The Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) will be held over an 11 day period between July 30 and August 9. I first attended BIFF in 1995 and have had a lot of great memories over the years. One of these days, I’ll have to do a tribute piece.
So what’s so great about BIFF? Well, it’s a chance to see over 100 different films. Each week, we have an average of 4 films released in major cinemas. Here’s an opportunity to see a bunch of films that will never get an Australian release.
Here’s a look at some of the key features from this year’s BIFF:
· A spotlight on actor Amitabh Bachcahn – 2 of his films will be screened.
· A spotlight on actress Jeanne Moreau – 4 of her films will be screened, introduced by David Stratton.
· A huge focus on world cinema.
· A group of films from Queensland filmmakers in honour of our state’s 150th anniversary.
· A separate “Asterisks” program which highlights the world of abstract, artistic and challenging films.
Many stars and filmmakers will be attending BIFF including Carey Mulligan (the star of An Education who is tipped to earn an Oscar nomination next year) and veteran Aussie actors Anthony LaPaglia and Gary Sweet. It’s great to hear the question and answer sessions which follow many of the screenings – it can provide an insight into how the films were made.
At each screening, audience members can rate the film on a scale from 1-5. These votes are then tabulated with the most popular films announced at the close of the festival. There are also special juries which select winners in specific categories (e.g. Asian Cinema).
I like to spend my time seeing some of the more high profile releases. I know some will get a nationwide cinema release down the track but it’s still cool to see them in advance, particularly when stars are in attendance. The cost for most sessions is around $15 (or $13.50 for concessions). Showcase films (there are a handful of those) are $20. The gala opening night, which includes an after party, is $55.
You can find out more and book tickets through the BIFF website - http://www.stgeorgebiff.com.au/. It can be wise to book early – especially for the bigger films. I’ve been burnt before by waiting too long.
If you’re looking for a sampling of what’s on offer, here are some of 10 films that I intend to see. Hopefully I’ll see you at the festival!
An Education – Thu, 30 Jul at 7:30pm
Romance, drama, intrigue—An Education is an entertaining portrayal of the growing pains that accompany early adulthood. Set in the London suburb of Twickenham in 1961, the story centres around Jenny (Carey Mulligan), a witty overachiever in her last year at a strict girls’ school. Enter David (Peter Sarsgaard), a charismatic older man whose seemingly innocent intrusion into Jenny’s life catalyses her dreams of becoming a cultured socialite. A romance quickly develops between the pair, and Jenny’s previously steadfast educational commitments all but evaporate with the promise of marriage—that is, until an untimely truth surfaces about David, teaching Jenny that her real education has only just begun.
Balibo – Sun, 9 Aug at 8pm
When Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, five young newsmen working for Australian television were caught in the crossfire. Well, that’s the official line. This powerful and suspenseful political thriller re-creates the events surrounding their shooting by Indonesian soldiers on 16 October, intercutting them with the story of an older journalist, Roger East, subsequently invited to East Timor by José Ramos-Horta to uncover the truth behind their deaths. But the important questions asked of East by Ramos-Horta in the film, questions never satisfactorily answered in several subsequent investigations, concern not the Indonesian but the Australian government. East was one of three journalists in East Timor at the time; Jill Jolliffe was working as a freelancer for Reuters, and it is on her book that Balibo is based. This is an important story for Australians, and the film’s co-writer and director, Robert Connolly, shows here both the same moral concerns and the ability to weave them into a compelling piece of film that he exhibited in his directorial début, The Bank, which he also co-wrote.
Eden Is West – Fri, 7 Aug at 7:30pm
Gentle-natured Elias, an illegal alien from an unidentified country, survives a swim to shore from a human-cargo carrier to wake on a nudist beach of a Mediterranean resort catering to the privileged. With limited language skills, he scrambles to hide his identity and with arresting good looks is soon negotiating sexual advances. This is a more lighthearted look at the problem of illegal immigrants than the usual dire portraits. It raises questions about identity, racism, relationships, and how we survive and coexist in fractured societies where the many have far less than the lucky few. It is about survival instincts and the unjust barriers that exist for those forgotten people who desire to live a better life at all costs. In Eden Is West, Paris offers the lure of magic and the realisation of dreams.
Away We Go – Sat, 1 Aug at 7:15pm
Thirtysomethings Burt and Verona discover they are going to have a child. Expecting support from Burt’s parents, who instead leave for a two-year overseas holiday, they turn their initial dismay into an opportunity to embark on their own literal journey of discovery. Taking to the road, they visit old friends in places from Miami to Canada; from new-age intellectuals to slightly desperate crazies, from the negligent to the overly protective, each welcoming parent proffers well-meaning advice to the fleeing couple. From Sam Mendes (who won an Academy Award for best director for his début, American Beauty), the subject matter of this offbeat indie film, liberally laced with irony, humour, and tenderness, made ‘with a little speed, and a little lightness of touch’ (Mendes in interview), is perhaps a surprise after last year’s Revolutionary Road. But the precision of the craft is exactly what we would expect from this master director.
Prime Mover – Sat, 8 Aug at 7:15pm
Set in the trucking recesses of Dubbo, Prime Mover is a masterful blend of action and drama. The story follows Thomas (Michael Dorman, Suburban Mayhem), a talented pinstriper whose dream is to trade in his paintbrush for his own eighteen wheeler. Every bit a cowboy, Thomas is both charming and reckless, a lethal combination with which he courts Melissa (Emily Barclay, Suburban Mayhem), a local petrol-station attendant. But ambition can be unforgiving, and a seemingly innocent dealing with a loan-shark causes some unforgiving bumps in the road that threaten to jackknife everything Thomas has accomplished. Directed by David Caesar (Dirty Deeds, Mullet) and featuring the acting talents of William McInnes and Ben Mendelsohn, the film hurls the audience down an emotional and philosophical highway. Central themes include family, trust, and the challenges of chasing the dream of a lifetime.
The September Issue – Tue, 4 Aug at 7:15pm
Legendary Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour is often called the devil or the fashion pope, and the magazine’s September issue is the veritable glam bible of the fashion world, created in the buzzy, consumerist heart of Manhattan, with brilliant shoots in Paris and Rome. In this engaging fly-on-the-wall documentary, we observe the extraordinary style guru editing the magazine, obsessing over tiny details, brooking no opposition, and, with moments to spare, triumphantly delivering the ‘biggest one in our history’: 840 pages of the headspinning fall-preview issue. As the mega-issue somehow takes shape amid the turmoil, Wintour’s fascinating sidekicks are witnessed toiling, arguing, and bitching—especially the spectacular André Leon Talley, editor-at-large, and Grace Coddington, genius creative director, who pulls off an inspired eleventh-hour masterstroke. We are also given more intimate glimpses of Anna’s softer side as a daughter, sister, and proud mother.
Unmade Beds – Wed, 5 Aug at 7:30pm
Unmade Beds is a gritty yet playful film about youth squatter culture in London. Directed by Alexis Dos Santos, this story follows Axl (Fernando Tielve) and Vera (Déborah François), two foreign nationals who take refuge in the warehouse-dwelling bohemian underground. Axl and Vera never officially meet, although they share the same space and often cross paths. The motivation of each character is revealed incrementally throughout the film, and back stories remain preciously guarded. Axl is in London to find the father who abandoned him as a child, and Vera seeks to escape the memory of a failed romance. From these two starting points, the audience gains an endearing perspective on the youthful experiences of having sex, drinking alcohol, and sleeping in the occasional unmade bed.
Bathory – Fri, 7 Aug at 9:40pm
Veteran Slovak director Juraj Jakubisko uses his iconic visual style to bring to life the legend of Erzsébet Báthory. Considered one of the most prolific murderesses in history, Báthory has been dubbed the ‘Blood Countess’ for her alleged preoccupation of bathing in virgins’ blood. Jakubisko endeavours to show the Hungarian noblewoman in a different light—the victim of political sabotage rather than the crazed, paganistic hedonist of her legend. The film stars Anna Friel as Báthory and Karel Roden as her political opponent Juraj Thurzo, and a well-known cast of Czech and Slovak actors, including Deana Horváthová-Jakubisková and Bolek Polívka, play supporting roles. Jakubisko’s first English production is the most expensive movie made in Central Europe to date. Hailed as a commercial success in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia, this gothic tale is a rare treat for those interested in medieval costume dramas.
Subdivision – Thu, 6 Aug at 7:15pm
When southern developers move in on local Hervey Bay builder Digger Kelly, who does everything the old-fashioned way, he finds that quality is apparently irrelevant to them and that he cannot compete. After his son goes out on his own, quoting against him, things go from bad to worse, not only for Digger but also for the whole community, as the division between family and friends parallels that of the farming land. Directed by Sue Brooks (Japanese Story [BIFF 2003]), Subdivision oozes authenticity in its portrayal of semirural Queensland, aided by the presence in the ensemble cast of veteran Aussie actors Gary Sweet as Digger, Bruce Spence as his mate Singlet, and Kris McQuade as his wife. Local personality Ashley Bradnam, who co-wrote the film, plays the lead. A comedy with a big heart, a lot of humour, a few ‘gross’ moments, and broad appeal.
About Elly – Wed, 5 Aug at 5pm
When Ahmad, recently divorced from his German wife, returns for a few days to Tehran from Germany, his university friends organise a weekend excursion to the Caspian Sea and indulge in a bit of matchmaking by bringing with them Elly, a young kindergarten teacher. But it all goes terribly wrong when the reluctant Elly goes missing, and suddenly nothing is as it seemed. When a fiancé appears on the scene, the men all run for cover while the woman who invited Elly dissembles erratically to protect Elly’s reputation. In the ensuing suspense and entanglement of well-meaning lies, the veneer of modernity in Iranian gender politics is savagely stripped away.