Sydney Film Festival – Day Two

Sydney Film Festival – Day Two. By Simon Miraudo.

I take no pleasure in telling you that I got lost on the way to a screening of Sykt Lykkelig’s Norwegian comedy Happy Happy. So lost, in fact, I actually missed out on seeing the film altogether. Set to begin 6pm at Event Cinemas, I left the hotel fifteen minutes before the flick’s scheduled start – for a trip my iPhone promised would take just five minutes – only to find myself at the wrong end of George St with no time to find my way back. I can hear you already: “this place is eating him alive”. Dejected, I treated myself to a cheeseburger and slunk back to my room. Two days in, and I still haven’t actually sat down in a cinema yet. I’ll attempt a dry run early tomorrow, so that I may right the wrongs of this doomed voyage. I shall not miss the Friday night screening of Martha Marcy May Marlene! I will not be bested by you, Sydney!

Of course, I didn’t just spend the second day of the 2011 Sydney Film Festival pity-eating a thing of French fries. The morning began with a trip to the SFF Media Centre for a private viewing of Joshua Marston’s The Forgiveness of Blood, an Albanian-language parable about a neighbourly feud that takes a murderous turn. The film avoids histrionics, and thoughtfully presents the audience with the “logic” of a blood debt. As the wife and children of a man responsible for a murder endures a self-imposed exile – out of respect for those they have wronged – they question their centuries’ old religion, and frustrated teenager Nik (intense newcomer Tristan Halilaj) decides to take actions that his on-the-lam father was too afraid to do. Think Susanne Bier’s In A Better World, but good.

The afternoon was spent interviewing Miranda July (writer, director and star of The Future) and Athina Tsangari (director of Attenberg; producer of Dogtooth). The chats took place in a hotel conference room, as is traditional; windowless, clockless cubes in which subjects are blinded by elaborate lighting set-ups, so that they never fully know what time it is, and become disoriented enough to not scramble out the door after hours of being asked ‘how they like Australia’ (they both like it fine, btw). July is a charming, petite woman, who noted that the accents of the Australians she’d met hadn’t sounded so Australian. I assured her we weren’t faking. At the conclusion of our conversation, I mentioned that her husband, Mike Mills, had scored the plum SFF Closing Night spot, where his film Beginners will make its Australian debut. She was surprised, and said she wasn’t even sure Mike knew that. She pulled out her phone, and in my head she texted her husband to tell him the good news, but more likely she had opened up the Navigation app to locate an air vent from which she could make her glorious escape.

Athina Tsangari veered between ‘totally welcoming’ and ‘somewhat reticent’; alternating almost question-to-question. I blame myself for the uncomfortable vibe, having gotten off on the wrong foot by awkwardly shaking her hand while she was in the middle of taking off her cardigan. I think she came round after I shared with her – at length, and for reasons I no longer remember – the virtues of Book Depository, that brilliant UK website that ships free worldwide. You are welcome, Ms Tsangari. You are welcome, everyone! (We’ll be posting these interviews on the Blog over the next few days, so stay tuned.)

Since I failed to hit the cinemas this evening, allow me to share with you some choice Tweets from those who did manage to catch a film today:

@meegslouise: “Really enjoyed the good mix of happy & sad in tonights @sydfilmfest film Happy Happy. That’s 2/2 films with penis sightings, oh Europe! #SFF

@Batrock “Attenberg: Deathly dull vignettes about an emotionally detached woman who dearly wants to pass her ennui off as quirkiness. #sydfilmfest

@atonaljosh “#TheGuard Was very funny, but it’s no In Bruges#sydfilmfest

@ianbarr  “CORRIDOR: Builds to a nice dialogue-free cat-and-mouse climax;, fatally un-atmospheric and uncinematic until then. Dull protag. #sydfilmfest

@sclark_sydney “Just out of my first film of #sydfilmfest and it’s one to avoid. Doco ‘Khodorkovsky’ is overly long and sloppy. A good story wasted.”

@DVDBits‘Attenberg’ has a definite ‘Dogtooth’ vibe (understandably) but all the animals make it out ok. #sydfilmfest

You can of course catch my tweets @simonmiraudo and follow my movements @quickflix.


Day One

Discuss: Did you catch any notable films today?

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