AACTA Film Fest | Celebrating Australia's Female Filmmakers
Article by Sydney Film Fest host Annie Parnell.
While women make up at least 50% of the population and are well-represented in areas of filmmaking, such as costume, hair and make up, script supervision and production, there’s still a long way to go for equal representation across the board, Australian films very much included in this.
Thankfully, the latest crop of AACTA entrants for the feature film categories have revealed exciting new talent in many areas and are contributing to the drive for gender parity in the screen industry. And there’s much to be celebrated, with some standout performances, excellence in craft and strong directorial achievement.
First-time feature director Alena Lodkina and her film STRANGE COLOURS had a world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and was one of only three films outside Italy (and the only Australian film in history) to be funded through the Venice Biennale College program. This film has trodden a brave path, exploring fragile family relationships that are like the rough stones dug up from the town the film is set in – only with perseverance is the shimmering opal treasure within revealed. It gives the audience an inside view to a remote part of Australia that isn’t filled with terrorised backpackers or tourists which feels like a novelty. With excellent performances from Kate Cheel (RIOT), Daniel P. Jones (HAIL)and Justin Courtin, this film marks a strong directorial debut for Lodkina, who is one to watch.
New voices showing their chops also include Queensland’s Mairi Cameron, director of THE SECOND, produced by Leanne Tonkes and Stephen Lance, the team behind the 2009 AFI Award-winning short animation DOG WITH AN ELECTRIC COLLAR. With Variety calling THE SECOND “a sexy and satisfying thriller” and the Gold Coast Film Festival, which hosted the Australian premiere of the film, giving it the Best Indie Feature Award, Cameron’s work shows that her earlier success in short film (MILK, PUSHBIKE) was justified. The film’s very talented female cast includes Rachael Blake (2001 AFI Award winner for Best Supporting Actor in LANTANA), Susie Porter (two-time AFI Award winner for EAST WEST 101 and CATERPILLAR WISH) as well as Susan Prior, who form the backbone to this thriller, alongside Vince Colosimo.
South Australian director Marion Pilowsky is also making her feature film debut at this year’s screenings, with THE FLIP SIDE, a romantic comedy starring British comedian, actor EDDIE IZZARD. Just a bit of ‘sex on legs’ for the actor, playing former love interest Jeff to Emily Taheny’s Ronnie - the first lead role in a feature film for this actor and comedienne. Audiences will be able to relate her character whose ball-juggling skills to keep her life on track go awry when Henry re-appears in her life.
In Stevie Cruz-Martin’s film PULSE, audiences are let into the world of a gay, disabled teenager who morphs into a beautiful woman for the sake of being loved. This is a fascinating story from writer/producer Daniel Monks, who also plays the lead role, that allows Cruz-Martin to cover a lot of ground, exploring a world all too rarely seen on our screens. Winner of the Busan Bank Award at the prestigious Busan Film Festival in late 2017, PULSE has garnered accolades near and far for this director who, like each of the other sole female directors with films in this year’s AACTA Film Fest, is giving the male directors a run for their money.
THE FIVE PROVOCATIONS from emerging director Angie Black, deals with four tales intertwining; again bringing queer stories to the screen with a crew that includes women in many of the key roles, as well as some terrific performances from the female driven cast. It plays alongside Donna McCrae’s LOST GULLY ROAD, the second feature from this Melbourne-based filmmaker who wrote, co-produced and directed the film. With actor Adele Perovic in the lead role of Lucy, it’s a film that is sinister and supernatural. Not one to be watched on your own in an isolated cabin in the forest. This is another film written, directed and produced by a female team, with producer Liz Baulch at the helm alongside Donna co-producing.
Jed Malone presents her debut feature BIRTHDAY ADJUSTMENT DISORDER, where a bunch of thirty-somethings gather for one purpose, only to realise that there is a deeper reason for them all to be there. Malone wrote, produced, directed and acted in the film, which is in black and white, a point of difference in this day and age. It’s a film about relationships and friendships that taps into the group’s fears and foibles, something audiences will again be able to relate to.
We couldn’t mention the female-directed films without talking about CARGO, the highly anticipated feature from directors Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling, which started life as a Tropfest short, garnering millions of views on YouTube and other platforms, before being chosen by Netflix as the first Australian film to invest in. Its appeal is helped by very fine lead performances from Martin Freeman (THE HOBBIT) and Simone Landers (GRACE BESIDE ME), ably supported by a tremendous cast including Natasha Wanganeen, Susie Porter, Caren Pistorius, Kris McQuade, Anthony Hayes and screen legend David Gulpilil. It’s a zombie film that isn’t about zombies but one that covers a wealth of ground from family bonds to environmental issues and exploitation of indigenous people in Australia. Producers Sam Jennings and Kristina Ceyton (THE BABADOOK) have brought a film to screen that provides very satisfying viewing.
Altogether, the films in competition for this year's AACTA Awards cover a very broad range of themes and topics continuing to reflect the diversity of Australia in terms of population, geography, ideology and history. These films inform and enrich our lives and It's wonderful to see so much Australian talent on display for the AACTA Film Fest.
The feature films in competition were screened in cinema in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane during September 2018 as part of AACTA Film Fest. The films will be available for members to watch online via AACTA TV until 11 October 2018.
For your complete guide to the feature films competing for a nomination for the 2018 AACTA Awards presented by Foxtel, download the Film Fest Guide here (6MB).