LION (January 19) Already feted with a few nominations at The Golden Globes – and tipped to grab a few nods at the Oscars too – Lion is unquestionably the most anticipated Aussie film of the year. The debut feature from director, Garth Davis (TV’s Top Of The Lake), this gut-wrenching true life drama tells the harrowing tale of Saroo Brierly, who was separated from his family in India while a small child, and eventually adopted by a loving couple in Tasmania, where he grew up. Boasting bravura turns from Dev Patel (as the adult Saroo), Sunny Pawar (as the young Saroo), Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, and Rooney Mara, Lion is heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure.
JASPER JONES (March 2) When it comes to blue ribbon local talent, Jasper Jones has got it in spades: it’s the latest effort from director, Rachel Perkins, who has impressed with a wide variety of films, including 1998’s Radiance, 2001’s One Night The Moon, 2009’s Bran Nue Dae, the 2014 doco, Black Panther Woman, the TV movie, Mabo, and the series, Redfern Now; the cast includes Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys), Dan Wyllie, Toni Collette, Hugo Weaving, and Matt Nable; and the script comes courtesy of Shaun Grant, who penned the acclaimed true life drama, Snowtown. Jasper Jones is set during a scorching summer in 1969 when the bookish Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller, Pan, Red Dog: True Blue) is drawn into a mysterious adventure by the titular outcast (Aaron L. McGrath).
BREATH (2017) Tim Winton is widely regarded to be Australia’s greatest living novelist, so any time one of his books gets adapted for the screen, it’s instantly and hotly anticipated. The results have so far been a little mixed (from the underwhelming That Eye, The Sky and In The Winter Dark through to the more large scale The Turning and TV’s Cloudstreet), but 2017’s Breath looks like a potential winner. The film marks the directorial debut of Simon Baker (returning to Australia after a long and successful stint on US TV’s The Mentalist), and boasts a strong cast (Elizabeth Debicki, Richard Roxburgh, and Baker himself), while its 1970s-set coming of age story will likely strike a chord with a large segment of the audience.
THE NIGHTINGALE (2017) When she tore onto the scene in 2014 with her cracking horror film, The Babadook, writer/director, Jennifer Kent, was instantly courted by Hollywood, with the gifted filmmaker invited into the offices of all of the major studios. As she told FilmInk at the time, Kent wasn’t “overly impressed” with what Hollywood had to offer, and was more interested in continuing to tell her own stories. Happily, we haven’t lost Kent to Hollywood (yet), and the director is back in Australia for The Nightingale, which is set in 1829 Tasmania, and follows a young convict woman who escapes imprisonment, and seeks revenge for the murder of her family. She takes an Aboriginal male outcast with her through the Tasmanian wilderness, embarking on a dangerous and terrifying journey.
BERLIN SYNDROME (2017) She made her first big splash in 2004 with the dreamy, beautifully crafted Somersault, and didn’t follow that up until 2012’s acclaimed Lore (though she did direct TV’s The Silence), which was set in WW2-era Germany. Thankfully it hasn’t taken writer/director, Cate Shortland, quite as long to deliver her next film this time. Remaining in Germany, Shortland’s Berlin Syndrome is based on the novel by Melanie Joosten, and follows a young Australian photojournalist (Teresa Palmer) who finds herself involved in an obsessive relationship, which ultimately results in her imprisonment in a Berlin apartment. A dark, difficult, brooding story, Berlin Syndrome is sure to be another uncompromising effort from one of our most restrained but confronting directors.
HOUNDS OF LOVE (2017) Set in Perth, the dark, twisted thriller, Hounds Of Love, sees Stephen Curry and Emma Booth as a twisted suburban couple who kidnap teenager, Vicki (Puberty Blues’ Ashleigh Cummings), and hold her captive for their own awful purposes. The canny and self-possessed Vicki realises that she must play the two off each other if she is to make her escape. Susie Porter, Damien De Montemas and Harrison Gilbertson also star in this story of control and dependence written and directed by Ben Young, who has already been snapped up to helm the big budget sci-fi flick, Extinction, which is tipped to star James McAvoy. Already a success at festivals, Hounds Of Love is a safe bet to be one of the most unusual local films of 2017.
A FEW LESS MEN (March 9) The only thing more rare than superheroes and space ships in Australian cinema are sequels, which makes A Few Less Men an instant point of interest. The 2011 original, A Few Best Men, was a raunchy, funny, full-tilt hit from director, Stephan Elliott (The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert), who has jumped ship for the follow-up, with Mark Lamprell (My Mother Frank, Goddess) capably stepping in to take his place. A Few Less Men finds our hapless heroes, David (Xavier Samuel), Tom (Kris Marshall) and Graham (Kevin Bishop), stranded in the Australian outback after a plane crash, where they have to fight hilariously to survive, and then make their way back to London.
CARGO (2017) Expanding their 2013 Tropfest finalist short of the same name to feature length, co-directors, Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, have lured big UK name, Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, The Office), down under to play the anguished Andy, a father desperately trying to find sanctuary for his infant before he succumbs to the pandemic that has decimated the world. All of the synopses are being a little coy about said pandemic, but we’re pretty sure that it’s basically code for zombies, which is fine by us. The film’s indigenous element (Andy wants to live his child with a flourishing Aboriginal tribe) looks set to give this dystopian drama a decidedly local kick.
THE OSIRIS CHILD: SCIENCE FICTION VOLUME ONE (2017) From Australian writer/director, Shane Abbess – the man whose creative vision drove the mini-epic fantasy, Gabriel, and the impressive sci-fi thriller, Infini – comes The Osiris Child: Science Fiction Volume One, another daring trip into genre filmmaking. Set in the future in a time of interplanetary colonisation, the film tracks an unlikely pair who must race against the clock to prevent an impending global crisis, while being confronted by the monsters that live inside us all. Boasting a strong cast (Kellan Lutz, Daniel MacPherson, Temuera Morrison, Rachel Griffiths, Teagan Croft, Isabel Lucas, Luke Ford), this looks like another stellar slab of sci-fi from a rising Aussie master.
ALI’S WEDDING (2017) Directed by Aussie TV veteran, Jeffrey Walker (Modern Family, Angry Boys, Rake, Bones), and co-written by Andrew Knight (Hacksaw Ridge) and actor/writer, Osamah Sami, Ali’s Wedding is a wry look at the changing face of multiculturalism in Australia. After a “white lie” spirals out of control, Ali (Osamah Sami) – a neurotic, naive and musically gifted Muslim cleric’s eldest son – must follow through with an arranged marriage, which hits a major spin when he falls madly in love with an Australian-born Lebanese girl. Sami’s critically acclaimed memoir, Good Muslim Boy, was the winner of the NSW Premier’s Literary Award, and was also highly commended at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, while the script for Ali’s Wedding has already been nominated for an Australian Writers Guild Award for Best Original Feature. Now that’s worth getting excited about…
ALSO ANTICIPATED: 2:22, BAD GIRL, BLUE WORLD ORDER, BOAR, THE BUTTERFLY TREE, THE COMET KIDS, DANCE ACADEMY, THE DEATH AND LIFE OF OTTO BLOOM, DON’T TELL, EMO THE MUSICAL, THE FAMILY, HOTEL MUMBAI, KILLING GROUND, THE NEST, OUT OF THE SHADOWS, RABBIT, SPACE/TIME, SWEET COUNTRY, TARNATION, THREE SUMMERS, TOM WILLS