Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Festival Australia

No, it's not some new film festival celebrating Australian film, but the famous Berlinale Film Festival in Germany features quite a few Australian films and shorts. So, naturally, what better excuse do I need to give you guys the heads up on what they are and what they're all about. There's some really interesting titles in there that you will surely be hearing about again when it comes to AFI award season.


The Black Balloon (dir. Elissa Down) - This is a film that, if nothing else, surely looks beautiful. It has a strangely identical plot to 2007's Clubland just minus the controlling mother part. Balloon revolves around a young man who has an autistic brother and what happens when the young man falls in love with a stunning beauty (and if you've seen Clubland you can already smell the similaties, right?)

The film stars Rhys Wakefield (Home & Away), Gemma Ward (yes, the Gemma Ward that has been in the news lately for you know what), Luke Ford plus AFI Award winners Toni Collette and Erik Thomson. In a sign of how dire the Australian film industry can be at times, The Black Balloon is the first film or television role that Ford has appeared in since 2006's Kokoda. Not sure what the title is in reference to, though.

Corroboree (dir. Ben Hackworth) - This is a title to watch, if the reports from festival screenings (such as Melbourne and Toronto) are true. A very small Australian film with not many recognisable names (Rebecca Frith and Susan Lyons are the only ones I picked out) that apparently has more in common with Gus Van Sant recent ouveur than anything else this country has produced in recent years. The trailer is very... interesting to say the least. Feels very European.

Darling! The Pieter-Dirk Uys Story (dir. Julian Shaw) - I may be wrong in assuming that the "Darling" from the press release is this Australian documentary. I can't seem to find any other recent Aussie film with the name Darling and it was a nominee last year at the IF Awards for Best Independent Documentary. Peter-Dirk Uys is a controversial South African satirist, artist and activist who "previously off-limits inner world" is entered by debut director Julian Shaw.

Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger (dir. Cathy Randall) - I think I've briefly spoken about this Aussie comedy before. It stars Danielle Catanzrati as Esther Blueburger, an unpopular girl at her school so she hatches a plan to secretly switch. She becomes friends with Keisha Castle-Hughes and her mother, played by Toni Collette. The trailer played before 27 Dresses and got a good response. It's obviously trying for Looking for Alibrandi-type breakout success, and I think they might just get it.

Meditations on a Name (dir. Bonnie Elliot) and Nana (dir. Warwick Thorton) - I don't have much information about these short films other than what I can gather from the AFTRS website (AFTRS is Australia's premier national training institution for the screen and broadcast industries and enjoys strong political and industry support.") Nana won a prize at Flickerfest, as well as the IF Award last year for best short film, while Bonnie Elliot, the writer and director of Meditations won the IF Rising Talent Award. Previous AFTRS shorts include Academy Award nominees Inja, Birthday Boy and The Saviour.

September (dir. Peter Carstairs) - I've spoken about this one before, which I liked very much. It plays out like a sort of Australian teen version of Days of Heaven (there is a lot of wheat blowing in the breeze) and it features beautiful cinematography by Jules O'Loughlin and a great score by Roger Mason. They're good to go as far as my you'll-still-have-wait-for-them UMA Awards.

Son of a Lion (dir. Benjamin Gilmour) - Neither the film nor it's director Gilmour have an IMDb profile, which is a bit sad, but what I do know about this independent film is this brief plot description from the AFC website; "In the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, a widowed father expects his only son to follow in his footsteps." Variety has a nice review up of the film. Could be one to watch if Variety has any say - "Cast with non-professionals living in the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan, pic reps a promising debut by Aussie helmer Benjamin Gilmour and should roar into plenty of fests following world preem at Pusan. Arthouse distribution beckons locally and offshore niche play is a possibility."

Could very well be Australia's fourth ever submission for the Academy Awards foreign language film category after La Spagnola, Ten Canoes and The Home Song Stories, none of which were nominated.

Yolk (dir. Stephen Lance) - Can't seem to find much about this short, other than it won the SBS Television Award at Flickerfest. Anybody out there got any information about this? Not even the Berlinale website seems very forthcoming.

Interestingly, all of the feature films are the debut films of their director. Crazy.

Lastly, the Rotterdam International Film Festival announced some Australian product. Amongst them is the 2007 AFI winner for Best Short Spike Up by - a short that I did not like at all. Go figure. Two other shorts, Shmetamorphosis by Jack Feldstein and Wasting Away by Tim Dean also screen there.

The only feature that is showing, but one to watch in future, is Unfinished Sky (above) directed by Peter Duncan, who has previously made films like Children of the Revolution, Passion and Hell Has Harbour Views. It stars William McInnes (always a pleasure to watch) as a farmer who takes in an Afghani woman on the run from a brothel.

So there you have it. If anybody's seen any of these movies or has any info about them then shoot me an email or discuss in the comments. Would love to hear from you.

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