Strong Australian contingent heads out at Cannes

19th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, May 19, 2006 (AFP) - Australia's exceptionally strong presence in this year's Cannes film festival line-up has gotten off to a firm start with a well-received screening of a film about Aborigines called 'Ten Canoes'.

CANNES, France, May 19, 2006 (AFP) - Australia's exceptionally strong presence in this year's Cannes film festival line-up has gotten off to a firm start with a well-received screening of a film about Aborigines called 'Ten Canoes'.

The picture, directed by Dutch-born Australian director Rolf de Heer and being shown in the Un Certain Regard competition running parallel to the main Palme d'Or race, won applause in its first press screening Thursday and good reviews since.

Further interest is likely to be generated over the duration of the Cannes festival, which ends May 28, especially as reports multiply of buyers' interest.

"I guess it's here at Cannes because it takes us into a completely different world than any we're used to seeing," de Heer told AFP after the projection.

His movie is a story-within-a-story about a young Aboriginal man being warned about the risk he runs under tribal law by longing after his elder brother's wife.

Although largely an art-house conceit, the movie has managed to connect with Cannes audiences via the humour exhibited by the characters — mostly non-actors from the Yolngu tribe — and by the narrator, Aboriginal performer David Gulpilil.

"They're naturally funny, they enjoy life. They wanted a reflection of themselves in there, they wanted to show their culture the way it is. That culture includes humour, their humour," de Heer said.

The US movie industry magazine The Hollywood Reporter called the film "an enchanting fable rich in authenticity and shot through with unexpected humour".

Making it came with its share of danger: filming took place in a swamp infested with crocodiles where the cast and crew — and eventually extended families — lived in tents.

The director, whose previous works include the acclaimed 'Bad Boy Bubby' and the psychologically dense 'Alexandra's Project', admitted the going was physically tough.

"But there were also tremendous moments of joy," he said, especially when the tribe saw their ways and their vision of themselves in rushes.

The risk posed by the crocodiles had to be managed with croc-watchers every day, and the crew took the precaution of not visiting the same places more than twice in a row in case the giant reptiles saw them as a potential food source.

"We were extremely careful, and we had to be," said de Heer. "In the Arafura Swamp, where we filmed, there is supposedly the largest bio-mass of crocodiles anywhere."

'Ten Canoes' is leading the strongest flotilla Australia has sent to Cannes in 20 years.

Other films being shown in the official Un Certain Regard selection are 'Suburban Mayhem', a dark comedy by Paul Goldman and '2:37' by 21-year-old director Murali K. Thalluri.

'Jindabyne', a movie by respected filmmaker Ray Lawrence ('Bliss', "Lantana"), is showing in the sideline Directors' Fortnight section, and 'Look Both Ways', written and directed by Sarah Watt, is in the Critics' Week screenings.

Three short films are putting in a show, too: 'Sexy Thing' by Denie Pentecost, 'Snow' by Dustin Feneley, and — most anticipated of all — 'The Water Diary' by Jane Campion, who won the Palme d'Or for 1993's 'The Piano', and a Palme d'Or shorts award in 1986 for 'Peel'.

"Australians have done very well this year," said Frances Leadbeter, heading up the Australian Film Commission office in Cannes.

"It's especially pleasing because we're seeing both established and new directors being chosen to come here. I think that shows the depth of the Australian film industry today."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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