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The 18 I saw at Sydney Film Festival 2012

The Sydney Film Festival really does get better every year. I didn’t even know if I’d be here for it this year, and bought 10 tickets anyway. A week into it, I bought 7 more, being gifted the final ticket by the new festival director himself, Nashen Moodley.

What a lineup Nashen and his team put together, surely encompassing everything cinema has to offer, and challenging audiences at the same time. The last minute addition of Holy Motors was the exemplifying cherry on top!

As I did with my end of year recap last year, I’ll group the films I saw by star-rating out of 5, alphabetically within the groupings, including original tweets about each, and links to extended reviews, where I’ve written them.

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Gangs of Wasseypur

Gangs of Wasseypur. The vicious cycle of violence, ambition and love in this sprawling, masterfully told epic! What an end to the Sydney Film Festival.

I’ve sat through way too many two hour films that have been an absolute drag. Gruelling, tiring affairs that have made me weary and wary of long runtimes. This was five and a half hours of cinema, and it felt effortless to watch. That is really saying something about the pacing, storytelling, direction and characters. 

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Amour [spoilers, duh]

Amour. Unconditional, heart-breaking love, and all that it means. Filled with a million delicate moments.

I need to watch this again. With a notepad. There were so many damn good scenes in Amour, and having seen it literally half an hour ago, my caffeine-filled head is racing, trying to piece it all back together.

The first moment Anne is brought back home in the wheelchair, and Georges has to wheel her in to the living room. The subtle awkwardness that comes with having to ask “Where do you want me to take you?” for the first time. Picking her up delicately, moving her inch by inch towards the chair. The momentary relief.

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The Law in These Parts [spoilers, duh]

The Law in These Parts. The disgusting actions and absurd double standards of the Israeli Supreme Court and military judges in the laws and rulings handed down over the last 40 years in Occupied Territories.

Making it all the worse is the staunch defense the retired judges that are the subjects of this documentary still put forward. As far as they were concerned, the form of justice they were serving was to make sure whatever the military needed to happen, happened. No authority figure in the Israel army was ever questioned, and each judge took the word of the army as absolute truth, while discounting the Palestinians at every opportunity, because they were the “enemy”. This was the system they were a part of, and a system they could break free of.

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Beasts of the Southern Wild [spoilers, duh]

Beasts of the Southern Wild. Exhilarating. Powerful. Evocative. Two insane central performances.

This is so different to anything I’ve seen, and the film did not lose my attention for a second the whole way through. I can’t remember the last time I’ve experienced that.

Quvenzhane Wallis, as our six year old hero, Hushpuppy, is astonishing. I can’t find anything to confirm her real age, but it looks like she was actually six at the time of shooting this. How she was able to give the performance she did is beyond me. The fierceness in her face and eyes during many an exchange with her father, Wink, is something that will stay with me for a long time.

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Searching for Sugar Man [spoilers, duh]

Searching for Sugar Man. A man getting paid his dues 20 years later in the most magical of ways. Simply remarkable!

A musician lighting himself on fire while on stage, committing suicide in the most horrific of ways. A fan’s recollection is how Searching for Sugar Man starts.

What a story.

Sixto Diaz Rodriguez AKA Rodriguez writing and performing his poetic, grim observations of the working class and their unfair treatment in Detroit, circa mid-1970s. The hopes and dreams of being signed to a label, with Bob Dylan comparisons. A gig gone bad and the unpredictable music industry in the U.S. not paying an announce of attention. Dead in America, metaphorically, and literally, to those in South Africa, where he was kind of a big deal!

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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.

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