Mia Wasikowska

Films at Aus & NZ Festival 2015

Still from Picnic At Hanging Rock (Weir, 1975)

Following the success of the inaugural Australia and New Zealand Festival of Literature and Arts in 2014, the ANZ Fest gang return to London later this month. This year’s line-up is bigger and better than 2014, and the film strand is no exception. Boosted by the recruitment of Film Coordinator Neil Mitchell, it too has expanded in both scope and volume, with this year’s festival serving up a veritable feast of Antipodean films, old and new, playing across two weekends at Hackney Picturehouse (HPH) and the Strand campus of King’s College London (KCL).

A World FirstDetail of a production still from The Story of the Kelly Gang (d. Tait, 1906)

Often billed as the world’s first feature-length dramatic film, much of The Story of the Kelly Gang (d. Tait, 1906) [30 May – 4pm – KCL] has been lost to the ravages to time. To celebrate the film’s centenary, however, Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) pieced together the remaining fragments from collections and archives (and rubbish dumps!) in Australia and Britain.

Those seventeen or so minutes (plus additional stills and contextual information) will be screened at a very special ANZ Fest event, followed by an extended discussion with Angus Forbes, the grandson of Charles Tait, who is often credited as the film’s director. To discuss the film’s production, exhibition, disappearance and rediscovery, Forbes will be joined on stage by Dr Ian Henderson, director of the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies and Stephen Morgan (that’ll be me!), PhD candidate at King’s College London.

The Last New Wave/s

A firmly established classic and a (somewhat) neglected masterpiece constitute ANZ Fest’s mini-tribute to one of Australia’s finest filmmakers, Peter Weir. Celebrating its 40th birthday in 2015, Weir’s breakthrough classic Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) [31 May – 5:45pm – KCL] – the hauntingly picturesque mystery of disappearing schoolgirls set on St Valentine’s Day 1900 – is shown here in an anniversary screening authorised by Weir himself. Another masterwork of the Australian film renaissance, released two years after Picnic, The Last Wave (1977) [24 May – 4pm – HPH] sees Weir turn his attention to a contemporary mystery, as a Sydney lawyer is drawn deeper and deeper into a labyrinth of indigenous mysticism and apocalyptic visions.

Looking back at New Zealand’s own post-1970 film renaissance, ANZ Fest will also screen Geoff Murphy’s anarchic road movie classic, Goodbye Pork Pie (1981) [24 May – 1pm – HPH], one of the first Kiwi features to get a UK-wide release in the early 1980s.

Antipodean Stories

Recently released in the UK by Soda Pictures, the epic Rob Connolly-produced portmanteau film The Turning (d. Various, 2013) [29 May – 5:45pm – KCL], brings seventeen filmmakers – experienced hands and newcomers alike – together to adapt a collection of loosely connected short stories by Tim Winton. With on-screen appearances from Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Rose Byrne and many more, and segments directed by the likes of Warwick Thornton, Justin Kurzel, Mia Wasikowska and Shaun Gladwell.

Poster for All This MayhemAlso released in Britain last year, breathtaking skateboarding/brotherhood documentary All This Mayhem (d. Martin, 2013) [23 May – 1pm – HPH] relates the meteoric rise and tragic fall of Tas and Ben Pappas, the Melbourne brothers who escaped the city’s rough western suburbs to rank amongst the best skateboarders in the world. This screening of one of the standout documentaries from 2014 also features a Skype Q&A with Tas Pappas.

Meanwhile, commemorating the centenary of ANZAC involvement in the First World War, The Waler: Australia’s Great War Horse (d. Vines, 2015) [31 May – 1:30pm – KCL] shows that there was far more to equine involvement in the Allied effort than the war horse of Michael Morpurgo’s book (or the subsequent stage and feature film productions). Over 130,000 Australian horses served during the Great War, and this documentary traces their origins, their feats and what became of the 50,000 or so that survived the battlefields.

From the past to the very present, and a last minute confirmation in Frackman (d. Todd/Stack, 2015) [30 May – 6:30pm – KCL], an observational documentary – and antipodean companion to Josh Fox’s fracking expose Gasland (2010) – which follows the story of pig-farmer and accidental activist Dayne ‘Frackman’ Pratzky, as he fights multinational corporations seeking a quick buck in the global race for coal seam gas.

Tales of Aotearoa

Stories from indigenous Australia will feature prominently elsewhere in Britain in the coming months, allowing ANZ Fest to focus on tales of Maori life from across the pond. Hard-hitting family drama Once Were Warriors (d. Tamahori, 1994) [30 May – 1:30pm – KCL] is already a well established Kiwi classic, as is New Zealand’s highest grossing hit, 1980s-set comedy Boy (d. Waititi, 2010) [31 May – 3:45pm – KCL] takes a rather more lighthearted approach to growing up Maori. New Zealand also had a relatively healthy share of its homegrown box office in 2014, and ANZ Fest will show the second and third highest grossing Kiwi films of last year, the Cliff Curtis-starring chess and anti-violence drama The Dark Horse (d. Robertson, 2014) [23 May – 4pm – HPH], and pre-Euro blood and thunder actioner The Dead Lands (d. Fraser, 2014) [30 May – 3:45pm – KCL].

ANZFLA 2015

Tickets for the 2015 Australia and New Zealand Festival of Literature and Arts are on sale now. The core festival runs from 28-31 May at King’s College London, with satellite events across London from May 17, including a weekend of film screenings at Hackney Picturehouse on 23-24 May.

Advertisements

IN CINEMAS: The Turning

Still from The Turning

Hot on the heels of last week’s UK release of Julius Avery’s heist thriller Son of a Gun, comes another Western Australian tinged cinematic delight of a wholly different flavour. Produced by Robert Connolly and adapted from the best-selling short story collection by internationally renowned author Tim Winton, The Turning is a portmanteau film that subtly weaves a sparse narrative surrounding members of the Lang family, exploring the impact of the past and how futures are sometimes shaped in the smallest moments.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

IN CINEMAS: Tracks

Still from Tracks (2013)

In what is looking increasingly like a bumper year for Australian cinema in British cinemas, ANZAC Day (April 25) sees the release of Tracks, the long-awaited adaptation of Robyn Davidson’s memoir which detailed a nine-month solo trek across the vast Australian outback from Alice Springs across the top of Western Australia to the Indian Ocean.

(more…)

Australia at Glasgow Film Festival 2014

Still from Wolf Creek 2

After kicking off on February 20, the Glasgow Film Festival is now in full swing, and includes a handful of Australian films, including Mystery Road, Tracks, The Last Impresario, and the UK premiere of Wolf Creek 2.

(more…)

Australia at the London Film Festival

Still from MYSTERY ROAD

The annual fiesta of film that is the BFI London Film Festival kicked off earlier this week, with a handful of Australian films set to ‘thrill’ audiences, show them ‘love’ and take them on a ‘journey’.

Ivan Sen’s excellent slow-burn thriller Mystery Road, starring Aaron Pedersen as an Aboriginal cop returning to his hometown and immediately thrown into a murder investigation, opened the ‘Thrill’ strand as its gala film on Thursday (repeating the feat of The Sapphires, which screened as the Nintendo gala at last year’s festival). A big crowd also took in Mystery Road yesterday at the Odeon West End (Leicester Square), with an intro and Q&A with Australian screen legend Jack Thompson (one of a myriad of familiar Australian actors peppered throughout the film). Mystery Road gets its final LFF screening on Saturday October 19 at the Curzon Renoir. That last session is now sold out, but hopefully the film’s exposure at LFF will encourage a British distributor to give it a wider UK release.

Based on the true story of Robyn Davidson’s 1977 solo camel trek across the Australian outback, John Curran’s mesmerising Tracks, starring Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver, takes a place in the official competition strand, competing for the Best Film award with three screenings next week; Tuesday (15/10) and Wednesday (16/10) at the Odeon West End, followed by a sold-out screening on Saturday October 19 at Screen on the Green in Islington. Tracks has UK distribution via eOne, and should be in British and Irish cinemas in early 2014. [Book]

The festival’s ‘Love’ strand plays host to French-Australian co-production Adore [aka Adoration], directed by Anne Fontaine, based on a Doris Lessing short story and starring Robin Wright and Naomi Watts as inseparable childhood friends with grown-up sons, with absent fathers drawing the four drawn ever closer together. The film has already had two screenings at the Vue West End, with one final chance to see it on Sunday (13/10) at Ciné Lumière. Adore should also get a UK theatrical release via Exclusive, with Paramount scheduled to handle VOD and home entertainment releases. [Book]

Another international co-production plays in the ‘Journey’ strand, with Kim Mordaunt’s Australia-Laos-Thailand produced The Rocket, a rural drama of displacement and resilience. Fresh from winning awards and critical praise at the Sydney, Berlin and Tribecca film festivals, the film has already had two screenings at the ICA and Rich Mix, with a final showing on Monday (14/10) at Vue West End. Having already been acquired by Eureka Entertainment, The Rocket should also get a limited UK theatrical release soon. [Book]

Also on show at LFF are two Australian-produced documentaries; Kitty Green makes her feature doc debut with Ukraine Is Not A Brothel [book] – an expose of controversial Ukrainian female activist group Femen – which screens in the documentary competition strand on Friday (18/10) at BFI Southbank and Sunday (20/10) at Vue West End, whilst Gracie Otto’s profile of notorious London theatre and film bon vivant Michael White in The Last Impresario [book] , which screens as part of the ‘Love’ strand at the Odeon West End tomorrow (Sunday 13/10) and a sold-out session at BFI Southbank on Tuesday (15/10). Also screening at LFF this year is Michelle Blanchard’s short film Aboriginal Heart, which plays support to South London-set adolescent comedy-drama Gone Too Far! There are three screenings next weekend at Odeon West End (18/10), Hackney Picturehouse (19/10) and Vue West End (20/10). [Book]

The BFI London Film Festival runs until October 20 at venues across central London. 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.