Canberra International Film Festival launched

Clare Colley


Neon lighting is an older art form that is being renewed, so it’s a fitting symbol for the new version of the Canberra International Film Festival, manager Andrew Pike says.

To mark the launch of the 19th annual festival from November 5 to 15 the switch was flicked on a custom-made neon sign in anticipation of the opening night film Neon, chronicling the declining use of neon lighting in advertising and design and its recent comeback.
The Canberra-produced film from WildBear Entertainment is part of the festival’s deliberate focus on the Canberra film industry.

“The local film industry is burgeoning thanks to the support its getting from the ACT government and ScreenACT and what’s really been missing is a platform… there are several of them for short form works, but not for long form works,” Mr Pike said.

But Mr Pike said the festival also gave put the Canberra-related films into an international context.

“They’ll be screened side by side with the best works from around the world particularly Asia and the Middle East,” he said.

“The Canberra works stands up really strongly, it will help us feel proud of what we are doing here.

“It’s not just a local achievement it’s an achievement of national and international importance.”

Other Canberra connections in the festival include US film Simple Being starring Canberra-raised actor Sol Mason as a struggling actor in Hollywood and the Australian Premiere of The Tentmakers of Cairo – an award-winning documentary film by Canberra filmmaker and University of Canberra lecturer Kim Beamish.

But with a panel of four sharing programming duties and staging many “friendly discussions” to decide on the festival’s content, the mix of 30 films is diverse including documentaries, dramas, classic and new films, Indigenous Australian films and international works from South-East Asia and the Middle East.

Mr Pike said highlights included the Australian premiere of 25 April an animated film retelling the Gallipoli story, the illegally-produced Tehran Taxi which the film-maker smuggled out of the country, R-rated film The Tribe communicated entirely in sign language and Victoria a German film shot in one-take charting the course of a bank-heist unfolding in real time.

One of the archives’ gallery spaces will be transformed into a beer-hall-style hub where festival-goers will be able to enjoy wine and food and experience the “intensive” program of about 30 guest filmmakers expected over the festival.

After a lacklustre 2014 festival ended in a $50,000 loss, Mr Pike said the 2015 festival had a lower budget which he admitted had affected some decisions.

But he said the programmers had spent money on its program of guests and screenings where needed.

“The results are on screen and in the festival hub,” he said.

“The ACT government backed us in this new iteration of the festival and that was a terrific statement of their confidence in our plans for this year.”