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The Brisbane and Melbourne International Film Festivals consistently feature strong lineups of new films coming out of Asia as well as retrospectives (see “The ferocious eye of Kim Ki-duk”). In Sydney, fortunately, we have the Sydney Asia Pacific Film Festival, now in its third year, a relatively small but tenacious and ambitious festival whose goal is not only to open up Australian audiences to Asian films but also, laudably, “to promote the professional development of Asian Australian filmmakers and actors and their presence in the local film and television industry.” Launching this year’s festival, Sharon Baker from the Film and Television Office of NSW (FTO) reminded us that the FTO had been involved in a visit to China by 20 filmmakers and, also, that the Australian feature film, Mullet, had won Best Direction at the recent Shanghai Film Festival. The time is ripe for joint ventures and growing cross-cultural awareness. This year’s SAPFF features 15 films from 9 countries and includes a new print of Peter Weir’s The Year of Living Dangerously. Festival-goers also get the first Australian sighting of Zhang Yimou’s Happy Times. As Festival Co-director, Juanita Kwok, advised us it’s a substantial change of direction from the filmmaker’s historical approach to Chinese life. This contemporary drama borders on whimsy in its fable-like construction but its sharp social observations about dreams and realities in a newly capitalist society bring it to a complex ending. Although the focus is on film from China, others range from full-on Bollywood (Heart’s Desire, partly shot in Sydney), to a Thai western, animation from China and Hong Kong, a Vietnamese reflection on war, Japanese avant garde director Takashi Miike’s Dead or Alive 1 & 2, and the first new Australian film in this festival’s brief history, China Take Away, Mitzi Goldman’s account of writer and physical performer Anna Yen’s family life. The Short Soup film competition includes finalists from across Asia and Australia, and 2 seminars on Australia/Asia co-productions and the pressure to go mainstream and desert one’s origins promise timely debate. Cinematographer Christopher Doyle is the festival’s special guest—Gallery 4A will exhibit his photomontage works. This is a rare opportunity for Sydney audiences to participate in the growing Asian-Australian film dialogue.

Sydney Asia Pacific Film Festival 2002, Directors Juanita Kwok, Paul de Carvalho, Dendy Cinemas, Martin Place, Sydney, August 8-17.

RealTime issue #50 Aug-Sept 2002 pg. 24

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