A Separation  wins the Official Competition at this year's SFF

Sydney Film Festival Wrap-Up

“Cinema removes the time and space that separate us”

Taken from Iranian Director, Ashgar Farhadi’s acceptance message for A Separation read by Troy Lum of Hopscotch Films.

A Separation wins the Official Competition at this year's SFF © Belinda Rolland


This year’s film festival featured such a strong line-up from filmmakers that I admire and works that I have been anticipating that disappointment was never really on the cards.

For me, Joshua Marston’s The Forgiveness of Blood and Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation (which won the official competition) were the festival stand outs. Both were tense, beautiful controlled dramas that offered courageous insight into specific cultural and moral concerns. A shout out to the weird…scrap that, downright deranged Septien which turned Southern gothic clichés on their head in its comic exploration of three brothers reconciling.

Sindi Lacej in The Forgiveness of Blood

The most beautiful film of the festival was again, two films: Norwegian Wood and Meek’s Cutoff. Both move to the beat of their own drum and will test audiences expecting conventional pacing. But they also offer some of the most beautiful images I have seen in some time.

My favourite performances came from three very different actresses: Miranda July (The Future), Sindi Lacej (The Forgiveness of Blood) and Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre). Lacej and Wasikowska play strong, resilient women forced through their circumstance to endure and overcome hardship. July plays what seems to be another version of herself, which is strange enough to be compelling for at least another twelve feature films I think. Her introduction on the Sunday screening of her film was one of the sweetest and most genuine of the festival.

Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre

My only twinge of disappointment came via Ivan Sen’s Toomelah (highly anticipated by me). An extremely talented filmmaker, Sen’s latest feature is too self-conscious to allow audience connection. Sen shot the film in Toomelah mission in NSW, where his mother grew up and he has used many of the locals as actors. The end result, which sits somewhere between documentary and fiction, paradoxically feels less genuine and more forced than recent fictional features Mad Bastards and Samson and Delilah.

All in all, however, a great two weeks in film.


The 2011 Sydney Film Festival was my first, and true to form it lived up to its reputation.

Asif Kapadia's Senna

Spoiled for choice with its large selection of movies, the SFF proved to be just the full on faucet experience many warned me about prior to the opening gala, where I stood amongst other freezing press during one of the coldest winter nights of recent memory, only to have a security snafu see woman of the night Cate Blanchett enter from the wrong side of the media line, to the collective moans of my peers.

Yet press on I did for there were movies to be watched, and watch I did both official competition and non-competition selections.

Phil Rosenthal in Exporting Raymond

Best of all was the opportunity to reviews movies which have been released months prior in the US and UK, that for some reason we mutants down under can never get our hands on. Among them was the comedy Cedar Rapids and sure-to-be samurai classic 13 Assassins. Then there were the engrossing documentaries Exporting Raymond, If a Tree Falls... and the thrilling Senna (my favourite film of the festival).

Just as fun were the opportunities to interview varied and eclectic filmmakers such as Attenberg director Athina Rachel Tsangari and Sleeping Beauty director Julia Leigh.

Jane Campion, Julia Leigh and Margaret Pomeranz at the Sleeping Beauty talk during SFF 2011 © Don Arnold

Were there lessons to be learnt? Sure. I know now that it’s best to pace oneself when faced with two weeks of movies, interviews, writing, and the coldest weather to hit Sydney in decades, otherwise you will be bedridden come week two (true story).

Yet that mistake won’t happen again. Bring on SFF 2012!

Images provided by SFF