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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 


It’s a historically blessed slot for Australia, the midnight Gala screening Out of Competition on the first Saturday of the Festival de Cannes, where The Sapphires has its World Premiere this year; the last two Australian films screened in that special slot were Strictly Ballroom exactly two decades ago and The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert in 1994. Andrew L. Urban builds an Australian dossier for Cannes 2012.

“It’s a reminder to the world’s film industry,” says Screen Australia’s Head of Marketing Kathleen Drumm, “that we do make films with broad appeal, as well as smaller, niche films.” 

The fact The Sapphires has already been snapped up for princely sums around the world - not least by Harvey Weinstein’s company for the crucial US market - underlines the promise. (The Weinstein Company has gorged itself on Australian films, buying rights to both Lawless and Killing Them Softly by Aussie directors - both selected for Competition; see below and adjacent.)

"a whole new world of sex, war, politics - and soul music"

The film is set in the heady days of 1968 when four talented singers (Jessica Mauboy and Deborah Mailman with newcomers Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell), from a remote Aboriginal mission, are discovered by an unlikely talent scout (Chris O’Dowd). Plucked from obscurity and branded as Australia’s answer to The Supremes, The Sapphires grasp the chance of a lifetime when they’re offered their first real gig - entertaining the troops in Vietnam. For the girls, a whole new world of sex, war, politics - and soul music - opens before them. 

The Sapphires

Adapted by Keith Thompson and playwright Tony Briggs, The Sapphires is directed by actor and theatre director Wayne Blair, produced by Goalpost Pictures Australia’s Rosemary Blight and Kylie du Fresne with Briggs as associate producer. The story is inspired by the remarkable true story of Briggs’ mother and her family. Hopscotch Films/eOne will release The Sapphires in August 2012 around Australia. 

Australia is also represented this year in the much sought after Competition selection, with two Australian directors (a first) invited with their US made films: Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly and John Hillcoat’s Lawless. (See listings below)

Festival director Thierry Fremaux even refers to these films as ‘Australian’ at times, recognising the creative importance of the director; that’s Cannes, of course. 

"lots of glitz and glamour"

“This sort of presence,” says Drumm, “immediately reminds the key, influential industry players that Australia has talent. These films are the tip of the iceberg, catching the sun, giving us visibility and credibility. Cannes appears to be lots of glitz and glamour but in fact most of the action takes place behind the scenes. It’s really all about business.” 

And Screen Australia has lined up a range of events and activities to maximise on the visibility offered this year. “It’s the most important film market in the world, attended by buyers and sellers and prodcuers, agencies, festival programmers – all with an eye on film projects. Australia is part of that complex environment with over 300 Australians attending this year. 

“It’s really important for us as we are so geographically isolated in Australia and networking – face to face – is such a crucial part of this business,” Drumm adds. Screen Australia, based at its long-held Penthouse offices with a large terrace in the middle of La Croisette, has planned a series of events that bring together the Australian production community with executives from around the world in all the different areas of the business. 

“Many of the Australian movies we see on our screens here started with a deal made at Cannes,” says Drumm. 

Key Screen Australia initiatives at Cannes 2012: 
# Launch of inaugural ‘induction program’ for first or second timers at Cannes, with 12 pre-Cannes podcasts, four 90 minute morning sessions at Screen Australia's offices in Cannes and four post-Cannes podcasts, for up to 20 emerging producers – who have been quick to sign up. (It’s free.) 

# Launch of Doing Business With Australia app for mobiles

# Michael Hague (Hollywood script consultant) to run two face to face sessions with each of 11 recipients of Screen Australia Travel Grants, to hone their pitch for their key projects. Participants include seasoned veterans Sue Murray, Tony Ginnane, Liz Watts and Heather Ogilvie 

# Launch of interactive website for Australians at Cannes with comprehensive information about the entire Australian presence, with screenings, trailers, clips, twitter news feeds and links to the dedicated facebook page. 

# YouTube – dedicated Screen Australia channel to be used for additional material

Australians at Cannes – in the Festival program:
directed by Wayne Balair. Based on the true story of four talented singers from a remote Aboriginal mission being discovered and taken on a singing tour of Vietnam in 1968. Stars Chris O’Dowd (as the talent scout) and Jessica Mauboy, Deborah Mailman, with newcomers Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell. Opens in Australia in August 2012.

KILLING THEM SOFTLY (US), directed by Aussie filmmaker Andrew Dominik; stars Brad Pitt as Jackie Cogan, a professional enforcer who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game. Aussie Ben Mendelsohn has a supporting role. The screenplay by Dominik is an adaptation of the novel by George V. Higgins.  Opens in Australia on September 20, 2012.
LAWLESS (US), directed by Aussie filmmaker John Hillcoat; stars Tom Hardy, Shia LaBoeuf and Aussie Guy Pearce; set in the Depression- era Franklin County, Virginia, a bootlegging gang is threatened by authorities who want a cut of their profits. The screenplay is an adaptation of Matt Bondurant’s novel by Aussie muso/writer/actor Nick Cave. Opens in Australia on September 6, 2012.

NICOLE KIDMAN stars in Competition entry, The Paperboy by US director Lee Daniels, in which a reporter returns to his Florida hometown to investigate a case involving a death row inmate; she also stars in Philip Kaufman's Hemingway and Gellhorn, screening out of Competition. 

YARDBIRD (Aust), directed by Michael Spiccia, produced by Jessica Mitchell and written by Julius Avery. From Buffalo Films and Bridle Path Films. The 13-minute film is about a young girl who takes on the local bullies that torment her father.

In the Marché (for international sales):
Twelve new Australian features are screening in the marketplace, including:

Goddess – W&D: Mark Lamprell. Elspeth Dickens (Laura Michelle Kelly) dreams of finding her "voice" despite being stuck in an isolated farmhouse with her twin toddlers. A web-cam becomes her pathway to fame and fortune, but at a price. Also stars Ronan Keating, Magda Szubanski

Careless Love – W&D John Duigan. A Vitenamese-Australian student (Nammi Le) joins an escort agency to make money she sends to her parents for the mortgage, but gets found out when she falls for a fellow student (Andrew Hazzard). Opens in Australia on May 17, 2012.

Not Suitable For Children – W: Michael Lucas. D: Peter Templeman. Jonah (Ryan Kwanten) needs a woman to have his baby before his testicular cancer makes him impotent. Opens in Australia on June 28, 2012.

The King is Dead – W&D: Rolf de Heer. Young professional couple Max (Dan Wylie) and Therese (Bojana Novakovic) move into their new suburban cottage, only to find unbearably noisy low-life neighbours – who won’t be told. Opens in Australia in July 2012.

Crawlspace – W&D: Justin Dix, A team of elite soldiers infiltrate a top-secret underground military compound, only to discover that the facility is a testing ground for something far more sinister. Stars Ditch Davey, Amber Clayton, Peta Sergeant, Nicholas Bell, John Brumpton, Leslie Simpson.

Published May 17, 2012

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Guy Pearce in John Hillcoat's Lawless

By Nick Roddick

Killing them Softly

Andrew Dominik

Careless Love


Hemingway and Gellhorn

Interested to read about previous Cannes Film Festivals?

Cannes 2011: Australian Cinefiles

Cannes 2010: Wrap (festival, business & glam)

Cannes 2009: Preview

Cannes 2008: Preview

Cannes 2007: Postcards

Cannes 2006: Colour Me Cannes

Cannes 2006: The Willing & Dealing

Cannes 2005: The Glam Bam

Cannes 2005: Rumours & Spies

Cannes 2005: The Insider Guide

Cannes 2004: Preview

Cannes 2003: The Underside

Cannes 2002: Postcard from Cannes

Cannes 2001: Wrap

Cannes 2000: Australian Films

Cannes 1999: Official Selection

Cannes 1998: What's in the Cannes

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