9th Sep 2012 4:22pm | By Alasdair Morton
Not all Australian films have to be about the Outback, kangaroos and koalas
Similarly, not all Aussie movies have to be as slit-your-own-wrists-in-despair depressing as last year’s monumental but incredibly draining Snowtown.
These sentiments have been at the forefront of the minds of the folk behind FilmFest Australia, which on Friday kicks off two weekends of movies celebrating Down Under cinema’s more joyful, jubilant and life-affirming side.
There’s always been a incongruity between the international perception of Australia – a land of sun-kissed larrikins with alaidback attitude to life – and the often dark cinematic portrayals of life there: think Wolf Creek, the aforementioned Snowtown and Chopper.
Perhaps now, with a natural resources boom and the resulting prosperous economy, Australia is beginning to lighten up a little. Perhaps.
“Cinema reflects the mood of the nation,” festival programmer Moira McVean says.
“The thing I love about Aussie cinema is the raw, gritty voice, it is really unpretentious and can be really out there, but it really embraces comedy as well, and this year we really tried to focus on the lighter side of Australian cinema.”
Leading the laughs are the likes of sterility comedy Not Suitable For Children, a breakout hit at the 2012 Sydney Film Festival for first-time director Peter Templeman; commitment-phobia romcom Any Questions For Ben?; impending marriage comedy A Few Best Men, from Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert director Stephan Elliot; and the world premiere of comedy musical Goddess, a kitsch Tasmanian musical concoction that co-stars Ronan Keating as an eco-warrior (honestly).
There are also, though, plenty of films screening that are not about relationships and the amusing affect they have on our lives.
There’s everything from noir thrillers and family dramas to slice-of-life realism, too – as well as disarming documentaries such as Life In Movement, about the late Sydney Opera Dance Company artistic director Tanja Liedtke. Plus there’s Flickerfest, a programme of stunning new shorts, that, in a nod to the cinema experience of years gone by, play before the main feature.
The change in tone isn’t the only thing new about the festival. There’s a fresh name for the event formerly (for the past 17 years) known as the London Australian Film Festival, and a new residence; previously at the Barbican, FilmFest Australia now calls the Picturehouse cinemas in Clapham and Hackney home.
And there’s also some weighty support behind the event, with 2012 Australian Of The Year Geoffrey Rush and Lawless star Noah Taylor its twin patrons for the season.
While the quality of Australian films to have emerged over the course of the last few years has been undoubtedly high, it has been this quality and spark married with cross-cultural appeal that has ensured international success.
Breakout successes have now translated to other markets – think Animal Kingdom’s run to Oscar glory that had Jacki Weaver nab the Best Actress award for her turn as the terrifying matriach of a notorious crime family – and this year, especially, demonstrates an increasing success for homegrown Aussie cinema outside of the Lucky Country.
Elliott’s A Few Best Men, for example, has a down-the- middle, half-and-half Australian and British cast, including Kris Marshall, Kevin Bishop and Xavier Samuel, and opened here nationwide only a few weeks ago.
“There are so many releases of Australian films [in Britain],” Moira explains. “That shows distributors here are recognising the great product coming from Australia – and we are able to support that.”
Aussie cinema has never been in such rude health, and there is no better time for this newly named, newly reborn fest to celebrate this. So get down, check out the stars of tomorrow and join the party.
FilmFest Australia. Sept 14-16, Clapham Picturehouse
76 Venn Street, SW4 0AT
Station | Clapham Common
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