Sydney Film Festival 2019 Wrap Up
What a festival! What a buzz! We are so proud to have had not one but TWO of our shorts included in different festival programs within the festival this year. It really is an honour and achievement for us to have had the opportunity to be involved in such great films, here are the trailers:
Chlorine - for the Lexus Short Film Fellowship at Dendy Opera Quays
Deluge - for the Screenability Program at the State Theatre
Steph and Soph repped C&C at some of the screenings so here is a wrap of the films we saw:
Palm Beach - played to a sold out and buzzing State Theatre. Directed by the brilliant Rachel Ward, this is a solid, dysfunctional family comedy with just the right amount of drama. It hits all the funny notes. Bryan Brown is so lovely and unapologetically Australian - he transports us into upper class family dysfunction so well. As a younger audience member, I could still relate to so many of the characters. I feel this will be an iconic Aussie film and be enjoyed for years to come.
It’s great to see films like this and be reminded that we have such a hilarious sense of comedy and ability to laugh at ourselves and the outrageousness of some situations - it’s nice to see something that isn’t too dark!
High Life - whoa. Mind blown. A bunch of convicted criminals get given the opportunity to serve society in a different way - through a Space Mission and a series of experiments (including research into reproduction in Space). People walked out mid-film, which is always a highlight for me. The lady next to me gasped a lot in outrage and raised her eyebrows to me as if to say ‘what did I just watch?’ on the way out.
This really effed with my head and I walked out of the film thinking that I hated it. Then, I COULDN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT IT. Think about having a baby in space and then that kid growing up in space and not knowing anyone else but her father. Everyone else on the mission is dead. Also, impending black hole death - ironic for a bunch of death row inmates. Something called a ‘Fuckbox’ and a claustrophobic feeling the film gives you from being trapped inside a space shuttle with this eery orange lighting throughout.
Robert Pattinson is surprising in the lead role of Monte...he is brooding and moody and gives off unassuming hero vibes. The casting was brilliant and quirky - which is why I love French cinema so much (are we still calling this French even though it’s in English?) Andre 3000 (yeah, Outkast!) as Tcherny gave a brilliant, calming performance (juxtaposed against his usual hip hop brand) - he is completely underrated.
Fun Facts: this is French director Claire Denis’ first film in English (because the only languages spoken in Space are English and Russian). Phillip Seymour Hoffman was originally who the role of Monte was planned for and Patricia Arquette was supposed to play Doctor Dibs, but a scheduling conflict stood in the way of that and so Juliette Binoche played the role instead (and for me, I couldn’t imagine anyone better in this role than her).
Synonymes - there’s a running theme here (I like French movies). Synonymes is a beautiful, poetic and superbly cast French-Israeli film by Nadav Lapid about the struggle to assimilate into another country. Yoav (played by the amazing Tom Mercier) learns the French language by studying the dictionary and repeating words and phrases to himself as he wanders the streets of Paris, desperate to leave his Israeli heritage behind. He befriends a French couple after a bizarre encounter in the hilarious but almost dire opening scene (I won’t reveal any spoilers in telling you what the scene is). He rejects his own Hebrew language, refusing to speak it and immerses himself completely in French culture and lifestyle. The film has an inconsistency in shooting technique which causes a chaotic feeling when the stakes are high for Yoav. I could watch Quentin Dolmaire, who plays Emile, all day.
The script is beautifully written and the characters are so interesting and have brilliant little quirks but due to the nuanced performances, they make you feel like you know them and you’re a fly on the wall in their living room amongst a real world situation and conversations.
Fun facts: there’s a bit of homoerotic subtext as Yoav, Emile and Caroline navigate a bit of a love triangle. This film won the Golden Bear at the 69th Berlinale Film Festival.
Yesterday - Ahem. A world where The Beatles don’t exist? I mean, I’d die. Wouldn’t we all? I saw the trailer for this many, many months ago and it’s been my most anticipated film of the year. And bloody rightfully so!
This is a brilliant example of some amazing casting - ordinary, everyday characters. A bit kooky. Extremely funny. Look what happens when you have a lead character and you don’t put any parameters on the brief? He could’ve been anyone - this is anyone’s story. Jack, played by the amazing Himesh Patel (and his first film to boot), is a joy to watch on screen.
It didn’t feel like a rom-com. The shot on the beach with 6,000 extras singing and dancing to Help! is just epic. It is littered with Beatles references including wardrobe choices that nod to iconic moments in the band’s history.
I’m not entirely convinced about Ed Sheerin’s acting abilities. But hey, he had some comedic timing which is more than one could hope for.
School’s Out - An English substitute takes over a gifted and talented class after the suicide of their previous teacher. As more secrets are revealed, the teacher becomes obsessed with his students and convinced of their power and influence over their school - and perhaps even the death of their beloved teacher. Director Sebastien Marnier creates stifling claustrophobia, aided heavily by the menacing score and moody cinematography. There’s a healthy sense of the twisted reality that you look for in psychological thrillers, with a dash of teen nihilism and the kind of egotistical obsession that only sixteen year olds can convincingly muster. If you’re looking for a Hollywood ending with clear cut answers, you won’t find it here.
Eternity - It was wonderful to see Lawrence Johnston’s enchanting 1994 Australian documentary Eternity - about Arthur Stace who walked the streets of Sydney for decades writing the word ‘eternity’ in chalk everywhere - restored by the National Film and Sound Archive. Despite the clearly nineties documentary style, the power and passion of this story holds up extremely well. Eternity has become a Sydney icon, from being emblazoned across the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the 2000 New Years Eve, to the Eternity Playhouse. It is incredibly special to be reminded of the true meaning of the word and the man behind it in this touching documentary featuring interviews, archival footage and black and white recreations.
Slam - Partho Sen-Gupta's Slam - a drama about a female Muslim activist who goes missing in Sydney. What I loved most about this film was that the storytelling doesn’t go down the ‘who done it path’ and instead journeys into the impact of the disappearance on everyone else. It’s powerful Australian storytelling, with standout performances from Danielle Horvat and Rachael Blake.
Skin - The kid from Billy Elliot has come a long way, let me tell you. Jamie Bell carries the film exceptionally as a young man who decides to leave the white supremacist gang he joined as a teenager, with seriously dangerous results. It’s beautifully shot yet still uncomfortable and often confronting viewing. Australian Danielle Macdonald certainly steals the spotlight.
American Woman - A working class woman’s son goes missing and she is faced with the reality of raising her infant grandson alone. I loved the long timeline of this film and the extended character arch of the story. It’s certainly not packaged into a neat bow, yet feels like a more honest portrayal of the story of so many missing person cases, particularly what happens to those left behind. It’s one of Sienna Miller’s greatest performances and she handles a character that has the potential to turn into a caricature with credibility and nuance.
I Am No Bird - a heart warming documentary that follows four brides from around the world as they prepare for their wedding days. Director Em Baker has a strong aesthetic eye as she draws together observational documentary, Super 8, narration and animation to tell the story of the power of love and why the heck anyone would want to get married these days.
And that’s a wrap on this year’s festival! What did you see? Tell us about your experience in the comments.
*please note: all images sourced from IMDb or Sydney Film Festival websites.