BIFF boss Gary Ellis said that Film Events Queensland, which
runs BIFF, is looking at establishing a competitive festival for
feature films in Queensland at some stage in the future. In the
meantime, audience numbers rose from about 14,000 in 1996 to
nearly 19,000 at BIFF. This more than 25% increase was all the
more significant when it is considered that the main venue only
holds 400 people. The Festival was marked by at least one
sell-out per day. In 1996, there were five sell-outs; in 1997
there had been five sell-outs in the first three days.
There is no doubt that the people of Brisbane got behind BIFF
this year, probably aided by a more sophisticated marketing of
the Festival, and the presence of high profile guests like Kevin
Spacey (pictured with Faye Dunaway above), Maggie Cheung, Michael Pate, John Seale (pictured) and Miranda Otto (pictured below).
The downside of that success was a logistical nightmare for
the house staff in trying to clear one large audience from the
venue and then seat another. This resulted in some films being
delayed for up to 20 or 25 minutes. Their task was not helped by
problems with ticketing throughout the Festival.
The program of films was, in my opinion, probably the
(SEE DAVID EDWARDS' PERSONAL AWARDS LIST AT LEFT.)
The line-up ranged from silent films to the latest in
experimental cinema. This variety no doubt grated on some
patrons, but it is what makes a film festival great. The 1997
event has enhanced BIFF’s growing reputation as an important
showcase for Asia-Pacific film. The particularly strong section
of new Asian cinema was marked by Cannes Camera d’Or winner
Suzaku (pictured), and Rotterdam grand prize winner The Day a Pig Fell into
US and Canadian independent films were also strong this year,
generally playing to good crowds. Unfortunately, the selection of
European films was probably weaker, generally featuring melodrama
and light comedy. Also the Dennis Hopper retrospective was
patchy, and suffered in comparison with the excellent Stanley
Kubrick retro at BIFF ‘96.
There has been some criticism (ill-informed, in my view) in
the local media that the Festival had become merely a preview
session for films which will have a commercial release later in
the year. So far as I can ascertain, of the 70 odd features
shown, only about 10-15 have a confirmed or likely commercial
release. This includes films which have previously been denied a
Brisbane release, but which may now get one because of the
response they received at BIFF.
WHERE TO NOW?
So where to from here? According to Gary Ellis, it is now a
matter of building on the Festival’s growth. Given this
year’s audience numbers, Ellis says that BIFF will need to
look at its main venue. While he is committed to a central city
venue, the main cinema will obviously need to be larger to
accommodate the growing demand for tickets. Patrons can also
expect that there will be more concurrent sessions and more
repeats of films in 1998.
The timing of the Festival may change in 1998. The Melbourne
Film Festival’s decision to move to a late July/early August
slot created a clash of dates with BIFF. This led to difficulties
in securing films and guests for both and created some friction.
To avoid a repeat, BIFF may look at moving to late June/early
July; ironically the time vacated by MFF.
Ellis says that he is happy with the number of films being
shown and the length of the Festival, so no change can be
expected in those areas. One other thing that will not change is
that BIFF itself will remain a non-competitive showcase of film.