Guillermo del Toro's dark fairy-tale Pan's Labyrinth/ El laberinto del fauno was the big winner at the Mexican Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (website)' 49th Ariel Awards ceremony held at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City on March 20.
Set in the 1940s, the Mexican-Spanish co-production about a young girl's entry into a fantastic world – so as to escape from the oppressive reality of General Franco's Fascist Spain – won a total of 9 awards (out of 12 nominations), including best film and Best Director.
As a steely houseworker who befriends the young girl, Maribel Verdú shared the Best Actress award with Elizabeth Cervantes, who plays a businesswoman and mother with little luck in love in the drama More Than Anything in the World / Más que a nada en el mundo.
Other Pan's Labyrinth Ariel winners were cinematographer Guillermo Navarro; composer Javier Navarrete; and production designers Eugenio Caballero, Pilar Revuelta, and Ramón Moya. (Surprisingly, actor Sergi López and del Toro's original screenplay weren't even nominated.)
Earlier this year, Pan's Labyrinth won 7 Goyas (including one for del Toro's screenplay) and 3 Academy Awards. In one of those inane Academy twists, Laberinto lost the best foreign-language film Oscar to the much inferior Das Leben der Anderen / The Lives of Others.
Among the other top Ariel winners were Isabel Coixet's psychological drama The Secret Life of Words / La Vida secreta de las palabras as best Ibero-American film; Juan Carlos Rulfo's In the Pit / En el hoyo as best documentary (in addition to awards for best editing and best sound); and Francisco Vargas' sociopolitical drama El Violín / The Violin (left) as best first film (plus awards for best original screenplay and for best supporting actor Gerardo Taracena).
Damián Alcázar received the best actor award for Sebastián Cordero's Chronicles / Crónicas, in which Alcázar plays a mysterious man who claims to understand the mindset of a serial killer in Ecuador. Crónicas was nominated for five other Ariels, including best film, best director, and best original screenplay (Cordero).
Honorary awards were given to actor Ignacio López Tarso, 82, who played the title role in Roberto Gavaldón's Academy Award-nominated drama Macario (1960), and to cinematographer Rosalío Solano, 92, who shot nearly 180 films, including the Miroslava Stern vehicle Streetwalker / Trotacalles (1951) and Jaime Humberto Hermosillo's drama Shipwreck / Naufragio (1978).
2007 Ariel winners were announced at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City.
Best Film / Mejor película
Crónicas / Chronicles by Producciones Anhelo
* El laberinto del fauno / Pan's Labyrinth by Tequila Gang, Estudios Picasso and Fábrica de Ficción.
El violín / The Violin by the Fondo de Inversión y Estímulos al Cine (Fidecine), Cámara Carnal Films and Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica (CCC).
Best Ibero-American Film / Mejor película iberoamericana
En la cama / In Bed by Matías Bize (Chile)
* La vida secreta de las palabras / The Secret Life of Words by Isabel Coixet (Spain)
Alice by Marco Martins (Portugal)
Best First Film / Mejor ópera prima
* El violín / The Violin by Francisco Vargas
Fuera del cielo / Beyond the Sky by Javier Patrón Fox
Más que a nada en el mundo / More Than Anything in the Worldby Andrés León Becker and Javier Solar
Best Animated Feature / Mejor largometraje de animación
* Una película de huevos by Rodolfo Riva Palacio Alatriste and Gabriel Riva Palacio Alatriste
Best Documentary / Mejor largometraje documental
* En el hoyo / In the Pit by Juan Carlos Rulfo
Best Director / Mejor dirección
Sebastián Cordero for Crónicas / Chronicles
* Guillermo del Toro for Pan's Labyrinth
Francisco Vargas for El violín / The Violin
Best Actor / Mejor actor
* Damián Alcázar for Crónicas / Chronicles
Armando Hernández for Fuera del cielo / Beyond the Sky
Gabino Rodríguez for La niña en la piedra (nadie te ve)
Best Actress / Mejor actriz (tie)
* Maribel Verdú for Pan's Labyrinth
Sofía Espinosa for La niña en la piedra (nadie te ve)
* Elizabeth Cervantes for Más que a nada en el mundo / More Than Anything in the World
Best Supporting Actor / Mejor coactuación masculina
Carlos Cobos for Carnaval de Sodoma
Alex Angulo for Pan's Labyrinth
* Gerardo Taracena for El violín / The Violin
Juan Carlos Colombo for Más que a nada en el mundo / More Than Anything in the World
Best Supporting Actress / Mejor coactuación femenina
Alejandra Gollás for Efectos secundarios / Side Effects
* Isela Vega for Fuera del cielo / Beyond the Sky
Martha Higareda for Fuera del cielo / Beyond the Sky
Best Original Screenplay / Mejor guión original
Sebastián Cordero for Crónicas / Chronicles
* Francisco Vargas for El violín / The Violin
Andrés León Becker and Javier Solar for Más que a nada en el mundo / More Than Anything in the World
Best Adapted Screenplay / Mejor guión adaptado
Best Cinematography / Mejor fotografía
* Guillermo Navarro for Pan's Labyrinth
Martín Boege for El violín / The Violin
Damián García for Más que a nada en el mundo / More Than Anything in the World
Best Editing / Mejor edición
Luis Carballar e Iván Mora for Crónicas / Chronicles
Bernat Vilaplana for Pan's Labyrinth
Francisco Vargas and Ricardo Garfias for El violín / The Violin
* Valentina Leduc for En el hoyo / In the Pit
Best Score / Mejor música compuesta
* Javier Navarrete for Pan's Labyrinth
Leonardo Heiblum for En el hoyo / In the Pit
Eduardo Gamboa for La niña en la piedra (nadie te ve)
Best Production Design / Mejor diseño de arte
Sandra Cabriada, Maria Luisa Guala and Darío Ramos for Carnaval de Sodoma
* Eugenio Caballero, Pilar Revuelta and Ramón Moya for Pan's Labyrinth
Gilda Navarro for Eréndira Ikikunari
Salvador Parra, María José Pizarro and Jon Solaun for Un mundo maravilloso / A Wonderful World
Best Costume Design / Mejor vestuario
* Lala Huete for Pan's Labyrinth
Saúl Hernández Liera for Eróndira Ikikunari
Mariestela Fernández for Un mundo maravilloso / A Wonderful World
Best Visual Effects / Mejores efectos especiales
Alejandro Vázquez and Salvador Servín for Efectos secundarios / Side Effects
* Reyes Abades, Ángel Alonso, David Martí and Montse Ribe for Pan's Labyrinth
Juan Roberto Mora Catlett for Eréndira Ikikunari
Best Sound / Mejor sonido
Martín Hernández, Jaime Baksht and Santiago Nuñez for Crónicas / Chronicles
Martín Hernández, Jaime Baksht and Miguel Polo for Pan's Labyrinth
* Samuel Larson, Jaime Baksht, Natalia Bruschtein, Mauricio Santos and Jesús Sánchez for En el hoyo / In the Pit
Best Make-Up / Mejor maquillaje
* José Quetglas and Blanca Sánchez for Pan's Labyrinth
Julián Pizá for Eréndira Ikikunari
Felipe Salazar for Un mundo maravilloso / A Wonderful World
Best Narrative Short / Mejor cortometraje de ficción
* Dime lo que sientes / Tell Me What You Feel by Iria Gómez
El otro cuarto by Acán Coen
Rojo eterno by Pablo Mendoza
Best Documentary Short / Mejor cortometraje documental
El organillero by Enrique Vázquez Sánchez
La palomilla salvaje by Gustavo Gamou
* Ser isla by Eun-Hee Ihm
Best Animated Short / Mejor cortometraje de animación
* Berlitad by Pablo Ángeles Zuman
Calaverita by Rafael Cárdenas and Raúl Cárdenas
Sheep poem (Poema ovejuno) by Álvaro Zendejas
Golden Ariel / Ariel de Oro: Ignacio López Tarso and Rosalío Solano
Salvador Toscano Medal / Medalla Salvador Toscano: Felipe Cazals
Étoiles d'Or winners: Alain Resnais & Cécile de France + Jean Dujardin
This year's Étoile d'Or for Best (French) Film was given to two productions: Pascale Ferran's new look at D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley (which went on to win the best film César), and to Rachid Bouchareb's socially significant – but dramatically routine – Indigènes / Days of Glory, about North Africans fighting for France during World War II.
The best director prize, however, went to 82-year-old veteran Alain Resnais for – you guessed it – Coeurs, a beautifully made adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's play in which six different people interact – or at least try to interact – in a snowy, dreamlike Paris.
The French critics also failed to decide who should take home the best actor prize. As a result, both Jean Dujardin and François Cluzet went on stage to receive their Étoiles: Dujardin for his suave James Bond-like spy in the highly successful comedy-adventure flick OSS 117 - Le Caire nid d'espions / OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, and Cluzet – who went on to win a best actor César – for his doctor-in-distress in the thriller Ne le dis à personne / Tell No One.
Cécile De France was the best actress for both Quand j'étais chanteur / The Singerand Mauvaise foi (above)- though surprisingly not for her charmingly gauche waitress in Fauteuils d'orchestre / Avenue Montaigne.
The best first film was Mauvaise foi by Roschdy Zem (one of the stars of Indigènes), about how parental prejudices affect the relationship between a pregnant Jewish woman and her Muslim Moroccan boyfriend, while British director Anthony Minghella received the Honorary Étoile d'Or.
French Film Critics' 2007 Étoiles d'Or
Espace Pierre Cardin in Paris on January 22, 2007.
Best French Film / Etoile dOr du Meilleur film français (ex-aequo):
* Lady Chatterley by Pascale Ferran
* Indigènes / Days of Glory by Rachid Bouchareb
Coeurs / Private Fears in Public Places by Alain Resnais
Best First French Film / Etoile dOr du Premier film français:
* Mauvaise foi by Roschdy Zem
Pardonnez-moi / Forgive Me by Maïwenn
Le Pressentiment by Jean-Pierre Darroussin
Best Documentary / Etoile dOr du Documentaire français:
*Kigali, des images contre un massacre / Kigali, Images Against a Massacre by Jean-Christophe Klotz
Dans la peau de Jacques Chirac / Inside the Skin of Jacques Chirac, by Karl Zéro and Michel Royer
La Citadelle assiégée, by Philippe Calderon
Best Director / Etoile dOr du Réalisateur français:
* Alain Resnais, Coeurs / Private Fears in Public Places
Pascale Ferran, Lady Chatterley
Guillaume Canet, Ne le dis à personne / Tell No One
Best Actor / Etoile dOr du Premier Rôle Masculin (ex-aequo):
*Jean Dujardin, OSS 117 - Le Caire nid despions / OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
Gérard Depardieu, Quand jétais chanteur / The Singer
*François Cluzet, Ne le dis à personne / Tell No One
Best Actress / Etoile dOr du Premier Rôle Féminin:
*Cécile de France, Quand jétais chanteur / The Singer and Mauvaise foi
Marina Hands, Lady Chatterley
Charlotte Gainsbourg, Prête-moi ta main / I Do
Best Screenplay / Etoile dOr du scénario français:
*Philippe Lioret and Olivier Adam, Je vais bien, ne ten fais pas / Dont Worry, Im Fine
Christophe Turpin, Jean-Philippe
Guillaume Canet and Philippe Lefebvre, Ne le dis à personne / Tell No One
Best Female Newcomer / Etoile dOr de la Révélation Féminine:
*Mélanie Laurent, Je vais bien, ne ten fais pas / Dont Worry, Im Fine
Marina Hands, Lady Chatterley
Frédérique Bel, Changement dadresse / Change of Address
Best Male Newcomer / Etoile dOr de la Révélation Masculine:
*Thibault Vinçon, Les Amitiés maléfiques / Malevolent Friendships
Kad Merad, Je vais bien, ne ten fais pas / Dont Worry, Im Fine
Yann Tregouët, Itinéraires / Itineraries
Best Composer / Etoile dOr du Compositeur de Musique de film:
Mark Snow, Coeurs / Private Fears in Public Places
*M, Ne le dis à personne / Tell No One
Gabriel Yared, Azur et Asmar
Best French Producer / Etoile dOr du Producteur français:
*Christophe Rossignon, Nord Ouest Production
Jean Bréhat, 3B-Tessalit Production
Pierre-Ange, Le Pogam EuropaCorp
Best French Distributor / Etoile dOr du Distributeur français:
*Stéphane Celerier, Mars Distribution
Margaret Ménégoz, Les Films du Losange
Michel Saint-Jean, Diaphana
Honorary Étoile dOr: Anthony Minghella
Asian Film Awards: Monster Movie Tops
“It's almost strange that it's the first ceremony,” remarked French director Luc Besson at the 1st Asian Film Awards presentation held this evening at Hong Kong's Convention and Exhibition Centre, as part of the 31st Hong Kong International Film Festival which kicked off last night.
“Good films come from everywhere,” added Besson. “Artists are like mushrooms, a little sun, a little water and they grow, they don't need passports, visas to create.”
The South Korean sci-fi-horror, political suspense thriller, and comedy-drama (yup, it's all that) Gwoemul / The Host came out as the big winner of the evening, with a total of four awards: best film, best actor (Song Kang-ho, left, as the film's ditzy blond), best cinematographer (Kim Hyung-goo), and best visual effects (The Orphanage).
Directed by Bong Joon-ho, who somehow failed to get a nomination, The Host tells the story of a Seoul family whose life is turned upside down when a human-eating mutant creature flees with their little girl to one of the city's many sewers.
Dripping with anti-American sentiment – the insatiable creature is the result of an American scientist's disregard for the local environment, while the ensuing hysteria is the result of the American government and military's ineptitude – and with utter contempt for South Korean authorities – who are portrayed as imbecile vassals to the Americans, The Host is a subversive action thriller – peppered with humor and drama – that is reminiscent of the Hollywood and Japanese sci-fi-cum-horror movies (Them!, Gojira / Godzilla) of the 1950s.
The Host is “not only about anti-Americanism but about problems in Korea,” said executive producer Choi Yong-bae. “For example, asking for help from the police who don't return any help.” The Host, by the way, has become the biggest box office hit in Korean history.
The Asian Film Award film award for best director went to Jia Zhangke (above, top) for the Chinese production Sanxia Haoren / Still Life (above), about the social impact of the Three Gorges Dam on a small Sichuan town. Still Life was the surprise Golden Lion winner at last year's Venice Film Festival.
Japanese performer Miki Nakatani was chosen best actress for her portrayal of a woman with a turbulent history – from school teacher to Yakuza moll to demented bag lady – in Tetsuya Nakashima's Kiraware Matsuko no isshô / Memories of Matsuko, described by Variety's Russell Edwards as a “musical parody of Japanese melodramas about fallen women.”
The best screenplay award went to writer-director Mani Haghighi for the Iranian comedy-drama Kargaran mashghoole karand / Men at Work, inspired by an original story by Abbas Kiarostami. Men at Work revolves around four men determined to make a protruding rock roll down a mountainside. The rock, however, won't budge.
Other winners were composer Rahayu Supanggah for Garin Nugroho's Austrian-Indonesian musical Opera Jawa; editor Lee Chatametikool for Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Thai-Austrian-French drama Sang sattawat / Syndromes and a Century; and production designer Tim Yip for Feng Xiaogang's Hong Kong-Chinese epic Ye yan / The Banquet.
An honorary award for “outstanding contribution to Asian cinema” was given to Hong Kong screen veteran Josephine Siao (a.k.a. Josephine Siao Fong-fong), while U.S. film academic David Bordwell, who has written on Hong Kong cinema and has helped save prints of Chinese films, received the award for “excellence in scholarship in Asian cinema”. (Bordwell's Hong Kong diary can be found here.)
“I really don't think I deserve this honor,” said Siao, who turned 60 last March 13, upon receiving her award from Luc Besson. “There are so many wonderful filmmakers, actors and actresses who deserve this much more than I do, but this is such a marvelous gift for my 60th birthday that I must zap it home as quickly as I can before the organizers change their mind.” The actress then performed a little magic trick – of the sort she used to do in her films in her days as a child star – to send her statuette home.
Siao, who is reportedly deaf, has avoided public appearances. Her last film was Kei Shu's enjoyable comedy-drama Hu Du Men / Stage Door, released in 1996.
Though the Asian Film Award ceremony is clearly modeled after the Oscars – among the presenters were stars Michelle Yeoh, Johnnie To, and Maggie Q – the winners are not chosen by members of an Asian Film Academy. Instead, a jury comprised of 17 film industry professionals, festival organizers, and critics picked this year's winners.
“If you look at the world today, it's mainly dominated by the Oscars in the U.S. and other film festivals in Europe,” said Hong Kong Film Festival chairman Wilfred Wong. “We are definitely following in the footsteps of what the Oscars [are] doing.”
The Hong Kong festival, which runs until April 11, will screen approximately 300 films, including 16 world premieres. The festival's opening gala presentations were Yau Nai-hoi's Gun chung / Eye in the Sky, starring Tony Leung Ka-fai and Simon Yam, and Berlinale contender Saibogujiman kwenchana / I'm A Cyborg, But That's OK, directed by Park Chan-wook, and starring Lim Su-jeong and pop singer Rain.
Josephine Siao quote: Monsters & Critics
Mar del Plata Film Festival Winners: Cesc Gay 'Fiction'
The 22nd Mar del Plata Film Festival Award was held between March 8–18. Winners were announced on March 18.
Directed by Cesc Gay, Fiction tells the story of a film director who, while resting at a friends home in a small mountain village, meets a violin player with whom he develops a delusional relationship. Gay and Tomás Aragay penned the screenplay. In the cast: Eduard Fernández, Javier Cámara, Montse Germán, Carmen Pla, Ágata Roca.
Golden Astor for Best feature
FICCIÓ (Spain, directed by Cesc Gay)
JARDINS EN AUTOMNE (France-Italy-Russia, directed by Otar Iosseliani)
Silver Astor for Best Director (tie)
MARINA SPADA (Come l'ombra, Italy)
HONG SANG-SOO (Woman on the Beach, South Korea)
Silver Astor for Best Actress
SANDRA HÜLLER (Madonnas, Germany-Switzerland-Belgium, directed by María Speth)
Silver Astor for Best Actor
CARLOS RESTA (La Peli, Argentina, directed by Gustavo Postiglione)
Silver Astor for Best Screenplay
ZAZA RUSADZE Y DITO TSINTSADZE (The man from the Embassy) (Germany, directed by Dito Tsintsadze)
O MAIOR AMOR DO MUNDO (Brazil, directed by Carlos Diegues)
LATIN AMERICAN COMPETITION
M (Argentina, Director Nicolás Prividera)
Special Mention (tie)
O CEÚ DE SUELY (Brazil-France-Germany-Portugal, Director Karim Aïnouz)
TIERRA ROJA (Paraguay, Director Ramiro Gómez)
INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF FILM CRITICS (FIPRESCI)
Best Film in Latin American Competition
M (Argentina, directed by Nicolás Prividera)
Best Latin American Film
O CEÚ DE SUELY (Brazil-France-Germany-Portugal, directed by Karim Aïnouz)
SIGNIS AWARD - WORLD CATHOLIC ASSOCIATION FOR COMMUNICATION
Best feature film in the official competition
FICCIÓ (Spain, directed by Cesc Gay)
4 DE JULIO (Argentina, directed by Juan P. Young and Pablo Zubizarreta)
Best short film in Upcoming Section
TREINTA AÑOS (France-Chile, directed by Nicolás Lasnibat)
ASOCIACIÓN CRONISTAS CINEMATOGRÁFICOS DE LA ARGENTINA (ARGENTINIAN FILM CRITICS)
Best feature in Official Competition
THE MAN FROM THE EMBASSY (Germany, directed by Dito Tsintsadze)
CIUDAD EN CELO (Argentina, Hernán Gaffet)
Best Argentine short film in Upcoming Section
PUERTAS ADENTRO (Argentina, directed by Martín Carranza)
Best foreign short film in Upcoming Section
WIGALD (Germany, directed by Timon Modersohn)
SINDICATO DE LA INDUSTRIA CINEMATOGRÁFICA ARGENTINA (ARGENTINIAN FILM UNION) TATO MILLER AWARD
Best social and humanistic narrative film in Latin American Competition
REGRESADOS (Argentina, directed by Flavio Nardini and Christian Bernard)
Best social and humanistic documentary film in Latin American Competition
TIERRA ROJA (Paraguay, directed by Ramiro Gómez)
ASOCIACIÓN ARGENTINA DE ACTORES (ARGENTINIAN ACTORS ASSOCIATION) CARLOS CARELLA AWARD
Best Actor in Argentine Showcase Section
PABLO RAGANI (Dumbo 4)
CORINA ROMERO (Dora, la jugadora)
THE INNER LOOK AWARD
Best short film in the Inner Look Section
PEONCITO (Río Negro, directed by Fermín Valeros)
First Special Mention
EL TELEVIDENTE (Córdoba, directed by Lucas Damino and Sebastián Menegaz)
Second Special Mention
AL SOL EN BICI (Chubut, directed by Grupo Humus)
Annual Program without Frontiers
PEONCITO (Río Negro, directed by Fermín Valeros)
INTERFILM BERLIN AWARD
Best short film in Upcoming Section
IN GOLF WE TRUST (Argentina, 2005, directed by Pablo Mazzeo and Gustavo Kaplan)
AMOR A LAS 4 DE LA TARDE (Argentina-Spain, directed by Sebastián Alfie)
791 AWARD TO ARTISTIC INNOVATION
IT HAPPENED JUST BEFORE (Austria, directed by Anja Salomonowitz)
Official Competition Jury: Charles Burnett (USA), Emilia Atef (Germany) Adriana Chiesa Di Palma (Italy), Jay Jeon (South Korea) and Marcelo Piñeyro (Argentina)
Latin American Competition Jury: Teresa Toledo Cabrera (Cuba), Carlos Diegues (Brazil), Carlos Chicho Durán (Peru), Víctor Gaviria (Colombia) and Federico León (Argentina)
FIPRESCI Jury: Jorge Jelinek (Uruguay), Bence Nanay (Hungary) and Pablo Suárez (Argentina)
Signis Jury: Guido Convenís (Belgium), Andrés Jaquez (Mexico) and Agustín Neifert (Argentina)
Argentinian Film Critics Jury: Roberto Blanco Pazos, Emilio Bellón and Gedalio Tarasow
Argentinian Film Union Jury: Algo Guglielmone, Elisabet Otero and Roberto Salomone
Argentinian Actors Association Jury: Mimí Ardú, María Florentino and Emilio Bardi
Inner Look Jury: Carlos Martinez, Miguel Perez and Ricardo Randazzo
Interfilm Berlin Jury: Heinz Hermanns
791 Award Jury: David Gorodisch, Hernán Gerchuny and Hernán Khourian
Australian Film Festival
Australian Film Festival
Press Release: The 13th London Australian Film Festival
Thursday 15 March – Sunday 25 March
The ten-day London Australian Film Festival returns to the Barbican for its 13th consecutive year with the biggest and strongest programme yet of 25 new features (including for the first time this year all the 2006 Australian Film Institute award winners), eight documentaries, two family films, and three archive classics, including the UK Premiere of the digital restoration of the earliest film ever made, The Story of the Kelly Gang. As in previous years, the programme is enriched by the inclusion before most screenings of shorts selected from Flickerfest, Australia's short film festival. In addition, the London Australian Film Festival hosts a free, first-come-first-served evening showing the 16 finalist Sony Tropfest short films.
This year's event kicks off on Thursday 15 March with an Opening Gala Screening of Ray Lawrence's psychological thriller, Jindabyne his eagerly awaited follow up to Lantana, starring Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney. Adapted from a Raymond Carver short story Jindabyne is the deft and chilling story of four friends who discover a dead woman on a fishing trip, but decide to continue fishing and delay reporting the body until later, with far-reaching consequences which shake their lives to the core.
At the Closing Night Gala on Sunday 25 March director Rolf de Heer will attend his intriguing and funny Ten Canoes, the first major Australian film to be shot in an Indigenous Aboriginal language. Set in the distant mythical past of the remote Arafura Swamp region of north-eastern Arnhem Ten Canoes tells of an epic journey of kidnapping, magic, love and revenge (see also Rolf de Heer's The Balanda and the Bark Canoes showing in the Documentary strand). [In addition to being the top winner at the 2006 Australian Film Institute Awards, Ten Canoes was Australia's Academy Award entry for 2006.]
THE NEW FEATURES:
2006/07 has been a stunning year for Australian cinema with outstanding films from both emerging and established feature filmmakers. Among the many note-worthy new features included in this year's festival there are two which have both attracted international and high-profile attention.
International festival audiences, including director Kevin Smith and Harvey Weinstein at Cannes last year (where it received a prolonged standing ovation), were wowed by 19-year-old director Murali K. Thalluri's remarkable and affecting debut 2:37 (UK Premiere) which also opened the Melbourne International Film Festival. 2:37, which has been likened to Gus Van Sant's Elephant, was inspired by a video suicide note sent to the director by a friend before she took her life. Over one day, Thalluri's powerful and compelling film chronicles the lives of angst-ridden teens attending an Australian high-school, which ends in one of their year committing suicide. This young Australian filmmaker is one to watch.
Darren Ashton's Razzle Dazzle - A Journey Into Dance (UK Premiere) is an hilarious fly-on-the-wall mockumentary set in Mr Jonathon's Dance Academy where sequinned darlings compete for Australia's most prestigious children's dance medal. Starring Kerry Armstrong, Ben Miller and Tara Morice and co-written by Brit comic Robin Ince, Razzle Dazzle is a piece of kitsch heaven which has been lauded by the likes of Ben Elton and Steve Coogan. Note: Razzle Dazzle is tbc.
The biggest home-grown hit in Australia this year, and AFI winner for Best Lead Actor (Shane Jacobson) is the hilarious Kenny, made by Clayton and Shane Jacobson. Kenny tells the hilarious story of Kenny Smyth, the proud, understated hero who delivers porta-loos to conferences, festivals and summer fetes. Kenny strives to juggle family tensions, fatherhood and sewage whilst still managing to keep a smile on his face. Note: Kenny is tbc.
Like the battle of Gallipoli resonates for Europeans, the story of the Kokoda trail lives on in the heart of Australians. In the historical drama, Kokoda (European Premiere) director and co-writer Alistair Grierson presents a frank and superbly shot portrayal of Australia's last line of defence against the Japanese Empire in WW2. The men were ill-trained, ill-equipped volunteers known derisively as chocolate soldiers, or 'chocos', expected to melt in the heat of battle.
Three films made by women directors explore very different interpretations of womanhood. Starring Greta Scacchi and Colin Friels, and adapted from Rupert Thomson's highly acclaimed novel, The Book of Revelation is director Ana Kokkinos' explosive and erotic second feature film, which reverses gender roles. A dancer at the peak of his powers is mysteriously abducted by three women, abused then thrown back into the world 12 days later. A broken spirit, he struggles to renegotiate his place in his former life in light of the unimaginable circumstances he's just gone through. In Ann Turner's Irresistible, Susan Sarandon and Sam Neill star in a chilling thriller of jealousy and paranoia. Sarandon plays Sophie Hartley who's convinced that her husband's beautiful colleague (Emily Blunt) is a crazy stalker trying to destroy her marriage, family and life, but no one believes her. Sandra Sciberras' The Caterpillar Wish (UK Premiere) is the uplifting story of 17-year-old Emily who believes, and persuades her elders, that life can be better. Set in the magnificently cine-genic seaside town of Robe, South Australia, starring Sacha Horler, Wendy Hughes, Robert Mammone and Susie Porter (who won an AFI for Best Supporting Actress), this is an inspiring and moving story about ordinary people – mothers and daughters, husbands and lovers – who find the courage to believe they have the power to transform their own lives.
Throughout the festival filmmakers and actors give Barbican ScreenTalks. Confirmed so far are: director Rolf de Heer for the Closing Gala of Ten Canoes; writer/narrator Bob Randall for Kanyini; director Martin Simpson and actress Ayse Tezel for the World Premiere of Gene X; actress Ayse Tezel and co-producer Michael Rowe for Court of Lonely Royals; actress Sally Phillips for the European Premiere for Boytown; director Daniel Lapaine for the UK Premiere of 48 Shades; actress Amanda Douge for UK Premiere of Five Moments of Infidelity; Stephen Moyer for Ravenswood, and cast and crew members for Like Minds.
This year's documentary strand boasts a selection of eight titles. A double-bill co-presented by Dochouse explore cross culturalism in Australia. Rolf de Heer's The Balanda and the Bark Canoes (UK Premiere) is a compelling companion piece to his Ten Canoes. 'We are making a movie. The story is their story, those that live on this land, in their language, and set a long time before the coming of the Balanda, as we white people are known. For the people of the Arafura Swamp, this film is an opportunity, maybe a last chance to hold on to the old ways. For all of us, the challenges are unexpected, the task beyond anything imagined. For me, it is the most difficult film I have made, in the most foreign land I've been to… and it is Australia.' Rolf de Heer.
Kanyini is an indigenous word evoking a connectedness and a deep and ancient responsibility for one's land and community. Kanyini www.kanyini.com is a story told by an Aboriginal man, Bob Randall, member of the Yankunytjatjara people and one of the listed traditional owners of Uluru the greatest monolith in the world, where he lives in Central Australia. Based on Randall's own personal journey and the wisdom he learnt from the old people living in the bush, Randall tells the tale of why Indigenous people are now struggling in a modern world and what needs to be done for Indigenous people to move forward. The film's writer and narrator Bob Randall will attend a Barbican Screentalk, together with Rolf Harris who supports the film and Aboriginal rights.
First-time director Polly Watkins' Vietnam Nurses www.20.sbs.com.au/vietnamnursesreveals the untold stories of six Army nurses who served at the only Australian field hospital in Vietnam. Forty-three of the 50,000 Australian servicemen and women in the Vietnam War were Army Nurses. These young women, who went out to stifling Vung Tau in the 60s were prepared for a challenge but not for the extremes of danger, injury and heartbreak.
In Helen Gaynor's Welcome 2 My Deaf World (UK Premiere) Scott and Bethany share three things: adolescence, school, and deafness. They are pupils at Victorian College of the Deaf, Australia's first school for deaf children. The film follows them through their last few months of school as they look forward to leaving their sheltered lives and enter the wider world.
Two documentary films look at Australia's movie-making history. A dark and dangerous episode in Australia's cinema history which is vibrantly reanimated and reinterpreted through Sue Maslin's award-winning Hunt Angelswww.huntangels.com.au/huntangels/. Using innovative digital composite techniques never before utilised in an Australian feature film, director Alec Morgan and visual effects specialist Rose Draper blend 1930s Australia with the cinematic fantasy worlds of their imaginative main characters in what is a valentine to cinema and the mavericks who sometimes went unnoticed. In The Archive Project (European Premiere) leading Australian documentary filmmaker John Hughes completes his trilogy on Australia's experience of the Cold War with this exploration of the Melbourne Realist film movement of the 1940s and 50s. This small group of dedicated film enthusiasts promoted an activist film culture, supporting labour movement, housing and peace campaigns. Their amazing films were crucial to the emergence of film festivals in Melbourne and Sydney.
THE ARCHIVE FILMS:
This year's festival includes an Archive strand which marks the centenary of the earliest feature film ever made, anywhere. The festival is showing, with live piano accompaniment by John Sweeney, the UK Premiere of the digital restoration of The Story of the Kelly Gang which was made in 1906 when most films in Europe and America consisted of two-reels. The four-reel Kelly Gang is generally regarded as the first film in the world to resemble what is now termed a feature film. Depicting the career of the notorious outlaw Ned Kelly, its success was the catalyst for an explosion in film production which made the Australian film industry one of the world's most prolific in the period leading up to the First World War. This digital restoration of the surviving elements, totally some twenty minutes, represents the most complete version of the film in existence. Playing alongside Kelly Gang is Arthur W. Sterry's 1921 The Life Story of John Lee: The Man They Could Not Hang and the winner of the 1954 Grand Prix Absolute at the Venice Film Festival, The Back of Beyond, one of Australia's great classics.
The London Australian Film Festival is the only festival in Europe that dedicates its programme to Australian cinema. Year-on-year the festival brings to UK audiences the best in Australian film. This year, as in the previous two years, the selected films from the festival goes on-tour to UK wide venues.