©ourtesy of ABC News Australia
Australians are enjoying a high profile at Cannes this year, with all eyes in the film world expected to be watching the ground breaking work of Aboriginal artists. The Sapphires is the latest to gain international attention with a screening in official selection at the French festival that kicks off on Wednesday (local time). Actress Deborah Mailman, who stars in the feel-good feature about an all-girl singing group plucked from a remote Aboriginal community to play for Australian troops serving in Vietnam, is delighted with the response. “Yes, it’s huge. It’s a really great acknowledgement,” she said at this week’s launch of the Sydney Film Festival, just days before jetting out for Europe. “There’s obviously something in the film that they went, ‘Yeah, we want this, and we want it on the world stage’. So it’s wonderful that that’s been recognised. And we are very proud of this film, no matter what.” Mailman is already a household name in Australia for her many TV roles and appearances in films such as the musical comedy Bran Nue Dae and the historical drama Rabbit Proof Fence. But the 39-year-old, who in 1998 beat Cate Blanchett and Rachel Griffiths for the Australian Film Institute award for best actress, is still excited about heading to Cannes for the first time. “My head, everything is still catching up with the idea of it,” she said.
Reinvigorating the industry
From the 1980s film Crocodile Dundee about a knife-wielding bushman to Baz Luhrmann‘s 2008 sweeping romantic epic Australia, Australian films have long featured Aboriginal characters. But a batch of features being created by Indigenous filmmakers is reinvigorating the industry, and in 2009 Samson And Delilah – a heartbreaking love story set in a remote Indigenous community – won the Camera d’Or at Cannes. Australians will have a strong influence in France again this year, with Nicole Kidman starring in The Paperboy by US director Lee Daniels as well as Philip Kaufman’s Hemingway And Gellhorn, which will be shown out of competition. Kylie Minogue stars opposite Eva Mendes in Holy Motors by Leos Carax, and two Australian directors Andrew Dominik (Killing Them Softly) and John Hillcoat (Lawless) are competing for the top Palme d’Or prize. Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland, whose 2004 debut feature Somersault was shown in Cannes, says the Indigenous input is part of the reason that Australian film is performing so well. “The issues that everybody is going through are international issues – about people not going to the cinema as much, and also the amount of money that is put into the blockbusters as promotion so the smaller arthouse films sometimes slip away. “But I would say that the industry in Australia at the moment seems quite robust, and what I am really interested in is the diversity and the strength of the Indigenous work.” Shortland, whose latest work Lore is a German-language film shot entirely in Europe and set at the end of the war in 1945, is pleased about the success of The Sapphires. “It’s fantastic for all of us to be represented in an international market,” she said. Queensland-born Mailman, who grew up in the mining town of Mount Isa, is proud of her work with Indigenous artists, including a new movie about a landmark land rights case, Mabo, which is premiering at the Sydney Film Festival. “There’s nothing better than working with my mob. And I mean that from my heart,” she said. “It’s great to be telling a story that’s from us, that’s been directed by us, and that is telling our stories.” She says it is hard to put a label on the work coming out now. “That’s a great thing – you can’t define it. You’re getting all these directors who have been working for years… suddenly finding their particular storytelling skills. “I think what you see is people coming into their own craft. Which is where Indigenous film may be heading.”
- Five Aussie films to get world premieres at Sydney Film Festival (mumbrella.com.au)
- Weinstein Company nabs ‘Sapphires’ (variety.com)
- The Sapphires to open Melbourne International Film Festival (mumbrella.com.au)