No Tropfest, but Canberra’s Film Festival a success

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IN THE same week that Tropfest founder and director, John Polson, announced that the December 6 ‘Tropfest’ will not go ahead, news is to hand that our own Canberra International Film Festival has been declared a success.

Sellout -a still from  Lawrence Johnston's 'Neon'
Sellout -a still from Lawrence Johnston’s ‘Neon’

“CityNews” has spoken to both festival manager and Andrew Pike and organising team member Cris Kennedy in the last few days, who both confirm that, with a move away from conventional festival programming and a change to the Arc Cinema, several sessions were either sold-out or close to sold-out, including ‘Neon’, ‘Tehran Taxi’, ‘Tentmakers of Cairo’, ‘The Assassin’, ‘Freedom Stories’ and ‘The Crowd’.

Describing the gamble which saw their small team take over the failing film festival as a “true adventure into the unknown,” they happily report that the festival, run over 11 days, with 29 feature films, nine locally-made short films and 16 workshops, achieved an estimated average of 80 patrons per session is across the festival, more than respectable for such an adventurous event, although exact attendance figures are to be confirmed.

Pike says a comprehensive review of the festival is now being undertaken.

Particularly gratifying news is that two of the highest-selling films of the festival were ‘Neon’ and ‘Tentmakers of Cairo’, by Canberra producers, Wildbear Entertainment, and Kim Beamish, confirming Pike’s assessment that focusing on our own burgeoning film industry is the way to go. With, in addition, a keen eye on international films unlike to be screened in our major outlets, they seem to be onto a good thing.

Aiming to increase the intellectual content of the festival, the organisers hosted 14 visiting guests this year, including critic David Stratton, director and producer Matthew Metcalfe and Leanne Pooley from New Zealand, and, on Skype, Maryam Ebrahimi from Stockholm and Yojyu Matsubayashi from Burma.

More than 35 filmmakers, critics and historians participated in Q&As, workshops and talks and the 19th Canberra International Film Festival finished last Sunday with a standing ovation after spcialsit accompanist, Elaine Loebenstein, worked the grand piano for two hours, interpreting the rare 1928 silent film, ‘The Crowd’ that had been imported with assistance from the American Embassy.

And yes, plans are afoot for the 20th year of the festival to run in November 2016.


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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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