The following is a brief overview of the SFF line-up following this morning’s annoucement. 4:3 will provide more in-depth coverage starting from tomorrow, including our staff picks.
Festival director Nashen Moodley announced the official competition today at Circular Quay and the 2014 group is as diverse as ever, with four Australian features out of the twelve (including the surprise announcement that Opening Night film 20,000 Nights on Earth would be in the running). Leading the pack on the Australian end is Animal Kingdom director David Michôd’s The Rover, a crime-western hybrid set in a future dystopian version of the Australian outback.
Out of the comp, Hossein Amini, the screenwriter of Drive, The Wings of a Dove, and Shanghai is making his directorial debut with Patricia Highsmith’s The Two Faces of January and we eagerly await whether he can make the transition from writing to directing, though considering how superbly he adapted James Sallis’ Drive for the screen our hopes are high.
The growing relevance of South Korean cinema is cemented this year in the country’s second consecutive year in the official competition in Boon Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer. Coming off the back of 2009’s Mother, which screened at KOFFIA in Sydney, Joon-ho is clearly on the rise, and hopefully the film establishes him as one of South Korea’s most lauded directors. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is said to be loosely inspired by Fargo, yet “not from the film itself”. With Rinko Kikuchi in the lead role, it should be a wild romp but as yet the film definitely isn’t as high profile as some of the other Official Competition choices. It will be interesting to see how it goes, we at 4:3 are certainly behind it.
After the brilliance of 2011’s The Guard, a black comedy that seemed to come out of nowhere, John Michael McDonagh has returned with another self-described “black comedy” in Calvary. So far, however, critical reception has penned it as something much darker than McDonagh’s previous work. The other big comedy screening is the closing night vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, from the creative team behind Boy and Eagle vs Shark, which sees a film that would normally be shown in the Freak Me Out section (presumably), placed front-and-center to close the Festival.
Retrospective screenings include a James Benning series (he will also be a guest at the Fest), the already-announced Texas Chain Saw Massacre drive-in screening and a restored version of Satyajit Ray’s Charulata – Ray is the most screened filmmaker in SFF history, something last year’s online archive told us.
The Salute to Studio Ghibli seeks to go deeper than the obvious picks for a retrospective for the company, instead offering a combination of Miyazaki and the lesser-known Takahata. All three of the films screening for the festival are amongst the best put out by Ghibli and our strongest recommendations go out to them.
The China: Rebels, Ghosts and Romantics section of the program looks to be one of the most fascinating parts of the festival. A range of independent Chinese cinema, the majority of which would be very unlikely to reach our cinemas, looks to be one of the must sees of SFF. Beijing Ants is framed as a humanist and comedic documentary, Peng Lei‘s Dancing in the Room a surreal wonder, and Lake August something showing a rarely portrayed ‘China’.
The Festival Hub, programmed by Matthieu Ravier, looks great, with ViewMaster sessions, a TITLE pop-up store and a Gelato Messina stand among many other things. Stay tuned for more updates on that front.
You can purchase tickets for the festival here.
SFF OFFICIAL COMPETITION 2014:
20,000 Days on Earth
Black Coal, Thin Ice
Fish & Cat
The Kidnapping of Michel Houllebecq
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
Two Days, One Night