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A re-politicised Anne Demy Geroe takes the Brisbane International Film Festival into all the war zones – both physical and emotional - through films that reflect today’s troubled world, reports Andrew L. Urban. But it’s not all gloom; there’s always the Gold Coast heist movie . . . and Undead.

“In the past I’ve always thought that a festival should be really objective . . . in terms of looking for all viewpoints. But I suppose now I feel we should [actively set out to] offer statements from filmmakers,” says Anne Demy Geroe, director of the Brisbane International Film Festival. Her programming choices were more than usually politicised, she admits, influenced by world and domestic events: she cites events in Iraq, the Middle East and Australia (including the controversy around the banning of Ken Park) as having impacted on her.

Films like the Palestinian Divine Intervention, Indonesian Bird Man Tales, Indian Shadow Kill, Australian Molly and Mobarak, Turkish Hejar, the two Belgian films, Hop and From The Other Side, and the shocking Australian documentary, Foreigners Out! are all good examples of filmmaking with strong contemporary political elements – and several with powerful resonances in Australia.

"probably the funniest film made about a war zone"

Divine Intervention by Elia Suleiman won both the Jury Prize and the international critics’ prize at Cannes last year, and is “probably the funniest film made about a war zone,” says Demy Geroe; painfully funny, set at an Israel-Palestinian check point, it’s like a series of absurdist gags and fantasies. It screens as part of the festival’s World Cinema section.

In the Asia Pacific program, Bird Man Tales from Indonesia’s Garin Nugroho is a unique docu-drama is set against the backdrop of Papua’s struggle for independence from Indonesia, based on the kidnap and murder of a Papuan political figure.

Adoor Gopalkrishnan’s Shadow Kill explores power and corruption through the eyes of an official executioner, a hereditary position, in a small Southern Indian village. He begins to be haunted by the fear he may be killing innocent men.

Molly and Mobarak, by acclaimed Australian documentary maker Tom Zubrycki, puts a human face to the asylum seekers in Australia, with this narrative of a young Afghani recruited to work at an abattoir in Young, where he falls in love with Molly….while awaiting his fate.

Handan Ipekci’s Hejar reveals the emotional aftermath of the Turkish civil war told through the relationship of a 5 year old Kurdish girl whose family were wiped out by Turkish soldiers, and a Turkish judge who is about to retire.

In Hop, it’s a Congolese boy, an illegal refugee, who carries the David and Goliath story, by Dominique Standaert.

Across the world in America, the illegal refugee issues are with Mexico, whose poor are economic refugees pouring into the US, braving the border patrols. From The Other Side is Chantal Akerman’s powerful documentary shot in Agua Prieta, across the border from the hostile community of Douglas, Arizona.

Perhaps the most shocking in the line up is the Austrian documentary, Foreigners Out! By young underground music figure, Paul Poet. After an extreme right wing party’s election, radical director Christoph Schlingensief set up a nasty parody of Big Brother. A dozen genuine asylum seekers were placed in a container outside the Vienna Opera House and each day two were deported on the votes of the public. More than 800,000 people voted.

But the festival will kick off with an Australian heist comedy, set on the Gold Coast: Gettin’ Square, written by Chris Nyst, is director Jonathan Teplitzky’s follow up to Better Than Sex, and stars Sam Worthington, David Field and David Wenham. Gettin’ Square is one of the six Australian films in the program, including Japanese Story, starring Toni Collette (Sydney is the only major festival that didn’t have this film programmed) and the zombie horror flick Undead from the talented young twins, Michael and Peter Spierig.

Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan’s In America will close the festival, which features a small spotlight on Argentina, a first. “Films from South America are so very difficult to get hold of,” says Demy Geroe, “but there’s a lot happening there now.”

"extensive World Cinema program"

In between opening and closing nights, the extensive World Cinema program dominates the festival, with a broad range of subjects and themes, ranging from the entertaining The Spanish Apartment, No 1 audience favourite at the Sydney Film Festival, to Demonlover, Olivier Assayas’ “fantastically angry” and “horribly gorgeous thriller” set in the near future, when cyberporn is the biggest global business.

Demy Geroe is specially please with the festival’s arrangements for a venue this year, being able to contain all the main program in the Hoyts Regent for the first time in a long time. Following renovations, the complex has a number of smaller cinemas which makes this possible.

BIFF runs from July 29 to August10; tickets on sale from July 7 and can be booked online http://www.biff.com.au Full programme in The Courier-Mail of July 19.

Published July 3, 2003

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Gettin' Square

Divine Intervention


Molly and Mobarak


Foreigners Out

In America

Shadow Kill

Anne Demy Geroe

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