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Sydney Film Festival 2009 preview

Ken Loach doesn’t usually do ‘funny’ so his new film, Looking for Eric, is newsworthy and no wonder Clare Stewart has chosen it to open this year’s Sydney Film Festival; we need a good laugh that’s not at the expense of our bumbling politicians. And there are three Australian films out of the 12 in the Competition, albeit not comedies, vying for the $60,000 Hunter Hall cash prize, reports Andrew L. Urban. But it also ends on an upper, with Lone Scherfig’s An Education. In between, a new Foxtel-sponsored doco competition kicks off, in what is a year of change all round.

There is a clear sense of change in this year’s Sydney Film Festival, as it shortens its run to 12 days, introduces a new competition for docos, shifts the programming to ‘visceral’ groupings and expands its menus of local and international premieres.

Teri Hatcher will be at the Australian premiere of Henry Selick’s Coraline on Wednesday, June 10 and director John Woo will walk the red carpet for the Australian premiere of his film, Red Cliff, on Tuesday June 9. Three of the Competition films are direct from the 62nd Cannes Film Festival: Altiplano, Face and Opening Night film Looking for Eric.

World Premieres include Rachel Ward’s Beautiful Kate and Khoa Do’s Missing Water; International Premiere: Tsai Ming-liang’s Face; Australian Premieres (as well as the Cannes films): Peter Brosens and Nicholas Winding Refn’s, Bronson, Henry Selick’s, Coraline, Steve Jacobs’ Disgrace, Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, Gustave de Kervern and Benoit Delépine’s Louise-Michel, Sebastián Silva’s The Maid and Alexey German Jr’s Paper Soldier.

And there’s more – premieres from seasoned filmmakers like Claire Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum; Stephen Frears’ Cheri; Catherine Breillat’s Bluebeard; Jerzy Skolimowski’s Four Nights with Anna, Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control, Abbas Kiarostami’s Shirin and Hirokozu Kore-eda’s Still Walking.

Other Australian films in the program include the first Australia/Israel co-production, Tatia Rosenthal’s animated feature $9.99 (voices of Geoffrey Rush, Anthony LaPaglia) and Andrew Lancaster’s Accidents Happen (starring Geena Davis), Glendyn Ivin’s Last Ride (featuring SFF Patron Hugo Weaving), and Jonathan auf der Heide’s Van Diemen’s Land.

First-time filmmakers and established documentarians are among the ten selected finalists to be shortlisted for the inaugural Foxtel Australian Documentary Prize. Shortlisted films: Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s Bastardy and Cicada, Bentley Dean and Martin Butler’s Contact, Nicky Crowther’s A Fortunate Soldier..., Safina Uberoi’s A Good Man, Brian McKenzie’s Meet Me at the Mango Tree, David Bradbury’s My Asian Heart, Michael Angus & Murray Fredericks’ Salt, Violeta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw’s Stolen, and Megan Doneman’s Yes Madam, Sir.

In addition, Clare has managed to squeeze in a Retrospective: Girls 24/7, selection of films by women directors from the 60s and 70s that include new 35mm prints of Angès Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7, and Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman; as well as Restorations that include Wake In Fright (1971) and the 65th anniversary of D-Day on June 6 is marked with a screening of Overlord, an extraordinary film from 1975 that combines archival images of this historical landing with a fictional story about a young soldier, followed by Q&A with director Stuart Cooper.

The special screening of Bob Fosse and Liza Minnelli’s 1972 history-making collaboration, Liza with a Z (made the year they won Oscars for Cabaret) followed by a Q&A live via satellite with Minnelli.

Perhaps unavoidably, there is also a Sustainability sidebar showing films that deal with the environment, and of course, something for the family, films about disability, silents and a glam-bam for Fashionistas, featuring behind the scenes expose from Vogue, The September Issue.

The program is varied, interesting and has a fresh feel, offering respect as well as cinematic adventure, political correctness as well as rebellion.

Andrew L. Urban
Editor & Publisher


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