Sydney Film Festival is bigger & better

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The 60th Sydney Film Festival launched recently. We caught up with Festival Director Nashen Moodley to find out more:

Happy 60th Birthday to Sydney Film Festival! What a milestone. How are you celebrating this in the program?

Thank you. For the 60th anniversary we created a comprehensive online archive – Sydney Film Festival 1954 to Now: A Living Archive [which can be accessed here]. It’s a remarkable archive containing essays, videos, photographs, and the synopsis of each of the 8580 films that have played at the festival since 1954. As far as this year’s program is concerned, we’ll be presenting films like Rear Window and The Back of Beyond that have had a significant role in the festival’s history.

The full festival program came out last week. I’m looking forward to seeing Wadjda – the first film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, where cinemas aren’t even permitted. Are  there any films in the program that you’re particularly excited about, or that you’re interested to see the audience responses to?
I’m very excited to present each and every film in the program. We considered so many films before finalising the selection, that each film in the program is important and very much worth seeing. I look forward to the audience reaction to our opening film, Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road, and also to all of the films playing in our Official Competition.

Who are some new filmmakers you’re enjoying the work of? Any ‘ones to watch’?
Mystery Road sees Ivan Sen taking a new direction, and that’s going to be very exciting for his many fans. Also, in the Official Competition we will present five first feature films: Monsoon Shootout, Oh Boy, For Those in PerilWadjda and The Rocket. These are great films by talented new filmmakers, so it’s a great pleasure to introduce their works to the Australian audience.

You have worked as the Head of Programming for the Durban Film Festival and are currently heading the AsiaAfrica program for the Dubai Film Festival. How do you feel your experiences in Durban and Dubai influence your work for the Sydney Film Festival?
With slight variations, the audiences at each of those festivals are similar and I find that films that play particularly well would do so at all three. The 20 festivals I have programmed for between Durban and Dubai have provided me with many experiences that aid me now. And because of my work with African and Asian cinema in particular, I have broad networks in those regions which makes it a bit easier to get the films I want.

Film festivals of a range of themes seem to be remaining strong despite the advent of the downloadable film. From previous interviews you have mentioned that ‘a crowd sharing a story in a darkened room is still, for me, the most exciting way to watch a film…. This feeling can never be replaced in an increasingly digitised, downloadable age.’ What kinds of shifts can you speculate for the future of film festivals?
In the short term, I don’t see the model changing. Festivals provide a great opportunity for people to share a film and then discuss it afterwards, and I think audiences really appreciate that. Also, while more and more is available to to download, festivals provide a carefully curated experience, and this too has a great appeal. And with the large amount of marketing and publicity generated, festivals create a lot of attention for the films, not just at the festival for the life of the film beyond the festival presentation.

For info about the Sydney Film Festival, including schedules and venues, check out their website.



Interview by Vinisha Mulani