Making waves down under

European Cinema: 10 Women Filmmakers to Watch at the Sydney Film Festival June 8 – 19 2016

European Film Promotion has launched a new initiative. For the first time, EFP, the Sydney Film Festival and Variety have joined forces to initiate European Cinema: 10 Women Filmmakers to Watch presenting ten exceptional European women storytellers. All films come fresh from their premieres at A-list festivals around the globe, some of them having been in competition and won awards.

For Renate Rose, EFP’s Managing Director, it was important to set a positive sign for the ongoing discussion about gender equality in film: “With the support of our respective members, we are very happy to showcase an exciting variety of European women filmmakers ranging from Serbia’s acclaimed actress-turned-helmer Mirjana Karanović, who will present her directorial debut “A Good Wife” to Spain’s experienced, award-winning Iciar Bollain and her family drama “The Olive Tree”. And we are deeply honored and proud that world-famous producer Jan Chapman is underlining the importance of the project by becoming the ambassador of European Cinema: 10 Women Filmmakers to Watch and investing valuable time to share her great experience with our filmmakers."

For Jan Chapman supporting the new initiative is absolutely in line with her many years of experience as a producer of films by exceptional talents: “Having been involved in a number of films directed by gifted Australian women such as Jane Campion, Gillian Armstrong, Shirley Barrett, Cate Shortland and Jennifer Kent I am well aware of the different voices and subject matter women explore in comparison to their male counterparts. Yet, we are increasingly aware that the huge gender imbalance in the numbers of female to male filmmakers in the world means that we are unable to fully experience this variety. The Sydney Film Festival is delighted to be partnering with Variety and the EFP to celebrate Europe's 10 Women Filmmakers To Watch and to be able to welcome representatives from many of their exciting films. We relish this opportunity to recognise the wealth of new cinema by women directors and to meet and share experiences and vision with Australian women filmmakers as well as the film community in Sydney as a whole.”

Following the suggestions of EFP’s member organizations, the Sydney Film Festival in cooperation with Variety chose the ten most interesting films to be presented in the program. Festival Director Nashen Moodley states: “European Cinema: 10 Women Filmmakers to Watch is an important new Festival initiative that provides a platform for showcasingwomen’s voices and storytelling. Audiences will discover a range of exciting and diverse films from these emerging filmmakers including stirring documentaries, sensitive character portraits, moving family dramas, and even a mermaid-vampire musical.”

In addition, Variety will dedicate a special feature to the women filmmakers. Steven Gaydos, Vice President and Executive Editor, explains the magazine’s strong interest in the initiative: “Having partnered with European Film Promotion for nearly 20 years on our new European filmmakers curation ‎program known as Variety Critics Choice at the prestigious Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic, we were excited at the opportunity to help this dynamic organization in their efforts to highlight the bold and bracing achievements of Europe's women filmmakers at a world-renowned festival such as Sydney.”

The supporting EFP members are: AFC Austrian Films, Association of Filmmakers of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Danish Film Institute, German Films, Greek Film Centre, EYE International / The Netherlands, Polish Film Institute, Film Center Serbia, ICAA / Spain, Swedish Film Institute

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The selected films are:

In Barbara Eder's absorbing study of journalistic integrity and its price, three war correspondents face the hardships of working in conflict-stricken areas. This is a fictionalised, behind-the-scenes account of the experience of war correspondents, but with the immediacy and urgency of a documentary. Told in three parts, one for each of its main players, it begins with Ewald (Erwin Steinhauer), who becomes obsessed with a man he recognises as the murderer of his cameraman on a past project. Meanwhile, Lana (Manon Kahle) encounters sexism while reporting on the burning of the Quran by American soldiers in Afghanistan. Finally, Cal (Raphael von Bargen) is disillusioned after having to deliver sensationalist stories from the safety of a hotel rooftop. These three stories combine for an honest, insightful look at the men and women who brave inhospitable terrain to deliver news that matters.

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Thank You for Bombing
Barbara Eder

This powerful Bosnian drama, focusing on a middle class Sarajevo family who are drawn together in a time of tragedy, is both culturally specific and entirely universal. Our Everyday Life is concerned with the day-to-day existence of the Susic family in Sarajevo, living in the shadow of the Balkan wars. Muhamed (Emir Hadžihafizbegović) and Marija (Jasna Ornela Bery) live with their unemployed 40-year-old son Sasha (Uliks Fehmiu), a struggling war veteran. Their daughter Senada (Vedrana Seksan) fled the city to escape the war and keeps in contact through Skype. As each member of the family deals with a jolting experience, old wounds resurface and the family must find a new way forward. In her debut feature, Ines Tanović and her superb cast play the drama that shakes the family with understatement rather than melodrama, and her film is immensely moving as result. 'Notable for its warmth and intimacy... It says a lot that, after the open ending, most viewers would be happy to spend another 90 minutes with the Susic clan.' - Variety

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Our Everyday Life
Ines Tanović
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia

In this funny and insightful look at immigration and arranged marriage, a young Filipino woman relocates to a fishing village in Denmark to wed a middle-aged widower. Ulrik (Jens Albinus) is the manager of a Danish fishing plant whose wife passed away years ago. One of his acquaintances suggests an arranged marriage to Rosita (Mercedes Cabral), a girl in her mid-20s from the Philippines. When Rosita arrives, the language barrier proves to be a hurdle. Complicating matters even further is Ulrik's adult son Johannes (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, A Royal Affair), and his growing affection for the young woman. Director Frederikke Aspöck's charming, surprising film outlines the difficulties facing women in Rosita's predicament with a wonderful blend of compassion and humour. 'Punching far above its weight in terms of emotional connection... boasts fine acting... creating equal sympathy for all three leads.' - Variety

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Frederikke Aspöck

In this provocative and daring German drama, a lonely young woman forms an uncomfortably close relationship with a wolf she discovers in the woods. A love story that transgresses all social norms, Wild is sure to provoke, enthrall and challenge in equal measure. At the film's centre is an extraordinary (and extraordinarily brave) performance from Lilith Stangenberg as Ania, an anonymous young woman who lives an unfulfilling life as an office worker. Nothing seems to excite her, until one day she locks eyes with a wolf from the forest near her small German town. This stirs something in her, and soon she takes the animal into her small apartment, keeping it as more than just a house pet. Playing its main scenario with complete seriousness and total conviction, Wild probes the very nature of love, desire and solitude. It's sure to be a conversation-starter. 'Krebitz's film questions the behavioral standards we take as given with quiet daring and disquieting sangfroid.' - Variety

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Nicolette Krebitz

A buddy movie without the buddies. In the middle of the Aegean Sea, on a luxury yacht, six men on a fishing trip decide to play a game. During this game, things will be compared. Things will be measured. Songs will be butchered, and blood will be tested. Friends will become rivals and rivals will become hungry. But at the end of the voyage, when the game is over, the man who wins will be the best man. And he - the best in general - will wear upon his littlest finger the victorious signet ring: the "Chevalier".

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Athina Rachel Tsangari

25 years after the controversial documentary In Bed with Madonna, the 'Blond Ambition' dancers - now out of the celebrity spotlight - are re-united and re-exposed. Stylish voguers Carlton, Gabriel, Jose, Kevin, Luis, Salim and hip-hopper Oliver were handpicked to join Madonna on her 1990 world tour. 'Blond Ambition' highlighted the pop star's commitment to gay liberation and the fight against AIDS. The good-looking troupe became poster boys for the cause. The tour was filmed for the documentary In Bed with Madonna (a.k.a. Truth or Dare). But the solidarity, frankness and flamboyance onscreen was contradicted by Gabriel's subsequent lawsuit against the singer. Now, the surviving performers discuss the fallout from the 1990 film, their lives post-Madonna, and painful, long-buried secrets, in this candid and tender documentary. 'The male dancers famously showcased in Madonna's Blond Ambition tour and Truth or Dare docu reunite a quarter-century later... a must-see for many veteran Madonna fans' - Variety

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Strike a Pose
Ester Gould, Reijer Zwaan
The Netherlands, Belgium

This unique Polish romance-horror-mermaid-musical defies classification and deservedly won the Special Jury Award for Unique Vision and Design at Sundance 2016. The mermaids of The Lure are far from the friendly kind found in Splash or Disney's The Little Mermaid. Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Gold (Michalina Olszanska) are first seen in human form as they surface off the coast of Warsaw, summoned by the bass-playing of Mietek (Jakub Gierszal). They follow him back to the nightclub he plays at, where they are hired as strippers/back-up singers for a cover band. Offstage, Silver pines for Mietek, but Gold can only keep her bloodsucking urges suppressed for so long. With its blend of elaborate musical numbers, romance, and vampiric-mermaid mayhem, The Lure combines familiar ingredients into a delightfully wild final product. '[D]eeply dippy story of vampire mermaid sisters wreaking havoc above water... There's nothing else like it in the sea' - Variety

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The Lure
Agnieszka Smoczynska

A Serbian woman lives a peaceful suburban life until she discovers a video containing shocking footage of war crimes from her beloved husband's paramilitary days. Idyllic domesticity masks dark, troubled pasts in this compelling mystery that marks the directorial debut of acclaimed actress Mirjana Karanović (Cabaret Balkan, Underground). Milena (played by Karanović) lives in Belgrade with her husband Vlada (Boris Isakovic) and the two have a deeply loving and trusting relationship. This bliss is shattered when she is diagnosed with breast cancer, and soon after discovers footage implicating her husband in war crimes. Burdened by this knowledge, Milena must decide whether she will stay loyal to her husband, or see that justice is served. Karanović's riveting performance is key to A Good Wife, which gives universal resonance to Serbia's troubled recent history. 'A classically styled directorial debut for acclaimed actress-turned-helmer Mirjana Karanović... Brave on many levels...' -Variety

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A Good Wife
Mirjana Karanović
Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina

A Spanish film about a woman determined to retrieve her family's recently uprooted ancient olive tree, this beautifully brings together environmental themes and youthful activism. Directed with warmth and naturalism by Icíar Bollaín from a screenplay by Ken Loach's regular collaborator Paul Laverty (The Angel's Share), The Olive Tree tells the tale of Alma (Anna Castillo), a headstrong 20-year-old woman. She takes it upon herself to retrieve the thousand-year-old olive tree treasured by her despondent grandfather (Manuel Cucala), which had been sold for replanting during the farm's transition to industrial poultry farming. En-route to the German bank that now owns the heirloom, Alma attracts an activist social media following eager to support her in her battle. With its beautifully photographed pastoral Spanish landscapes, The Olive Tree tells an inspiring story of the bond between family and land. '[This] earthy, quietly stirring Spanish fable... finds familial, regional and environmental grievances inseparably tangled in its branches.' - Variety

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The Olive Tree
Icíar Bollaín
Spain, Germany

The winner of this year's Teddy Award at Berlinale: a walk through New York City's voguing ballroom scene, led with swagger by gatekeeper Twiggy Pucci Garçon. The 'Kiki' scene is highly competitive; you need to be dedicated, on form, and willing to practise endlessly. Kiki follows young black LGBTQI participants as they compete for trophies and titles, including dance-offs between feuding houses (House of Amazura and the House of Unbothered Cartier, for example). The interview subjects openly reveal their troubles and discuss their hopes and dreams. 25 years after the award-winning documentary Paris is Burning (Kiki has been tagged the 'unofficial sequel) much has changed, but homophobic attacks, poverty, and discrimination continue to threaten the queer community. As house mother, community organiser and homeless LGBTQI youth activist Twiggy says, "There is so much left to fight for". 'Explodes with energy, thanks in part to rattlesnaketaut dance tracks from MikeQ and ballroom DJ crew Qween Beat, but mostly from the Kiki kids themselves.' - Variety

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Sara Jordenö
Sweden, USA