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AACTA Film Fest | James Jennings' Top Picks

Article by Empire Magazine Editor James Jennings.


Stephen McCallum's impressive feature debut as director brings Matt Nable’s Macbeth-inspired screenplay to bloody, brutal life as power struggles cause an outlaw motorcycle gang to violently dissolve from within. As menacing gang leader Knuck, Nable heads up a murderer’s row of Australian and New Zealand acting talent including Ryan CorrAbbey LeeJosh McConvilleSimone Kessell and Aaron Pedersen, their considerable combined talents adding up to deliver a down ‘n’ dirty jolt to the senses.


Clayton Jacobson’s second directorial feature is the midnight black to 2006 debut KENNY’s bright, sunny optimism. Starring Clayton and brother Shane Jacobson as diametrically opposed siblings planning a particularly grim crime to ensure they inherit their mother’s home, its humour becomes increasingly dark with each new wicked twist. A simple idea well executed, BROTHERS' NEST is a Coen Brothers-esque comedy of errors that masterfully ratchets up the tension as it progresses toward an intense climax that will leave your nerves rattled.


The debut feature from co-directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke is an apocalyptic outback thriller that manages the neat trick of putting a fresh spin on the zombie genre by delivering solid scares alongside heart-wrenching family drama. Martin Freeman is superb as a father running out of time to deliver his infant daughter into safe hands, ably supported by 12-year-old Simone Landers in her acting debut as Thoomi. Ramke’s screenplay strikes an expert balance between horror and heartbreak, elevating CARGO above standard genre fare.


Functioning as both a gripping chase thriller and powerful inquiry into Indigenous identity, Warwick Thornton's second narrative feature is a modern Australian masterpiece. The cast are across-the-board flawless, from newcomers Natassia Gorey Furber and Hamilton Morris as an Indigenous couple on the run to veterans Sam Neill as a compassionate preacher and Bryan Brown’s vengeful sergeant. Thornton and Dylan River’s stunning cinematography captures the beauty and brutality of the outback in an unflinching film that challenges viewers to confront our country’s bloody past.


Based on Tim Winton’s acclaimed novel of the same name, Simon Baker's impressive feature directorial debut BREATH is a poetic, intimate coming-of-age drama that effortlessly captures the essence of 1970s Australian suburbia and a burgeoning surf culture. First-time actors Samson Coulter and Ben Spence impress as teenagers Pikelet and Loonie, holding their own against Baker’s charismatic surf guru Sando and Elizabeth Debicki’s damaged former pro-athlete Eva. Rick Rifici’s beautiful water cinematography is also a treat for ocean lovers and worth the price of admission alone.


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).


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