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It’s been six long years since the Melbourne International Film Festival (or MIFF) hit the road and toured regional Victoria, but in 2014 MIFF is spreading its wings. With the Victorian State Government having stumped up some extra cash, this year sees the MIFF Premiere Showcase getting out and about showcasing Australian films with a string of weekend programs – including one at Geelong’s GPAC Septembet 12th to 14th.
MIFF Artistic Director Michelle Carey says, “We have been very lucky to receive state funding to get MIFF back out in the regions. It’s a big endeavour to mount, and we are grateful to have the resources to do this. I think it’s a great thing for these quality new Australian films to be able to tour while still fresh off the world premiere, with filmmakers present where possible.”
The focus with the Premiere Showcase is on films that MIFF has invested in, launched, or both. Says Carey, “The Legend Maker, Cut Snake, My Mistress, Electric Boogaloo and Paper Planes all had their word premiere at MIFF this year and this will be the first time many of them screen anywhere in Australia after MIFF.”
While they’re all Australian films, the line-up over the three days of the Premiere Showcase is an eclectic one. “They are all very different – we have a sexy ’70s-set thriller (Cut Snake), a high-octane rural-set action-comedy (Kill Me Three Times), an irreverent documentary on some very irreverent film business guys (Electric Boogaloo), a sexy coming of age drama (My Mistress) and a low-budget character chamber piece (Legend Maker), as well as a beautiful teen drama from last year (Galore). It’s a terrific opportunity to see new Australian films as a special event.”
While not all of those films are screening as part of the Geelong sessions at GPAC, the line-up of films that are is pretty impressive. The Showcase begins Friday, 12 September at 7:30 p.m. with Cut Snake. Director Tony Ayres returns to the big screen with his first feature since The Home Song Stories, a psychologically powered crime-thriller loosely based on Brisbane’s Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub blaze.
The year is 1973, and in an attempt to put his troubles behind him Sparra Farrell (Alex Russell) has taken his fiancée, Paula (Jessica De Gouw), and moved to a brand new city. But when the brutal Pommie (Sullivan Stapleton) hunts him down, Sparra realises unless he defeats his past he may not have any future.
“[Blake] Ayshford has written a sensational script which has a nail-biting, page-turning quality and yet has something original to say about the nature of love,” says Tony Ayres. “I’ve been passionate about making Cut Snake for many years now. For me, it’s the combination of it being a thriller and a relationship drama which makes it so exciting.”
The first film for Saturday is The Legend Maker (4.30 p.m.). Professional forger Alan Figg (Tony Nikolakopoulos) operates in a shady world of double-crosses and shifting alliances. His business is providing people with new documents to give them new identities, and it’s a lucrative one: whoever you are, so long as you have the money Figg can change your life. But he’s not getting any younger, and with “The Croat” (short for Croatian) demanding Figg work exclusively for him, his business model may no longer be viable.
Based on the real-life story of a Russian forger and set firmly in inner-city Melbourne – Brunswick to be exact, a suburb not exactly unfamiliar with organised crime both fictionalised (Underbelly) and real – director/screenwriter Ian Pringle has crafted a taut, engrossing true crime tale that combines real tension with a look into the mechanics of the criminal underworld.
That’s followed by My Mistress at 8 p.m., in which AFI award-winning actor Harrison Gilbertson (most recently seen in Tim Winton’s The Turning) stars alongside acclaimed French actress Emmanuelle Béart in an unconventional and provocative love story.
Charlie (Gilbertson) is a vulnerable teenage romantic; Maggie (Beart) is an S&M mistress. His infatuation with her starts out as something harmless but swiftly escalates into something much more dangerous as director Stephen Lance’s first feature becomes a surprising look at love misplaced. Working with writer Gerard Lee (Sweetie), cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson (Shine), Oscar-nominated editor Jill Bilcock (Mental) and Oscar-winning costumer Angus Strathie (Moulin Rouge!), Lance has created an impressively bold and visually captivating debut.
The Sunday sessions kick off at 1.30 p.m. with Paper Planes. Twelve-year-old Dylan (Ed Oxenbould) lives with his father in the outback. One day at school Dylan discovers he is great at making and flying paper planes. While attempting to refine and develop his newly realised ability, Dylan finds himself caught up in the world of competitive paper-plane making, leading to new friendships, new rivalries and new realisations about his own family. A tale of friendship, family, and construction paper from writer/director Robert Connolly (Tim Winton’s The Turning, MIFF 13), Paper Planes features a cast of Australia’s finest, including Sam Worthington, Deborah Mailman, David Wenham, and first-timer Ed Oxenbould.
The final film of Sunday and the Premiere Showcase as a whole is the Australian premiere of Kill Me Three Times (5 p.m.). Following the mammoth success of Red Dog, writer director Kriv Stenders takes us to a West Australian surfing town where a charismatic hitman (Shaun of the Dead’s Simon Pegg, cleverly cast against type) acts as the spark that ignites murder, blackmail and revenge.
Having been hired by a wealthy gent (Callan Mulvey) to ‘take care’ of his wife (Alice Braga), this black-clad killer gets down to business only to discover there’s more than one person after her. Throw in a gambling addict (Sullivan Stapleton), a small-town Lady Macbeth (Teresa Palmer) and a corrupt cop (Bryan Brown), and you’ve got the makings of a saga with more twists than a broken waterslide.
Touring Victoria from August through to the end of September, the MIFF Premiere Showcase starts off in Mildura from the 29th to 31st August, followed by Bendigo (5th to 7th of September), with Sorrento the final stop after Geelong (from the 19th to the 21st of September). For more information on the Geelong sessions, visit gpac.org.au/miff, or call GPAC on 5225 1200
By Anthony Morris