Article Archive

Sydney Celebrates Cinema

Author: Daniel Crichton-Rouse
Monday, 2 June 2008
3D’s Daniel Crichton-Rouse talks to Clare Stewart, executive director of the 2008 Sydney Film Festival, gracing our city this week.

As Executive Director, what does your role in the Sydney Film Festival entail-
Watching lots of films (I lost count after 600 this year), travelling to festivals around the world, negotiating with international sales agents and distributors, working with the festival team on programming, campaign and event production, developing our wonderful partnerships and lots more.

This is your second year as Executive Director, what projects were you working on prior to taking on this role-
I was previously Head of Film Programs at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, where I was responsible for the creative direction and year-round programming of the two cinemas.

This is the first year that the SFF has an official competition, is this something you’ve been striving to achieve for a while- For what reasons has it not been included in the previous festivals-
It has certainly been an objective for the festival for some time. The timing was right due the synergistic interest of our visionary sponsors Hunter Hall Investment Management who put up the $60k cash prize and Events New South Wales whose substantial support goes towards hosting the necessary international guests, both jury and filmmakers, as well as backing the industry program.

What will you be looking for when judging the winning film- What are the criteria to win the top prize in Sydney-

The prize is to recognise “new directions in film” and the jury, lead by Gillian Armstrong, will be looking filmmaking that is “audacious, cutting-edge and courageous”. These qualities were chosen to reflect the energy of Sydney.

You’ve got some amazing films featuring in the competition – how did you choose which films to include-
Thanks! I think so too. The criteria – audacious, cutting edge and courageous – is just fantastic from a selection perspective. Those qualities can be found in unusual stylistic approaches, edgy scripting, and bold performance, narrative or aesthetic choices. That’s what we were looking for.

Can you please run us through a few of the other key highlights of this year’s festival- For example, the Sounds on Screen program…
Every film feels like a highlight to me! I am just as excited about the beautiful, minimalist Chilean film The Sky, The Earth and the Rain as I am about Michael Haneke’s remake of his own thriller Funny Games, Isabella Rossellini’s mobile phone movies Green Porno about the sex life of insects or the hilarious and touching documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil about a Canadian heavy metal band that plays like Spinal Tap only real! I am thrilled that we are introducing Sydney audiences to visiting filmmakers they might not know, like Carlos Reygadas and Steve McQueen, just as I am about Jack Black and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s attendance for the Kung Fu Panda premiere.

Do you have a film (or two) in particular that is a favourite of yours-
It’s illegal for festival directors to have favourites!

The Sydney Film Festival has always championed Australian content – what are your thoughts on the Australian cinema landscape in 2008-
The film landscape is as vast as the country and changing rapidly right now. If I look to this year’s program several trends are present: a distinctly international flavour in very different films like The Children of the Silk Road, Son of a Lion and Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts; a continued strength in documentary making and edgy, lower-budget indie films like Playing for Charlie, Men’s Group and Lake Mungo that give inspiring indications for our filmmaking future.

And what about the international film industry- What are some key issues affecting it-
Bob Pisano, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Motion Pictures Association of America will give our Ian McPherson lecture this year and for those wanting to know the answer to this question, this will be an essential talk to attend.

You’d be watching films throughout the year keeping them in mind for future festivals, but how long does it take to organise and program a festival each year- We imagine a lot of patience is required!
Well, it all starts over again after the team has had an all too brief recovery period. But I am not complaining, I have my dream job!

Finally, are there any films you wanted to include but couldn’t, for whatever reason-

That is always a programmer’s best-kept secret.

WHAT: The Sydney Film Festival
WHEN: Wednesday 2 – Sunday 22 June