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All the news from Cannes as it happens, from Urban Cinefile Editor, Andrew L. Urban.

21/5/98: HOT HEAD
Alex Dimitriades is bound for stardom; the 24 year old hunk with black eyelashes and dark brown eyes who stars as the explosive Ari in Ana Kokkinos' first feature, Head On, has turned many heads at Cannes - and his agents are turning up in Los Angeles for 'meetings' - read Big Movie Offers.

Dimitriades, responding with low key enthusiasm and level headed caution, says he is "flattered" by the attention. His agent Mark Morrisey claims Dimitriades is hot, and has a big international career ahead of him. (And it's hard to argue with that.) Meanwhile, the film, Head On, is attracting accolades and intense interest from buyers around the world. Don't be surprised if it wins the Camera d'Or, the prize for best first feature.

The Australian films are enjoying considerable buzz at Cannes, not only the two dramas in the festival (Dance Me To My Song and Head On) but many of the films screening for the international buyers in the market, with early sales for several countries reported on The Boys (including a US deal due to be signed today) and Crackers (sold for Germany).

On the 10th anniversary of the Un Certain Regard screening of the award winning South African gangster movie, Mapantsula, the film's South African director and its Australian producer have come to Cannes to pitch their next project together - a post-Apartheid gangster movie.

Within 24 hours of their arrival, writer/director Oliver Schmitz and Sydney-based producer David Hannay had conducted three meetings with prospective European co-production partners. "There is enormous positive interest," says Hannay. "It's a mainstream commercial project which we will shoot in Johannesburg and Soweto."

The US$3 million movie will be made in very different conditions to their first film together, Mapantsula, which was shot in clandestine conditions in Soweto during the final years of apartheid.

"We're looking at many of the exciting new actors emerging in South Africa," says Schmitz, who describes the film as "anchored in realism but with an absurd quality - rather like itself life in South Africa. It's tragic and funny at the same time. It's called Hijack Stories because in South Africa everyone has a hijack story…"

The film tackles the issues of a new generation of black youth who want to reinvent themselves and forget the past. "Many aspire to a comfortable middle class existence - and the film looks at this through two friends, one of whom does not."

Schmitz has flown in from Montreal where his feature length documentary, Joburg Stories, won the documentary award at the Vues d'Afrique festival.

16/5/98: FEVER FEVER
A film touted as Singapore's answer to Strictly Ballroom, Forever Fever, has been picked up for world distribution by an excited Sydney based Beyond Films (who handled Strictly) on the way to Cannes, and is being offered deals in top seven figures for US rights alone.

Shot in Singapore by promising new Singapore filmmaker Glen Goi and Australian cinematographer Brian Breheny [Priscilla - pic] and post produced in Sydney, employing several Australian heads of department, Forever Fever is a twisted take on Saturday Night Fever, with a disco dancing competition, some family trauma and even some self-mocking kung fu action. Set in 1977, Bee Gees music and flared trousers complement the Singapore youth culture.

Beyond will screen the film for invited guests on Wednesday.

Andrew L. Urban comments:
"Set in 1977 in Singapore, this debut feature from the evidently talented writer/director, Glen Goi, shows a virile inventiveness with enough risk taking to make the otherwise familiar material really work. There will be the inevitable comparisons with Baz Luhrmann and Strictly Ballroom, which don't really apply except as a very inexact shorthand. Forever Fever is a culturally specific film about a young man's self-centred dream of a motor bike hijacked by the realisation that he has a deeper love. Top performances and fresh cinematic flair make this an unusual and entertaining film for western audiences."

Leading man John Brumpton carried his co-star, a gold-gowned Heather Rose, in his arms up the red carpeted stairs of the Palais des Festivals to her wheelchair at the top, in a moving precursor to the Competition screening of Rolf de Heer's love drama, Dance Me To My Song this afternoon.

The audience gave the film a spontaneous and enthusiastic standng ovation that lasted some 10 minutes; and when Heather Rose blew them a silent kiss, emotions flowed over. One audience member was so moved she said she was in shock and had to go and compose herself.

Rose, who suffers from cerebral palsy, conceived and co-wrote the film, a love triangle in which a woman with cerebral palsy struggles over a man with her female carer.

Some British critics were lukewarm about the film, saying they felt it was a bit simplistic and melodramatic. But Jan Epstein of Cinema Papers and Urban Cinefile's critics are all unanimous in praise of this extraordinary film. Epstein gave the film 8 (out of 10) in the Moving Pictures daily Critics Poll, while Italian critic Umberto Rossi gave it 7 and Frenchman Alain Kruger gave it 6.
(Photo by David Morgan, Cannes)

Ana Kokkinos stood on the balcony of a Cannes apartment-turned office yesterday overlooking the red carpeted stairs of the Palais des Festivals, watching the ceremony prior to a screening of a film in Competition, feeling far from cocky: "I'm terrified," she said quietly, just 48 hours before her film, Head On, screens in Directors Fortnight.

Kokkinos, in Cannes with co-wrter Mira Robertson and the film's star, Alex Dimitriades, told Urban Cinefile she was overwhelmed with the mood of Cannes, and felt immensely proud to be here.

Southern Star, which is selling the film world wide after its Saturday night screening, has taken over a bar behind the Croisette for the Head On party, and expect great things from the film.

Watch this space…..

Casting was announced today in Cannes for John Polson’s debut feature, Siam Sunset. To be produced by Al Clark, British actor Linus Roache (Priest, Wings of the Dove) will play the lead role in the bizarre romantic comedy. Polson and Clark are in Cannes after casting in London. (See News Story )

The Aussie barbie came to Cannes with the team from the new Australian charred comedy, Crackers; writer/director David Swann was in top form in black tie while actor Terry Gill, in slightly singed chef's outfit, cremated local fare in a demo of suburban barbecuing, in a remake of a scene from the film which is screening here.

A live didgeridoo concert tonight launches a major tribute to Australian cinema, opening with a screening of Bill Bennett’s Kiss or Kill (pic), as an adjunct to the Cannes Film Festival, including a program that marks the 25th anniversary of the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

Bernard Bories, the director of the tribute, Cinéma des Antipodes, has also selected three features from AFTRS graduates; Rowan Woods’ The Boys, Ray Argall’s Going Home and Sue Brooks’ Road to Nhill will also be screened, as will shorts from other graduates, including Jane Campion’s seminal Palme d’Or winning Peel (1982). Other graduates’ films to be shown include Ivan Sen, who earlier this month won the Southern Star Award (A$5,000) for Overall Excellence and the Inaugural NIMAA Award for Excellence in Indigenous Filmmaking (A$2,000).

Martin Murphy’s short thriller, Night Ride, is one of the eight 1997 graduation films chosen for Program 1; in program 2, Christopher Tuckfield’s evocative and dramatic reconstruction of the lives of two Chinese artists, A Breath, will have its world premiere. The second Program will also include three other works.

In a separate program, Bories has selected eight shorts by graduates from the Victorian College of the Arts, including Donna Swan’s striking 26 minute drama, Skud.

Cannes is putting on an early summer with brilliant sunshine and moonlit nights over the famous and fabulous Bay of Cannes, as this year's festival kicks off with the opening night screening of Primary Colours today: Travolta and Emma Thomson are the first of the big stars to climb the red carpeted stairs.

But not all is sweetness and light, with a nasty case of plagiarism hitting one of the Competition films. Finnish producer/director Pekka Lehto has asked the festival to withdraw the Russian entry Alexei Gherman's Khrustalyov, machinu! (Khrustalyov, my car!), claiming it is based on a script based on his own original idea, reports Urban Cinefile special correspondent Jorn Rossing Jensen writing in Moving Pictures.

Over 180 Australians are here, including some of the stars of this year's feature films - and the Australian Film Commission is ensconced in its 8th floor penthouse overlooking the Croisette.


May, 1998

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The Croisette is always crawling with stars - this year, they include John Travolta, Isabelle Huppert, Johnny Depp, Mira Sorvino, Emmanuelle Béart, Harvey Keitel, Angela Molina, Jeanne Moreau, Charlton Heston, Vanessa Redgrave, William Hurt, Christopher Walken, Gong Li, Ben Gazzara, Matt Dillon, Ewan Mc Gregor, Gérard Depardieu, Sabine Azéma, Sandrine Bonnaire, Pierre Arditti, Emma Thomson and Bruce Willis.



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