3/9/99: The inaugural Noosa Film Festival kicked off last night with enthusiasm - and without Government funding, symbolic of the spirit of independence it wishes to nurture; Andrew L. Urban and Louise Keller joined some 100 media representatives and hundreds of filmmakers and film lovers as the Sunshine Coast turned on a bit of limelight for a week of film and fun.
The fun started in the afternoon when Jury President Jack Thompson, declaring he’d rather be jury president than President, presided over the first press conference of the festival, a relaxed affair peppered with good humour. Thompson said the jury of seven would be hoping to arrive at unanimous votes but if that wasn’t possible, it would settle for majority votes.
David Williamson, now a local resident and one of the jury, admitted that Noosa was at first divided over the event, “but the intent of the festival was so clear so early not to be a slick or silly event that the town got behind it.” He added that with its scenic beauty and culinary excellence, Noosa only needed to embrace art in a significant way to add the final lustre to its image.
The subtropical ambiance of the resort town lends itself to the social ambiance generated by a film festival which has attracted filmmakers from around the world. The cafes and restaurants – of which there are dozens – are filling with patrons between screenings and the buzz of a dozen camera crews is adding a sense of occasion to the otherwise low key affair.
This was especially so at the party prior to the screening of The Sixth Sense last night, as the more famous faces floated down the red carpet into the cinema lobby. Rachel Ward, Jacqueline Mackenzie, Jackie Weaver, John Sayles, Linus Roache, Rebecca Frith, Tom Skerritt, Danielle Cormack, Kate Fitzpatrick and many more were followed by the tv cameras and paparazzi as they reached the champagne trays.
The only glitch in the event so far has been the poor sound quality (projection glitch) in one of the two simultaneous screenings of The Sixth Sense, something every festival has to expect. But the sound at the party afterwards was anything but muffled, with Austen Tayshus and Billy Thorpe filling the modest Noosa Sheraton ballroom with their respective acts.
The crowd spilled outside, swirling and sipping and networking. One young man, not on the invitation list, was agitated to distraction when refused entry and told anyone who’d listen (including your reporter) that he’d come up all the way from Melbourne “to network this room full of industry people.” He was, in the end, admitted and was last seen trying to network with a glass of red.
Guests were offered Chandon champagne, beer and wine, plenty of delicacies (including a variety of vegetable and meat finger foods) and above all, a chance to mingle and mince words with 400 others, including surprise guest Baz Luhrmann.
Still to arrive are Hugh Jackman (for Erskinville Kings) Dougray Scott (for This Year’s Love), Billy Zane (for I Woke Up Early the Day I Died), Chris Klein, Jason Biggs, Elizabeth Shannon (for American Pie) and Matt Day (for Muggers).
Two of the competition films were screened yesterday, and today the screenings begin in earnest with 15 features, several shorts and a Q&A with John Sayles, following the morning screening of his latest film, Limbo.
The five-screen AMC cinema at Noosa Junction has been complemented by a 700 seat outdoor auditorium in the woods nearby, showing a program of free movies, as well as a marquee for symposium events and additional screenings.
The gala screening tonight is dedicated to Australia’s Siam Sunset, and will again be followed by a party. Tomorrow’s Gala is the New Zealand film, Savage Honeymoon, and a no doubt savage party. And that’s the pattern for the rest of the week. Bet you’re sorry you’re reading this and not partaking it.