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BIFF 2003 - my general thoughts
by Trevor Gensch

Well, BIFF has been and gone for another year. The popcorn is being swept from the aisles, the ticket stubs are being stashed away, and that strange Yellow Coat Man is being evicted back to whatever bedsit he came from. Time to share my thoughts on how I thought BIFF 2003 went.

Firstly I just want to say that this years BIFF has to be the most professionally run, nearly flawlessly executed BIFF I have encountered in recent memory. Everything seems to have gone along with nary a hitch. My congratulations to the staff at BIFF for making my own time reviewing films that much more enjoyable.

And on the issue of festival numbers - BIFF might say that patronage was up 12.2% this year, but that just don't wash with me. Only a few sessions were sold out and few of the sessions I went to were particularly full. BIFF claimed last year that they had a 12.2% increase in ticket sales - poor statistics when you consider the festival was 3 days longer in 2002. What dirty tricks are they playing with the figures this year?

If numbers are down say so - perhaps people might be shamed into coming along. Or perhaps admit that the festival choices aren't up to scratch. Overall I found this years festival a poor one in terms of choices - there seemed to be less "crowd pleasers" and more "middle of the road" fare. Unpolished gems to be discovered to be sure, but festival patrons want their blockbusters, they want their films of mass appeal. I don't of course, but the majority seem to.

As I said before, this year's program doesn't seem to have had its fair share of true "blockbusters". Opening Night film Gettin' Square was an entertaining if low key opening to BIFF 2003. My favourites this year would have to be (in no particular order);

Pure
Hukkle
Noi Albonio
Hop
Wildeness

Films that won't get a repeat viewing out of me;

Unknown Pleasures
The Principles of Lust
Smokers Only
Some Other

So, lets go through the good and bad points of BIFF 2003.

The Good

Hoyts Regent Bar opening at midday, every day, of the festival.

Free seniors tickets - after last years faux pas of discontinuing the "daylight" pass it was great to see this becoming a feature - in past years the "knitting club" set seemed to comprise a fair percentage of BIFF festival goers during the day - losing them meant losing significant patronage.

General timetable - I didn't seem to have many problems fitting in the films I wanted
(despite seeing 5 more this year than last year). The way the films were slotted in with each other seemed to work very well.

Centralised venues - last year it got better with pretty much only city central venues being utilised, this year it was improved upon even more with all bar the State Library screenings being confined to the Hoyts Regent.

BIFF Fast Film venue - bravo on the venue - after last years travesty all is forgiven.

Program disruptions - surprisingly few this year. The irony of it all is despite past years being replete with disruptions, they never affected my choices; this year has very few and it finally affected my schedule :-)

Festival guest and the english language - I know it is horribly racist of me, but it was great to find all festival guests could speak english.



The Bad

Not enough shorts before features. I mean, I saw nearly 35 films this year, and probably only 12 of those had short films in front of them. I know it is all down to scheduling and the quality/quantity of films that actually get submitted, but surely the ratio of accepted/submitted must be like 10 to 1, thus suggesting the possibility of more shorts to be included in the program?

More diversity in the program - I know BIFF is renowned for its focus on Asian cinema, but for those that don't like Asian cinema there has to be more from other countries. Of the films from the UK I saw, only one was a real stinker. Pretty good strike rate when compared to the Asian cinema.

Tighter security on ticket sales - maybe it was just me, but I was able to go the box office and pickup 30 tickets without even showing any ID.

The program guide - correct me if I am wrong, but apart from the BIFF website there was no free program guide available that had times and descriptions for all films in the festival. The closest was an A3 sheet with the program on the back with a "best of the fest" listing inside with a few descriptions. Those without access to the web would have been forced to buy the $12 program.

Tear sheets - the voting forms are great - but nobody, in any session I was in, explained them fully. They all said to use them, but not once did somebody say "short films on the left and features on the right". With so many films screening without shorts how many people just tore the left hand side without thinking? After all, it is pretty dark when most people cast their vote.

So there you go - my favourite films of the festival, and my thoughts on the good and bad - I would be interested in hearing from any of you that attended BIFF this year - leave your thoughts on the message board by clicking the link below.


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=777
originally posted: 08/14/03 09:06:04
last updated: 12/31/03 14:27:10
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