The Canberra International Film Festival kicked off on Wednesday. Usually leading up to a film fest I have seen nothing, but this is a little different. Thanks to my work on the Blue Mountains Film Festival and some other opportunities, I have seen a bunch of stuff, and there is a whole lot of things I have not caught yet that I am really looking forward to. So rather than a rambling preview, here is my countdown of the top 10 things (in vague order) to check out at this year’s festival. Click the hyperlinks to head to the official site to grab your tickets.
#10: The Spirit of ’45 – Ken Loach is one of the few truly legendary directors still working today, and his recent effort The Angel’s Share prove he still has it. Whilst The Spirit of ’45 is a rather more muted affair than that rambunctious film, it is still well worth your time. Brimming with stock footage and interesting talking heads from those involved, the film which focuses on the politics of post WWII Britain shines a light on a bit of history that has not really been told.
#9: Jazz I haven’t seen that I suspect is going to rock: Around the Block, Our Nixon, Blackfish, Short Term 12, A Hijacking, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Kill Your Darlings. Incendiary docos, indie darlings, much anticipated Indigenous drama and a Danish Captain Phillips are just some of the highlights that I am hoping to catch for the first time over the coming weeks.
#8: In Bob We Trust – Father Bob Maguire is a bit of an Aussie icon or at the very least a Melbourne one. The free thinking and free talking Catholic priest was controversially sacked a couple of years ago. This doco follows the tumultuous fight he had on his hands and reminds you once again why it seems utterly crazy that the Church would wish to distance themselves from such a genuine, good humoured and charitable advocate.
#7: In Bloom – This Georgian drama gives an insight into that society and especially its attitude toward women and the embracing of male bravado especially the way in which it is magnified by guns. Anchored by a couple of really good performances from youngsters Lika Babluani and Mariam Bokeria, In Bloom might not always be the easiest of viewing experiences, but it is a pretty satisfying.
#6: Body of Work – This is CIFF artistic director Lex Lindsay’s first year at the helm and it has to be said he has pulled off a bit of a coup in wrangling this. Harvey Weinstein will be in town for a number of events and screenings, sharing his incredible experience and filmography. The festivities will be capped by the Aussie premiere screening of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
#5: Blue Ruin – This is a lean, taut revenge style thriller coming out of the States. It looks phenomenal, does not skimp on the blood, slyly commentates on American gun culture and benefits from a performance from Macon Blair that is perfectly balanced in its intensity and vulnerability. This is screening as part of…
#4: Freaky Fridays at my beloved Arc Cinema… featuring Patrick!!! That’s right, the film I have spent the last couple of weeks whining about not being able to see because of rubbish distribution is playing at this year’s festival. It is a little strange for a post-release film to play in a festival such as this, but given it is not playing anywhere else, why not. The Freaky Fridays at Arc also include screenings of Magic Magic and John Dies at the End.
#3: Cutie and the Boxer – Ushio Shinohara is a famous Japanese contemporary artist who is a bit of a New York fixture. He is the boxer of the film’s title as he is well known for his ‘boxing paintings’, Cutie is his wife Noriko, an artist in her own right. Refreshingly, this is a doco that is not afraid of showing people as they really are. As much as it is a 40 year love story (and it definitely is) it is also a film about the subjugation of Cutie by the boxer and how she gave up her own dreams to allow him to fulfil his own.
#2: Child’s Pose – This critically lauded film won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale. You can see why too, this is a nuanced and very psychological film. … plays one hell of a mother in a really unsettling role. In fact unsettling is the best word to describe the film as a whole and it is probably unlike anything else you will see at this year’s fest.
#1: Broken Circle Breakdown – I will make this really simple for you. Broken Circle Breakdown is the best film I have seen this year. Actually, the best film I have seen this year or last year. I programmed it in the Blue Mountains Film Festival this year and it took out the Silver Yowie award for best feature. Combining the soul of bluegrass with all of life’s most powerful emotions in a mind bogglingly good and multilayered film, this is the unmissable experience of this year’s Festival.
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HHmmmmm that seems very interesting, will you be attending? Very exciting to meet harvey.
My highlights so far (with 24 screenings down, and two to go on the final day): OH BOY, ALL IS LOST, MY SWEET PEPPER LAND, GLORIA, SHORT TERM 12
Two lowlights: NIGHT TRAIN IT LISBON (I had suspected this filmwas not going to be much chop, but I got a free ticket. The movie was still too dull to justify my time, though), OUR NIXON (nothing really new to add to the Nixon story, and lazily put together, relying on the concept of “never before seen footage” to replace any actual skillful documentary making).
I was with you on THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN until the last 20 minutes. I just thought it pushed us too far (and that’s probably why I didn’t like the final shot).
BLUE RUIN: good film with presumably unknown actors, until the credits rolled and I saw “Eve Plumb” in the credits. Some old memory circuits kicked in, and I verified who it was via iPhone. I will leave you to do the same.
And (personal rant here, apologies) I hope the Weisntein fiesta dies in the arse. To charge people $100 (as compared to Melbourne charging a reasonable $30 to listen to John Landis, a man of immeasurably more talent and interest) just smacks of Canberra middle-class tax write-off, and not a people’s film festival.
Hi Travis. Thanks so much for your comment. 26 screenings is an epic effort. I shamefully only managed two – Patrick and Around the Block.
Bummer to hear the Nixon doco was a bit average. I have been tracking that film for a while so was hoping it would deliver.
Whilst I don’t share your views about the last 20 or so minutes of Broken Circle…, I can understand you feeling that way. I have heard other people make similar criticisms in the past.
Personal rants are always welcome. I must admit I had not even seen the prices for the Weinstein festivities. $100 is a big price to sell. Especially for someone who is not in front of the camera (and not a director). Weinstein is not a name that is going to attract a large amount of ‘casual’ filmgoers to an event like that. We will see I guess. I hope it succeeds. I think the concept is a good one and it would be interesting to see who they were able to bring on board in future.
Thanks Beer Movie (I feel that, since we’re both Arc aficionados, we should meet up sometime. Maybe we already have!)
Personally, over the Weinfest weekend, I will be seeing the greatest horror movie ever made, on the big screen, and then listening to Linda Blair, live and in person in Manuka, talking about the legacy of THE EXORCIST on her life. All for a very reasonable $30!
I have to re-adjust my CIFF figures to 25, after I walked out on CHILD’S POSE due to horribly headache-inducing shaky-cam. (I’m normally OK with it, but this was over-the-top, and came just after I had got over watching shaky-cam in NOTHING BAD WILL HAPPEN the night before.)
And I am glad to see that Arc have picked up PATRICK for a few extra screenings, as I was sad to miss out on that one.
Yeah for sure, would be keen to meet up. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will set something up. Am out of town a lot between now and Chrissy but we will sort something.
The Weinfest weekend came unstuck spectacularly in the end didn’t it. I was away that weekend, how was the Exorcist screening in the end? I have to say I thought that was really poorly marketed. Was part of Monsterfest yeah? I follow them on Facebook etc and never saw it mentioned anywhere.
Oh, and there was one more highlight, the last film I saw at CIFF – A TOUCH OF SIN.
What did you think of A Touch of Sin? I have seen that (not at CIFF) and was not a big fan. I have seen it getting mad critical affection recently though.