CINEMA AUSTRALIA: CRITICS’ CHOICE
Award-winning low-budget independent feature films take the spotlight at this year’s Cinema Australia, one of the exciting events in line with this year’s Australia Day celebration. The festival will run on 25-26 January and 1-2 February with screenings at 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm at the Videotheque, University of the Philippines Film Institute. The film festival showcases Australia’s strong tradition of low-budget filmmaking, a niche where bold and independent Australian filmmakers have been successful and identified with in the international arena.
Film enthusiasts will get the opportunity to view The Finished People (Khoa Do), Proof (Jocelyn Moorhouse), The Castle (Rob Stitch), Romper Stomper (Geoffrey Wright), Mullet (David Caesar), The Boys (Rowan Woods) and Undead (Michael and Peter Spierig) – all produced with remarkably low budgets.
The Finished People is a fine example of low budget filmmaking executed with a realistic fervour. Written and directed by 2005 Young Australian of the Year awardee Khoa Do, the film was shot for around $20,000 on digital video, in a documentary-meets-fiction style, featuring real life street kids of Cabramatta as the films main actors. The director’s extraordinary vision resulted in a uniquely fresh and original film, winning wide spread critical praise and box office success.
Undead by brothers Peter and Michael Spierig is a zombie horror flick in the classic vein of Night of the Living Dead. The film was a two and a half year project self financed by family and friends, with Michael and Peter creating 95% of the special effects on their home computers. The final result is a film that has the look and production values of a film ten times its budget, winning over the hugely critical community of horror film fans. Undead received the FIPRESCI Award at the 2003 Melbourne International Film Festival.
Other must-see films included in the festival are the impressive directorial debuts of Rowan Woods, Jocelyn Moorhouse, Geoffrey Wright, and Rob Sitch which are certain to inspire budding filmmakers and students. The Boys by Rowan Woods was adapted from Gordon Graham's award-winning 1991 play by Stephen Sewell which depicts Sydney’s suburbs, lounge rooms and backyards in an avant-noir study of working class masculinity out of control. The film won four awards at the 1998 AFI Awards for Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and “Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Source”, and was selected for competition at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1998.
Proof by writer-director Jocelyn Moorhouse was a critical success winning seven Australian Film Institute Awards, as well as Outstanding First Feature at the British Film Institute Awards (1992) and a Special Mention at Cannes. Proof is the provocative debut film by Moorhouse about a blind man's obsessive search for truth. He trusts no-one, except for the camera which has replaced his eyes. His photos are proof that the world he senses is the same as other people see.
The Castle was the directorial debut of Rob Sitch, along with his four partners in the Australian television and radio collective known as “Working Dog”. It received wide critical acclaim both in Australia and internationally. Featuring Eric Bana, Stephen Curry and Anne Tenney, the film was self-financed, written in just two weeks, and shot in 11 days on Super 16mm. The film made a big impact in Australia where it became the highest-grossing domestic release of 1997, and at Sundance 1998, where it was picked up by Miramax for a reported $6 million.
Director Geoffrey Wright made a huge impact with his debut feature, the powerful low-budget film, Romper Stomper, in 1992. Starring Russell Crowe, Daniel Pollock, Jacqueline McKenzie and Tony Lee, Romper Stomper went on to become one of Australia’s most significant cult films winning three Australian Film Institute Awards, and awards at the Seattle International Film Festival, Stockholm Film Festival and the Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards.
Mullet is the award winning independent Australian hit from writer/director David Caesar. The film’s understated screenplay interweaves pointed metaphor to explore the ties that bind and separate family. Sitch’s low budget success story went on to win an Awgie (Australian Writers’ Guild) Award in 2001 for its script, Best original screenplay at the Film Critics Circle of Australia 2002, the Golden Goblet Award for Best Director at the Shanghai International Film Festival 2002, and was screened at the Montréal Film Festival 2001.
With the increasing success of low budget feature filmmaking in Australia, the Australian Film Commission (AFC) established its Low-budget Feature Film Development strand and the IndieVision initiative. The Indievision initiative, which was launched in December 2004 through the Australian Government’s commitment of Au$17.5 million over three years, comprises a suite of programs to support the development, production and promotion of low-budget features in Australia.