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BIFF 2003: A film fest with something for the kids, and more.
by Trevor Gensch

Ask most film lovers what they hate most about the cinema experience, most of them will say "kids". Others will say "Freddie Prinze Jr", but most will go with screaming, crying, pesky kids, running up and down the aisles, pointing at the screen saying "what is that, mummy", "look at THAT, mummy!", "What's this rash, mummy?" And all you are trying to do is watch Boogie Nights in peace.

So it was with some wariness that I watched Brisbane Lord Mayor Tim Quinn today launch a relatively new part of Brisbane International Film Festival, the Children's Festival Programme. The aim of this special program is to showcase children's films from around the world, as opposed to the usual avalanche of sugar-sweet "coool dude" crap that comes out of America.

From France, director Michel Ocelot's Kirikou and the Sorceress (pictured) is a fanciful, animated feature based on a popular folk tale from West Africa. In this feature, Kirikou leaps into action to save his parents' village from a sorceress.

The 1940 classic The Thief of Baghdad (UK) is a technicolour Arabian Nights extravaganza, widely regarded as one of the best (if not the best) fantasy films of the pre-computer technology era. The title character, named Abu, befriends a ragged young man, who happens to be the rightful prince of Baghdad. A timeless battle between good and evil, right and wrong ensues.

From American director Sean McNamara, Race to Space is a heartwarming, nostalgic story about a young boy's adventures with a chimpanzee, training to become America's first astronaut. The film is based on the true story of America's entry into the space race in the early 60’s with a Redstone rocket piloted by a chimpanzee.

Paper Airplanes from director Farhad Mehranfar (Iran) is the story of Reza and his father, Hashem, a travelling picture showman. During the school holidays, Hashem decides to take Reza on a work trip to a remote part of Iran where he will screen a film. When they reach the village, many of the villagers are not even certain what a film is. Hashem is idealistic and firmly believes in the educational value of his work. Paper Airplanes highlights the strong cultural clash between Reza's city life and that of these traditional nomadic shepherds, bringing into question our assumptions of cultural superiority.

Lord Mayor Quinn said he hoped Brisbane families would take the opportunity to enjoy films from cultures other than their own, which highlighted to children the diversity of the world we live in. And just to make sure they can, Brisbane City Council is sponsoring free screenings for children under 18 years of age. Class booking forms for teachers are available on the BIFF website (

If there is one good thing that can come out of the Children's Festival, it's that there will be plenty of Brisbane children able to say “I want to go the toilet mummy” in over 4 major languages. The fun of being able to swear at them in same comes later.

Did you know there is a film festival in Guatemala that decides on its favourite film shown by the amount of coconuts left at the base of the screen after the screening? Or that in 1991 a festival in Ontario, Canada had as its special guest the landlord of the building where Robert DeNiro grew up?

Such are the curious claims to fame of the worlds so-called "stars". Its then refreshing to see that one festival takes the idea of honouring one of their own seriously.

The Brisbane Film Festival has, every year since its inception, selected one lucky aussie to receive the Chauvel Award, which acknowledges a distinguished contributor to the Australian feature film industry. This years recipient is renowned Australian producer Anthony (Tony) Buckley.

The Chauvel Award is after well-known Queensland film pioneers, Charles and Elsa Chauvel. The Chauvels made two silent and seven sound features, four of which are included in the Australian Film Institute top 100 Australian features – Forty Thousand Horseman, Rats of Tobruk, Sons of Matthew and Jedda. For more than thirty years they battled against an unsupportive environment, winning often grudgingly given funds from the Australian agents of international distributors to finance their films. After completing Jedda, the Chauvels turned to television, making the series Walkabout for the BBC.

Lord Mayor Quinn said “It is a great pleasure to announce Anthony Buckley as the recipient of this years Chauvel Award and to place his contribution alongside former recipients including cinematographer John Seale, actor Bryan Brown, documentarists Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson and last year's recipient Jan Chapman.”

Regarded as one of the leaders of the Australian film industry, Anthony Buckley began his career as a laboratory assistant and later as a film editor with the Sydney newsreel company Cinesound. Through the 1960’s, he edited many notable feature films including Michael Powell's Age of Consent, Ted Kotcheff's Wake in Fright and Rudolf Nureyev's Don Quixote. As a documentary filmmaker, his Forgotten Cinema film helped influence the government to support the renaissance of the Australian film industry in the late 1960’s.

Anthony independently produced and directed a film on the life of Frank Hurley Snow, Sand and Savages, and produced Palace of Dreams and Man on the Rim - The Peopling of the Pacific. Working as a producer for Film Australia, he produced The Fifth Facade and A Steam Train Passes.

In 1975 he produced the internationally acclaimed feature film Caddie, winner of 14 awards including the San Sebastian Jury Prize for Best Film. This was followed by The Irishman, The Night The Prowler, The Killing of Angel Street and Kitty and The Bagman. Bliss was selected in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 1985 and was winner of Best Film in the 1985 Australian Film Awards.

In 1977, Tony was awarded the Order of Australia for his services to the industry. His producing career continued through the next three decades in the television and mini-series genre with productions such as Nazi Supergrass, Celluloid Heroes, On Our Selection, The Sugar Factory, Les Darcy The Maitland Wonder, The Potato Factory, My Husband, My Killer, Hero's Mountain and Yum Cha Cha. He is currently producing Bryce Courtenay's Jessica for Network Ten.

During the festival, David Stratton will host an on-stage question-and-answer session with Tony Buckley, in which he will discuss his career and show clips from some of his films. The audience will also have the opportunity to meet Tony Buckley in person.

[editor's note:] Attendees will also get the opportunity to laugh at Strats as he slurs his words, splashes champagne all over his shirt and eventually falls down on top of a startled Brisbane socialite named Cheri.

Oh wait, maybe I'm thinking of Pomeranz.

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originally posted: 07/05/03 14:12:09
last updated: 12/30/03 09:49:24
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