Arts / Launch of the ‘not just any old film festival’

IN their relentless search to create a unique event that the directors of the 21st Canberra International Film Festival, have come up with a credible combination of contemporary and retro movies for this year.

With the idea of matching the old and new on a rough 50-50 basis, this combination, the festival committee chair, Therese Faulkner, told a crowd this morning at the official launch, and to ensure that the event would be not just “any old film Festival I can see any old time,” the festival had engaged two “Canberra film prodigies” to co-program the event.

Those two prodigies turned out to be festival director Andrew Pike, and contemporary programmer Alice Taylor. Pike, of course is the elder statesman of film in Canberra and the director of Ronin Films, which is officially producing the event this year, while Taylor was the director of the event for 2016.

Roger Pulvers’ book cover

Top of the list on the local front were two full-length films with strong Canberra connections – “Oyster”, Kim Beamish’s new documentary about oyster farmers in Merimbula, and “Star Sand” a full-length feature financed and made in Japan by former ANU lecturer, Roger Pulvers, based on his own novel of the same name which is set in Okinawa during the American bombardment in 1945.

The festival, Faulkner, said, would be something you wouldn’t see anywhere else.

Taylor described how she and Pike had worked to find common threads in their selections and she hoped her own selections would be classics “that might be selected in future for the retro section”.

Top of Taylor’s list this year were the Cannes-winning comedy, “The Square”, starring Elizabeth Moss and the Hungarian film, “On Body and Soul”, which had won the Golden Bear in Berlin

She and Pike, she explained, had worked hard to bring contemporary work together with retro inclusions, so that French director Tony Gatlif’s new film about music of exile called “Djam” would be matched with his famous 1993 gypsy film “Latcho Drom”.

Another brace of films would be the new documentary by Gaylene Preston, “My Year with Helen”, following former NZ prime minister Helen Clarke’s quest for UN leadership, and also her World War II love story, “Home by Christmas”.

Pike, for his part, explained how he had been impressed by the way the leading retro festival in Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, which he had attended this year, had created “strands” just as he has already done.

An example of major strands for the 2017 Canberra festival would be the celebration of British film star and later Australian stage legend Googie Withers in the year that would have been her centenary, with the screening of her British films “It Always Rains on Sunday” and the hospital drama “White Corridors”. Her daughter, actor Joanna McCallum, appeared on screen from London to praise the festival for acknowledging her once-famous mother.

A unique strand, Pike thought, was that which would pay tribute to NZ animator and sculptor, Len Lye.

But Pike’s pièce de résistance would be a strand following the work of French film noir director Jacques Tourneur, who specialised in low-budget Hollywood thrillers and psychological dramas – useful exemplar to cash-strapped young Canberra film directors, Pike thought. Tourneur would be represented in the screening of six films, including “Out of the Past” where Robert Mitchum plays the archetypal trench-coated private eye.

The Canberra International Film Festival, the National film and Sound Archive, October 26-November 5, bookings to



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