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:: Spotlight :: 2009 Sydney Film Festival

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

The Sydney Film Festival (SFF) recently announced the first four films that have been selected for the SFF Official Competition and revealed a glimpse of the 2009 program, inviting audiences to start creating their own personal festival experience. The Sydney Film Festival runs from Wednesday, June 3 to Sunday, June 14, 2009.

2009 Official Competition
Last year, the festival introduced an Official Competition featuring twelve films selected for their ‘audacious, courageous and cutting-edge’ qualities. In 2009 the Sydney Film Prize of $60,000 AUD – the highest cash award for film in Australia – will again be presented for ‘new directions in film’. As previously announced, Director Rolf de Heer (Ten Canoes, The Tracker, Bad Boy Bubby) will serve as Jury President and will be joined by four other high-profile jurors in June.

The four Official Competition films revealed, all screening in Australia for the very first time, are strong indicators of the calibre and diversity of this year’s line-up:

•Coraline (Henry Selick, USA) – The director of The Nightmare Before Christmas creates an extraordinary gothic fairytale world in the first stop-motion feature shot in stereoscopic 3D, based on Neil Gamain’s beloved novel and featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French;

•Disgrace (Steve Jacobs, Australia) – This haunting adaptation of the bestselling novel by Nobel Prize-winning author JM Coetzee features a masterful performance from John Malkovich and is set in South Africa’s Eastern Cape;

•Louise-Michel (Gustave de Kervern and Benoît Delépine, France) – From the creators of cult hit Aaltra (2004) comes a pitch black comedy about job-loss, vengeance and inept assassins set against the economic downtown in Europe;

•The Maid (Sebastian Silva, Chile) fresh from its award-winning success at the Sundance Film Festival comes this intricate comedy/drama about a long serving (and suffering) household maid who becomes vengeful towards the wealthy family for whom she works.

Festival Director Clare Stewart said, “Last year the introduction of the Official Competition provided a glamorous and stimulating focus for the festival, and this year we will be building on its success with a 12-day event that condenses and intensifies the festival experience.”

This year, audiences will be invited to choose their perfect program of films, by picking and choosing according to the experience they are looking for.

FIRE ME UP – films that get the adrenalin pumping or heat up debate include: action maestro John Woo’s historical Chinese epic Red Cliff starring Asia heartthrobs Tony Leung (In the Mood for Love) and Takeshi Kaneshiro (House of Flying Daggers) and the upbeat doco No Impact Man in which author Colin Beavan and his family make the decision to live for a year with zero effect on the environment (eliminating cars, non-local food and television just to start with!).

TAKE ME ON A JOURNEY – films that transport you or take your emotions elsewhere include: the splendid family animation Brendan and the Secret of the Kells which follows the magical story of a boy monk and his efforts to save the Celtic world’s greatest treasure and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s award-winning Still Walking chronicling the 24-hour reunion of a dysfunctional Japanese family.

MAKE ME LAUGH – films that will crack your sides or make you chuckle include: hilarious political spoof In the Loop which does for Downing Street and the White House what The Hollowmen did for Canberra and charming animated family comedy Sunshine Barry and the Disco Worms about a worm at the bottom of the compost heap who is wriggling his way to the top.

GIVE ME A KISS – films to romance you or about love’s complexities include: Bluebeard Catherine Breillat’s (Romance) daring take on the traditional fairytale and Berlinale award-winner Everyone Else about a couple whose perfect amorous bliss belies an underlying, more destructive tension.

FREAK ME OUT – films that will bend your mind or chill your bones include: Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool in which a small Canadian town is infected by a mysterious virus and Paranormal Activity a truly spine tingling horror that will have you checking under the bed for weeks afterwards!

The full program for the 56th Sydney Film Festival will be announced on Wednesday, May 13, 2009.

For more information, visit

www.sff.org.au