BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 1997
Australia's youngest, most intimate and, some would argue,
most interesting film festival starts on 31 July. The Sixth
Brisbane International Film Festival promises some 70 features
and 100 shorts over 11 days on the theme "Imagination ...
Inspiration". The degree of inspiration involved remains to
be seen, but a good deal of imagination is already evident in the
Festival programming, reports DAVID EDWARDS from Brisbane.
Kicking off BIFF 1997 is Peter Cattaneo's debut feature, The
Full Monty; starring Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting). Its story
centres on a group of down-on-their-luck steel workers who decide
to stage a strip show in their native Sheffield. Although hardly
prime examples of male pulchritude, they plan to distinguish
themselves from their competition by going "the full
monty" (i.e. completely nude). Although it sounds a little
like Strictly Ballroom transplanted to the north of England, it
has received good reviews overseas. The film was described by
Lael Loewenstien in Box Office magazine as "... an
unqualified delight" and is tipped to be a hit with Festival
retrospective features the wild, wonderful and occasionally
just plain weird Dennis Hopper"
BIFF's major retrospective this year features the wild,
wonderful and occasionally just plain weird Dennis Hopper; whose
career has been (according to Baseline's Encyclopedia of Film)
"... a process of self-mythification". His work really
began with his role in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and he is
still going strong today.
The retro will showcase five films: Henry Jaglom's Tracks - pictured -
(1976); the Australian film Mad Dog Morgan (Phillipe Mora, 1976);
the Hopper-directed Out of the Blue (1980) and Colors (1988); and
his 1969 classic Easy Rider.
Easy Rider has always divided critics and audiences alike. To
some, it is the landmark protest film of the '60's; a defining
moment in both film culture and societal change. To others, it is
a shallow and fatuous story of drug-dealing hippies. BIFF
Artistic Director Anne Démy-Geroe is probably of the former
view. She says that Easy Rider is "... such a seminal work
and so important in one's memory of film culture, ... it seemed
appropriate to view that again in the context of some of his
(Hopper's) other pivotal works". The BIFF screening is a
rare opportunity for Festival-goers to make their own decisions
after seeing the film as it was intended - on the big screen.
"a strong Asia-Pacific
The Brisbane Fest has always prided itself on its strong
Asia-Pacific focus (ably facilitated by the local doyen of Asian
cinema, Tony Rayns). Sections on Indian cinema and Hong Kong
director Tsui Hark (probably best known for his Chinese Ghost
Story series) will attempt to sate the appetites of aficionados
of Asian cinema. But the highlight promises to be the Young
Japanese filmmakers series. Naomi Kawase's 1997 Camera d'Or
winner Suzaku will feature and Kawase will be a Festival guest.
Suzaku was apparently not widely seen at Cannes, but obviously
made an impression on the jury. It also picked up the FIPRESCI
Prize at Rotterdam. The film examines family relationships set
against the backdrop of economic decline in a remote village, and
is partly based on the director's own experiences. Visually
stunning and brutally honest, Suzaku is part of an international
resurgence for Japanese cinema, capped by Shohei Imamura's The
Eel sharing this year's Palme d'Or.
Other films to be shown include Sogo Ishii's dark and complex
tale of murder and madness, Labyrinth of Dreams; documentary
maker Nobuhiro Suwa's feature film debut, 2 Duo, which looks at a
relationship under strain (and won a prize at Rotterdam too); and
avant-garde director Hiroyuki Oki's Heaven-6-Box.
Démy-Geroe promises that these sessions will be a talking
point. "They will divide audiences, and one of the aims of
any good film festival has to be stimulating and
controversial" she said.
Spacey will present his directorial debut, Albino
Another international guest will be Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey,
who will present his directorial debut, Albino Alligator.
Spacey's presence in Brisbane is a major coup for BIFF and will
raise the profile of the Festival significantly.
Albino Alligator tells the story of three criminals cornered
after taking hostages in a New Orleans bar and the stand-off
which follows. Urban Cinefile editor Andrew L. Urban says Spacey
has made a film that is "as taut as a coiled spring, as edgy
as a psycho on heat and as moving as a mother dying for her
Silents have also become
something of a feature
Silents have also become something of a feature of BIFF in
recent years. This year, two rare films by Herbert Brenon will be
shown; Peter Pan (pictured) and A Kiss for Cinderella. New prints of both
(from MOMA and George Eastman House in New York) will be brought
into Australia specially for presentation.
The two films were selected by Démy-Geroe from the Pordenone
Silent Film Festival. She says they "... absolutely
World Cinema is normally a vibrant component at BIFF. This
year's selection appears no exception, and includes the surreal
and erotic The Conspirators of Pleasure from Jan Svankmayer
(Czech Republic) and Isaac Julian's Frantz Fanon: Black Skin,
White Mask (UK). A potential crowd-pleaser is the new feature
from Olivier Assayas, Irma Vep (France), which stars Maggie
Cheung as herself. This film-within-a-film story of an attempt to
remake a silent classic echoes Truffaut's Day for Night. New
films from Greece, Brazil, Canada, Spain and American
independents will also be screened.
As always, Australian films (features and documentaries) will
be spotlighted. Two significant new Australian features are to
screen - Bill Bennett's noir-ish Kiss or Kill and Chris Kennedy's
country music comedy Doing Time for Patsy Cline, which closes the
Festival on August 10. Between them, the two feature are a
virtual who's who of young Australian acting talent, with Frances
O'Connor and Matt Day (Kiss or Kill), Richard Roxburgh and
Miranda Otto (Doing Time for Patsy Cline).
Chauvel Award will be
presented to Academy Award winning cinematographer John Seale
The Chauvel Award for distinguished contribution to Australian
feature filmmaking will be presented. The Award is unique in this
country in recognising Australian filmmaking talent and
This year's recipient is Academy Award winning cinematographer
John Seale (See Whizzards of Oz in our features section for more
on Seale). Born in Warwick, Qld., Seale is a (if not the) leading
cinematographer in Hollywood today. Of course, Seale won the
Oscar this year for his brilliant work on The English Patient. He
has also been nominated twice before, for Witness and Rainman.
Seale garnered an AFI Award for cinematography in 1983 for
Careful He Might Hear You.
The Chauvel Award is named after Australia's pioneering
filmmaker, Charles Chauvel, who was also from Queensland.
Fittingly, this year's Festival includes an interesting sidebar
event titled Queensland Images. Timed to coincide with the
Chauvel centenary, the component will show works from
contemporary Queensland filmmakers; past winners of the
Queensland Young Filmmaker Awards; and a special screening of
Chauvel's 1949 classic, Sons of Matthew, with guest Michael Pate,
one of the stars of the film. (He told Urban Cinefile how it took
over a year to complete shooting - in dribs and drabs.)
For those who aren't up to sitting in the dark with complete
strangers for the duration, there will also be a program of
seminars and lectures.
The 1997 Brisbane International Film Festival runs from
July 31 to August 10 at the Hoyts Regent Cinema and the State
Library. Further info can be obtained from the BIFF office on
(07) 3220 0444.