Sydney Film Festival 2011: Day 1

Attenberg, Sundance Film Festival 2011

SFF LogoWith the Opening Night a roaring success, today marked the first full day of screenings at the 58th Sydney Film Festival. In addition to the Australian debut of Official Competition entrant Attenberg, covered in detail below, there was a sold out session of Pauline Chan’s (Little White Lies, Traps) 33 Postcards, a locally set film that is the first official Chinese-NSW co-production, reuniting Claudia Karvan and Guy Pearce.

There were 15 new films on offer today, including a number of Australian premieres such as Sykt Lykkelig’s Happy Happy, John Michael McDonagh highly anticipated comedy The Guard, Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones’ A Letter to Elia (on notorious filmmaker Elia Kazan), and Ann Hui’s All About Love. There was even royalty in the house for the Australian premiere of Jody Shapiro’s How to Start Your Own Country, as the director appeared alongside HRH Prince Leonard and HRH Princess Shirley at the Dendy Opera Quay on this blustery June night.


Attenberg poster

Giorgos Lanthimos’ controversial Dogtooth heralded to the wider world the arrival of a new wave of Greek cinema when it won the Prix Un Certain Regard at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, and its subsequent Oscar nomination cemented that reputation. So it is no surprise that the first film to screen in competition at this year’s Sydney Film festival is not only produced by him and his Athens-based company Boo Productions, but stars Lanthimos as well. Named for a deliberate misspelling of Sir David Attenborough, it follows the ‘coming of age’ of a 23-year-old Marina (Ariane Labed), who is totally encapsulated in her ailing architect father’s world, as decayed as the building around him. Thematically similar to Lanthimos’ Dogtooth, with the adult Marina largely ignorant of the outside world, director Athina Rachel Tsangari trades places with producer Lanthimos to deliver the same twisted sense of humour, positioned within a strictly framed but surreal look. Ariane Labed gives a terrific performance, as does Evangelia Randou as her promiscuous friend Bella.

The Reel Bits
Somewhat distant, yet incredibly and sporadically quirky, take on isolation and emotional displacement. For many, the long takes may lead it too far in both directions, but there is much to enjoy here.

Attenberg does not currently have an Australian release date.

All About Love:

All About Love posterHaving already made the rounds of the Toronto, Pusan and Tokyo International Film Festival, we’re not sure how SFF can claim this to be the “International Premiere”, but we are certainly glad this mainstream piece of queer Hong Kong cinema made its way to Sydney. Dealing with two 40-something women – Macy (Sandra Ng) and Anita (Vivian Chow) who reconnect and fall in love after a long absence, only to find that they are both pregnant to a pair of dysfunctional men. While the central message of “love is where you find it” is not incredibly deep, the relationships are genuine ones from the strong central cast. Avoiding a number of the rom-com clichés by putting all the pieces in place fairly early on, the script stumbles in the last act when it runs out of things for some of the supporting cast to do, and its gender politics monologues are more than a little heavy-handed. Yet it’s all in good fun and provides a satisfying and unconventional romance.

The Reel Bits
A surprisingly disarming comedy about…love! Despite an uneven pace and a lengthy denouement, All About Love is one of the feel-good films of the Festival.

All About Love does not currently have an Australian release date.


This is actually cheating a little bit, as we first saw Scenario several weeks ago when we spoke with director Dennis del Favero on the project. However, as we will be covering it in detail throughout our SFF coverage, and it has managed to sell out its 240 sessions at the University of New South Wales over the 11 days of the festival, we thought it would be worth a mention here. As “a world first 360-degree 3D cinematic installation whose narrative is interactively produced by the audience”, Scenario is not a film in the traditional sense of the word, and nor is it a game. Written by Stephen Sewell (The Boys), the viewer dons a pair of 3D glasses and enters a custom-built environment in which they interact with an immersive 360-degree environment, working with four other participants and the artificial intelligence in what iCinema calls a “co-evolutionary narrative”. “The title,” says del Favero “is a Commedia dell’arte term, referring to how the dramatic action depends on the way actors and audience interact”.

The Reel Bits
Forget bragging rights on having seen the most obscure subtitled film this festival: if you get a chance to be a part of this work, you may have just witnessed the future of cinema.

The Sydney Film Festival continues until June 19, 2011.

For more news and reviews from the Sydney Film Festival, check out our coverage of previous days of the 2011 event: