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2009 Brisbane Int. Film Festival – Day 8

The last couple of days have been absolutely hectic, but I’ve managed to catch a couple of excellent films, interview a director or two, and this morning make a decision with my fellow jurors about the  film that will win the Brisbane International Film Festival FIPRESCI Award; but more about that tomorrow, perhaps.

Thursday night saw the world premiere of the Queensland production, “Subdivision”, which was written by local radio personality Ash Bradnam. In fact, this was a family affair, with Bradnam and his mum sharing screenwriter credits with Terry McCann. And to top it all off, despite having no experience as an actor, Bradnam stepped in as the lead in a very Australian story about community, small business, the global financial crisis, and a succession of unfortunate cattle dogs.

Directed by Sue Brooks (“Japanese Story”), “Subdivision” is an often very funny and satisfying mix of mainstream filmmaking tempered with a little more in terms of relationships and masculinity, and the cast list is a veritable Who’s Who? of Australian actors, with veterans like Gary Sweet, Steve Bisley and Bruce Spence working alongside Denise Roberts, Kris McQuade, and newcomer to the silver screen, Brooke Satchwell. The principals were there on the night looking suitably satisfied with themselves, and when I had a long chat with Brooks the following morning, she agreed that her career in film has been an interesting journey: through rural Australia “The Road to Nhill”; off to the outback “Japanese Story”; and skirting along the edges of the city in “Subdivision”. I asked if the next film that she is working on would finally be in the city, and she laughed and revealed that she and partner, screenwriter Alison Tilson have been planning exactly that, at the same time as they have been developing another project back out in the boonies.

Still in Australia, director Ana Kokkinos has been getting her hands dirty in “Blessed”, a film that opens a window onto the hardships faced by lower to middle class society in Australia. There are some fine performances here, but Frances O’Connor is probably the most memorable as a streetwalking mum who finds it hard to prioritise between her family and her man.

And I was able to revisit a favourite of mine from this year’s Hong Kong Film Festival, Baek Seung-bin’s “Members of the Funeral”, a very literary film that explores the elasticity of narrative and the fragility of life. Much the same kinds of themes are examined in the Russian film “Morphia”, which still makes me cold just thinking about the spectacular Siberian scenery into which a young doctor is forced to take on a new isolated practice. When a needle-stick injury leads to a routine treatment with morphine, the film takes a very dark and disturbing journey into narcotics-fuelled madness.



Members of the Funeral (South Korea) a film by Baek Seung-bin;  Subdivision premiere photo by Jimmy Malecki