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Entries in Film Festival (4)

Sunday
Apr162017

SUNTANNED CINEPHILES SET TO FEAST ON GOLD COAST FILM FEST.

Its very mention once conjured images of a hedonistic mecca peopled by meter maids and partying teens, but Queensland’s Gold Coast tourist strip has more recently re-emerged as a film lover’s paradise. Central to this cultural growth is Festival Director Lucy Fisher and her team at the Gold Coast Film Festival (GCFF), who celebrate 15 years as the region’s premiere movie-going event, a crucial conduit between local and international filmmakers and the Sunshine State’s cinephiles…

“2017 is about a shift in a new direction,” says Fisher, who has worked our interview into a frantic schedule ahead of the April 19 launch of the 2017 event. “It is about bringing films to life in a distinctly Gold Coast way for local and visiting audiences and to help grow and support Queensland’s screen industry.” From humble beginnings in 2002 when it launched as a genre-based fan event, the scale of this year’s 12-day celebration now reflects both the vast, stunning geography of Australia’s north-east and the richness of its film culture.

“The festival has really found its feet in the last three years,” says Fisher (pictured, left). “For general cinemagoers, we play a social role, affording them a chance to meet and bond over shared film experiences, discovering new films or films that would normally only release in Sydney and Melbourne.” Kicking off with the New Zealand hit comedy Pork Pie from director Matt Murphy, patrons with a penchant for global cinema are spoilt for choice with works from Finland (Juho Kuosmanen’s Cannes sensation The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki), The U.K. (Terence Davies’ A Quiet Passion; Jason Connery’s Tommy’s Honour); The U.S.A. (Maggie Greenwald’s Sophie and The Rising Sun; James Ponsoldt’s The Circle); Egypt (Mohamed Diab’s Clash); Indonesia (Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto’s Headshot); Chile (Pablo Larrain’s Neruda); France (Rebecca Zlotowski’s Planetarium); and, Kenya (Mbithi Masaya’a Kati Kati).

The Festival’s major sponsor is the state’s funding and production overseer Screen Queensland who, under the energised stewardship of CEO Tracey Vieira, has seen the region attract big-ticket productions like Kong Skull Island, Thor Ragnarok, The Shallows, San Andreas and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. In an inspired piece of off-site programming, the GCFF is offering a 3-hour bus tour of these locations, with accompanying AV content to enhance the experience.

The Screen Queensland collaboration and the role it plays in fostering talent and production activity is taken very seriously by Fisher, who states, “For the local industry, we develop future film professionals through screen culture and screen education, (including) dedicated screenings, career forums and workshops for high-school students. For film industry audiences, we provide professional development through Q&As, panels and workshops.” In 2017, these events come under the ‘ReelLife’ banner and include sessions on film criticism, chaired by FilmInk editor Dov Kornits; the intricacies of film production, hosted by industry veterans Sue Maslin and Jan Chapman; understanding the audition process with actress Claudia Karvan; sound design and composition with Oscar winner David White; and, working with animals on-screen, chaired by director Simon Wincer (Phar Lap; Free Willy).

Australian productions in the 2017 programme include four World Premieres – Dee McLachlan’s supernatural thriller Out of The Shadows; Josh Hale’s gamer mockumentary Digital Athletes: The Road to Seat League; Jude Kalman’s uplifting documentary Uncontained Love: Love > Fear; and, Enzo Tedeschi’s gripping socio-political thriller, Event Zero, which will close the festival on April 30. Other local filmmakers represented include James Bogle, with his bio-doc Whitely; Douglas Watkin and his indigenous ballet doco Ella; Michael Jones, with Lazybones; Romi Trower, presenting her debut What If It Works?, with Luke Ford; Shane Abbess, with his sci-fi spectacle Science Fiction Vol 1: The Osiris Child (pictured, above; stars Isabel Lucas and Daniel McPherson); and, Gerald Rascionato, whose shark-attack found-footage thriller Cage Dive should play well to the beachgoing locals.

Fisher is fully aware of the importance of a placement in a festival line-up can represent to the young filmmakers of Australia. “We seek out Australian films that haven’t had any screen agency funding. These are the go-getters, the hustlers, the deal-makers,” she says. “To make a film on a credit card budget or find funding for a couple of hundred grand is incredible. The discovery and support of independent filmmaking talent is one of our distinctive points of difference.”

Perhaps the most crucial point of difference is Lucy Fisher’s commitment to gender equality in her festival’s programming. Her selections are all rated utilising the Bechdel Test, an industry standard that determines a film’s gender bias based upon a) whether it has at least two women characters, who b) talk to each other about c) something other than a man. Says Fisher, “We rated all films by the Bechdel Test first in 2016 and have again in 2017 to highlight how women are being written for screen.” Her determination to strengthen the profile of women in the film industry also extends to the festival podiums. “The bigger, older film festivals still won’t even register that they might have an event that has a man introducing a man guest, moderated by a man, thanked by a man,” she states. “We commit to at least 50% women speakers, which sounds deceptively simple.  But when Australia produces only 23% of films with women writers and 16% with women directors, that’s something we have to deliberately consider in our speaker and programming choices.”

Fittingly, the recipient of the 2017 GCFF Chauvel Award for career achievement and artistic integrity is actress Deborah Mailman, who will participate in an extensive interview with past winner David Stratton at the event’s host venue, The Arts Centre Gold Coast.

The Gold Coast Film Festival runs April 19-30. Ticket and session information is available at the official website here.

Friday
Feb242017

FEMALE EMPOWERMENT DRAMA DENIED RELEASE BY INDIAN CENSORS

India’s hardline censorship body, The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), has refused to classify Alankrita Shrivastava’s female empowerment drama, Lipstick Under My Burkha. The decision effectively denies a theatrical release of the Hindi film in its homeland, pending severe edits by the filmmaker or appellate court action by the distributor.

Starring Konkona Sensharma, Ratna Pathak Shah and Plabita Borthakur (pictured, above), the pro-feminist comedy/drama focuses on four women in a small Indian town who each seek a small degree of personal freedom in their daily lives. It played to acclaim on the 2016 festival circuit, earning the Spirit Asia Award at the Tokyo Film Festival and a Best Film on Gender Equality prize at the Mumbai Film Festival.

In a letter to producer Prakash Jha (subsequently posted on the film's social media platforms), The CBFC stated, “The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are contanious sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film refused (sic).”

The body cited violations of a number of guidelines to which submitted films must adhere, including: vulgarity, obscenity or depravity; scenes degrading or denigrating women; sexual violence against women; sexual perversions; and visuals or words contemptuous of racial, religious or other groups.

Speaking to the press ahead of the U.K. premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival, Shrivastava (pictured, right) was defiant in the face of the ruling. “I will battle this out and do whatever it takes to ensure that audiences in India can watch the film,” she said. “I believe the decision to refuse certification is an assault on women’s rights. For too long the popular narrative has perpetuated patriarchy by objectifying women or minimising their role in a narrative.”

Shrivastava was adamant that the traditional gender bias endemic to Indian culture was a factor in the decision. “A film like Lipstick Under My Burkha, that challenges that dominant narrative, is being attacked because it presents a female point of view. Do women not have the right of freedom of expression?,” she demanded. “India is so steeped in its discrimination against women, it becomes evident in such decisions. In a country where there is so much violence against women, and such double standards for women, rather than encourage women’s stories told by women themselves, our stories are stifled.”

In a positive review published in November 2016 following the Tokyo Film Festival screening, trade paper The Hollywood Reporter pre-empted the controversy, stating, “one wonders how the Hindi-language film will be received locally and whether its frankness will be cause for scandal.”

Like many of his contemporaries, Prakash Jha (pictured, right) has clashed with The CBFC in the past. His 2016 film Jai Gangaajal, starring India’s biggest international movie star Priyanka Chopra, was denied CBFC classification before being cleared by the next level of industry bureaucracy, the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal. Hollywood has also felt the sting of CBFC disapproval, with Barry Jenkin’s Oscar nominated Moonlight having scenes of same-sex affection, swear words and heterosexual lovemaking excised before classification was allowed; in 2012, David Fincher denied Indian audiences a theatrical release of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo when he refused to make extensive CBFC-sanctioned edits.

 

Wednesday
Jun182014

REFLECTIONS ON REVELATIONS: AN ORAL HISTORY

They are the men whose shared visions create the most eclectic and challenging collection of cinema on the Australian film festival calendar. Chairman Richard Sowada who, fuelled by the spirit of the now defunct Revelations magazine and its founder Peter Collins, launched a series of 16mm film screenings at Perth’s iconic jazz venue, The Greenwich, in 1997; program director Jack Sargeant, author and academic on all matters counter-culture and underground, has acted as in-house agitant and revolutionary spirit since 2008. So who better to answer the question, “What have been the defining moments in the 17 year history of Revelation Perth International Film Festival?”, than the men behind the madness...?

“Each year is new and each choice is filled with experimentation and a roll of the dice.” - Richard Sowada, Founder and Chairman (pictured, right).

The Banning of Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist: This appeared in Rev '98. It was passed for screening by the Office of Film and Literature Classification, but the ruling was overturned by the local West Australian office. It made print and TV news around the country and taught us how some arms of government and the media work. A challenging experience, for us and the community. We learnt that as far as politics goes, the issue is never about the issue and that our 'editorial stand' was a strong one, which is something that's never really changed. Aside from that, it was lots of fun. It got unbanned, by the way.

Viola Dana playing The General: In 2009, local outfit Viola Dana played the score to Buster Keaton's silent classic The General. I cried...it was so beautiful and received a standing ovation. The real thing. It was a true moment where the power of cinema crossed generations. It was one of those things you hope has a real impact on people who may not ever expect that kind of tenderness from a silent film.

 

Going on Tour: In the first two years of the event, we went touring to Sydney and Adelaide. While a great thing to do, it made us realise that that the idea behind the event can't be transferred. It reinforced that the event is not about films necessarily but the ideal behind what we were trying to do. To manage something like this, you need to have the right state of mind - and in a very conservative film exhibition environment, very few people have that. So we keep it in WA. 

The First International Guest: In our second year, a young Japanese experimental filmmaker named Hideo Oshima came over. He flew himself over for his first time ever in Australia. He'd never seen a beach and he spent his whole time with his shoes off walking on Cottesloe Beach, feeling the sand between his toes. It had a real impact on him. When he came over, I thought we were on our way and now we have over 60 guests.

Every Year…: Rev is such an enormous challenge. In all ways we do things like no other event. It's more than a festival - it's a Union for artists and audiences. The event is a point of advocacy for both, that challenges the difficulties in having a community voice. (We address) funding, distribution and exhibition difficulties and the mentoring (of) new practitioners in every sector of the industry.


“(All) the filmmakers who enter seek to push the medium and I think that it is indicative of the limitless potentials of cinema to stimulate imagination.” - Jack Sargeant, Program Director (pictured, right).

Joe Davis Dancing in the Bar: Davis is an incredible thinker, philosopher, scientist and prankster, who was over to introduce a screening of the film Heaven and Earth and Joe Davis which documented part of his life. This is a fascinating movie about a genuinely unique figure, and having him in town was great. Joe hit it off with everyone and opened people's eyes to many things. We have been blessed with many enjoyable guests, and to me that is still a really special part of the festival.

Crispin Glover screening What Is It? and It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine: These are powerful, visionary movies and to watch them was an incredible experience. Not only did he screen his films, he also performed both parts of his Big Slide Show (one part each night, prior to the films) which was a magical and unique dramatic narration of his beautiful books. An incredibly dedicated individual, he answered questions from the audience and then met audience members individually to sign books and talk to people. 

 

Lawrence English performing a live soundtrack to Harry Smith's Early Abstractions: This was at my first Revelation, and I had commissioned Lawrence to write a new soundtrack to this series of experimental animated films. Of course, his soundtrack was as beautiful and visionary as you would imagine, and people loved seeing the films and listening to the music.  

Revel8: Our annual screening of super 8 movies. Anyone can enter; there have been submissions from experimental filmmakers, students, friends, artists, and jokers over the years. There's a real pleasure in the possibilities inherent in this event. The films may be experimental, visionary, irreverent, entertaining or infuriating, but they are always unique and made with a kind of wild enthusiastic passion. I'd like to think that the potentialities of Revel 8 movies reflect something of the potentialities of all the films we screen at the festival.  

The Revelation Bar: There's a lot of hanging out at Revelation after movies, and one of the key aspects is that everyone is welcome. The bar becomes the de facto centre of the festival with filmmakers, guests, artists, musicians, audience members and academics just talking and discussing ideas. You can see fruitful exchanges taking place, friendships being forged and a real air of enjoyment, which makes the whole thing very special. (pictured, right; Sowada, left, and Sargeant flank revellers at a recent Revelation social event)

The Revelation Perth International Film Festival will run July 3-13 in several venues in and around Perth, Western Australia. For full program details and tickets, visit the official website here.

Wednesday
Jul242013

TORONTO WELCOMES FOUR OF OUR FINEST

Four Australian features have been selected to screen at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), one of the most prestigious gatherings on the international calendar.

Amongst the 37 world premieres that will unspool between September 5 and 15 are fresh works from filmmakers Paul Haggis (Third Person), Bertrand Tavernier (Quai d’Orsay), Dennis Villeneuve (Prisoners), Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club), Jason Reitman (Labor Day) and Richard Ayaobe (The Double). Opening the event will be Bill Condon’s Wikileaks expose The Fifth Estate, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange; closing out the fest is Daniel Schecter’s Life of Crime, an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s The Switch and starring Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes and Tim Robbins.

Joining the list of world firsts will be Matthew Saville’s Felony, his long-awaited second feature after the success of 2007’s Noise; and Jonathan Teplitzky’s UK/Australian co-production, The Railway Man (pictured, right).

Just as Noise examined a police officer struggling with reality, so too does Felony, which tells of a decorated cop who covers up the fatal consequence of his night on the drink. Backed by two of Australia’s most high-profile production outfits in Goalpost Pictures (The Sapphires) and Blue Tongue Films (The Square), Saville has corralled a top-notch cast that will ensure TIFF buzz is high – on-the-cusp Hollywood star Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher; A Good Day to Die Hard), Joel Edgerton (doubling up as screenwriter) and Melissa George.

Teplitzky’s The Railway Man is the director’s first international effort, after well-received local films Burning Man, Getting’ Square and Better Than Sex. Starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, it recounts the true story of Eric Lomax and his quest to find the Japanese officer who tortured him while he was a World War 2 POW.

John Curran’s Tracks (pictured, top), already announced as the Opening Night engagement for this year’s Adelaide Film Festival, will have its North American premiere in Toronto. The screening will represent the beginning of the final stages of the film’s marathon chronology; the project, which tells the real-life story of a young woman (played by Mia Wasikowska) who travails the West Australian desert on camel, was in pre-production 20 years ago with Julia Roberts attached to star.

And Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road, which had its world premiere as the opener for the Sydney Film Festival in June, has secured its first offshore slot ahead of its mid-August national release on local screens.