by Rowena Carter
The 59th Sydney Film Festival provided the perfect platform for some winter warming cinema action and this year did not disappoint. The festival’s opening film (directed by Walter Salles who gave us The Motorcycle Diaries) offered a faithful adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s classic novel On the Road, as a raw depiction of the ultimate search for meaning and of self-realisation after the Second World War, in the USA. With strong peformances by Kristen Stewart, Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund, its only fault was confining itself to the plot, rather than playing up the vulnerabilities and intentions of each unique character, which would have evoked a more sentimental and intense cinematic experience.
There was some confusion and laughter as I experienced the weird and wonderful The Warped Forrest, dreamt up by Japanese cult figure Shunichiro Miki (Funky Forest: The First Contact). As always, with the cultural diversity at SFF, I gained some political insight from Israel’s Policeman by writer-turned-filmmaker Nadav Lapid, and Hungary’s Just the Wind by award-winning director Bence Fliegauf.
Some local films didn’t exhilarate nor disappoint, but the highlights were from across the seas with a radical adaptation of Emily Brontë’s classic novel Wuthering Heights by Andrea Arnold, who won prizes at Cannes for her features Red Road (SFF 2007) and Fish Tank. Also, US sci-fi comedy Safety Not Guaranteed was an absolute highlight…hilarious.and entertaining from start to finish, it is exactly what independent films should be, yet rarely are… simple, smooth and effortless, with every moment being either funny or pushing the story forward, or even both!
157 films from 51 countries featured, including 17 world premieres (9 features, 8 shorts) and 112 Australian premieres. But this year, the festival boasted more than just films, with the introduction of the Festival Hub Bar @ Lower Town Hall, which provided the perfect setting for some fantastic talks, Q&A’s, and musical performances.
A fantastic event which is getting better each year, and with venues as lush as the State Theatre, Australian film fanatics should cherish the Sydney film festival and all of the the cultural influences it brings to our faraway island… I for one will be eagerly anticipating next year’s program…The big 60…Bring it on!