Wednesday 18 May 2016

Sydney Film Festival (2) - Veteran and well-travelled Cinephile Michael Campi offers his recommendations

This year’s Sydney Film Festival includes a grand number of Australian premieres.  The following titles were among the usual sizeable quota of films at the Hong Kong International Film Festival during March and April, 2016. Of the approximately sixty features I saw in Hong Kong heading from one shopping mall ‘plex to another and finally a few more titles on DVD screeners in the hospitality suite organised by the festival, the following are also appearing in Sydney FF in June and are well worth pursuing. I saw most of these and others were recommended by more than one trustworthy friend or another.

NEON BULL (Gabriel Mascaro, Brazil, 2015)
LIFE AFTER LIFE (Zhang Hanyi, China, 2015)
THARLO (Pema Tseden, Tibet, 2015)
LAND OF MINE (Martin Zandvliet, Denmark/Germany, 2015)
OYSTER FACTORY (Kazuhiro Soda, Japan/USA, 2015)
SUNSET SONG (Terence Davies, UK, 2015)
LETTERS FROM WAR (Ivo M. Ferreira, Portugal, 2016) 
DESDE ALLÁ (Lorenzo Vigas, Venezuela, 2015)

For various reasons I saw the last mentioned twice in a day in HK.  A debut feature, it knocked more established directors out of the running for the Golden Lion in Venice last year.  A ferocious portrait of a very evil man played with the usual intensity by Alfred Castro, the mainstay of most of Pablo Larrain's features and most recently one of the most malevolent disgraced priests in The Club (Pablo Larrain, Chile, 2015).  

UNDER THE SUN (Vitaly Mansky, Russia, Latvia, Germany, Czech Republic, North Korea, 2015)- the point of this documentary was lost in the version I saw because the many blocks of Russian inter titles were not translated at all.   Guess it's a companion piece of sorts to the Anna  Broinowski film Aim High in Creation of recent times.

THE TREASURE (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania, 2015) - this was in MIFF last year, pleasant enough but not in the major league of Romanian films of a few years ago.

MUSTANG (Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Turkey, 2015) - apparently good but I've missed it now in MIFF and HK.  

A FLICKERING TRUTH (Pietra Brettkelly, New Zealand, 2015) is a curious look at a pretty unsympathetic film archive director trying to sift through the post-Taliban ruins of an archive on the one hand and local helpers who want increasingly inflated handouts.  The holdings seem to be the former king having swimming pool parties or reels of South Indian style musicals which the archive is showing digitally to communities. Maybe no surprise the unsuspecting villagers are watching horizontally stretched images.
So pleased that STATELESS THINGS (Kim Kyungmook, South Korea, 2011) will get an airing.  This would appear to be the Oz premiere. It seems impossible to get indie Asian films shown in many places in Australia and the wider commercial South Korean film scene doesn't seem so interesting right now.  Tony may know otherwise.  HKIFF screened only four or five Korean films including an old print of an Im Kwon-Taek film.  Of course the commercial HK Asian FF takes some of the films at the end of the previous year, e.g. the latest Hong Sangsoo which is surprisingly not in Sydney but which did include the director’s previous movie HILL OF FREEDOM last year.
NB Last year some of the brightest SFF attractions were late arrivals from Cannes but these were, naturally enough, shown right at the end of the festival which, as you know, ends the day before we need to leave for Bologna. 

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