Sydney Film Festival – Day One

Sydney Film Festival – Day One. By Simon Miraudo.

“Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world.” It’s a tale as old as time itself, or at least since Journey released Don’t Stop Believing in 1981. Replace ‘girl’ with boy, ‘small town’ with Perth, and ‘world’ with Sydney, and you have an idea of where I’m going with this. I’ve left Western Australia for a week to sup the delights of New South Wales, and, more specifically, to cover the 2011 Sydney Film Festival. Of course, Perth is hardly Hicksville, but the fact it took me fifteen minutes to figure out how to turn the lights on in my hotel room didn’t make me feel less like Kenneth Parcell on his first night out of home (in my defence, you needed to stick a disc in a thingy next to the door – it was all very complex).

I began my first full day in Sydney by bustling over to the SFF Media Center to check out some screeners ahead of interviews over the coming days. I began with Miranda July’s funny, deeply affecting The Future, followed by Athina Tsangari’s clinical Attenberg (hyped as ‘this year’s Dogtooth’, but that’s not quite accurate) and finished with Jody Shapiro’s cheeky doco How To Start Your Own Country. (Reviews of all, including interviews with each of the directors, will come in the next few days.)

Although watching the screeners in the media centre was a necessity, I wouldn’t exactly consider it the optimum viewing scenario, particularly when there are people on either side watching their own private films; films often rife with graphic and very distracting sex scenes. But who am I to judge? Two of my three flicks also had their fair share of kinky lovemaking. At one point, it seemed every individual TV in the room featured beasts with two (and sometimes three) backs. It was a big ol’ multi-limbed sex-riot, and it was weird. I much prefer to watch simulated intercourse in a darkened room with 200-300 strangers. That, my friends, is cinema. I look forward to joining the proper SFF movie-going masses in the coming days.

The evening was spent staving off hypothermia on the red carpet, for the opening night’s premiere screening of Hanna. Interviews were conducted; fingers froze off. I wish I could share some greater, more electrifying insight into the glitz and glamour of a red carpet event, but from my side of the partition, it was anything but (even in my Don Draper-inspired suit). Frankly, standing in the cold while celebrities briskly walk past you – begging them to show pity and warm us with the rays of their charming banter – was not so much fun. I half expected David Hasselhoff to emerge and break down the wall between us using only the power of his music and his violent poetry. That being said, I did get to speak with Angus Sampson on the red carpet, which was pretty great. Also, I saw a mighty eagle swoop in and carry guest of honour Cate Blanchett – who was dressed like a glorious Viking Queen – into the screening. But it’s likely one – if not both – of those things were imagined in my near-hysterical state of frostiness. We’ll find out when the video goes up tomorrow!

UPDATE: Here it is…

(In the meantime, you can check out my reviews of upcoming festival features Sleeping Beauty and How to Die in Oregon).

Discuss: The festival has only begun, but which films have you managed to see so far? And which ones do you have your eye on? Please do share your festival experience with us (or, feel free to live vicariously through me).

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