Festival Director 2017
Coming to CIFF from decades in independent cinemas, I’m automatically looking for an “edge”: ways to accentuate this Festival’s difference from the plethora of nationality-based film festivals in Canberra’s commercial cinemas, and in cinemas nationally. Our funding agencies often ask us: what makes CIFF different and why should we fund it? It’s a fair question when so many festivals are coming our way all year round.
Our aim this year, with an enthusiastic committee and a resourceful management team, is to build on past Festivals by creating a 10-day event that is as different as we can make it from other festivals. First and foremost, the word “Canberra” in our title means that connecting with the local community is fundamental for us – and no-one else does that. We’re very proud of this essential difference. We want to celebrate both past and present achievements of Canberrans and our diaspora. This year the program reveals an astonishing diversity of ideas and styles which are given a chance to be appreciated on the big screen.
We also aim to create a distinctive voice for the Festival by blending our local films with two broad programming streams. The first, curated by Alice Taylor, is a selection of outstanding new films, especially by Australians but also looking further afield. Many of these will be Australian premieres.
Secondly, these contemporary films will be balanced with an expanded retrospective strand. Every Festival has a few retrospective elements, but no major Festival in Australia has to date been prepared to go as far as we are going this year. For us, it is about pushing the envelope in order to accentuate our difference, and to give ourselves a truly unique place in the local and national Festival landscape, by offering a strong, curated retrospective emphasis in our event.
We have also adopted an approach to programming that differs from the composition of other festivals. Instead of a retinue of significant works that are linked only by a common language, Alice and I have aimed to link films emotionally and thematically with each other, providing context for each other, enlightening each other. For me, it’s a little like preparing a banquet. We have short films by Len Lye and others as “amuse-bouche” to tease the palate, then salads, substantial main courses, side dishes, palate cleansers, and sweet trifles for desert, followed by the stimulus of strong coffee. Deliberately, we are making it hard for you to choose just one or two films to see: to do so would be to lose the flavour and energy of the whole feast on offer.
By design, our program elements will blend together in an unusual total experience which we hope you will want to engage with intensively and will find stimulating and memorable.