MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2001
A IS FOR ASIAN IN MELBOURNE
His first innings as director of Australia’s oldest film
festival is marked by the explosion of A class Asian films,
incoming director James Hewison tells Andrew L. Urban, as MIFF
celebrates 50 years of movie loving.
As soon as James Hewison took up his new job as Executive
Director of the Melbourne International Film Festival last year,
he went to London. The London Film Festival, that is, where
hundreds of world movies gave him access to a menu of exotic
delights. “It became very clear to me immediately that there
was a very strong and growing cinema in Asia,” he says.
“We already have a regional focus in the festival, so I
wanted to expand that and also to integrate Asian films into the
entire program. The last thing I wanted was to create little
ghettos around certain areas. . . “
But Latin American and British cinema are not forgotten, each
with a dedicated sidebar (seven films each) nor is German
filmmaker Werner Herzog, whose perverse and black sense of humour
is legendary, nor is New Media.
The result is a regional focus this year that offers 17 films
from China, Taiwan, Korea (N & S), Japan, Hong Kong and
Vietnam, including the Cannes competition entry, Warm Water Under
a Red Bridge, by veteran Japanese filmmaker Shohei Imamura. But
there are also shorts from the region, animation – and
Electric Angels, an entire section of six films devoted to
Japanese filmmaker Ishii Sogo.
"a “tribute to the
Not surprisingly, the mandatory Australian Showcase is a “tribute
to the past” says Hewison, as well as a celebration of new
films: opening with The Bank and closing with He Died With A
Felafel in His Hand, the festival is also showcasing new films
from edgy director Rolf de Heer (The Old Man Who Read Love
Stories) and from first timer Steve Jacobs (La Spagnola).
Other contemporary Australian films in the program are Lantana (much
acclaimed Sydney Film festival opener directed by Ray Lawrence),
One Night the Moon from Rachel Perkins, and Silent partner
directed by Alkino Tsilimidios. For a reminder of past glories,
MIFF is screening films by Fred Schepisi, Gillian Armstrong, Paul
Cox and John Ruane, including restored versions of They’re A
Weird Mob and The Adventures of Barry McKenzie.
"transcends kitsch and
The International Panorama includes Hewison’s one of
personal favourites, Trent Harris’ The Beaver Trilogy, which
parlays a vaguely eccentric mimic and cross dresser into a film
that “transcends kitsch and curiosity” – and stars
Sean Penn plus Crispin Glover. Harris is one of the special
guests of the festival, together with US director Jesse Peretz (with
The Chateau), the UK’s Kirstin Sheridan (with Disco Pigs),
Korea’s Tae Yong Kim (with Memento Mori) and animator Bill
Plympton (with Mutant Aliens). Michael Caine, Michael
Winterbottom and Richard Dreyfuss will be interviewed by
satellite in The Age Meet The Makers program.
Hewison’s other personal favourites include Electric Dragon
80,000 Volts (Ishii Sogo, Japan), Rain (Christine Jeffs, NZ),
Platform (Jia Zhang-Ke, HK), The Gleaners & I (Agnes Varda,
France), and Lantana (Ray Lawrence, Australia).
“And of course, The Bank…it’s the perfect film for
Opening Night, not just because it’s very accomplished, but
it works like a modern fable about the big corporation versus the
little guy …something deep from within the Australian psyche.”
Hewison is nonplussed by one criticism someone made about the
film, “that it’s the sort of film the Americans do very
well…and it was said like a derogatory remark, or damning
with faint praise. I think it’s a great example of a genre
film, and there is no reason we shouldn’t be making them.
“ (Ed: especially – or only – if they’re made
"the hottest films to
screen at Cannes"
Cannes has also alerted Hewison to films like Sean Penn’s
The Pledge and of course the Grand Prix and best acting awards
winner, The Piano Teacher, plus Camera d’Or winner
Atanarjuat The Fast Runner.
The animation gallery (in two compilations) trawls USA, UK,
Poland, Hungary, Australia, Japan – and Estonia; and doco
maker Erroll Morris is showcased with nearly a dozen examples of
his “many obsessions”. Music on Film Shorts also come
from a range of countries (mostly Europe and the US).
In all, 350 films from 40 countries will screen, including one of
the hottest films to screen at Cannes (as judged by sales to
international buyers), Christine Jeffs’ Rain; the New
Zealand filmmaker was ‘discovered’ and called the
country’s next Jane Campion.
In terms of expanding the potential audience, Hewison has
overseen the introduction of ‘mach 1’, an initiative
aimed at attracting young audiences, by offering a pre-selected
sampling of seven movies over a single weekend, ranging from
Inugami (Japan) to Haxan: Withcraft Through the Ages (Sweden).
Published July 5, 2001
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July 18 - August 5, 2001
TELSTRA TRAILER OF THE WEEK
He Died with a Felafel in his Hand
The Tale of the Floating World
The Piano Teacher
See our FEATURE on the Melbourne Underground Film Festival