Strewth! Old Dogs and New Tricks at Glasgow Film Festival

Still from Red Dog (Stenders, 2011)

The wonderful folks over at Glasgow Film Festival have truly delivered on their promise of late last year, programming a veritable cornucopia of Australian cinema for their 2015 installment, which runs 18 February – 1 March.

Strewth! The Films of Oz

Although Australian films have been a relatively regular feature at past festivals, 2015 sees nine features in the central strand Strewth! The Films of Oz, plus a further five spread across the rest of the festival.

Taking in fiction and documentary features, both old and new, Strewth! is headlined by two special events. Audiences can kick up their heels at a dance-a-long screening of kitsch classic Strictly Ballroom (Luhrmann, 1992) at Kelvingrove Museum, or plunge into the outback hellride of Wake In Fright (Kotcheff, 1971) in the blissful surrounds of Mackintosh Queen’s Cross.

With Fury Road just around the corner, a retread of quintessential post-apocalyptic road movie Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (Miller, 1981) looks set to blow the largest cinema screen in Glasgow to smithereens. Meanwhile, the spectacle continues with a rather more modest screening of the equally gonzo cult classic Stunt Rock (Trenchard-Smith, 1980), in which legendary stuntman Grant Page takes the limelight for 80-odd minutes of high-octane, rock’n’rollin’ Ozploitation nuttery.

Also playing in the Strewth! stand are a quintet of more recent films that aren’t afraid to delve into the big issues: sex, drugs, death, and – ahem – ‘holding it all in’.

Grief, redemption and woodland retribution are the order of the day in Kasimir Burgess’ intense feature debut Fell (2014). It stars Matt Nable and Daniel Henshall, and makes its international debut at GFF 15. Having made its own UK debut at BFI Flare last year, Closer Productions‘ Berlin and Sundance winning exploration of teen sexuality and transgender parenthood, 52 Tuesdays (Hyde, 2013) – shot only on Tuesdays, every week for a whole year! – will compete for GFF’s Audience Award, ahead of a UK theatrical release later this year (via Peccadillo Pictures).

From serious drama to serious laughs, the Strewth! strand also includes two Oz comedies which had their UK premieres at last year’s BFI London Film Festival. Forget all your preconceptions about the sex comedy being the preserve of teen grossouts, as Josh Lawson makes his feature debut with the very adult (and very funny) The Little Death (2014). Exposing the hilarious behind-closed-doors peccadilloes of suburban Sydney, it too will get a UK release in April via Kaleidoscope.

Elsewhere, exposure of an entirely different sort abounds in pitch black drug-smug-vom-com The Mule (Sampson/Mahoney, 2014), in which Angus Sampson’s everyday bloke will go to any lengths to conceal the contents of his heroin-filled bowels from the Australian Federal Police’s dodgiest agents. Definitely not one for the faint of stomach, a UK distribution deal is seemingly ‘in the pipeline’ (sorry!), with details still to be confirmed.

Since joining the lineup in 2006, the strand programmed by the ghoulish folks over at FrightFest has become a firm genre favourite at GFF. This year’s selection includes the UK premiere of the much anticipated Wyrmwood (Roache-Turner, 2014), a feverish zom-com fusion of Mad Max and George A. Romero’s stable of zombie classics, which should eventually see a UK release via StudioCanal.

Love, Death & Cinephilia: Documentaries

A handful of Australian documentaries are also on offer at GFF 2015, with two more LFF debutantes making the journey north. Rounding out the Strewth! strand (and also in the running for the audience award), Lynette Wallworth’s Tender (2014) is a stark, moving verite portrait of a group of townsfolk trying to wrest back control of their own deaths.

Moving at a completely different pace, inveterate cinephile and cult flick aficionado Mark Hartley follows up his documentary odes to Ozploitation and Filipino action cinema with Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014), which appears in the Stranger Than Fiction doc strand ahead of a limited UK release in June (via Metrodome).

Continuing the trans-Pacific theme in the documentary strand is Thomas G Miller’s Limited Partnership (2014), which maps the forty year romance of US citizen Richard Adams and Sydney-born Tony Sullivan. Legally married in Colorado in 1971, Sullivan’s attempts to settle in the US were held back by systemic prejudice, as the broader struggle for gay rights in America played out in the background.

Something for the Kids

Australia’s mammoth contribution to GFF 2015 is rounded out by a pair of treats in the festival’s Modern Families strand. Her original German storybook may have been translated into all manner of media, but Maya – that perennial apian favourite – finally returns to the big screen in the computer animated adventure Maya the Bee Movie (Stademann, 2014), an Australian/German co-production. From bees to dogs, the family strand also makes room for a recent Aussie classic (and homegrown box office smash), Red Dog (Stenders, 2011), starring Josh Lucas, Rachael Taylor and the utterly irresistible Koko the Kelpie.

But wait, there’s more!

As an added bonus, before the festival even gets underway, the GFF team will launch and discuss their programme at a free event at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Australia Day (January 26), after which they will screen the latest collaboration between Rolf de Heer and David Gulpilil, Charlie’s Country (2013).

The 2015 Glasgow Film Festival runs 18 Feb – 1 March, with screenings at venues across Glasgow and beyond. Tickets are on sale now!

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