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My Sydney Film Festival 2011. 15 seen. Senna takes the checkered flag.

It would be an understatement to say I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s Sydney Film Festival. A wonderful selection of films, a real sense of community through the #sydfilmfest Twitter hashtag [I’m still following it on TweetDeck!], and an increased love of film that has got me thinking in a lot of random tangents.

I saw 15, and really, I had a pretty darn good strikerate! I honestly don’t know how some nutters out there get through 30+, because I felt like I needed another weekend after weekends were lined with 3 films a day, leaving me emotionally drained and physically tired. For someone requiring constant distraction, it was a fine test of concentration.

For all the filmmaking mastery of Malick’s The Tree of Life, the quiet, simple—almost antithesis in some regards—genius of Le Quattro Volte, the perfect drama of A Separation and the psychological powerhouse that was Take Shelter, I found myself unexpectedly, but wholeheartedly gravitating towards the beautifully put together story of Ayrton Senna.

I’ve blogged about a lot of these, and talked about others on Flixster, but as I did with SXSW Film 2011 this year, I’ll simply list them in order, top to bottom, with the original [minor tweaks, where necessary] tweet associated with them, and hyperlink to the blog post or Flixster, where available.

  1. Senna
    Thrilling. Tragic. The most emotionally resounding story of the year.
  2. The Tree of Life
    Grandiose in its vision, glorious in its execution. Genius, Malick! 
  3. Le Quattro Volte
    Highly unique, exemplifying the visual medium of communication, with life moving from one form to another.
  4. A Separation
    Perfect gut-wrenching human drama and emotion brought out by STELLAR all-round performances.
  5. Take Shelter
    Tense, unsettling, playing on the fears of today, and deeply rewarding. A brilliantly paranoid and fearful Michael Shannon!
  6. The Forgiveness of Blood
    A fascinating look into the Blood Feuds of Albania and their impact on one family in modern times
  7. Martha Marcy May Marlene
    A brilliant Elizabeth Olsen, unease galore and a look at the affects of a cult on human behaviour.
  8. Life in a Day
    Extraordinary. Put together by the people of the world and wonderfully edited, telling miniature stories that hold their own, covering love, loss, fear, and the vastly different, but also similar ways we all go about our lives.
  9. Tyrannosaur
    Two destructive personalities—one less inwardly so than the other, but to far greater consequences—find some semblance of peace through each other.
  10. 13 Assassins
    An eclectic mix of hyperviolent, extended action sequences and humour that had the audience roaring.
  11. Sleeping Beauty
    A brave directorial debut confronting male sexuality and an almost existential disconnect of its characters.
  12. Cave of Forgotten Dreams
    An unparalleled, humbling and fascinating look inside the Chauvet Cave and its beautifully detailed 30,000+ year old art, showing how the visual language transcends time.
  13. Black Venus
  14. Based on the story of Sarah Baartman, whose body was sickeningly, and continuously exploited by all the men in her life at the turn of the 19th century. 
  15. Confronting, saddening, very difficult to watch at times, with an astounding lead performance. Did run a little too long though.
  16. Toomelah
    An utterly depressing, honest look inside an Aboriginal community with a glimmer of hope for the next generation. The acting, especially the mother, whose sheepish delivery and half-subdued smile ruined every scene, was a real dealbreaker. 
  17. Happy, Happy
    The relationships, and the twists and turns they took got a little too far fetched for me, but loved the awkward, and unnecessarily racist humour.

There you have it. Of the 15, the last two are the only ones I wouldn’t recommend. 

A magical one and a half weeks, and a huge thank you to Clare Stewart and everyone involved with the Sydney Film Festival 2011. Bring on 2012!

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