Weirdness Wins Out At Sydney Film Festival
The festivities have wrapped for another year with the strange Greek feature, ‘Alps’, taking out the top prize.
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos' daring feature, Alps (pictured), has taken out Sydney Film Festival's Official Competition prize, which recognises courageous, audacious and cutting-edge filmmaking.
"I never expected such a nice wakeup call today. We are all extremely happy," Lanthimos said on the line from Greece having been given the news. "I want to thank the Jury and the Festival and once again all the people who made the film possible."
The director, who put the Greek ‘Weird Wave' on the map with his biting black comedy, Dogtooth (which took out the Prix Uncertain Regard at 2009's Cannes Film Festival), also produced Athina Rachel Tsangari's offbeat Attenberg, which screened in competition last year.
Lanthimos' returning feature, Alps, is another warped vision of lives on the periphery of a society in decay. Co-produced by Tsangari, it follows a secret club whose members are paid to act as replacements for the recently deceased.
"Alps melds pathos, black humour and taut menace in a film that is at once challenging and highly rewarding," said Jury Chair, Rachel Ward, of the winning film. "A finely calibrated, absurdist study of power and identity, Alps is intelligent, uniquely emotive filmmaking from an important new voice in Greek cinema."
The film beat out a bevy of tough competition to claim the top prize with other Official Competition finalists including Sundance sensation, Beasts of the Southern Wild; the Italian drama Caesar Must Die; Anurag Kashyap's Indian epic, Gangs of Wasseypur; the first South Korean film in SFF's Official Competition, The King of Pigs; the Oscar-nominated drama Monsieur Lazhar; Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho's, Neighbouring Sounds; Jack Kerouac's legendary work, brought to life by Walter Salles, On The Road; Miguel Gomes' Tabu; and Senegalese drama Today.
Also in competition was Australian director Tony Krawitz's Dead Europe, based on Christos Tsiolkas' award-winning novel, which sees Ewen Leslie star as a photographer searching for answers abroad after his father dies. Cate Shortland's Lore, a sensual story about the tribulations faced by the young in the aftermath of war, also competed.
In addition to the Official Competition winner, The FOXTEL Australian Documentary Prize was awarded to Paul Gallasch's Killing Anna, which chronicles the writer/director's unusual method of dealing with a relationship break-up - believing that it would be easier for his ex-girlfriend to die than for him to deal with her abandonment of their relationship - so he holds a funeral service.
The FOXTEL Australian Documentary Prize jury offered the following with regard to their decision: "With an impressive economy of means, the director has crafted a film of great emotional resonance - distinctive, funny, and full of character. The filmmaker courageously exposes his own emotional journey to deliver a universal message about romantic loss."
The winner of the Dendy Award for Best Live Action Short went to Michael Spiccia's Yardbird, which follows a young girl living in a remote wrecking yard, who takes on the local bullies when they turn up and torment her father.
The Rouben Mamoulian Award - which recognises Best Australian Short Film Director - was given to actor turned director Mirrah Foulkes, writer and director of Dumpy Goes to the Big Smoke.
The Yoram Gross Animation Award for the Best Australian Animated Short film went to Christopher Kezelos' The Maker, about a strange creature who races against time to make the most important and beautiful creation of its life.
Overall, the festival registered as a success for its first-time director, Nashen Moodley, whose program included fewer American films and future cinema releases than in recent years - with a stand-out slate of art-house dramas and documentaries.
Running June 6-17, attendance at screenings also increased ten percent on last year despite some increase in ticket prizes.
The results of the 2012 SHOWTIME Audience Awards will be announced on June 19. For more information about the winners, head here.