Hildegarde; provided uncredited screenplay doctoring in conjunction with his writers on several projects, despite only seeking one writing credit, on 1988’s The Shadowed Mind; and, would oversee pre- and post-production duties on his films with an encyclopaedic knowledge that earned him the utmost respect from his colleagues.

Born June 23, 1939, in New Zealand, he began his love affair with the performing arts at the age of nine, debuting on stage in a school production. By 1958, he had entry into the production sector with a casting assistant position at Artransa Park Studios in Sydney’s north-west for Leslie Norman’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (pictured, right; aka, Season of Passion), an international production of Ray Lawler’s Australian classic starring Ernest Borgnine, John Mills and Anne Baxter. He spent the next decade accumulating experience in a multitude of production tasks across both film and television mediums.

His first production credit would be in 1970, as executive producer on Frank Brittain’s groundbreaking drama, The Set. One of the earliest and most forthright depictions of homosexuality on Australian screens, it exhibited Hannay’s particular skill of combining hot-button social issues with insightful commentary and commercial instinct. This ethic secured him the role of Head of Production at Gemini Productions in 1970 and led to his guiding influence on such projects as the top-rating docos Jesus Christ Superstar (1972) and Kung Fu Killers (1974) and hit TV series The Godfathers, The People Next Door and The Unisexers.

In the early 70s, Hannay (pictured, left; in 1973) began developing a tough-minded undercover cop story set against the world of outlaw bikie gangs. The vision began to coalesce as a vehicle for wild-man actor/director Sandy Harbutt, whom Hannay had met whilst producing the 1972 TV movie Crisis. In 1974, the R-rated action thriller Stone was released and became a box-office smash; Hannay, who also had a production credit on the bawdy big-screen version of the TV series Number 96 and executive-produced Brian Trenchard-Smith’s The Man from Hong Kong, was at the forefront of one of the most commercially successful periods in Australian cinema history.

Hannay parlayed his profile into several interesting projects. He would co-produce with writer/director Tony Williams on the drama Solo (1978), an Australian-New Zealand co-production; exhibit a playful touch with Peter Maxwell’s action/comedy Touch and Go (1980), with Wendy Hughes and Chantal Contouri; cast up-and-comer Jon Blake in the thriller Early Frost (1982), a troubled production that saw Hannay step into the director’s chair for the only time in his career; and, secured Hollywood star James Coburn for his 1986 prestige picture, the true-life story Death of a Soldier, from director Phillipe Mora.

Other highlights from a production career spanning five decades include Oliver Schmitz’s anti-apartheid thriller, Mapantsula (1988; pictured, right), for which he was given the Human Rights Australia Film Award; George Miller’s Gross Misconduct (1993), with Jimmy Smits and Naomi Watts; Aden Young and Zoe Carides in Shotgun Wedding (1993), from director Paul Harmon; the Australian/French co-production, Love in Ambush (1997), adapted from Loup Durand’s novel by director Carl Schultz and starring Jacques Perrin and Sigrid Thornton; and, Murray Fahey’s black comedy/horror Cubbyhouse (2001), with Joshua Leonard. Hannay’s final producer’s credit was David Huggett’s 2012 musical documentary, Once Around The Sun.

David Hannay’s full silvery beard made him easy to spot at industry events, where he enjoyed networking with old friends and making many new ones (he was particularly proud of the thirteen first-time directors whose debut projects he produced). An avid attendee of the Cannes marketplace, the Screen Producer’s Association of Australia (SPAA) annual conference and the exhibitor/distributor confab The Australian International Movie Convention, the adoration for the late David Hannay can be measured by the honours bestowed upon him by his peers – the Producer’s and Director’s Guild Lifetime achievement honour in 1996; the Australian Cinema Pioneers Society highest honour, Pioneer of the Year; the inaugural Maura Fay Award recipient for industry service at the 2002 SPAA event; the coveted Raymond Longford award, the highest honour bestowed by the Australian Film Institute, in 2007; and, the National Film and Sound Archive Ken G Hall Award for Film Preservation in 2011.

A long time resident of Yeltholme in the New South Wales rural western region, he established the Bathurst Film Factory co-operative in November 2012, to foster the filmmaker talent in the area. In one of his final interviews, he spoke of influencing his favourite artform long after his demise, which he knew to be imminent. “Whatever time I’ve got, I want to devote to the next generation,” Mr Hannay said. “That’s my obligation, my passion.”

David Hannay is survived by his wife, author Mary Moody (pictured, right), and their four children. A memorial service will be held at a date to be advised in the weeks ahead.

Footnote: I spent many hours talking movies with David, a gentleman whose grace, enthusiasm and experience inspired me. I lunched with him in 2011, discussing a documentary project on the loss of regional cinemas, which I regret never came to fruition. The meeting went well into the afternoon, allowing David to reminisce about his career and friends. I will be forever grateful for the time he afforded me. My prayers go to his family. He will be missed.

Monday
Mar032014

BYRON BAY PAVES WAY FOR NEXT GEN OZ TALENT

The 2014 Byron Bay International Film Festival (BBIFF) is a mere four days into its 10 day run and already its well-earned reputation as a festival committed to fostering Australian talent has been strengthened. The eclectic tastes of Festival director J’aimee Skippon-Volke (pictured, below) ensured that opinion was widely divided amongst the festival crowds, who have enjoyed passionate discussions about the Australian content programmed. Below are snapshot reviews of some challenging works from the festival’s opening salvo of homegrown films…

HEAVEN (Dir: Maziar Lahooti; 14 mins)
Confronting the local smack dealer James (Wayne Davies) at gunpoint, an elderly man (Don Reid) demands to be taken through the process of injecting a dangerously high amount of heroin. Maziar Lahooti’s beautifully shot but relentlessly bleak drama unfolds in a compellingly fragmented structure that provocatively asks its audience to consider not only the nature of one of modern societies most divisive issues but also their own definition of true love. It is a downer, though… Rating: 3.5/5

HUNGRY MAN (Dir: Jordan Prosser; 17 mins; Official website)
Echoes of Wes Anderson’s idiosyncratic characters, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s darkly-stylish composition and David Cronenberg’s body-horror ickiness are evident in Jordan Prosser’s gleefully ghoulish romp. Declan (Brendan Barnett) eats what the tapeworm in his gut tells him to eat; the lovely Jennifer Feathers (a wonderful Jennifer Frew; pictured, right) is attracted to Declan, and he to her. But only because the tapeworm craves the one meat that Declan has yet to injest… An edgy, odd, engaging tone turns downright horrifying in a final shot that left an unsuspecting audience gasping. Rating: 4.5/5

ADVANCE AUSTRALIAN FILM (Dir: Courtney Dawson; 60 mins; Official website)
Courtney Dawson parades a bevy of talking heads before her camera in Advance Australian Film, a cry for help in answering the question, “How do we revive the commercial life of our film industry?” The debutant documentarian employs historical context, current ‘buzz’ topics and solid star wattage; A-listers such as Russell Crowe and Baz Luhrmann were nabbed unawares at red carpet premieres and offer soundbite responses at best. It is the opinions of the more low-key festival directors, curators, analysts and up-and-comers that provide Dawson’s films with its most worthwhile moments. Occasionally sounds a little too much like a boozy Friday arvo on a film shoot, where everyone knows what’s wrong (“I mean, where’s the next Mad Max?!”) but no one has an answer. But Dawson’s passion for the sector is clear and commendable. Rating: 3/5 

CONDOM (Dir: Sheldon Lieberman; 4 mins)
The latest hilarious short from the Spike and Dadda web-series had its World Premiere at BBFF and proved every bit as hilariously winning as the episodes to date (all of them online here). Dadda is faced with one of those parenting moments, when his little boy Spike wants to know what a condom is; Dadda finds himself spiralling down a rabbit hole of awkwardness. Minimalist but wonderfully expressive animation and a great script earned Condom the biggest laughs of the Festival to date. Rating: 4/5

TWO BROTHERS WALKING (Dir: David Salomon; 49 mins; Official website)
The spiritual legacy passed through centuries of indigenous culture is explored within the framework of two men - one raised by tribal bush laws, the other only just beginning to fully comprehend his ancestry. Together they impart the essence of Wanampi Inma, a song and dance ritual that tells the story of the Rainbow Serpent and continues to bind generations. David Salomon’s bare-bones, ‘old school’-style doco is an intimate, densely-layered exploration of Aboriginal lore as it pertains to the lives and journeys of two fascinating individuals. Rating: 4/5

A WOMAN’S DEEPER JOURNEY INTO SEX (Dir: Sally McKenzie; 75 mins; Official website)
Even at 75 minutes, Sally McKenzie’s playful but puerile glimpse inside the hearts, minds and vaginas of the modern woman overstays its welcome. The director would serve both her film and her audience a great service by discarding all the bridging scenes that involve the construct ‘Detective Lacey’, a film noir-ish character who guides us through this ‘investigation’ of female sexuality. There are some interesting facts and fun characters, but McKenzie struggles to offer anything very new to say; how women relate to pornography, sex toys, male prostitution, etc is addressed, but the first person accounts are trite, the tone giggly and the academic input undervalued. An extended sequence of female-friendly porn clips is gratuitous. The concept may work better as smallscreen fare, where the ‘Lacey’ scenes can be jettisoned and content left on the cutting room floor can be reinstated for a more in-depth study. Rating: 2/5

The Byron Bay International Film Festival will run until March 9 at venues in Byron Bay and selected regional venues. Ticket and program information can be found on the Festival site.

SCREEN-SPACE is on the Festival judging panel and attending as a guest of the Festival.

Thursday
Jan302014

2014 AACTA AWARD WINNERS ANNOUNCED

The most critically divisive Australian film of 2013 has swept the pool at the 2013 AACTA Awards. Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby carried momentum from the the luncheon awards function, where his F Scott Fitzgerald adaptation acquired all the technical categories on offer.

The highly-touted, ‘David-vs-Goliath’ showdown between Kim Morduant’s The Rocket and Luhrmann’s mega-budgeted, studio-backed pic proved far less potent than the match-up promised. Mordaunt’s Lao-language critical darling, whose 12 nominations placed it in a neck-&-neck tussle with Gatsby’s 14 nods leading into the contest, went home with just a single trophy for Original Screenplay.

Baz Luhrmann’s passion project captured six gongs at the gala event, snaring Best Film, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor (for Leonardo Dicaprio), Supporting Actor (Joel Edgerton) and Supporting Actress (Elizabeth Debicki). At the daytime function, Luhrmann’s American Dream epic took home trophies for Cinematography (Simon Duggan), Editing (Matt Villa ASE, Jason Ballantine ASE and Jonathan Redmond), Sound (Wayne Pashley MPSE, Jenny Ward MPSE, Fabian Sanjurjo, Steve Maslow, Phil Heywood and Guntis Sics), Original Music (Craig Armstrong), Production Design (Catherine Martin, Karen Murphy, Ian Gracie and Beverley Dunn), Costume Design (Catherine Martin, Silvana Azzi Heras and Kerry Thompson) and Visual Effects (Chris Godfrey, Prue Fletcher, Tony Cole and Andy Brown).

Gatsby’s sweep did not envelope the Best Actress category, which went to Rose Byrne for the portmanteau project, The Burning.

Pre-ordained recipients included Jackie Weaver,  who took home the AACTA Raymond Longford Award; the Australian Cinematographers Society left with the prestige Byron Kennedy Award honours.

The full list of winners (highlighted below) are:

FEATURE FILM

 AACTA AWARD FOR BEST FILM
DEAD EUROPE Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Liz Watts

THE GREAT GATSBY Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Douglas Wick, Lucy Fisher and Catherine Knapman.
MYSTERY ROAD David Jowsey

THE ROCKET Sylvia Wilczynski

SATELLITE BOY David Jowsey, Julie Ryan and Catriona McKenzie

THE TURNING Robert Connolly, Maggie Miles and The Turning Ensemble

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTION
THE GREAT GATSBY Baz Luhrmann
MYSTERY ROAD Ivan Sen

THE ROCKET Kim Mordaunt

THE TURNING The Turning Ensemble

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
100 BLOODY ACRES Colin Cairnes and Cameron Cairnes

DRIFT Morgan O'Neill and Tim Duffy

MYSTERY ROAD Ivan Sen

THE ROCKET Kim Mordaunt

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
ADORATION Christopher Hampton

DEAD EUROPE Louise Fox

THE GREAT GATSBY Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce
THE TURNING The Turning Ensemble

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTOR
Leonardo DiCaprio THE GREAT GATSBY
Sitthiphon Disamoe THE ROCKET

Ewen Leslie DEAD EUROPE

Hugo Weaving THE TURNING

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTRESS
Rose Byrne THE TURNING
Carey Mulligan THE GREAT GATSBY

Tasma Walton MYSTERY ROAD

Naomi Watts ADORATION

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Marton Csokas DEAD EUROPE

Joel Edgerton THE GREAT GATSBY
Thep Phongam THE ROCKET

Angus Sampson 100 BLOODY ACRES

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Elizabeth Debicki THE GREAT GATSBY
Isla Fisher THE GREAT GATSBY

Mirrah Foulkes THE TURNING

Alice Keohavong THE ROCKET

Friday
Jan172014

SNUBS, SURPRISES, ELATION AND DESPAIR, LIVE FROM THE SAMUEL GOLDWYN THEATRE

The films that will battle out the 2014 Oscar ceremony convey a sense that the power brokers amongst Hollywood’s ivory towers are rewarding their own Generation X influences, ie money, fame and fantasy, with a thin coating of honourable indignation. David O’Russell’s wildly self-indulgent spin on self-indulgence, American Hustle, and Alfonso Cuaron’s existential sci-fi saga, Gravity (pictured, below) lead the nominations with 10 nods, followed by Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave with 9, in a field that showed scant regard for old-school, Oscar-friendly contenders.

BEST PICTURE:

American Hustle Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
Captain Phillips Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers
Dallas Buyers Club Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers
Gravity Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Producers
Her Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, Producers
Nebraska Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, Producers
Philomena Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, Producers
12 Years a Slave Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, Producers
The Wolf of Wall Street Nominees to be determined
But what about…?: Oscar voters displayed a sparrow’s attention span this year, with no film prior to the early October release date of Gravity earning a Picture nomination. Which meant no glory for Lee Daniel’s The Butler, Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station or Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. The Coen Brother’s long, happy history with the Academy was halted with the shut-out of Inside Llewyn Davis; Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight might’ve figured at one point. Unlike past years, no foreign language or animated feature stepped up.

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE:

Christian Bale in American Hustle
Bruce Dern in Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (pictured, below)
But what about…?: Bale and DiCaprio were no certainties and point to a younger influence amongst AMPAS members; even Bruce Dern, the one veteran amongst the group, is a counter-culture figure who has often been at odds with the studio system. The most glaring no-shows are Robert Redford (All is Lost) and Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips and Saving Mr Banks), though consider that Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Forrest Whittaker (Lee Daniel’s The Butler), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt) and Hugh Jackman (Prisoners) also missed out.

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE:
Amy Adams in American Hustle
Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (pictured, below)
Sandra Bullock in Gravity
Judi Dench in Philomena
Meryl Streep in August: Osage County
But what about…?: The British. Sure, Judi Dench is deservedly present, but where are past Oscar favourites Emma Thompson (Saving Mr Banks) and Kate Winslet (Labor Day), both of whom deserved a nod over Ms Streep’s histrionics in August: Osage County. The presence of Dench and Aussie icon Cate Blanchett can’t hide the fact that international cinema was disgracefully ignored in this category, with Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Colour), Berenice Bejo (The Past) and Zhang Ziyi (The Grandmaster) all missing out.

BEST DIRECTOR:
American Hustle
David O. Russell
Gravity Alfonso Cuarón
Nebraska Alexander Payne
12 Years a Slave Steve McQueen
The Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorsese (pictured, below, on-set)
But what about…?: Spike Jonze earned an Original Screenplay nomination for Her, but if the film was going to be a serious contender he needed to feature here. Hanks’ snubbing suggests Captain Phillips fell out of favour at some point, explaining Paul Greengrass’ omission. Perennials such as Allen and the Coen’s lost momentum; newcomers JC Chandor (All is Lost) and Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyer’s Club) have put the Academy on notice. A longshot was PeterBerg for his masculine handling of the action in Lone Survivor, but that didn’t pan out.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper in American Hustle (pictured, below)
Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club
But what about…?: Jonah Hill is the category bolter, having found no love from most of the award ceremonies to date. His inclusion probably bumped the late James Gandolfini (Enough Said), John Goodman (Inside Llewyn Davis) or possibly James Franco (Spring Breakers). Daniel Bruhl was unlucky, having been great in both Rush and The Fifth Estate, two box-office non-starters.

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts in August: Osage County
June Squibb in Nebraska
But what about…?: Oprah. Also Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Colour) and Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street), but it was Ms Winfrey who appeared podium-bound when The Butler became a breakout hit.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:
The Act of Killing Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen (pictured, below)
Cutie and the Boxer Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
Dirty Wars Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill
The Square Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer
20 Feet from Stardom Nominees to be determined
But what about…?: The role that Gabriella Cowperthwaite’s stunning Blackfish has played in changing the way the public view sea mammals in captivity has been as profoundly impactful as the similarly-themed 2010 Oscar winner in this category, The Cove. Also notably absent is Sarah Polley’s vividly original Stories We Tell, which has won LA and NYC film critic honours and the National Board of Review Best Docomentary prize.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:
The Croods Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson
Despicable Me 2 Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri
Ernest & Celestine Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner
Frozen Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
The Wind Rises Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki
But what about…?: Pixar. Planes was sub-par and never stood a chance, but surely Monster’s University had the edge on Despicable Me 2. It is only the second time Pixar have not featured in this category; the previous no-show was Cars 2.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
The Broken Circle Breakdown Belgium
The Great Beauty Italy (pictured, below)
The Hunt Denmark
The Missing Picture Cambodia
Omar Palestine
But what about…?: AMPAS really stuck it to their French colleagues, all but ignoring the eligible films that featured amongst the Cannes 2013 winner’s list (The Past; Ilo Ilo; Heli). Despite critical momentum, Australia’s The Rocket (utilizing the Lao dialect), Brazil’s Neighbouring Sounds, Hong Kong’s The Grandmaster and Saudi Arabia’s Wadjda were unrewarded.

For a full list of nominations for the 86th Academy Awards, click here.

The 86th Academy Awards will be held on March 2 at the Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles.

Tuesday
Dec032013

2013 AACTA AWARD NOMINATIONS

The mega-budget extravagance of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby faces off against the meagre means of Kim Morduant’s The Rocket in what is shaping up as a David and Goliath arm-wrestle at this year’s Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards.

Nominations for the 3rd annual industry sector backslap were announced today, with Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road, Tony Krawitz’s Dead Europe (5 nominations) and the anthology effort The Turning (7 nominations) rounding out most nods in the key categories.

Our most flamboyant director’s take on F Scott Fitzgerald’s very American literary classic divided critics but did enough to earn 14 nominations, the most of any film from the qualifying period. Amongst its noms are Film, Director, Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Actress (Carey Mulligan) and three names across the two supporting acting fields (Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher and Elizabeth Debicki). As expected, the state of the art production dominated the technical sections, with costume design, production design, sound and editing all honoured. Craig Armstrong’s music and Luhrmann and Craig Pearce’s adapted screenplay are also in the running.

MIFF’s Audience award winner, The Rocket (pictured, right), nabbed 11 nominations, including Film, Director and Original Screenplay. The film’s diminutive and charismatic leading man, Sitthiphon Disamoe, scored a Best Actor nomination (a category that he has already won, at the Tribeca Film Festival). Co-star Alice Keohavong snared a Supporting Actress mention; Thep Phongam, so memorable as ‘Uncle Purple’, is Supporting Actor nominated. 

The Rocket is one of the films that explore the plight of indigenous cultures that have been recognised by the AACTA voting committee. Ivan Sen’s crime thriller Mystery Road (6 nominations) and Catriona McKenzie’s Satellite Boy (2 nominations) are contenders, as is Rodd Rathjen’s Himalayan-set story of personal discovery, Tau Seru (Small Yellow Field), which is vying for Best Short Fiction Film honours.

No doubt surprising some but delighting many of those that saw the film was the recognition afforded Colin and Cameron Cairnes pitch-black horror-comedy 100 Bloody Acres, which snared Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Angus Sampson; pictured, left) nods. Categories were further filled out by Mark Lamprell’s Goddess (3 nominations), Anne Fontaine’s Adoration (4 nominations) and Ben Nott and Morgan O’Neill’s Drift (4 nominations).

First among notable omissions must be Aaron Pedersen’s commanding lead turn in Mystery Road, along with stellar work by Robin Wright (Adoration), Damon Herriman and Anna McGahan (100 Bloody Acres), Judd Overton (DOP on Return to Nim’s Island) and several of the creative team behind Boyd Hicklin’s cricket comedy Save Your Legs.

The full list of nominees for the 2013 AACTA Awards, including Short Film, Documentary and Television categories can be found here. 

Tuesday
Dec032013

25th ALLIANCE FRANCAISE FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL PREVIEW

A heady mix of contemporary French films will contrast retrospective strands from two of European cinemas giants at the 2014 French Film Festival, touring Australia in March and April under the stewardship of the French cultural initiative, Alliance Francaise.

From its launch in 1989, the event has grown to become the biggest foreign-language film festival annually in Australia; organisers boast that it is one of the world’s largest celebrations of French cinema outside of France. The public continues to respond; attendance figures have risen an astonishing 194% over the last eight years, with screenings now held in six capital cities. In 2014, a ‘Best of…’ season will debut in Byron Bay, an artistic regional centre on the New South Wales north coast.

Next year’s event will launch 40 new works, including 32 Australian premieres, from such celebrated auteurs as Betrand Tavernier (political satire Quai d’Orsay; featured, below), Sylvain Chomet (whimsical fantasy Attila Marcel), Phillippe Le Guay (the feel-good comedy Cycling with Moliere) and Bruno Dumont (controversial period drama Camille Claudel 1915, with Juliette Binoche; pictured, top). The event kicks off in Sydney on March 4 with the International Premiere of Nils Tavernier’s rousing sports drama, The Finishers.

International guests have yet to be confirmed, although there is no shortage of star power on display. In addition to Binoche, stars featured include Diane Kruger (Guillame Gallienne’s Me Myself and Mum), Daniel Auteuil (Christian Duguay’s Jappeloup), Romain Duris (Regis Roinsard’s Populaire), Tahar Rahim and Lea Seydoux (Rebecca Zlotowski’s Grand Central), Gabriel Byrne (Jerome Bonnell’s Just a Sigh), Jean Dujardin (Eric Rochant’s Mobius), Mads Mikkelsen (Arnaud des Pallieres’ Michael Kohlhaas), Tcheky Karyo (Belle and Sebastian) and Fanny Ardant (Marion Vernoux’s Bright Days Ahead).

Of particular interest is the Festival organiser’s faith is first-time works from a new wave of French directing talent. Anne Weil, co-directing with Philippe Kotlarski, debuts on the 70’s-set thriller, Friends from France; Stephan Archinard and Francois Prevot-Leygonie adapt the play, True Friends; cinematographer Christophe Offenstein’s epic open-sea adventure, Turning Tide (pictured, right); Jean-Marc Rudnicki’s crowdpleaser, Wrestling Queens; and, David Perrault’s monochromatic crime thriller Our Heroes Died Tonight, a supremely stylish exercise in noir than has drawn comparisons to Tarantino and Scorsese.

In tune with the celebratory tone of the 25th anniversary gathering, two of the greats of French film will have some of their most iconic works screened. Fully restored versions of classic works from comedy great Jacques Tati will be on show. These include Jour de Fete (1949), Mon Oncle (1958; featured, below), Mr Hulot’s Holiday (1953), Parade (1974), Play Time (1967) and Trafic (1971). The Closing Night film will be chosen by audience poll from Tati’s retrospective. And rarely-seen works from new-wave great Francois Truffaut will feature in one of the Festival’s most prestigious programming strands in its history (titles yet to be announced).

Honouring their nation’s presence and legacy in the Pacific, the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival will also screen a selection of titles from Le Festival du Film Documentaire Oceanien (FIFO), the region’s leading factual film screening platform, held in Tahiti.  Films screening are Gils Breussail’s seafaring chronicle, And Sail to the Australes; Vincent Perazio’s mystical shipwreck story, La Monique, A Caledonian Wound; and, Alain Gordon-Gentil’s and Laurant Ramamonjiarisoa’s autobiographical account of Belgian cult-figure, Jacques Brel, The Home Stretch.

The Alliance Francaise French Film Festival will post details of the schedule closer to the event on its official website. 

Wednesday
Nov062013

FOREIGN TOONS COLOUR OSCAR'S PALETTE

Of the 19 films that were announced overnight as 2013 contenders for the Feature Animation Academy Award, international cinema represented itself glowingly with nine works from seven countries (including Canada's The Legend of Sarila; pictured, below) submitted for AMPAS member consideration.

Following in the footsteps of the live-action Best Film category, the animated film Oscar race often reflects box office dominance over artistic endeavour. In 2005, eyebrows were raised when Aardman Animation’s Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (pictured, below) trumped both Howl’s Moving Castle and Corpse Bride; last year, Pixar took home its 7th trophy for Brave, bettering the arguably superior Frankenweenie and ParaNorman.

One thing is certain – the Oscar apple never falls far from the LA animation tree. Hayao Miyazaki’s 2002 masterpiece Spirited Away, produced by his Japanese company Studio Ghibli, is still the only foreign film to score the big prize (Brit Nick Park’s Aardman outfit was a Dreamworks Animation partner; 2006's Happy Feet was Oz-made but US-backed). Of the 44 nominations bestowed since the award began in 2001, only eight have been from overseas territories.

When the Oscar nominations are announced on January 16, tradition dictates that the likes of Monsters University, The Croods, Despicable Me 2 and Epic will feature prominently. But there are some fine works for the Academy members to consider from off-shore animation artisans…:

Ernest and Celestine (Dirs: Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Benjamin Renner; France)
Adopting a gentler water-colour palette, this adaptation of Belgian children author Gabrielle Vincent’s series of books is already a sensation internationally, boasting festival wins at Cannes, Dubai and Seattle in addition to it’s Cesar for Best Animated Film (pictured, right).

The Fake (Dir: Sang-ho Yeon; South Korea)
The latest from the director of The King of Pigs debuted at Busan to a critical reception that underlined the film’s relentless bleakness but praised its artistry. “Though the narrative feels pregnant with rage, his approach never seems to be colored with anger, rather his touch is marked by a sadness”, said Twitch.com.

Khumba (Dir: Anthony Silverston; South Africa)
Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation secured top-tier voice talents (Liam Neeson, Steve Buscemi, Laurence Fishburne, Richard E Grant) to ensure their ambitious $20million African adventure, about a zebra missing half its stripes determined to find its place in the world, found favour with international audiences.

The Legend of Sarila (Nancy Florence Savard; Canada)
The animated industry of The Great White North rolls the dice on its first stereoscopic 3D effort, a vast adventure set against the dwindling natural resources of the wild, beautiful hinterland and of how the native Inuit people, led by three determined youngsters fighting a spiritual force, must learn to cope.

Rio: 2096 A Story of Love and Fury” (Dir: Luiz Bolognesi; Brazil)
Best Feature winner at the revered Annecy International Animated Festival, documentary maker Luiz Bolognesi feature debut takes on a ‘Cloud Atlas’-like narrative that explores a romance set against 600 years of Brazilian history. A heady, adult-oriented mix of traditional cell and state-of-the-art CGI animation.

Apostolo (Dir: Fernando Cortizo; Spain)
The lone stop-motion animated work in contention, Cortizo’s feature debut is a dark, gothic fantasy. The tale of three escaped criminals searching for hidden booty in the oddly eerie enclave of Xanaz, it both beguiles discerning young viewers whilst offering social satire for adults to contemplate. The score is by legendary composer, Phillip Glass.

Three films from the Japanese Animation Industry
Given the traditional love for the artform held by the population of Japan, it is no surprise to see three works in contention for Oscar glory. This year’s breathtaking works from the spiritual home of international animation are The Wind Rises (Dir: Hayao Miyazaki), an autobiographical account of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of Japanese fighter planes in World War II; A Letter to Momo (Dir: Hiroyuki Okiura), a child’s supernatural odyssey which pays particular homage to the great Spirited Away; and Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie – Rebellion (Dir: Akiyuki Shinbo), the third instalment in the popular anime adventures of everygirl-warrior, Madoka.

Monday
Oct142013

ANNUAL CONFAB EMBODIES LOCAL SECTOR FILM FERVOUR

The 68th edition of the Australian International Movie Convention (AIMC) is in progress on Australia’s idyllic Gold Coast tourist mecca. This annual coming-together of the exhibitor and distributor sectors is one-part boozing-&-schmoozing party time and one-part dissection of the key issues impacting the cinema-going culture of this nation.

Following the charity golf challenge that traditionally kicks off the AIMC, the event opened in earnest at the Jupiters Casino resort Screening Theatre (pictured, above) with a splash of Hollywood hoopla last night, Sunday October 13. The Australian premiere of Tom Hanks real-life thriller, Captain Phillips, courtesy of Sony Pictures, proved a heart-pounding success; attendees happily flocked to the DeLuxe Open Bar for some nerve-soothing cocktails that ensured the party atmosphere was maintained well into the wee hours.

The Paul Greengrass directed film kickstarts a week of much-anticipated screenings, always a highlight of the Convention. In 2013, the vast delegate contingent will see advance screenings of Universal’s Last Vegas (Dir: John Turteltaub; stars, Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas); Hopscotch Entertainment’s Philomena (Dir: Stephen Frears; stars, Judi Dench, Steve Coogan); Warner/Roadshow’s August Osage County (Dir: John Wells; stars, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts); 20th Century Fox’s Enough Said (Dir: Nicole Holofcenter; stars, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, James Gandolfini); Pinnacle Film’s Dallas Buyer’s Club (Dir: Jean-Marc Vallee; stars, Matthew McConnaughey, Jared Leto); Icon’s Filth (Dir: Jon S Baird; stars, James McAvoy, Imogen Poots); Paramount’s Bad Grandpa (Dir: Jeff Tremaine; star, Johnny Knoxville); Walt Disney’s Delivery Man (Dir: Ken Scott; stars, Vince Vaughan, Chris Pratt); and, Studio Canal’s Cuban Fury (Dir: James Griffiths; stars, Nick Frost, Ian McShane).

Traditionally, the titles selected for AIMC showings are those from which the distributors hope to gain the most positive word-of-mouth, translating into broader bookings amongst the exhibitor sector.

In addition to the marketing might of the Hollywood majors, the Australian Independent Distributors Association (AIDA) is afforded a major evening function during which execs present first-glimpses of their product for the year ahead. These include Becker Film Group (set to release in 2014 the Toni Collette/Simon Pegg project, Hector and The Search for Happiness); Curious Film (high off the success of Kim Morduant’s The Rocket, will soon release the dark genre work Errors of the Human Body); Madman Films (readying Blackfish and How I Live Nowfor late 2013 slots); and, Rialto Distribution (launching in 2014 the latest from international superstar Mads Mikkelsen, historical drama Michael Kolhass, and the animated French charmer, Ernest et Celestine).

The outpouring of love for the year ahead in cinema is tempered by incisive key-note addresses and lengthy panel discussions as to the state-of-play of the Australian movie-going landscape. In 2013, the Attorney-General and Minister for the Arts, the Honourable George Brandis will take the podium alongside executives from the National Association Cinema Operators Executive Director Michael Hawkins and Chairman Peter Beattie; Chairman of the Motion Picture Distributors of Australia (MPDA), Marc Wooldridge; and, Regional VP of industry leader Rentrak, Steve Ashmore.

Known for determinedly keeping an eye on the future of film distribution and exhibition in Australia, the 2013 AIMC has drawn upon some of the industry’s most forward-thinking minds to address issues confronting the sector. News Corp’s Group Director of Digital Product and Development, Alisa Bowen, ruminates upon the impact of social and digital media in the years ahead; top-tier execs from Village Cinemas, Majestic Cinemas, Studio Canal, Hoyts Technology Group, Deluxe Digital and Paramount Pictures take on the contentious issue of Digital Delivery under the moderation of MPDA GM Lori Flekser; and, perhaps of most importance, will be the lecture given by KPMG’s Demographic Group partner Bernard Salt (pictured, right) entitled ‘Managing and Engaging Generation Y’.

Above all else will be the re-emergence of beloved industry figure, Australian Film Institute (AFI) Chairman Alan Finney. Having fought off life threatening illness for much of the last 12 months, Finney will be in attendance to present the AFI portion of the event.

The sense of celebration that surrounds the AIMC has ensured it has remained an integral part of the Australian film calendar for close to seven decades. Revellers traditionally go well into the night, following such extravagant events AIMC Trivia Night and the Gala Convention Wrap Party. Expect 2013 to be similarly fuelled by the attendees united passion for the local industry.

Full details of the 2013 Australian International Movie Convention can be found at their website.

Monday
Oct142013

RIVIERA SET TO REVEL IN ANTIPODEAN FILM ARTISTRY 

Cinema works from Australasia descend upon the French Riviera for the 15th annual Recontres Internationales du Cinema des Antipodes, a celebration of the diverse film cultures of the South Pacific. The celebration kicks of today in Saint Tropez.

Bernard Bories, President of the Cinema des Antipodes organising committee, has used his welcoming address to cite the many qualities that distinguish the cinema of the region. “This window opening on the far ends of the world will once again reveal diversity, uniqueness, harshness, poetry, humour, sensitivity, and a love of wide open spaces,” he states.

The seven-day event, comprises 14 feature films, 9 documentaries and 16 shorts, launches with the French premiere of Drift, co-directors Morgan O’Neill and Ben Nott’s account of Australian surf culture in the 1970s starring Xavier Samuel, Myles Pollard and Sam Worthington (pictured, right). The festival will wrap on October 20 with Nadia Tass’ Fatal Honeymoon, the made-for-TV account of the true-life investigation into the diving death of an American newlywed on Australia’s Barrier Reef; starring Harvey Keitel and Garry Sweet, the film premiered on US TV in 2012 but has earned a rare big-screen slot at the fest.

Australian actress Radha Mitchell (pictured, left) has been appointed President of 2013 Jury, and will oversee the judging of six features with Australian-born/London-based director Daniel Nettheim (Angst; The Hunter) and French thespians Patrick Braoude, Vahina Giocante and Frederic Gorny. The Australian films in competition are Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road, David Pulbrook’s Last Dance and Catriona McKenzie’s Satellite Boy; the Kiwi industry is represented by Dean Hewison’s How to Meet Girls from a Distance, Tim van Dammen’s Romeo and Juliet: A Love Song and Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland’s Shopping.

Non-competitve screenings include Craig Lahiff’s road-movie thriller Swerve; Miro Bilborough’s romantic drama Being Venice; Lawrence Johnston’s account of the making of On the Beach, Fallout; Nicolas Brike’s NZ surfing doco Sewn; and, Alyx Duncan’s familial tearjerker The Red House. Two rock-umentaries focus on the music that has been influential to Down Under culture – Ian Darling’s Paul Kelly Stories of Me and Ray Argall’s Rock of the Antipodes: The 80s.

A retrospective showing of Mario Andreacchio’s much-loved 1995 family pic Napoleon is the centerpiece of Antipodes Junior, a programming directive featuring films both for and about children; notable amongst the selection is Paora Joseph’s Maori ancestral odyssey, Tatarakihi: Children of Parihaka.  

The sector’s smaller but no less potent film industries are addressed via a strand of two Indonesian features, Kamila Andini’s acclaimed The Mirror Never Lies and the omnibus project, Rectoverso (pictured, top), a collection of five shorts from first-time women directors based upon the writings of Dewi Lestari. Elsewhere, Nune Luepack’s hour-long sociological thinkpiece Imulal, Une Terre des Racines et des Reves indicates that the filmmaking pool of New Caledonia is a richly talented one.

Recontres Internationales du Cinema des Antipodes runs October 14 to 20. Full details can be found at the Festival’s website.