Arts & Entertainment

Future of Film is at the Festivals

'The Lords of Salem', Sydney Underground Film Festival

Film festivals don’t just exhibit films. It’s not just about watching a film; it’s about the experience of cinema. When you think of traditional forms of cinema it becomes clear why films aren’t meant to be watched in a lounge room. There is the buzz of a packed theatre, a heightened sense of atmosphere as you experience the film together. Cinema in its traditional form has a certain sense of community that is lost when viewed at home.

The Sydney Underground Film Festival (SUFF)  is one of Sydney’s most famous. The festival’s co-director, founder and programmer Stefan Popescu says, “It’s really about the situation of cinema. That experience of going… It’s a physical manifestation of what cinema is really about.”

Festivals often encompass a whole range of activities from talks and forums, to live music and food. These things all contribute to creating a community around cinema. On the subject of the purpose of film festivals Popescu says, “It does pull a community together. In a big city like Sydney, that started in a really grass roots place, it should honour that but also it does naturally because we crave that creative community – so festivals do become these little hubs for these creative communities to intercept”.

The attitude to opening up and encouraging community is what makes SUFF successful, but with success comes inevitable change – although Popescu approaches SUFF in a very genuine manner with community firmly in mind.

“No matter how much it expands, we are always trying to keep it really accessible. We are very conscious to expand in a very intentional way. Letting the community dictate our growth, that’s what we model it to,” he says.

Expansion and development can be hard within the entire Australian film industry, not just the Sydney scene. Popescu feels it was difficult for smaller festivals to gain funding. For instance, in 2010 the NSW government agreed to give Sydney Film Festival an additional $2.25 million over three years. While SUFF has a small amount of support from Marrcikville Council, federal funding seems out of the question.

“It’s a big marketing opportunity for Sydney. There is a way to tap into festivals’ potential, to show the Government that small festivals are just as important. They really need to be putting some support in there. Whether it’s a building, or a small tokenistic amount of money,” Popescu says.

Small film festivals in Sydney range from, Seen & Heard focusing on women filmmakers, Antenna Documentary Film Festival and many more.

“They [Government agencies] should be looking at what’s out there and saying ‘How can we engage with these people?’ Instead of festivals begging for funding,” says Popescu.

“There are brilliant filmmakers both here and overseas that don’t get noticed, especially considering the way the industry is set up.”

Film festivals need support as they provide a platform for emerging filmmakers to have their work exhibited. Not only that but they help communities nurture growth and foster creative networks.

“Sydney’s lucky, I can say that wholeheartedly, it’s about the audience and the community,” Popsecu says.

The Sydney Underground Festival, Sep 5-8,The Factory Theatre, 105 Victoria Rd, Marrickville, suff.com.au

August and September is festival season for Sydney with a wide variety of film festivals vying for the big screens.

Korean Film Festival

Now in its fourth year this festival showcases the best of Korean cinema with a program themed ‘The Many Faces of Korean Cinema”. Touring to Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, the festival’s success and subsequent expansion has allowed it to feature films like Park Chan-Wook’s Stoker. The festival will also have extensive Q&A forums, as well the K-Shorts Showcase featuring some of the most interesting shorts to be made in Korea.

Aug 21-29, Event Cinemas, George Street, $11-78 (session pass), koffia.com.au

Sydney Latin American Film Festival

Sydney will be alive with Latino buzz as the Sydney Latin American Film Festival screens new-release features, documentaries and shorts from Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Australia and many more.

“Latin American cinema is passionate, powerful and moving,” says festival founder Mark Taylor. All of which will be proved true at opening night with the screening of comedy-drama The Clown as well as the Baja Cantina Opening Night Fiesta, with Latin drink and canapés, and an Afro-Cuban band called El Orqeuston.

Sep 4-15,Dendy Opera Quays, Circular Quay & Bankstown Arts Centre, Bankstown, $15-55 (session pass), sydneylatinofilmfestival.org

Persian Film Festival

Taking a retrospective approach, The Persian Film Festival will feature films spanning the last 50 years. The program will examine how Persian cinema has changed and its purveying themes during a history of great social, cultural and political upheaval.

Artistic Director Amin Palangi says, “Regardless of the social or political changes and pressures on Iranian cinema, Iranian filmmakers are one of the most influential in the world today.”

Although only in its second year, with films like the internationally acclaimed The Colour of Paradise, this festival will excite. (ATS)

Aug 22-Sep 1, Dendy Newtown, Newtown
 & Dendy Opera Quays, Circular Quay, $16-135 (session pass), persianfilmfestival.com

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