Monday, June 18, 2012

2012 Sydney Film Festival Round-up

The Sydney Film Festival is over for another year - actually, it is just my second year extensively covering it - and while it is sad to not be spending my entire day watching films, it is time to go back to the real world; go for a run and got some sun, and start making some money again. The weather was mostly pretty awful, actually. Lots of rain, so sloshing through the wet between sessions has been fun. I did break my record of watching four films in one day. Not the best idea, especially when the last film is Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or winner, Amour. 

There has been the usual festival mayhem, but overall it has all run pretty smoothly from my experience. The sessions at the State Theatre were certainly the most pleasant, but the volunteers at Event and Dendy Cinemas did the best they could to usher the big crowds in. At the Closing Night ceremony last night, it was announced that this year brought in record attendances. Interesting.

The winner of the Sydney Film Festival Official Competition Award went to Yorgos Lanthimos' Greek weird-wave drama, Alps. As you will see in my rankings, it's not one of my festival highlights. Interesting idea, certainly, but for my reading, not a particularly well executed one. I haven't seen Dogtooth and some of the companion pieces I have been hearing about, but this was a surprise pick.

There have been several long waits in lines, sessions that started late (and early), people arriving as late as an hour into the film and disrupting others, people 'taking' phone calls in sessions and following the film's plot on wikipedia (ugh). Also, in the climax of Amour, a loud ringtone killed some of the tension. There have been experiences as amazing as Holy Motors and Undefeated, and as insufferable as Wuthering Heights and Rampart. 

Definitely the best part about the festival experience was meeting up with critics and film enthusiasts who made the trip to Sydney from all around Australia. I hope I don't forget anybody, but here are the people (both new and old friends) who have made the experience all that more fun: Sydneysiders include Steph, Lisa Malouf, Blake Howard, Matt Pejkovic, Richard Gray, Susan Mills, Dwayne Lennox, Alex Cassimaty, Ian Barr, Dominic Barlow, Chris Elena, Katia Nizic and Matt Ravier. Those out of town include Tom Clift, Julian Buckeridge, Greg Bennett, Richard Haridy, Lee Zachariah, Cam Williams, Sarah Ward, Matthew Toomey and Simon Miarudo. Prior to the festival, I linked to some fantastic critics and bloggers who would be covering the festival. I ended up meeting all of them, and links to their coverage and twitter handles can be found here.

Also, I want to congratulate Festival Director Nashen Moodley for programming such an interesting and diverse array of films from across the globe. From my line-up I saw films from France, Canada, the U.S.A, Italy, Denmark, Brazil, Iran, Korea, Thailand, Senegal, Turkey, Australia, Japan, Israel, Greece and the U.K.

Also, I want to say a huge thanks to my lovely lady, Samantha McCosh (, for accompanying me to so many of the films, for encouragement and support throughout the coverage and for the rich discussion we have had following many of the films. Over the course of the festival Sam has been working full-time and squeezing in her own extensive coverage. It's amazing. Thank you for putting up with my tiredness, and for leading me to some awesome coffee and food stops along the way.

So, here is my complete ranking of films I have seen that screened at the SFF. Note: I watched a few of these prior to the festival.

Holy Motors (★★★★)
Monsieur Lazhar (★★★★★)

Undefeated (★★★★1/2)
Amour (★★★★1/2)
Caesar Must Die (★★★★1/2)
Moonrise Kingdom (★★★★1/2)

Killer Joe (★★★★)
Polisse (★★★★)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (★★★★)
A Royal Affair (★★★★)
Liberal Arts (★★★★)
Side By Side (★★★★)
Neighbouring Sounds (★★★★)

Goodbye (★★★1/2)
The King of Pigs (★★★1/2)
Headshot (★★★1/2)
Tabu (★★★1/2)
La Pirogue (★★★1/2)

Excision (★★★)
Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (★★★)

On The Road (★★1/2)
Safety Not Guaranteed (★★1/2)
Policeman (★★1/2)

Alps (★★)
Rampart (★1/2)
Wuthering Heights (1/2)

My 2012 Sydney Film Festival Awards.

Best Feature Film: Holy Motors

Runners Up: Monsieur Lazhar/Amour

Best Documentary Feature: Undefeated

Best Debut Feature: Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Best Actor: Denis Lavant (Holy Motors)

Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)

Best Director: Leos Carax (Holy Motors)

Best Screenplay: Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom)

Best Cinematography: Holy Motors/Once Upon A Time in Anatolia

Best Score: Moonrise Kingdom/Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Scene: The scene in Holy Motors involving an accordion. You'll know the one.

Over the remainder of the week expect reviews of at least: Killer Joe, Liberal Arts, Neighbouring Sounds, Monsieur Lazhar and Safety Not Guaranteed. I would have liked to have reviewed On the Road but I watched it almost a week ago now and it was forgettable even then. It might not happen. Stay tuned. 


  1. Glad to hear Liberal Arts is good. Looking forward to it.

    1. I really enjoyed Liberal Arts. It helps to relate to the main character, and wow did I relate. Elizabeth Olsen is the star though. So much talent.

  2. Man, you saw some amazing stuff here. Can't wait to see all of these. Thanks for keeping us updated throughout!

    1. It was my pleasure. Holy Motors, man, Holy Motors.

  3. That was an amazing line-up, you basically saw almost all the anticipated movies of 2012, the ones that the critics will most likely love by the end of the year (Holy Motors, Amour, Beasts etc). So many movies in such a short must have been so tired, but I guess it was worth it :)

    1. It was very worth it. I watched a lot, and have not had a chance to review them all - that's why there is no review of On the Road - but it was a great experience. I saw some amazing films. I imagine both Holy Motors and Amour will be in my Top 10 come the end of the year.