The ten-day London Australian Film Festival returns to the Barbican for its 13th consecutive year with the biggest and strongest programme yet of 24 new features (including for the first time this year all the 2006 Australian Film Institute award winners), eight documentaries, two family films, and three archive classics, including the UK Premiere of the digital restoration of the earliest film ever made, The Story of the Kelly Gang. As in previous years the programme is enriched by the inclusion before most screenings of shorts selected from Flickerfest, Australia’s short film festival. In addition, the London Australian Film Festival hosts a free, first-come-first-served evening showing the 16 finalist Sony Tropfest short films.
This year’s event kicks off on Thursday 15 March with an Opening Gala Screening of Ray Lawrence’s psychological thriller, Jindabyne www.april.com.au/jindabyne/ his eagerly awaited follow up to Lantana, starring Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney. Adapted from a Raymond Carver short story Jindabyne is the deft and chilling story of four friends who discover a dead woman on a fishing trip, but decide to continue fishing and delay reporting the body until later, with far-reaching consequences which shake their lives to the core.
At the Closing Night Gala on Sunday 25 March director Rolf de Heer will attend his intriguing and funny Ten Canoe www.tencanoes.com.au/tencanoes/, the first major Australian film to be shot in an Indigenous Aboriginal language. Set in the distant mythical past of the remote Arafura Swamp region of north-eastern Arnhem Ten Canoes tells of an epic journey of kidnapping, magic, love and revenge (see also Rolf de Heer’s The Balanda And the Bark Canoes showing in the Documentary strand).
THE NEW FEATURES:
2006/07 has been a stunning year for Australian cinema with outstanding films from both emerging and established feature filmmakers. Among the many note-worthy new features included in this year’s festival we’re delighted to include one which has garnered international and high-profile attention.
International festival audiences, including director Kevin Smith and Harvey Weinstein at Cannes last year (where it received a prolonged standing ovation), were wowed by 19-year-old director Murali K. Thalluri’s remarkable and affecting debut 2:37 www.twothirty7.com (UK Premiere) which also opened the Melbourne International Film Festival. 2:37, which has been likened to Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, was inspired by a video suicide note sent to the director by a friend before she took her life. Over one day, Thalluri’s powerful and compelling film chronicles the lives of angst-ridden teens attending an Australian high-school, which ends in one of their year committing suicide. This young Australian filmmaker is one to watch.
Like the battle of Gallipoli resonates for Europeans, the story of the Kokoda trail lives on in the heart of Australians. In the historical drama, Kokoda www.kokodathemovie.com.au (European Premiere) director and co-writer Alistair Grierson presents a frank and superbly shot portrayal of Australia’s last line of defence against the Japanese Empire in WW2. The men were ill-trained, ill-equipped volunteers known derisively as chocolate soldiers, or ‘chocos’, expected to melt in the heat of battle.
Three films made by women directors explore very different interpretations of womanhood. Starring Greta Scacchi and Colin Friels, and adapted from Rupert Thomson’s highly acclaimed novel, The Book of Revelation www.thebookofrevelation.com.au is director Ana Kokkinos’ explosive and erotic second feature film, which reverses gender roles. A dancer at the peak of his powers is mysteriously abducted by three women, abused then thrown back into the world 12 days later. A broken spirit, he struggles to renegotiate his place in his former life in light of the unimaginable circumstances he’s just gone through. In Ann Turner’s Irresistible, Susan Sarandon and Sam Neill star in a chilling thriller of jealousy and paranoia. Sarandon plays Sophie Hartley who’s convinced that her husband’s beautiful colleague (Emily Blunt) is a crazy stalker trying to destroy her marriage, family and life, but no one believes her. Sandra Sciberras’ The Caterpillar Wish www.thecaterpillarwish.com (UK Premiere) is the uplifting story of 17-year-old Emily who believes, and persuades her elders, that life can be better. Set in the magnificently cine-genic seaside town of Robe, South Australia, starring Sacha Horler, Wendy Hughes, Robert Mammone and Susie Porter (who won an AFI for Best Supporting Actress), this is an inspiring and moving story about ordinary people – mothers and daughters, husbands and lovers – who find the courage to believe they have the power to transform their own lives.
Throughout the festival filmmakers and actors give Barbican ScreenTalks. Confirmed so far are: director Rolf de Heer for the Closing Gala of Ten Canoes; writer/narrator Bob Randall for Kanyini; director Martin Simpson and actress Ayse Tezel for the World Premiere of Gene X www.gene-xmovie.com; actress Ayse Tezel and co-producer Michael Rowe for Court of Lonely Royals; actress Sally Phillips for the European Premiere for Boytown; director Daniel Lapaine for the UK Premiere of 48 Shades www.48shadesmovie.com.au/; actress Amanda Douge for UK Premiere of Five Moments of Infidelity; Stephen Moyer for Ravenswood, and cast and crew members for Like Minds
This year’s documentary strand boasts a selection of eight titles. A double-bill co-presented by Dochouse explore cross culturalism in Australia. Rolf de Heer’s The Balanda And the Bark Canoes (UK Premiere) is a compelling companion piece to his Ten Canoes. “We are making a movie. The story is their story, those that live on this land, in their language, and set a long time before the coming of the Balanda, as we white people are known. For the people of the Arafura Swamp, this film is an opportunity, maybe a last chance to hold on to the old ways. For all of us, the challenges are unexpected, the task beyond anything imagined. For me, it is the most difficult film I have made, in the most foreign land I’ve been to… and it is Australia.’ Rolf de Heer.
Kanyini is an indigenous word evoking a connectedness and a deep and ancient responsibility for one’s land and community. Kanyini www.kanyini.com is a story told by an Aboriginal man, Bob Randall, member of the Yankunytjatjara people and one of the listed traditional owners of Uluru the greatest monolith in the world, where he lives in Central Australia. Based on Randall’s own personal journey and the wisdom he learnt from the old people living in the bush, Randall tells the tale of why Indigenous people are now struggling in a modern world and what needs to be done for Indigenous people to move forward. The film’s writer and narrator Bob Randall will attend a Barbican Screentalk, together with Rolf Harris who supports the film and Aboriginal rights.
First-time director Polly Watkins’ Vietnam Nurses www.20.sbs.com.au/vietnamnurses reveals the untold stories of six Army nurses who served at the only Australian field hospital in Vietnam. Forty-three of the 50,000 Australian servicemen and women in the Vietnam War were Army Nurses. These young women, who went out to stifling Vung Tau in the 60s were prepared for a challenge but not for the extremes of danger, injury and heartbreak.
In Helen Gaynor’s Welcome 2 My Deaf World (UK Premiere) Scott and Bethany share three things: adolescence, school, and deafness. They are pupils at Victorian College of the Deaf, Australia’s first school for deaf children. The film follows them through their last few months of school as they look forward to leaving their sheltered lives and enter the wider world.
Two documentary films look at Australia’s movie-making history. A dark and dangerous episode in Australia’s cinema history which is vibrantly reanimated and reinterpreted through Sue Maslin’s award-winning Hunt Angels www.huntangels.com.au/huntangels/. Using innovative digital composite techniques never before utilised in an Australian feature film, director Alec Morgan and visual effects specialist Rose Draper blend 1930s Australia with the cinematic fantasy worlds of their imaginative main characters in what is a valentine to cinema and the mavericks who sometimes went unnoticed. In The Archive Project (European Premiere) leading Australian documentary filmmaker John Hughes completes his trilogy on Australia’s experience of the Cold War with this exploration of the Melbourne Realist film movement of the 1940s and 50s. This small group of dedicated film enthusiasts promoted an activist film culture, supporting labour movement, housing and peace campaigns. Their amazing films were crucial to the emergence of film festivals in Melbourne and Sydney.
THE ARCHIVE FILMS:
This year’s festival includes an Archive strand which marks the centenary of the earliest feature film ever made, anywhere. The festival is showing, with live piano accompaniment by John Sweeney, the UK Premiere of the digital restoration of The Story of the Kelly Gang which was made in 1906 when most films in Europe and America consisted of two-reels. The four-reel Kelly Gang is generally regarded as the first film in the world to resemble what is now termed a feature film. Depicting the career of the notorious outlaw Ned Kelly, its success was the catalyst for an explosion in film production which made the Australian film industry one of the world’s most prolific in the period leading up to the First World War. This digital restoration of the surviving elements, totally some twenty minutes, represents the most complete version of the film in existence. Playing alongside Kelly Gang is Arthur W. Sterry’s 1921 The Life Story of John Lee: The Man They Could Not Hang and the winner of the 1954 Grand Prix Absolute at the Venice Film Festival, The Back of Beyond, one of Australia’s great classics.
The London Australian Film Festival is the only festival in Europe that dedicates its programme to Australian cinema. Year-on-year the festival brings to UK audiences the best in Australian film. This year, as in the previous two years, the selected films from the festival goes on-tour to UK wide venues.