In an increasingly crowded festival circuit in Australia, giving local audiences the chance to sample otherwise unseen films from around the world, there is a festival that is dedicated to giving unseen Australian films a screening. For the second year in a row, Sydney historic Randwick Ritz cinema is hosting the Australian Film Festival, a showcase of unreleased Australian features, short films, seminars, workshops and other fringe events, all in and around the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. Starting on March 2 and running through March 13, the event kicks off with a gala screening of Amanda Jane’s The Wedding Party, starring Josh Lawson, Isabel Lucas and Steve Bisley.
Sarah took at look at the The Wedding Party as party of the Brisbane International Film Festival in November last year. She said “As tends to be the case with offerings of the type, relationships are under the spotlight in The Wedding Party. Delving into the lives and loves of a clan of curious Melbourne characters, everyone is either in a relationship (with varying degrees of success), wanting to be in one, or making a mess getting out. At the centre is Steve (Lawson), a thirty-something battler deserving of the description “down on his luck”. His business is going bust, the banks are looking to repossess his home, and his romance with Jacqui (Morassi) has hit a flat spot. Enter Ana (Lucas), a Russian refugee with a money for matrimony proposal to help Steve with his woes. Taking the plunge against his better judgement, Steve’s quickie wedding plans are thwarted when his family discovers the impending nuptials, with the sudden surprise leading all and sundry to reassess their own romances. The resulting film comprises a small step in the right direction (thanks to a handful of genuinely funny lines) compared to the usual Aussie rom-coms, however unfortunately it presents nothing new”.
The Wedding Party has its New South Wales premiere on 2 March at the Randwick Ritz, complete with special guests and your chance to rub shoulders with the stars.
Week One continues with Ano Bisiesto (Leap Year), which may actually be shot and produced in Mexico, but was written and directed by Australia’s Michael Rowe. It also won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Best First Feature, showcasing the international success of Australian filmmakers. It screens on 3 March. Also screening that night is Michael Bond’s Passengers, set in Los Angeles and starring Cameron Daddo and Angie Miliken (Solo). The weekend of Week One kicks off on Friday night (as weekends tend to do), with Michael Henry’s Blame, a tale of the perfect murder going horribly wrong. It stars Sophie Lowe, who wowed audiences as the titular character in Beautiful Kate. On Saturday 5 March, the unlikely pairing of Yu-Hsiu Camille Chen’s dramatic Little Sparrows at the Ritz with perennial Pixar favourite Finding Nemo is the perfect way to end the weekend. The latter will screen at Coogee Beach at 8pm and is FREE, so get in early to secure your spot.
Sunday 6 March sees the start of Week Two of the Festival, kicking off with the supernatural thriller Needles, featuring a veritable ‘who’s who’ of Australian thesps: Jessica Marais (Packed to the Rafters), Tahyna Tozzi (Wolverine), Travis Fimmel (The Beast, The Valley), Ben Mendolsohn (Animal Kingdom) and John Jarratt (Wolf Creek). Monday 7th sees Joseph Sims’ Bad Behaviour, also withJohn Jarratt, Roger Ward and Jean Kittson. Australia’s latest superhero, Griff the Invisible, starring Ryan Kwanten (Red Hill and TV’s True Blood) as an office worker with interesting nocturnal hobbies.
Wednesday 8 March will see the Ritz host a Q & A with the legendary Jack Thompson for a special Popcorn Taxi screening of The Sum of Us, co-starring Russell Crowe. It all gets a bit Jucy at the Ritz the following night as Louise Alston (All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane) turns the ‘chick pic’ into a ‘womance’ in what was a surprise hit at the Toronto International Film Festival. One of the fan favourites of the Melbourne International Film Festival was Mark Hartley’s Machete Maidens Unleashed!, on Filipino genre films of the 1970s and 1980s. It finally comes to Sydney with a special Q & A from the director, who previously explored Australian exploitation (or ‘Ozploitation’) in the excellent Not Quite Hollywood. Another Q & A session will be for The Reef (11 March, Randwick Ritz) Andrew Traucki’s all-too-reel tale of survival in shark infested waters. This is not one to be missed!
The festival closes on a joyous note, with musical comedy A Heartbeat Away aiming to get your toes tapping on the closing night (12th March) of the Australia Film Festival. It will also feature a Q & A from star Roy Billing.
The Australian Film Festival runs from March 2 through 13, and also includes a selection of short films on the Sunday 13 at the Ritz. For more details see the Australian Film Festival website.