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FAR LEFT PREY FOR ROCK AND ROLL; ISABELLA ROSSELLINI; AND GAYLE LAKE
Gayle came to the Sydney Film Festival with around
20 years' experience in film distribution, marketing and
exhibition, including time spent with Queer Screen in the late
90s. When she took over, it was very clear that SFF needed
to diversify and to become more varied. Gayle soon became
involved in upgrading management processes, improving
the relationships between the SFF and its sponsors,
government bodies and the box office, and ensuring
logistical things such as ticketing worked as efficiently and
with as much flexibility as possible.
In a city where all arts organisations are struggling to find
suitable venues, locations for this year's festival have broadened to
include an extra screen at Dendy Opera Quays and one at the
Opera House Studio. There will also be a Festival Club and several
other venues around the city for selected screenings. Gayle said
that she always planned to stay with the SFF for around six years
and she feels that she has accomplished all that she set out to do,
taking the festival in the right direction. Giving credit to the team
of people who have worked with her, Gayle considers that an
enormous amount has been achieved in her time as director.
Asked about the highlights of her tenure, she said there have
been far too many to mention! However, she did nominate
discovering the Australian film Lantana for the 2001 festival,
being on stage with José Ramos Horta and French director
Bertrand Tavernier, and having the opportunity to meet "a lot of
great people with a lot of different ideas about the world".
In July, Gayle will hand over the directorship to former
journalist and film critic, Lynden Barber. Despite Barber's well-
publicised criticisms of the SFF, Gayle stated that the festival is
now in better shape than it was six years ago, and she wishes
him the best of luck, as he brings different energies to what is a
very consuming, and demanding, job. Asked about her
immediate plans, Gayle revealed that she has three months'
holiday owing, some of which she plans to spend in Broome.
Then, after all the travelling her role with the Festival has
entailed, she just wants to spend time at home, learning to sleep
through the night without waking to think about work! She is
also looking for ward to having the time to enjoy other art
forms, such as literature, and to go to the movies just as a
regular member of the audience. Pressed as to her future work
plans, she admitted that she will probably remain in the film
industry, saying that she hopes to maintain contact with many
of the wonderful people she has met over the last six years.
We also spoke of many of the films to be included in this
year's programme. Gayle spoke with pride of an Antonioni
retrospective, which she had been working on getting to
Sydney for the last three years. It consists of 14 features, 13
short films and four documentaries, and spans more than 50
years of the Italian director's work. After four years of
Australian films, this year's Opening Night film, In My
Father's Den, is from New Zealand. It stars newcomer Emily
Barclay who was only 17 at the time of shooting, and Gayle
described it as being "very powerful, strong and emotional".
Many of the short films and documentaries this year look
at the bigger questions of life, such as who are we, how did
we get here and how do we get out. Gayle feels that
filmmakers everywhere are searching for answers to what the
next step may be in a very troubled world. She cited films
such as Born into Brothels, Chernobyl Heart and the Australian
docos Beyond Sorry and Mademoiselle and the Doctor. The
latter, which looks at the controversial death of Lisette Nigot,
is bound to promote much discussion.
Gayle is also very pleased to be presenting a large number
of Canadian films this year. She described Canada as having
had "a bumper few years for cinema", nominating especially
Robert Lepage's The Far Side of the Moon ("so inventive and
funny") Guy Maddin's The Saddest Music in the World starring
Isabella Rosellini ("one of the most beautiful-looking films;
out there and fabulous"!) Proteus ("an 18th Century
homoerotic love story, set in South Africa") and the
documentary The Corporation ("a fascinating essay on
contemporary notions of power, money and government").
Previous festivals have had a high content of lesbian and gay
films, and this year Gayle has obtained the American film Prey
for Rock and Roll, starring Gina Gershon as aging, bisexual rock
musician, Jacki, but warns "you may need to leave your politics
at the door for this one"! Jacki and her all-girl band, Clam
Dandy have been struggling on the Los Angeles music scene for
many years, and now as Jacki approaches her 40th birthday, it is
make or break time. Gershon does all her own singing in the
film and has received some very favourable reviews in the US.
"If you liked Showgirls, this is for you!"
Also in the programme is the 1972 Chinese film Intimate
Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan. Gayle described this film as
radical, especially given that it was made in the very conser vative
Hong Kong society of the early 70s. The story is based around
the relationship between a young girl who has been forced into
prostitution, and the madam of the brothel to whom she is sold.
"These girls kick ass", in a beautifully shot action film which
could well become a cult classic. Other significant films this year
include The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, starring Geoffrey
Rush and Charlize Theron, Coffee and Cigarettes, the latest by
Jim Jarmusch, Ae Fond Kiss directed by Ken Loach, the Russian
film The Return, and Somersault, an Australian film set in
Jindabyne, was selected for the 2004 Cannes film festival.
And in a lighter vein, there will be a once only screening of
the 1954 Japanese classic, Godzilla, and a number of films
devoted to music. This varied segment of the festival will feature
De-lovely, a musical portrait and celebration of Cole Porter
starring Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd, Festival Express featuring
Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead, Metallica: Some Kind of
Monster and End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones.
Gayle describes this year's festival as having lots of interest
and diversity, and expects the increased number of venues,
greater flexibility with ticketing and the expanded programme
to entice larger audiences than ever before. So r ush to get
your tickets now!
The 51st Sydney Film Festival, June 11--26. For tickets call the
Sydney Film Festival Box Office on (02) 9280 0611 or book online
at www.ticketek.com.au • Visit www.sydneyfilmfestival.org
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