After diligently studying the festival program and researching the featured films, I have now come up with my picks for the best of the 2011 Sydney Film Festival, which is due to start next week:
TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (Canada, 2010)
A big hit at Sundance Film Festival and winner of the Midnight Movie Audience Award at SXSW, TUCKER &DALE VS EVIL hilariously and cleverly twists horror movie conventions. The result is a refreshingly original movie that impresses audiences, especially horror and comedy fans. The movie trailer is laugh-out-loud funny, and I just can't wait to see more of it.
MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (USA, 2011)
Winner of the Directing Award (US Dramatic) at this year's Sundance Film Festival, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE was a breakout hit and buzz generator. This psychological thriller centres on Martha (played by Elizabeth Olsen), who escapes from a bucolic commune, reunites with her sister and now suffers from paranoia. This film looks engrossing and complex.
BLACK & WHITE & SEX (Australia, 2011)
This is Australian producer John Winter's (RABBIT PROOF FENCE) first feature film as a director, and will have its World Premiere at this year's Sydney Film Festival. Using a film-within-a-film structure, it daringly discusses the subject matter of sex. The trailer looks erotic, and impresses me greatly with its exquisite black & white cinematography.
TOOMELAH (Australia, 2011)
Featured in Un Certain Regard at this year's Cannes Film Festival, this film tells the story of a young boy growing up in the tiny Aboriginal community of Toomelah. Looks to be both confronting and heart wrenching, I am looking forward to this film because director Ivan Sen's earlier work BENEATH CLOUDS was a beautiful piece of cinema.
ELITE SQUAD 2: THE ENEMY WITHIN (Brazil, 2010)
2008 Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear winner ELITE SQUAD left a strong impression on me with its relentless portrayal of violence. Its sequel, ELITE SQUAD 2: THE ENEMY WITHIN, again features tense political drama and nail biting action. Currently the highest-grossing Brazilian film of all time, ELITE SQUAD 2 should be the action film to catch at this year's SFF.
ARMADILLO (Denmark, 2010)
To make this war documentary, director Janus Metz and cameraman Lars Skree spent six months with a group of Danish soldiers on an army base in Southern Afghanistan. The result is a remarkable film that allows audiences to experience the brutal realities of war at a most intimate level. It won the Critics' Week Grand Prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.
AFRICA UNITED (United Kingdom, 2010)
In this film, three Rwandan kids hit the road on an adventure to get to the soccer World Cup in South Africa. The energetic and uplifting trailer brought a smile to my face. The cast of young actors appears absolutely charming and their performances are natural. I think this film should appeal to both children and adults alike, and will likely be a crowd favourite at the Festival.
THE GREAT BEAR (Denmark, 2011)
This film features a giant creature, but no, it is not a horror movie. Instead, it's an animated film that younger audiences will no doubt fall in love with, and the creature in question is a cuddly giant bear. The film promotes the love of all creatures great and small, and this clear message has led to comparisons being drawn with works of Hayao Miyazaki. The trailer looks both charming and beautiful.
THE TROLL HUNTER (Norway, 2010)
Now, this one is a true creature feature. The creature here is the legendary Scandinavian monsters - Trolls. A fine example of 'found footage' films, this monster flick has been described as scary, funny, entertaining and touching. It's not often that one gets to see a film that deserves all of these adjectives, which makes THE TROLL HUNTER one of the must-see films at this year's SFF.
13 ASSASSINS (Japan, 2010)
This film really needs no introduction because it has been so well-covered everywhere. In case you didn't know, however, I will summarise for you what all the buzz was about. Genius filmmaker Takashi Miike's samurai film is one of his most critically acclaimed, and has even been compared with the legendary Akira Kurosawa's films. It features excellent drama, plus a 45-minute battle sequence.