Aug 7, 2007

Brisbane International Film Festival - 2007

by Trevor Gensch

It's that time of year again for Brisbane cinema-goers - the time when sleep is a luxury, exercise limited to travelling from one venue to another for the next film, and it is nigh on impossible to purchase a black beret within the confines of the CBD. Yes film lovers, it's time again for the Brisbane International Film festival.

And your intrepid reporter will be there to cover it for you, the faithful reader. It's a great time of year for anyone who has more than a passing interest in film - a time when you become an instant expert on South American genre films, a veritable bible of information on the works of French surrealists, and a font of trivia on independent cinema.

Anne Demy-Geroe, Executive Director of the festival has the enviable job of crossing the globe to exotic locales tracking down the films deemed worthy of showing at BIFF. And this year Anne and her team have excelled themselves with a program that entertain, informs, educates and stimulates the brain matter. But more on the films on offer in a moment.

This year BIFF has again changed the locations it is using to screen the films. With the Museum of Modern Art now completed we have access to the theatres that have been built over at this newly minted Southbank attraction. And very impressive they are indeed, and will serve BIFF well over the 11 days of the festival. For whatever reason, the Southbank Cinemas have been quietly ditched in favour of these grander and more imposing locations, which in this reviewers opinion can only be an improvement. To round out the venues we have the grand old lady herself - Hoyts Regent in the Queen Street Mall and the Palace Centro cinemas at New Farm.

But what of the films themselves you ask? Just what is on at BIFF 2007?

Well, I am glad you asked. One of the biggest thrills for me when presented with the hundreds of films on offer at BIFF is deciding on which ones I want to see, and then figuring out how to squeeze them all into 11 days! I am literally giddy with excitement, as the sea of titles floats before my eyes in the sumptuous festival guide book.

One of the major parts of each year's festival is always the retrospectives. It gives audiences a chance to see a range of films from an auteur that they have never seen. A viewer always comes away from a retrospective with a greater understanding of film and a hightened appreciation of the diversity out there. This year is no different, with BIFF's retrospective looking at surrealist director Luis Bunuel, in particular his years in Mexico in 50s and 60s. If you only see one of his films make sure you check out the documentary A Mexican Bunuel and its accompanying film Simon of the Desert

I would like to share with you some of the movies that caught my eye when browsing through the catalogue. Of course these are only the tip of the iceberg in an incredibly packed program.

Why not try The Bet Collector? Jueteng is a betting game in the Philippines that is played by all walks of life - rich, old, young. It also has the distinction of being illegal. We follow Amelita as she trudges the streets of her neighbourhood collecting the bets, while at the same time avoiding the police. It's a simple yet charming film that I am sure will be a festival favourite.

If you like you films with a bit more grit, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days might be more to your liking. It's a story of illegal abortions set against the final days of the Soviet bloc. Director Cristian Mungiu has delivered a real, claustrophobic film that will leave many questions in the audiences minds.

One of my favourite films from BIFF a few years back was the delightful Hukkle, a film told with only a few lines of dialogue, instead conveying its message in visuals and sounds. Taxidermia is Director Gyorgy Paifi's follow-up to and the contrast could not be more striking. Sure to be one of the most remembered films of the festival, with its images of masturbation and morbid obesity, wrapped up in a visual film that plays like a twisted opera. Not for the squeamish!

DarkBlueAlmostBlack is an offering from Spain, about young Jorge, shackled by guilt to his disabled father, has finally finished his degree and yearns for a change. But of course it would be a drama without some obstacles to overcome, least of all his opportunistic brother. It's an ensemble cast, all deivery strong performances. This one is certainly on my list of must-sees.

Daratt is a tale of loyalty, revenge and a supreme step into adulthood. 16 year old Atim is asked by her grandfather to avenge the death of his son by travelling to the next village and shooting his murderer dead. But a strange bond develops between this ruthless killer and the boy - but is it enough to sway Atim's hand off the trigger?

To the Limit is a great film for sports enthusiasts, or just anyone who wants to see the limits of human endurance. It's a film about not climbing mountains - not to be the first, but to be the fastest. It promises to be a stunning insight into the human psyche, see the human form come as close to breaking point as pain competes with the mind in a never-ending battle for supremacy.

And that is only the tip of the iceberg for BIFF this year - check out their website if you want to know more.

Well, as you can see, there is certainly a lot to be going on with at this years BIFF. If you see me around the traps during the festival come up and say hi - I will be the one waving my media pass in people's faces and casually mentioning how many free films I get to see each year.

Keep an eye out during and after the festival for my film festival diaries where I will document the goings on during BIFF 2007.

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