Film festival that ‘likes to have fun’

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“DOESN’T  film really bring out all that passion, all that emotion?” board member Kate Ingram asked rhetorically at today’s launch of the 2014 Canberra International Film Festival.

Kate Ingram shows off the new logo
Kate Ingram shows off the new logo

She was talking to true believers, evidently delighted by the snazzy festival trailer created by Canberra’s Wildbear Productions and the colourful new logo by Giraffe and Some Cowboy. We’d be seeing more of that, she predicted on lift doors and banners on the atrium of the Canberra Centre.

Now 18 years of age, the festival was originally planned and directed out of the University of Canberra, which now plays a role by sponsoring the artistic direction. Speaking for the University, Asst. Prof Geoff Hinchcliffe traced the event from its humble beginnings in 1996, when there were only 11 films to the present day, where 64 films will grace the screens in 120 separate sessions. He was proud, he said, of UC’s record in supporting this important cultural initiative. Hinchcliffe particularly liked the fact that the CIFF’s “conversation” sessions will continue in 2014.

Ingram praised the third artistic director of the event, Lex Lindsay, who, she said had been “letting Canberra get under his skin”.

Lindsay took the podium to tell us that he couldn’t be more pleased – “Canberra [meaning the festival] has been a gift,” he said.

Lindsay said he was keen to ensure those present that he had listened to feedback after the 2013 Festival. While he was personally interested in films with social and political commentary and reportage, “CIFF also likes to have fun,” he said, promising action and grand spectacle in an extended 18 day format that would make it “the biggest CIFF ever.”

The entire sestival would be under one roof at Dendy. He didn’t add that the closing up of the Arc cinema at the National Film and Sound Archive would have been a factor in this decision.

Maps to the Stars, stars Julianne Moore
Maps to the Stars, stars Julianne Moore

Opening night on October 23, he said, would feature the Australian premiere of David Cronenberg satirical analysis of the Hollywood fame game, “Maps to the Stars,” starring Julianne Moore and Canberra’s own Mia Wasikowska. The closing film, “Love is Strange” is a comedy about the fall-out after a same sex marriage, reveals society’s continued prejudices.

Lindsay said he had grouped the films into nine talking points, but under three general themes. He said that it wasn’t a catalogue of the greatest cinema hits, but “more a carefully considered anthology.”

The first section would deal with World War I and issues of conflict, and would include “White Dog,” a film which had seen canine stars win prizes for acting at Cannes.” The full-length version of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s film “Winter Sleep” would look at conflict on a more personal level.

Lindsay’s second talking point would deal with man, woman and child, “and yes, we are playing the gender card, he said, with child friendly films and confronting ones like “Vulva 3.0,” in which experts shed light on “the social, political and personal complexities of women’s nether-regions.”

Lindsay, "letting Canberra get under his skin".
Lindsay, “letting Canberra get under his skin”.

His final section was loosely titled, “then, now and next,” allowing him to introduce no fewer than 20 documentaries exploring everything from higher education to refugees. With difficulty he had tracked down the film “Amazonia,” which stars monkeys, jaguars, spiders, anacondas, toucans, anteaters and a giant sloth.

And there was much more – more comedy, more sci-fi and more history. He had an engaged “wide range of erudite witty commentators”, whom he summarised as “loudmouths” to conduct ten conversations during the Festival.

This year’s “centrepiece” film (last year’s was a sell-out) “The Dead Lands,” is the first film to showcase the ancient Maori martial art, Mau rakau, and comes to Canberra direct from its Toronto International Film Festival Premiere success.

Director Amin Palangi and his sister Fatimeh
Director Amin Palangi and his sister Fatimeh

Among the zany “fun stuff” would be “Freaky Fridays,” three consecutive Friday nights devoted to revenge and blood, Halloween, monsters, and Zombie soccer players. A real coup, he said, would be the inclusion of the first-ever Iranian vampire film.

And talking of Iranians, Lindsay went on to introduce Iranian-Australian Canberra-raised film director, Amin Palangi, whose 84-minute film about a love marriage in Afghanistan, will be screened and discussed.

“It is the audience who make the festival,” Palangi said as he formally launched the event.

Canberra International Film Festival, October 23 to November 9, at Dendy Cinemas civic, bookings to ciff.com.au

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