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BRISBANE FILM FEST CLOSES - ALIVE AND KICKING

Our man on the spot, DAVID EDWARDS, does a diagnostic scan of this year’s just-concluded event – and pronounces it healthy.

The curtain has been drawn and the lights have dimmed on the Brisbane International Film Festival for 1998. Traditionally at this stage, someone will conduct what is usually referred to as a post-mortem. However, all the indications from this year's fest is that BIFF is well and truly alive and kicking; so I think a "post-mortem" is entirely inappropriate.

I would prefer to conduct a diagnostic scan, to see what is making the event tick. Having switched on the scanner and run it over, this is what I see.

The Brain - The minds behind the concept. These include all the Pacific Film and Television Commission staff who contributed; but particularly to the Festival manager, Gary Ellis and artistic director Anne Demy-Geroe. Between them, these two have brought it together into an almost seamless and cohesive whole.

The Arms - The staff. The daily grind of the fest was handled by a team made up largely of dedicated volunteers who, through a month and a half of promoting and running the fest handled most of the million and one minor and major crises superbly, so that BIFF '98 was the smoothest ever.

The Backbone - The films. A film festival needs a strong line-up and BIFF's 1998 selection was arguably the best in the seven year history of the event, and was a credit to the work of Anne Demy-Geroe in particular. From crowd-pleasing comedies to the most daring experimental work, patrons were hard-pressed not to find something they wanted to see.

The Lungs - The sponsors and guests. These people breathed life into BIFF 1998. The support of sponsors, including the Queensland Government, is essential to the success of the festival as a cultural landmark in this State; while guests provide an insight into the works shown which distinguishes the festival from other film experiences. This year's guests included Chauvel Award winner, the distinguished Rolf de Heer, the underrated John Ruane and George Del Hoyo (Dead Letter Office), the delightful Nadia Tass and David Parker (Amy), the entertaining Masato Harada (Bounce), the wild man Terry Keefe (Slaves of Hollywood), the urbane James Bogle (In the Winter Dark), the psychological Robert Carter (The Sugar Factory) and the dynamic duo Bob Gosse and Robin Tunney (Niagara, Niagara).

The Heart - The audience. 1998 was another great year for BIFF, with overall audience numbers up 23% on 1997. But more importantly than mere numbers and dollars, the 1998 event showed conclusively that Brisbane wants (should that be "needs") a film festival in this city and is prepared to support it. This is vital not only to the future success of BIFF, but also to PFTC's goal of broadening and promoting film culture in Queensland.

Overall, the Brisbane International Film Festival seems to be in good health. It is still growing and the only danger on the horizon is that it may become too big and lose the magic of being an intimate yet challenging event.

But whatever analysis you make of the event itself, a film festival is essentially about the films shown. While BIFF presents the unique Chauvel Award for distinguished contribution to Australian feature filmmaking, no awards are presented for individual films. There is an audience vote and in a great boost for Australian film this year's most popular film was Nadia Tass' Amy, closely followed by Rolf de Heer's Dance Me to My Song.

July, 1998

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As there are no awards as such in the style of Cannes or Venice, David Edwards has put together a list of entirely personal (and partially tongue-in-cheek) awards for films shown at BIFF 1998:

* THE OMIGOD! AWARD for approaching perfection in filmmaking - The astonishing HANA-BI (Japan) from Takeshi Kitano (Beat Takeshi).

* THE AL GRASBY AWARD for depiction of multiculturalism - John Ruane's moving DEAD LETTER OFFICE (Australia).

* THE STONEWALL AWARD for treatment of homosexuality in a "conventional" film - Wong Kar-Wai's rewarding HAPPY TOGETHER (Hong Kong).

* THE NOAM CHOMSKY AWARD for incisive commentary on contemporary society - HENRY FOOL (US) from the always amazing Hal Hartley.

* THE DAVID LYNCH AWARD for screwing with people's minds - Open Your Eyes (Spain) by Alejandro Amenabar.

* THE CAMILLE PAGLIA AWARD for films dealing with feminist issues - The audacious BOUNCE (Japan) directed by Masato Harada.

* THE HARVEY KEITEL AWARD for depiction of violence - Alexei Balabanov's uncompromising look at the "new" Russia in THE BROTHER (Russia).

* THE CAPPUCCINO AWARD for a frothy romantic comedy with a kick in it - Wolfgang Becker's LIFE IS ALL YOU GET (Germany).

* THE SOUFFLE AWARD for pure entertainment - The witty ABOVE FREEZING (US) from first-timer Frank Todaro.

*THE GODOT AWARD - (A word of explanation: this award takes its name from a famous review of the play Waiting for Godot which consisted of one sentence "Nothing happened - twice.")PAINTED ANGELS (UK) by Jon Sanders.

* THE CHE GUEVARA AWARD for absolute low-budget guerrilla filmmaking - Terry Keefe's look at the movie industry food chain SLAVES OF HOLLYWOOD(US).

* THE UNDERDOG AWARD for unlikely heroes - Worthy Chauvel Award recipient Rolf de Heer and the incredible Heather Rose combine to surprise in DANCE ME TO MY SONG (Australia).

* THE ERROL MORRIS AWARD for excellence in a documentary - Errol Morris for the marvellous FAST, CHEAP AND OUT OF CONTROL (US).

* THE JEAN-LUC GODARD AWARD for experimentation in film - The intriguing TRAIN OF SHADOWS (Spain) by Jose Luis Guerin.

* THE I'M NOT CRAZY AWARD for depiction of a misunderstood disorder - Bob Gosse's festival closer, NIAGARA, NIAGARA (US).

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