Australia at the BFI London Film Festival 2014

Production still from Charlie's Country

Five fiction features, four documentaries, four shorts and one omnibus film, exploring life and death – from the outback to the city – with detours into sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll – Australian cinema is set to make a significant contribution to the 58th BFI London Film Festival, which takes place in cinemas across London, 8-19 October 2014.


Making its international debut and selected as one of twelve films in competition for the festival’s Best Film award, taut heist thriller Son of a Gun is the first feature from writer-director Julius Avery, whose short film Jerrycan won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2008. Imports Ewan McGregor and Alicia Vikander star alongside up-and-comer Brenton Thwaites, who plays a young prisoner taken under the protective wing of McGregor’s criminal hard man – accruing a debt that must be repaid on the outside. Son of a Gun plays the Odeon West End (17/10 and 18/10), as well as Vue Islington (19/10), ahead of a UK release in January 2015 via Koch Media.
[ Info/tickets ]

Elsewhere, a pair of Australian actors turn their hand to directing in the Laugh strand, with writer-director Josh Lawson – best known for TV roles on both sides of the Pacific – following his successful short film After the Credits with a debut feature, The Little Death. Lawson takes the lead opposite Bojana Novakovic in a very adult comedy about the sexual peccadillos of a group of couples hoping to transcend their mundane lives in suburban Sydney. The Little Death plays Hackney Picturehouse (16/10) and Vue West End (17/10), and will be released in the UK by Kaleidoscope.
Info/tickets ]

Also in the Laugh strand, Lawson hands the baton of mirth to his former Thank God You’re Here co-star Angus Sampson, co-director and star of jet-black heroin smuggling comedy The Mule, which also features Hugo Weaving and Leigh Whannell, and gets a trio of showings at Vue Islington (09/10), Odeon West End (12/10) and the Ritzy in Brixton (18/10) and is yet to secure UK distribution.
Info/tickets ]

In the Thrill strand, director Kriv Stenders follows up the hugely successful Red Dog with a film of a rather different colour, dark comedy-thriller Kill Me Three Times. A world away from the grim realism of his earlier films (let alone the family-friendly tear-jerking of Red Dog) the ever-versatile Stenders turns his hand to a complex, twisting screenplay by James McFarland, with Simon Pegg starring as a grumpy English hitman alongside a cast of locals (including Sullivan Stapleton, Teresa Palmer, Bryan Brown) who transform a sleepy small town into a hotbed of fraud, deception and murder. Kill Me Three Times plays the Odeon West End (18/10) and Hackney Picturehouse (19/10) and is also yet to secure a UK release.
Info/tickets ]

Last (but by absolutely no means least) amongst the five Australian features at LFF is the latest in an ongoing collaboration between one of Australia’s finest directors (Rolf de Heer) and one of its most important actors (David Gulpilil). Charlie’s Country takes its place in the festival’s Journey strand, and features a superb central performance that earned Gulpilil the Best Actor gong at Cannes earlier this year. Charlie is an ageing man who, increasingly worn down by the prejudicial bureaucracies of white Australia, decides to return to country and the old ways of his people. A de Heer/Gulpilil collaboration – this is the third, after The Tracker and Ten Canoes – is always something to behold, ensuring this is our pick of the festival. Charlie’s Country plays BFI Southbank (09/10) and the Odeon West End (11/10), ahead of a UK release later this year via StudioCanal.
Info/tickets ]

Also in the Journey strand is producer Robert Connolly’s monumental omnibus adaptation of Tim Winton’s short story collection The Turning, in which loose strands link eighteen segments that pivot around the central motifs of transformation and change. On-screen contributors include Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Hugo Weaving and Miranda Otto, with segments directed by Warwick Thornton, Shaun Gladwell, Justin Kurzel, Tony Ayres, David Wenham and Mia Wasikowska, amongst others. The Turning plays Curzon Soho (11/10) and Vue West End (13/10), and is scheduled for UK release via Soda Pictures.
[ Info/tickets ]


Following last year’s inclusion of Kitty Green’s Ukraine Is Not A Brothel and Gracie Otto’s The Last Impresario (which gets a UK theatrical release in late September), Australian documentarians continue their search for intriguing stories across the globe. For Austin to Boston, Australian-based music production gang Sideshow Alley join forces with American film and photography wunderkind James Marcus Haney and Ben Lovett (of Mumford and Sons) to capture the ‘gloriously backwards’ US tour of Lovett’s London-based, artist-led music collective, Communion. Directed by Haney, and featuring Communion alumnus Ben Howard, The Staves, Nathaniel Rateliff and Bear’s Den, Austin to Boston screens at BFI Southbank (18/10) and Vue West End (19/10), with a UK release still to be announced.
Info/tickets ]

From music to movies and Cult film aficionado Mark Hartley follows up his odes to Ozploitation (Not Quite Hollywood, Patrick: Evil Awakens) and Filipino genre cinema (Machete Maidens Unleashed) with Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, a celebration of the unlikely rise of a Cormanesque mini-studio that became a major player in 1980s Hollywood. Electric Boogaloo screens in the Cult strand at BFI Southbank (09/10) and Vue Islington (11/10), with a future UK release highly likely.
[ Info/tickets ]

Venturing slightly closer to home is Andrew Lancaster’s documentary The Lost Aviator, which recounts the life of his great uncle Bill Lancaster, a British-Australian aviation pioneer who fell head over heels for his female co-pilot Jessie ‘Chubbie’ Miller on an attempt to set a flying record from the UK to Australia in 1927. What follows is a colourful tale of fortunes won and lost, loves betrayed and lives taken, skilfully crafted via archive, interviews and reconstruction. Screening in the Journey strand, The Lost Aviator plays Odeon Covent Garden (16/10) and Vue Islington (19/10), with no word yet on a UK release.
[ Info/tickets ]

Much closer to home, and playing in competition for the festival’s prestigious Grierson Award for best documentary is Tender, the latest work by filmmaker and multimedia artist Lynette Wallworth. Her first feature-length doc follows the attempts of a community group in Port Kembla, NSW to establish a non-profit funeral service for the local area, and features a score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Tender screens at BFI Southbank (17/10) and the ICA (19/10).
[ Info/tickets ]


Maintaining Australia’s proud reputation of short-format cinema, four short films also feature at this years festival. Ben Briand’s pulpy teen hotel mystery Blood Pulls A Gun plays in the cult genre session Take Me To The Other Side [ info/tickets ], whilst the unlikely combination of dementia and burlesque are brought together in Kelly Hucker and James Fleming’s Ghost Train, which features in the Let’s Talk About Sex session [ info/tickets ]. Radio Live Transmission is a screening dedicated to sound and music in short films, and features Audrey Lam’s ‘road movie with a strange soundtrack’ Magic Miles [ info/tickets ], whilst the minutia of human nature takes centre stage in Life, But Is It A Dream?, a session that includes Cecelia Russi-Hedditch’s ‘silent ballet of desire’, The Unmoving Mountain [ info/tickets ].

So there you have it, a full round-up of all the Australian films featuring at this year’s BFI London Film Festival. And if it seems like quite a lot, that’s because Australia is one of the best represented countries this year, with only cinematic powerhouses France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK and the USA landing more slots in the 58th instalment of London’s premiere film celebration. Enjoy!

The 58th BFI London Film Festival takes place in cinemas across London, 8-19 October 2014. As always, for more information on upcoming festival screenings, theatrical and home releases and one-off events, keep an eye on our Aussie Film Calendar.


    1. Indeed. Between these, and a whole crop of other films doing the rounds at the moment, Australian cinema seems to be in a relatively good place. I haven’t crunched the numbers yet, but I’m pretty sure there’s already been a record number of Australian titles released in the UK this year, with more to come (not least The Babadook).

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