Sydney Film Festival 2011 – Preview

Meek's Cutoff posterNow that the Australian festival season is well underway, with at least one major festival (the Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival) already out of the way, we are beginning to look forward to the next big competition festival. The next one on the calendar is, of course, the Sydney Film Festival, now in its 58th year and in competition since 2008. Yesterday, the SFF released a preview of 23 films from its forthcoming 2011 lineup.

Departing from their dog theme that has been sniffing around the festival for the last two years, the SFF theme this year appears to involve a person in yellow spandex crushed by a cube bearing their logo. It’s all good as long as the films are quality, right? The films are, in fact, very alright. Fantastic in fact.

The programs this year are split up into eight categories: Official Competition, Fire Me up, Take Me on a Journey, Make Me Laugh, Love Me, Freak Me Out, Push Me to the Edge and the environmentally friendly Green Cinema. Films announced so far include:

  • All About Love (De Xian Chao Fan) – Dir: Ann Hui (Hong Kong) (Australian Premiere)
  • Armadillo – Dir: Janus Metz (Denmark)
  • Attenberg – Dir: Athina Rachel Tsangari (Greece) (Australian Premiere)
  • Black Venus – Dir: Abdellatif Kechiche (France) (Australian Premiere)
  • Cool It – Dir: Ondi Timoner (US) (Australian Premiere)
  • Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (Tropa de Elite 2: O Inimigo Agora é Outro) – Dir: José Padilha (Brazil)
  • Even the Rain (También la Lluvia) – Dir: Iciar Bollain (Spain, France, Mexico)
  • The Future – Dir: Miranda July (US) (Australian Premiere)
  • The Guard – Dir: John Michael McDonagh (Ireland) (Australian Premiere)
  • Happy Happy (Sykt Lykkelig) – Dir: Anne Sewitsky (Norway) (Australian Premiere)
  • How to Start Your Own Country – Dir: Jody Shapiro (Canada) (Australian Premiere)
  • Life in A Day – Dir: Kevin Macdonald, YouTube contributors (UK)
  • Meek’s Cutoff – Dir: Kelly Reichardt (US)
  • Mutant Girls Squad (Sentô shôjo: Chi no tekkamen densetsu) – Dir: Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Tak Sakaguchi (Japan) (Australian Premiere)
  • Norwegian Wood (Noruwei no mori) – Dir: Tran Ahn Hung (Japan) (Australian Premiere)
  • Project Nim – Dir: James Marsh (UK) (Australian Premiere)
  • Senna – Dir: Asif Kapadia (UK)
  • Three (Drei) – Dir: Tom Twyker (Germany) (Australian Premiere)
  • The Troll Hunter (Trolljegeren) – Dir: André Øvredal (Norway)
  • Tucker and Dave Versus Evil – Dir: Eli Craig, Morgan Jurgenson (Canada) (Australian Premiere)
  • Tyrannosaur – Dir: Paddy Considine (UK) (Australian Premiere)
  • Win Win – Dir: Tom McCarthy (US) (Australian Premiere)
  • Windfall – Dir: Laura Israel (US) (Australian Premiere)

Tyrannosaur

What we’re looking forward to

As regular readers will know, we love lists and the chance to talk about the movies that have got us excited enough to post big pictures of them on our site. With no less than 16 Australian premieres already announced, this is undoubtedly the highlight of the Sydney film calendar, and continues to solidify the SFF’s reputation as one of the premiere festivals in the country.

Tyrannosaur (2011, Paddy Considine, UK): Fresh from its Best Director victory at Sundance, this is definitely one the entire editorial staff at The Reel Bits (both of us) is looking forward to. Actor Paddy Considine (Le Donk and Scor-zay-zee, The Bourne Ultimatum) makes his feature directorial debut, expanding his BAFTA-winning short film Dog Altogether. Featuring Peter Mullan (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1) and Olivia Colman (TV’s Peep Show), this Australian premiere launches a full four months before the UK release date of 14 October 2011 and makes this an instant “must see”.

Norwegian Wood (2010, Tran Ahn Hung, Japan): Based on the novel by the award-winning Japanese writer Haruki Murikami, Vietnamese director Tran Ahn Hung (perhaps best known for Cyclo), uses stars Rinko Kikuchi (The Brothers Bloom) and Kenichi Matsuyama (Kamui). Winner of Best Cinematography at the 2011 (5th) Asian Film Awards, this is another Australian premiere that is not to be missed. Lovers of Japanese cinema, who can’t wait until November/December’s Japanese Film Festival,  will also be pleased that SFF is bringing the schlock with Mutant Girls Squad (2010, Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Tak Sakaguchi, Japan) from a team that has collective brought us (or been involved in) RoboGeisha, Tokyo Gore Police, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl and Sion Sono’s Love Exposure. Speaking of which, we’ve got our fingers crossed for Sono’s Cold Fish appearing on the festival line-up.

Norwegian Wood

The Guard (2011, John Michael McDonagh, Ireland): Another directorial debut fresh from Sundance, this time from screenwriter John Michael McDonagh (Ned Kelly). This comedy-thriller has the unlikely pairing of Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1) and Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2) as a mismatched pair of investigators out to smash an international drug ring. One again, this one is so fresh that it still has that new movie smell, and offers a chance for Sydneysiders to turn the tables on those slow international release dates.

Meek’s Cutoff (2010, Kelly Reichardt, US): Following the successful of Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy, the director reunites with star Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) to explore the hardships of the Oregon Trail as some pioneers make their way west in 1845. It’s no secret that we here at The Reel Bits love our westerns, and this unique view of the Old West – told from the point of view of  women, who also include Shirley Henderson and Zoe Kazan (It’s Complicated) and the ubiquitous Shirley Henderson (Life During Wartime) – will undoubtedly please genre fans and lovers of multi-layered cinema.

Win Win (2011, Tom McCarthy, US) – Proving that there’s no such thing as too many Australian premieres, actor-turned-director Tom McCarthy (recently seen in Little Fockers, but more than making up for it with phenomenal directorial efforts The Station Agent and The Visitor) brings us his third feature as director. Shifting gears into comedy mode, McCarthy brings seasoned actors Paul Giamatti (Barney’s Version), Amy Ryan (TV’s The Office (US)), Jeffrey Tambor (TV’s Arrested Development) and Burt Young (New York, I Love You) for yet another film to make its debut at Sundance this year.

We could go on all day, and we haven’t even seen the final program yet. We expect to see the full line-up next month.

Meek's Cutoff

The Sydney Film Festival runs from 8 – 19 June 2011 at various venues across the Sydney CBD.

The Reel Bits is the cinema arm of DVD Bits. DVD Bits can be found on Twitter@DVDBits and The Reel Bits @The_ReelBits. DVD Bits is athttp://www.dvdbits.com.