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sydney film festival

The 2011 Sydney Film Festival concluded on Sunday with the awards ceremony and a screening of the drama Beginners starring Ewan Macgregor. Life in Movement won the FOXTEL Australian Documentary Prize and Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation won the Official Competition. Legendary director Chen Kaige served as the Jury President, and noted “we award a film [A Separation] which best demonstrates emotional power and resonance; a film which is audacious, cutting-edge, courageous and goes beyond the usual treatment of the subject matter” (SFF, 2011).

Other titles that ran in the Official Competition included:

• Amador – Director: Fernando León de Aranoa

• Attenberg – Director: Athina Rachel Tsangari

• Cairo 678 – Director: Mohamed Diab

• The Forgiveness of Blood – Director: Joshua Marston

• The Future – Director: Miranda July

• Norwegian Wood – Director: Tran Anh Hung

• Sleeping Beauty – Director: Julia Leigh

• Take Shelter – Director: Jeff Nichols

• Target – Director: Alexander Zeldovich

• Toomelah – Director: Ivan Sen

• The Tree of Life – Director: Terrence Malick

But the festival also screened over 140 films that were not selected for the competition, a few of which are reviewed below.

Cool It

Based on the book Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warmingby Bjorn Lomborg, this daring documentary attempts to argue that climate change is insignificant compared to other ongoing humanitarian crises that are occurring in the world. Lomborg believes that the actions to stop climate change will cost billions of dollars and may only impact the world’s temperature very slightly over thousands of years. The film primarily aims to disprove the ‘facts’ laid out in Al Gore’s Oscar winning film An Inconvenient Truth, and while it is clearly one-sided, it is bound to leave viewers asking more questions.

Old Cats

From Sebastián Silva and Pedro Peirano who also co-wrote The Maid which ran in the Official Competition in 2009, Old Cats is a black comedy/drama that follows the story of a married couple – Isadora who is struggling with dementia, and her younger and more together husband, Enrique who share a cluttered apartment with their two ‘old cats’. When Isadora’s coked-up daughter Rosario shows up with her girlfriend Hugo (both actresses also starred in The Maid), the tone of the film changes as Isadora is forced to deal with Rosario’s scheming plans. Themes of parental abandonment, guilt and the complex relationship between mother and daughter shine through this screenplay, which is grounded by a selection of four quirky, but impressive actors.

Corridor

From debut feature filmmakers Johan Lundborg and Johan Storm who recently graduated from Gothenburg University in Sweden, Corridor is a stylistically pleasing psychological thriller.  It follows the story of Frank – a conscientious medical student who lives alone, and seems to enjoy it. That is until he meets Lotte, a friendly brunette who moves into the apartment down the corridor, and up the stairs. Frank soon becomes convinced that the man she’s dating is dangerous, and his life begins to quickly unravel. While the ending is no surprise, the film is dominated by intimate camera work, effective acting and perfect set designs which highlight Frank’s entrapment and loss of self-control.

The Troll Hunter

The Troll Hunter is a Norwegian thriller/horror mockumentary that follows two students who set out to make a film about Hans, a supposed bear poacher. Early on however, they discover that he is in fact hunting trolls. While the film is shot in the over-exhausted Blair Witch Project style, this is a fascinating story that combines subtle moments of humour with beautiful shots of the harsh Scandinavian countryside. The CGI and special effects are also notable. News has recently surfaced that Hollywood has bought the rights to remake the film, so make sure you see this original first.

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