BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2006 – PREVIEW
UNVEILING ISLAM IN BRISBANE
As tickets go on sale for this year’s Brisbane International Film Festival,
Andrew L. Urban previews the program, which is the biggest yet, with some 300
films on offer, and featuring a sidebar on women in Islamic cinema that is
festival director’s Anne Demy-Geroe’s favourite section.
Avoiding the predictable, Anne Demy-Geroe has programmed the 2006 Brisbane
International Film Festival (BIFF) to open with Robert Altman’s upbeat and
lively music-with-comedy (and festival favoured), The Prairie Home Companion –
and to close with the Palme d’Or winning Irish civil conflict drama from Ken
Loach, The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Most festivals would avoid the latter in
the closing slot, not because it isn’t worthy but because it’s such a serious
and sombre item to end on.
The decision signals how personal vision can drive festival programming and just
goes to show that even with three major city festivals in Australia, all between
June and August, there is room for such individual vision.
BIFF, the biggest edition so far with some 300 films in the program, also boasts
the world premiere of the Australian film 48 Shades. Based on the award winning
novel 48 Shades of Brown, the film 48 Shades tells the story of 16 year old
Daniel Bancroft who moves in with his 22 year old aunt, Jacq, and her flatmate,
Naomi, after his parents transfer to Geneva for a year. The film, set entirely
in Brisbane and shot over four weeks in August/September 2005, charts his
transition into the adult world with all its complications and confusions.
But for all the amazing diversity between opening and closing nights (more on
that later), the sidebar of the Festival that Demy-Geroe is most excited about
is Islam Unveiled: Women, Cinema and Islam in Turkey and Iran. She’s been
developing this regional palate for a while. “I’ve been going to the Fajr Film
Festival in Tehran for a number of years and following both their cinema and the
political climate, which has been extremely interesting,” she says.
“Although Turkey and Iran share a border and an Islamic heritage there’s both
similarity and marked differences culturally. The contrast between
representations of women and the climate in which female filmmakers work would
be relevant at any time, but of course takes on particular topicality now. It’s
a unique opportunity to see some very rare films. We also have quite a few
guests and I look forward to thought-provoking discussions in seminars and
films, and over coffee both for the guests and the audience,” says Demy-Geroe.
The credit for establishing the foundations of Iranian ‘new wave’ goes to a
woman: Forugh Farrokhzad, whose 22 minute documentary about a leper colony The
House is Black (1962) is acknowledged as the most important film to affect
contemporary Iranian cinema, and is part of the program, along with The Hidden
Half. In 2001 Tahmineh Milani was originally charged with defaming the Islamic
Revolution with The Hidden Half (2001) but was eventually allowed to release the
film. More recently, Bani-Etemad has directly challenged the male-dominated
value-system. In Gilaneh (2005), her portrait of a war veteran’s mother is
completely unlike the cardboard mothers of previous war films.
Notably included is Yol, winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1982, an elegant
and haunting critique of Turkey’s outdated socio-political attitudes.
In all, there are a dozen or so features in this important sidebar, plus a
selection of shorts that will screen in a single session (on Saturday, August
12, starting at 10am).
In the main program, Like Minds, Thank You for Smoking and 48 Shades have been
selected as Showcase films, while Heading South, United 93, No. 2 and A Simple
Curve will screen as Galas, a new category of films for the festival. Demy-Geroe,
said while Showcase screenings had been a feature of previous festivals, Galas
had been introduced this year to give prominence to films of particular note.
“Each and every film in this year’s festival is very special,” she said.
“However, there were a number of films that really stood out during the
selection process and I wanted to make sure festival patrons could easily
In the Showcase, Thank You for Smoking stands out as a highly entertaining
satire on how spin doctors make a living, in this case a spin doctor for the
tobacco lobby, played with great verve by Aaron Eckhart. By complete contrast,
United 93 in the Gala section brings all the drama of the hijacked flight that
crashed on September 11, 2001. A meticulously researched film, it uses some of
the actual air traffic staff who re-enact their roles, combined with actors who
physically match the passengers and crew who all perished in that act of
terrorism. It is harrowing viewing, but absolutely essential; as its English
director, Paul Greengrass says, it displays the utter pointlessness of all
politically driven violence.
These are random examples from the program, but they illustrate how a Festival
can provoke, challenge – and let’s hope satisfy its audiences.
The innovative Cine Sparks, the Australian film festival for young people, will
again run as part of the Festival for the second year. The three week programme
will feature more than 30 films suitable for 3 to 18 year olds. Screenings will
be held at South Bank Cinemas from Monday to Friday during school hours, with no
charge for school groups. Cine Sparks’ Education Officer, Derek Weeks, said the
programme offered more than just the chance for students to see a movie for
free. “Through Cine Sparks we aim to transform the cinema experience into
something interactive and engaging,” he said.
"great opportunities to develop literacy skills and
challenge the thinking of young people"
“The programme presents great opportunities to develop literacy skills and
challenge the thinking of young people. To this end, we provide educational
materials to assist teachers maximise the learning opportunities. Last year’s
event was an outstanding success with more than 7,000 young people participating
and lots of positive feedback from educators.”
This year’s programme includes Opal Dream, an Australian film starring Vince
Colosimo and Jacqueline McKenzie, which had its international premiere when it
opened the children’s programme of this year’s Berlin International Film
Festival; it tells how a little girl’s relationship with her imaginary friends
resonates throughout her opal mining town in the Australian outback. Enticing,
consistently engaging and natural performances from 10 year old children making
their on camera debut deserves an award in itself, and Peter Cattaneo does even
more than that with this lively and surprisingly dramatic adaptation of Ben
In all, BIFF 2006 offers a significant movie menu that would distinguish any
Published July 13, 2006
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The Hidden Half
Anne Demy Geroe
Brisbane International Film Festival 2006:
July 21 – August 13