BRISBANE FILM FESTIVAL 2006 - WRAP
UNPREDICTABLE BUT PLANNED
Brisbane’s film festival – its 15th – is characterised by quirks, twists,
surprises and a desire to present a well planned program, including some bold
Australian films, and a special (excellent) effort, with its Cinesparks sidebar,
to turn curious younger audiences into future ticket buyers, reports Geoff
The Brisbane International Film Festival has just completed its fifteenth year
and it remains as determinedly individual as ever. While it screened about the
same number of feature films as Sydney its selection was characterised by
quirks, twists, surprises and a continuing desire to present a program, rather
than a grab bag of simply whatever is new and might take the fancy of restless
audiences. It tries to keep up standards in other ways as well, most notably in
refusing to abandon its superb catalogue.
BIFF does do some of the same things as its rivals. It doesn’t neglect
forthcoming big art house attractions. It had palpably successful chock a block
screenings of likely hits Thank You for Smoking, A Prairie Home Companion and
The Wind That Shakes the Barley to name just three. It also gave us a first look
at the new film by Laurent Cantet, Heading South. Cantet’s work has previously
been confined to fests, film weeks and SBS/World Movies so it’s hoped that the
good reception his film had here might also presage an art house hit. The film
deserves it. The story of middle-aged women seeking out sexual adventures in
post-colonial Central America in the late 70s is very bold indeed.
BIFF also gave special prominence to a couple of other likely local success
stories, most notably 48 Shades, Daniel Lapaine’s debut feature based on the
book by Brisbane-ite Nick Earls which every local I encountered seemed to have
read. Another gala evening was devoted to Like Minds the curious ‘Aussie’ movie
retailing a modern horror story set in an English boarding school apparently
somewhere on the moors near Liverpool.
BIFF’s selection of lesser known local product was quite bold as well. It ranged
through another nine titles from would be art house attractions like Ana
Kokkinos’s very bold The Book of Revelation down to Zak Hilditch’s awesomely
inexpensive The Actress. Most intriguing, and already a festival hit here and
elsewhere, was Alec Morgan’s tribute to one of the genuine hustlers of the
Australian film industry Rupert Kathner. Hunt Angels tells the story of a
charming rogue whose talent lay in raising money rather than spending it to good
effect on movies. The resonances with today come thick and fast.
"a deep and very adventurous selection of films from
the Asia-Pacific region"
But this is standard festival activity these days. BIFF’s unique, landmark
and longstanding focus remains very much where it has always been – a deep and
very adventurous selection of films from the Asia-Pacific region, and its
extensive retrospectives. The latter this year included a ripping selection of
classic French and American film noirs put together by curators Roger Westcombe
and Chris Forth, including an incredibly rare screening of Jean Renoir’s A Night
at the Crossroad, featuring the director’s brother Pierre as the cinema’s first
Inspector Maigret. Film buffs came out of the woodwork.
There were also spotlights on the Japanese puppet film master Kihachiro Kawamoto
and on a special selection of ‘Masters of the Surreal’ featuring Australian
premieres of new films by Peter Greenaway, Jan Svankmajer, the Brothers Quay,
Seijun Suzuki and Terry Gilliam. Assembling that collection took hard work and
the solid crowds both rewarded the programmers invention and saw some very
special films. The Greenaway, A Life in Suitcases, in particular, is a brilliant
collage extracted from his current ongoing work Tulse Luper’s Suitcases. It
represents a return to his early experimental work and was full of the
director’s erratic and unpredictable humour, its influence traceable all the way
back to the Goons. The Brits have long made such material their forte and
Greenaway is a dab hand at it when he’s not at his misogynist worst.
Some of the material it presents has such an esoteric quality that few punters
have sufficient sense of adventure to take up the offering. A pity really,
especially because of the effort that went into presenting the wonderful
selection of recent films from Iran and Turkey devoted to the role of women.
Those who saw films like Rakhshan Bani-Etemad and Mohsen Abdolvahab’s Gilaneh,
an up to the moment story about the consequences of the never-ending war in the
Middle East, voted it among the best films of the festival. Maybe it’s a sales
and marketing problem.
But walkouts at BIFF are near to non-existent, even when, as in the case of the
Korean Time Between Dog and Wolf (Jeon Soo-il), the audience squirmed with sheer
boredom for most of the 110 long minutes it took to tell an autobiographical
tale of a film-maker (!) searching for someone high up in the snowy border area
with the north.
But a misfire or two in the Asian selection hardly detracted from the pleasures
on hand offered in new films by both masters Hou Hsiao-hsien (Three Times),
Takeshi Kitano (Takeshi’s) and, especially Shinichi Nagasaki (Heart, Beating in
the Dark) as well as some of the smartest young Asian film-makers like Ning Hao
(Mongolian Ping Pong), Masahiro Kobayashi (Bashing), Kim Dae-seung (Blood Rain)
and Zhang Lu (Grain in Ear). Kim’s film, a rip-roaring martial arts
extravaganza, did hit the button with audiences, whereas the others, much more
contemplative and serious, mostly, were harder sells. Notwithstanding, BIFF now
has an established and growing stable of Asian film-makers whose work it
supports and it’s to be hoped that this is still going to pay off over time.
"Turning curious younger audiences into future ticket
Turning curious younger audiences into future ticket buyers is actually one
of the areas where a lot of hard yakka is being done. This year BIFF expanded
its Cinesparks program, produced a separate catalogue for young peoples’
screenings and offered a whole host of programs from both its main catalogue and
from other sources. There were, as well, practical film-making courses. Kids
packed out everything from screenings of Louis Malle’s 1959 French noir Lift to
the Scaffold and the same director’s very hard to see Zazie in the Metro to some
welcome presentations of old and new Aussie works dealing with indigenous issues
including Australian Rules, Beneath Clouds, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith and
Jedda. BIFF has strong support from the Queensland Government for this section
and it may just be that it does this element best of all its strands.
Prizes were given by three juries - international critics (FIPRESCI), the
Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) and a group assembled to give
an Interfaith Award for promoting humanitarian values. FIPRESCI gave its prize
to Byambasuren Davaa’s The Cave of the Yellow Dog, the aforementioned Blood Rain
got the NETPAC nod and the Filipino film The Masseur directed by Brillante
Mendoza won the Interfaith prize.
(*Geoff Gardner is a member of BIFF’s Programming Advisory Panel)
Published, August 17, 2006
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The Book of Revelation - bold
2006 SYDNEY FILM FEST WRAP
2006 MELB FILM FEST WRAP
Ticket sales rose by 20% and attendances by 15% on last year’s figures; 11,500 people attended the public program, an increase of 32% on last year. Attendance at Cine Sparks, the Australian Film Festival for Young People, was up 15% on the in-cinema program.
Lift to the Scaffold - French noir in Cinesparks
Gilaneh – loved by the few who saw it
(*Geoff Gardner is a member of BIFF’s Programming Advisory Panel)