Fortunately the traditional cold and wet June festival weather returned in November. In hot and steamy conditions, all this sex may have overheated the cinema air conditioner.
The more serious concerns of top international filmmakers naturally emerged throughout the festival, including war crimes, refugee crises, repressive regimes, all kinds of injustice, indigenous issues, lost love, identity struggles and cinema itself.
But why there was so much sex is fascinating to consider: it could be that the pandemic prompted filmmakers to think about it more, except that these films were mostly written before COVID-19. Have quality dramas about webcasting services pushed writers and directors to be more adventurous? Is it no longer taboo to show both male and female genitals on screen? Or, as director Radu Jude suggests in Unlucky knocking, is everyday life now full of so many things that are more obscene than sex.
A smaller festival program than usual to allow COVID security protocols included more films from Cannes, Venice and Toronto as well as first looks at Hollywood cinema releases, including Denis Villeneuve’s impressive first episode of science fiction hit. Duno.
Other highlights included The Salvation, the catchy documentary by Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin about the Thai cave rescue in 2018, and that of Pedro Almodovar Parallel Mothers, with Penelope Cruz and Milena Smit as two women who bond in a maternity ward.
In the festival competition, there was the inventive animated documentary by Danish director Jonas Poher Rasmussen Run away, about a gay Afghan refugee remembering the traumatic flight from his homeland, and that of Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic Where are you going, Aida?, an intense drama about a UN translator trying to save her family during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
The early evening attraction was Here Out West, a delightful drama by eight emerging writers and five female directors that is a recent take on contemporary western Sydney. There was also a warm reception for Leah Purcell’s furious Native West The Drover’s Wife The Legend Of Molly Johnson .
Sydney Film Festival On Demand runs until 21 November.
Banned Iranian filmmaker wins $ 60,000 competition
The Sydney Film Festival competition for a “bold, avant-garde and courageous” film was won by banned Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof. There is no Evil, four short dramas about official executions in his country.
The winner of the highest award at the Berlin Film Festival last year, it was secretly shot after Rasoulof was threatened with imprisonment and banned from film production due to “spread of propaganda” against the Islamic republic.
He overcame the ban by sending fake scripts for four short films under false names then posing as a crew member on a cast – with a pretentious director – so that the authorities would not arrive. He also grew his beard and wore glasses to be less recognizable publicly.
With the competition returning after missing last year’s only digital festival, the awards were announced at the closing night party ahead of Wes Anderson’s Australian premiere. The French Expedition.
Jury President David Michod described There is no Evil as “moving, multi-angle exploration of a single theme” – the ways in which culture can carry the burden of institutional cruelty.
“It’s an adventurous film with form and genre, beautifully presented and engineered with a clever touch for a simple, elegant filmmaking craft,” he said.
In a strong field, equally worthy winners would be Run away, Bad Luck Banging Or Loony Porn, Where are you going, Aida? or Bet My Car. It is the second Iranian film to win the award after Asghar Farhadi’s masterpiece Separation in 2011.
Accepting the $ 60,000 Sydney Film Prize in a video from Tehran, Rasoulof said he is happy that there is something more than a simple appreciation in the award. “Something like being heard, understood,” he said. “That’s what keeps hope alive.”
The jury also gave special mention to that of Ben Sharrock Limbo, an unbridled comic drama about a young Syrian refugee on a remote Scottish island.
Director Matthew Walker won the $ 10,000 Australian documentary competition for I am a Woman, who follows Tamworth’s damaged “honky tonk queen” as she goes to Nashville to record an album.
The jury called it “an observational documentary at its best … made with great empathy, respect and intimacy”. He also highly recommended Jeff Daniels Television Event, about the 1983 nuclear attack TV movie The Later Day, to show “that movies can really change the world”.
In the Dendy Awards, the winner of the $ 7000 award for best live-action Australian short was Sophie Somerville’s. Peppers, about the turbulent world of teenagers while shopping.
The $ 7000 Rouben Mamoulian award for best director went to Taylor Ferguson for hard, about a young girl with a bullying father, and the $ 5000 Yoram Gross award for best animation went to Olivia Martin-McGuire’s. Freedom Swimmer, about the dangerous flight of a grandfather from China during the Cultural Revolution.
The $ 10,000 Sydney – UNESCO City of Film Award for pioneering screen practitioner went to documentary producer-director Karina Holden, whose projects include Blue, See What You Did To Me and Strong Female Leader.
Chief executive Leigh Small said, cinemas with COVID capacity limitations were more than 55 percent full during the festival, with 52 sold-out sessions.