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
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.