Sydney Film Festival: The Year of the Dog?

56th Annual SFF kicks off with rain, Blighty, loud guitars and a puzzled pooch

by | June 4, 2009 | Comments

With barely a rain-soaked whimper, this year’s Sydney Film Festival — drastically slashed in size and scope for 2009 — kicked off Wednesday night, June 4.

The opening night offered predictable red carpet jollies for a handful of stars, an even smaller number of journalists and hundreds of party paps who looked both excited (at the presence of cameras) and confused (at what they were supposed to be doing). And as usual, Australia’s premiere film festival — one of the oldest in the world, believe it or not — boasted a feelgood flick for its main event. Yet again, it came from the motherland.

I’ve always wondered why our beloved film fest doesn’t throw its doors open with a killer local release. Among this year’s obvious contenders: the stunningly restored ’70s classic Wake in Fright (think Straw Dogs in the Outback), Hugo Weaving’s fine turn in Last Ride, or the overlooked Lucky Country (oddly missing from the program). Instead, we got Ken Loach’s fun-but-fluffy Looking For Eric . About a soccer player. In England.

The real buzz was arguably across the road for the premiere of It Might Get Loud — the awesome doco that brings together guitar gods Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White for a ‘summit’, to examine their passion, their craft and their backgrounds. Unfortunately, someone appeared to have forgotten the second reel of the film.

I’ve been perplexed as to why — with the sad, lost expression of Mutley (the festival dog) staring out at me from this year’s publicity material — this year’s festival has been so strangely set up. Why the leaner format — with less films, fewer venues and a user-unfriendly ticketing system? It’s all because of the Global Financial Crisis, silly. Even a cultural event that’s heavily subsidised by the NSW government is affected, apparently. And in such financially stringent times, where better for punters to ‘chill out’ and ‘hang’ than at the most overpriced drinking hole in Sydney, aka the ‘Festival Bar’, Hemesphere?

See you there…

It Might Get Loud screens Saturday June 6 at 8pm, at Hoyts-Greater Union, George Street.

Last Ride screens Sunday June 7 at 4.30pm, at the State Theatre, Market Street.

Wake in Fright screens Saturday, June 13 at 11.45am, at the State Theatre, Market Street.

For full program details, head over to the Sydney Film Festival’s website