WOMEN FILMMAKERS AT MONTREAL’S INTERNATIONAL FANTASIA FILM FEST – Alexandra Heller-Nicholas reports

Breaking with past bad habits, the presence of women-made movies at genre film festivals around the world is now becoming an assumed norm rather than a curious anomaly. The 2019 iteration of Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival is a case in point, a fiercely independent and originally programmed festival that defines ‘outside the box’ curatorial thinking to the point that it has earned a strong international reputation for taste-making and trend-setting on the global film genre scene.

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Sydney FF 2019: VARDA BY AGNÈS – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Varda By Agnès is a sprawling, wandering film that reveals how the seemingly different strands of our lives can diverge, intersect, vanish and return. At the heart of this is simply the experience of having lived a full life, where Varda was influenced by the people she met and worked with as much as she influenced them. “Real people are the heart of my work”, she says simply at one point, noting elsewhere “nothing is trite if you film people with empathy and love”.

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Sydney FF 2019: DANIEL ISN’T REAL – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Daniel Isn’t Real reveals that at its best, horror can depict with crystal precision experiences, feelings and sensations that are often very difficult to articulate in any other way. Director Adam Egypt Mortimer employs the supernatural cinema toolbox to construct a cartography of pain itself, which he renders with enormous sensitivity.

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Sydney FF 2019: DARK PLACE – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Dark Place saves the best of its anthology of five horror shorts till last and excels with Kodie Bedford’s unforgettable, electrifying Scout. If every horror anthology contains one short you wish was a feature, this is it; despite being a newcomer to directing, Bedford directs action like an old-hand, and the way she combines familiar genre thrills with inescapable and at times explicit political agenda about the exploitation and abuse of Indigenous Australian women by white men is nothing less than masterful.

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Sydney FF 2019 Review: THE WEDDING GUEST – by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

With a feature filmmaking career that has spanned almost 25 years, although Michael Winterbottom has had some are undeniable misfires, he has simultaneously illustrated time and time again that when he’s good, he’s very good. The Wedding Guest adds to Winterbottom’s oeuvre while donating to his experiments with the crime/thriller genre, joining previous projects such as The Face of an Angel and 2010’s controversial The Killer Inside Me.

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Sydney FF 2019: OUR TIME – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Chances are, if you’ve seen a film by acclaimed Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas before you’ll have a pretty clear idea what you’ll make of his latest feature Our Time before you even watch it. Tedious navel-gazing or ponderous poetic reflection? As is now seemingly par for the course with Reygadas, opinion is largely split, although Our Time does not seem to have drummed up quite the impassioned positive responses as his last feature six years ago, the more experimental and audacious Post Tenebras Lux from 2012. It may simply be a case of better the (animated) devil you know.

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SYDNEY FF 2019: ANIMALS – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Bursting into the national consciousness with her smash 2013 debut feature 52 Tuesdays, Australian filmmaker Sophie Hyde has gone decidedly international in her vision with her much-anticipated sophomore effort, the international co-production Animals. Starring Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat, the two women play best friends and flatmates Laura and Tyler whose down-and-dirty carefree bacchanalia of their twenties suddenly begins to fade when faced with expectations of transitioning to the world of so-called ‘adult’ responsibility.

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Sydney FF 2019: MY NUDITY MEANS NOTHING – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

For those still shaken by Marina de Van’s shocking, brave and wholly unique 2002 debut film In My Skin, that the French filmmaker, actor and writer has finally returned with a feature-length film is cause for unbridled celebration. Like In My Skin, although shifting from fictional filmmaking to a documentary format with My Nudity Means Nothing, in many ways these two works have much in common: both feature de Van as their central subject, and both hold at their core a fundamental, almost clinical, focus on the relationship between gender, identity and corporeality.

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Sydney FF 2019: A DOG CALLED MONEY – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Weaving together a range of different threads and textures in his revealing documentary about cult British rock icon PJ Harvey and her 2016 album The Hope Six Demolition Project, Irish filmmaker and photojournalist Seamus Murphy‘s A Dog Called Money crosses the globe with the musician to meet the people and places that inspired her.

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BIT – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

The moment Nicole Maines first hit the news through the landmark human rights decision in the Doe v. Clenchy anti-discrimination case in the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in 2013, there was a strong indication that she would succeed at whatever she put her mind to. The good news for those of us with a desperate hunger for fresh young talent in film and television is that what she’s put her mind to is acting.

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