The innovative and exciting, sometimes wacky world of Australian cinema comes alive at the Australian Film Roadshow this weekend in Kathmandu.
Though distinctly Australian in flavour, the Australian Film commission has prepared a selection of unique contemporary films that have global appeal. Building on the success of last year's festival here, the Film Roadshow aims to provide an insight into Australia, its landscape and multi-culturalism, lifestyle, culture and politics.
This is also the first film festival in Kathmandu that had to go through the Ministry of Information's recently-announced regulations on censorship of festival films. The embassy had to pay Rs 10,000 per film for the privilege of having it viewed by censors. The rule has drawn howls of protests from other festival organisers. "Nowhere in the world are festival films censored. If this rule is not scrapped, we are not going to organise any film festivals in Nepal," an official of another Kathmandu-based embassy told us.
The Dish, starring Sam Neill, is a gentle comedy about Australia's small, but critical role in the first landing of a man on the moon. The film has one of the highest grossing box offices in Australia. Radiance stars three of Australia's rising indigenous women actors. The film explores powerful emotional territory when after a long separation three daughters meet with the death of their mother. Rachel Griffiths stars in Amy, a boldly offbeat film about a girl so traumatised by something she witnesses at the age of four she can no longer speak or hear.
Back by popular demand, Children of the Revolution and The Sum of Us are making a reappearance in this year's festival.Children of the Revolution is an avant-garde film about the fictitious life of Joan Fraser, a young, spirited woman who dreamt of nothing but a worker's revolution. Her stream of letters to her idol, Stalin, do not go unnoticed and after a brief affair, Joan returns to Australia carrying his child. Young Joe is Joan's hope for the future of Australia and worker's liberation. Ever the domineering and controlling mother, Joan stage crafts young Joe's life, taking him along to the political demonstrations of the day and riding high on his arrests and periodic imprisonment.
But children have wills of their own, and when Young Joe takes another path, Joan can do nothing. Parallel with disappointments in Joan's personal life, the communist movement unravels. Young Joe has gone over to the establishment and evolves eerily into a replica of his father. Joan becomes more volatile and more desperate as her ideals disintegrate. Children of the Revolution stars Sam Neill (Jurassic Park), Academy Award winning actor, Geoffery Rush (Shine, Elizabeth) and Judy Davis, (see pic, top) who Woody Allen calls "probably the greatest movie actress of her generation" and who recently received an AFI award for best actress for her portrayal of Judy Garland.
The Sum of Us is the poignant tale of a father and his son. Harry is a widower and lives with his 20-something son, Jeff. Both are looking for love. Harry searches for his life partner through a computer-dating agency. Jeff searches for the love of his life in the gay pubs of Sydney. In an endearing display of fatherly love, Harry accepts his son's sexuality-to the point of being meddlesome in his son's love affairs. With the backdrop of the famous Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney, Jeff falls in love. Harry too, but with a woman who does not share Harry's qualities of tolerance and understanding. In one of his first films, Russel Crowe displays his impressive thespian range in his portrayal of the easy going, warm-hearted Jeff who faces tragedy with a strength and selflessness that is the core of his being. Veteran Australian actor, Jack Thompson, conveys the loneliness that lies beneath the surface of Harry's energy and optimism. Sydney's gay culture is portrayed with sensitivity and clarity, and shows us that the acceptance of homosexuality is simply an act of love.
All screenings at the Russian Cultural Center, 25-26 January. Tickets, Rs 50 per screening are available at the Radisson Hotel and the Australian Embassy in Bansbari. More information: www.afc.gov.au