Tag Archives: Sydney Film Festival


THE HEART DANCES is an intimate look at behind the scenes of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of The Piano –inspired by Jane Campion’s 1993 film . Originally a one act ballet, (performed by a German company in 2015 ) in 2018 the Royal New Zealand Ballet commissioned Czech choreographer Jirí and his twin brother production designer Otto Bubenicek and invited them to Wellington in order to extend the work to be full length with just one month to prepare .

Directed by Rebecca Tansley the film looks at the lead up to the work , all the intensive production and rehearsals, auditions and casting selection as well as wardrobe and sound etc all documented from audition to opening night.  A dominant visual theme at the beginning is hanging pointe shoes with dangling ribbons.

What we see is a clash of cultures and misunderstandings -it soon becomes clear to the New Zealanders that the Bubeniceks had more or less not really grasped the deeper layers of the film; that as well as being a love story, it was also a fable of colonisation. It became imperative to teach the twin brothers that the Māori in The Piano are not just there to add colour to the scenery and soundtrack, but are an integral part of the narrative and must be accurately portrayed. Continue reading THE HEART DANCES



THE WHITE CROW is Russian slang for a person who is “unusual” and not like the others. It is a double-edged term used both for someone of exceptional ability and for an outsider who doesn’t fit in anywhere .

Screening as part of the Sydney Film Festival ,beautifully, elegantly photographed this film tells the story of the young Rudolf Nureyev from his birth on a train to his dramatic defection in Paris in 1961. It is directed by Ralph Fiennes (his third film as director) who also in the film plays Nureyev’s teacher and mentor Alexander Pushkin. Julie Kavanagh’s biography of Nureyev was adapted for the screen by David Hare. It is mostly in English but there are sequences in Russian and French with English surtitles. There are some exquisite shots of Paris. Continue reading THE WHITE CROW : A TERRIFIC FILM FOR DANCE LOVERS


Sam Neill & Hugo Weaving
Sydney Film Festival 2016 Opening Night
The State Theatre, Market St, Sydney
Wednesday 8th June, 2016
Photographer: Belinda Rolland © 2016

Filmmakers across Australia and around the world have just weeks to finalise their submissions for the 66th Sydney Film Festival (5 – 16 June 2019).

Each year, the Sydney Film Festival presents a diverse slate of films from Australia and around the world. In 2018, over 330 films from 66 countries were screened to an audience of 170,000.

Don’t miss your chance to be part of the 2019 Sydney Film Festival. Entries are open to features, documentaries and short films (under 40 minutes). Get to it!

Submissions for the Festival are being accepted through FilmFestivalLife. Closing dates are: 31 January 2019 for international productions, 28 February 2019 for Australian productions, Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films, and Documentary Australia Foundation Award.

The 2019 season will mark the 49th year of the Festival’s Australian short film competition, making it the oldest short film competition in Australia. Since 1970, the competition has served as a launch pad for emerging Australian film talent, spring-boarding countless directors, producers and actors towards international success.

Past winners include film luminaries from across Australia’s creative landscape, such as directors Gillian Armstrong, Jane Campion, George Miller, Phillip Noyce, Rolf de Heer and Alex Proyas; cinematographers like Don McAlpine and Dean Semler; and actors such as Bryan Brown and David Wenham.  


Featured image: THE BREADWINNER

SCREEN DAY OUT is Sydney Film Festival’s secondary education program.  For 2018 the program is presenting Australian premiere features and documentaries in three cinemas across Sydney – Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace Cremorne, Randwick’s Ritz Cinema and Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre – between Thursday 7 and Tuesday 19 June 2018.

Also, with the support of ATOM (Australian Teachers of Media) the Festival has launched a competition for aspiring film writers, celebrating insightful film criticism in memory of film writer and former SFF director Sylvia Lawson.

Students are encouraged to submit a review of one of the Screen Day Out films to win 12 double film passes courtesy of Event Cinemas and a Flexipass 10 for the 66th Sydney Film Festival. Continue reading STUDENT CRITIC COMPETITION FOR SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL 2018


This image: rom Australian director Jason Raftopoulos, West of Sunshine
Featured Image: Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist.
British designer Vivienne Westwood acknowledges the public at the end of Spring/Summer 2008 ready-to-wear collection show in Paris, 01 October 2007. PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images

The 65th Sydney Film Festival today announced a sneak peek of this year’s essential viewing: 26 new films to be featured in this year’s 6-17 June event, as well as a new Festival location: HOYTS Entertainment Quarter.

The announcement is in advance of the full program launch on Wednesday 9 May. Continue reading TEASER FILMS ANNOUNCED FOR SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL


Nashen Moodley, Emily Avila, Goran Stolevski, Lara Kose, Thomas Baricevic, Vin Naidoo
Lexus ; Sydney Film Festival Short Film Fellowship Announcement.
Photo: Belinda Rolland                                                                                                                                            Banner Image: Lexus Aus Short Film Fellowship – 2016 FELLOWS

Sydney Film Festival and Lexus Australia are encouraging all up and coming Australian filmmakers to enter the Lexus Australia Short Film Fellowship through Sydney Film Festival, with submissions accepted from 4 December 2017 until 29 January 2018.

The Fellowship is the largest cash prize for short film in Australia, offering $50,000 each to four filmmakers to produce their next short film. Continue reading LEXUS AUSTRALIA SHORT FILM FELLOWSHIP


UNA follows a young woman’s journey to reclaim her past. Fifteen years earlier,  when she was a minor, Una ran away with an older man, Ray, a crime for which he was arrested and imprisoned.

When she comes across a photo of him in a trade magazine, Una tracks him down and turns up at his workplace. Her abrupt arrival threatens to destroy Ray’s new life and derail her stability. Unspoken secrets and buried memories surface as Una and Ray sift through the wreckage of the past.

Their confrontation raises unanswered questions and unresolved longings. It will shake them both to the core. UNA gazes into the heart of a devastating form of love and asks if redemption is possible.

The film is  an adaptation of Scottish playwright David Harrower’s celebrated, Olivier Award-winning play Blackbird.

Ex-pat Australian director Benedict Andrews is the helmer and Ben Mendelsohn is in the cast playing Ray. Academy Award nominated actress Rooney Mara plays Una.                        Continue reading 10 DOUBLE PASSES TO PREVIEW SCREENING OF ‘UNA’ @ PALACE NORTON STREET


Sydney Film Festival Number 63 has come and gone again for another year. The Festival attracted many celebrities. These are some of my favourite pics.

Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson
Grainnie Humphreys, Simo Field, Robert Connolly _ SFF Jurors
Grainnie Humphreys, Simon Field, Robert Connolly- panelists on the Sydney Film Festival main jury
Judy Davis
Judy Davis
Margaret Pomeranz & son Joshua
Margaret Pomeranz & son Joshua
Ursula Yovich
Ursula Yovich
Ewen Leslie and partner
Jack and Billy Thompson
Jack and Billy Thompson
David Gulpilil
David Gulpilil
David Stratton
David Stratton
Lord Mayor Of Sydney Clover Moore
Lord Mayor Of Sydney Clover Moore
Simon Baker & Bryan Brown
Leo & Anne Schofield
Josie Lacey & Walt Secord MP
Josie Lacey & Walt Secord MP
Damien Walshe-Howling and Hugo Weaving
Damien Walshe-Howling and Hugo Weaving
Dan MacPherson & Brooke Satchwell
Helen and Michael Caton
Helen and Michael Caton
Gillian Armstrong & Bruce Pleffer
Alex Greewich MP
Alex Greewich MP
Tasma Walton
Tasma Walton
John Jarrett
John Jarrett


Lisa McCune and Alan Duke on the set of the new Josh Lawson movie,  THE LITTLE DEATH
Lisa McCune and Alan Duke on the set of the new Josh Lawson movie, THE LITTLE DEATH

With his new film  THE LITTLE DEATH,  Josh Lawson has written and directed a very funny film. Various stories relating to the sex lives and fantasies of a group of friends and neighbours are hilariously examined.

The film opened at the Sydney Film Festival and the audience was laughing from the opening scene. It was difficult to hear all the dialogue during the phone sex scene (featuring Erin James and TJ Power) because of the waves of laughter resounding through the cinema.

THE LITTLE DEATH opens with a scene about rape fantasy; a topic that is fraught with danger and in the wrong hands could be destructive and traumatic. However, Josh Lawson handles the situation well with humour and sensibly avoids the potential hazards of this subject.

Other fantasies explored include:-  being aroused by someone crying and the tragic and comic depths someone will descend into to make their partner cry, being turned on by inherently funny role-play which happens to turn into an obsession, and being aroused by the sight of a sleeping partner. These fantasies make for some comical set pieces. Even though the film’s subject is about very intimate feelings and subjects, the characters tend to get themselves into complicated and ridiculous situations through their failure to have open and intimate conversations. This is incidental, really, as the film is lots of fun.

There are consistently strong performances from a talented cast that includes Josh Lawson, Bojana Novakovic, Damon Herriman, Patrick Brammall, Lisa McCune, Erin James, Kim Gyngell, TJ Power, Kate Box, Kate Mulvany, Alan Dukes, Genevieve Hegney, Zoe Carides, Ben Lawson, Tasneem Roc, Paul Gleeson, Lachy Hulme and Russell Dykstra.

THE LITTLE DEATH should be released later this year. I thoroughly recommend it.



In the opening scene Eleanor, in a fine performance by Jessica Chastain, attempts suicide by jumping off a bridge. The attempt is unsuccessful and she is pulled out of the water and taken to hospital.

The film then follows two threads. It examines the events leading up to her suicide attempt and simultaneously how Eleanor’s family and friends respond to her obvious fragility. We are taken along on Eleanor’s journey of suffering but it is a fairly pragmatic journey. She attempts various techniques to regain and restore her life, and more deeply to question what is a way to live a life and how does one know. This is not a self indulgent tale of woe instead it is an intelligent and entertaining view of living.



Love found and then lost in BECOMING TRAVIATA
Love found and then lost in BECOMING TRAVIATA

This superb, enthralling film will have opera and theatre people agog. One of the many films of this year’s Sydney Film Festival it came under their ‘Sounds on Screen’ section. It is a fascinating insight, a unique documentary behind the scenes of an opera production- in this case LA TRAVIATA at the Aix En Provence festival of 2011, directed by Jean-François Sivadier .

Based on Alexandre Dumas’ play LA DAME AUX CAMELIAS, the Opera is a standard in the repertoire of almost every Opera Company and the protagonist, Violetta, is regarded as a major test piece of a soprano’s career.

For those unfamiliar with it, the plot of  LA TRAVIATA is briefly as follows, – Violetta, a top Parisian courtesan, finds her true love and a chance of redemption with a young man, Alfredo, but then is forced to give all that up when the young man’s father pressures her to sacrifice her love for the happiness of his family , saving Alfredo’s sister from scandal. From wild parties to pure love to a lonely death from consumption, LA TRAVIATA is about a woman’s life, intensely lived, followed by her heroic sacrifice .

Some would nitpick that film director Béziat does not give us a brief summary of the plot as above of the opera beforehand, rather he just assumes we are  opera lovers  familiar with it and he jumps straight in .Others would carp that there is no interview with Dessay and her thoughts about playing Violetta. Instead, we have a scene with a rehearsal pianist enthusiastically analysing the drama in Verdi’s music (for example when Violetta tries to steel herself to break up with Alfredo and how this is shown in the music). We also see a scene where Dessay and Sivadier analyse a single phrase – ‘E Strano’ (‘how strange’) .

Instead BECOMING TRAVIATA concentrates on Verdi’s glorious music and the fascinating intensive rehearsal process.  In the film directed by Philippe Béziat we follow renowned soprano Natalie Dessay joining forces with innovative opera and theatre director Jean-François Sivadier in their challenging, risk taking production. Orchestrally, it features the excellent London Symphony Orchestra who play Verdi’s tumultuous, passionate music gloriously. The camera work is superb with occasional tremendous use of close up.  I loved the lingering over the messy paint studio, and the shocking transformation of Dessay to a white faced very ill Violetta towards the end.

We see tech rehearsals and planning, huge (sometimes confused) chorus and also the more intimate individual rehearsals for the leads (Alfredo and Violetta especially) . Sivadier, always energetic and full of ideas, reminds Dessay that VIoletta can be in fact as heavy and demanding a role as HAMLET or Nina in Chekov’s THE SEAGULL. There are also Ophelia like references.

Director Beziat attempts to document the ‘Sivadier method’. Yes there are wonderful close ups but Sivadier’s  approach discards ‘traditional’ hoary choreography , old fashioned crinolines and a huge feature chandelier for a far more ‘Expresionistic’ almost Tanztheater approach seeking to completely emotionally involve the audience. We see the cast refine their movements, characters, articulation and gestures and how Sivadier has developed a tremendous rapport with his cast during the challenging but exciting rehearsals.

Diva Natalie Dessay is amazing and gives her all. Her ‘Sempre Libre’ is amazing in Act 1 and the shattering finale is heartbreaking. We also see her rehearse Violetta’s collapse at the end . Terribly handsome tenor Charles Castronovo (Alfredo) is magnificent and sings divinely. His solo arias ‘ De’ miei bollenti spiriti / Il giovanile ardore ‘ are wonderful and the duets exceptional. And there is the catchy well known Brindisi drinking song in Act 1 ‘Libiamo ne’ lieti calici . Alfredo’s father Giorgio Germont is marvellously played by rumbling bass – baritone Ludovic Tézier .His ‘ Pura siccome un angelo’ from Act 2 is tremendous .

Various shots of the production are interwoven with actual performance combined to create a fascinating, enthralling film. Bravo !

The complete production of this version of LA TRAVIATA was filmed and is available separately on DVD.

BECOMING TRAVIATA was part of the Sydney film Festival screening 13 and 15 June.  Running time  was 113 minutes. The documentary was screened in French with English subtitles.




If ever there was a film which produced mixed feelings, it is MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN, the film adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s prize- winning novel of the same name.

At its core this is a tried and true theme of babies, both boys, born at the same time at the same hospital, being swapped, the film focusing on the life of the child born of poor circumstances who is then brought up by an affluent family, a life meant for the other child. What complicates this theme and both dilutes and enriches it, is that the births of the babies occur at the very moment [at midnight] of the declaration of independence of India and Pakistan, and the momentous later events in the histories of these countries are interspersed with the later events in the lives of the two children.

In addition, throughout the film, and central to it, is magic, in the form of the ability of the main character to conjure up, at will, other children born when he was [hence the film’s title],who all have “powers”, including in the case of one, the power to make people invisible.

Bearing in mind the film lasts about two and a half hours, the inevitable result of this exotic mix is,unfortunately, a film-goer’s confusion and a lack of involvement with the characters.

Nevertheless it must be said that the acting is superb, the concept is epic, the colour and vitality of life in the subcontinent is perfectly captured, and there are a number of truly memorable moments in the film.

Perhaps the best way of summing up the film is this: for its entire length it holds your interest and it is enjoyable to watch, but, at its end, you are left wondering why that was so.

MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN is screening as part of this year’s Sydney Film Festival.