In the biggest ever showcase of Australian films in India, Australia Fest has brought a curated selection of the best of Australian cinema to the Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) 2018.
With Australia being the ‘country in focus’ at the festival this year, Australian films are being presented in three broad categories — 100 Years of Australian Cinema, a contemporary section, and a retrospective of Phillip Noyce.
The festival is celebrating 100 years of Australian cinema as well as of the cinema of Bengal with a poster exhibition.
At a press conference on Monday, the Australian delegation, which included actor Simon Baker, filmmakers Phillip Noyce, Garth Davis, Geoffrey Wright and Benjamin Gilmour; writer Christos Tsiolkas, producers Sue Maslin, Jamie Hilton, and Victoria Hill, and Oscar-nominated editor Jill Billcock expressed their joy at being in India and spoke fondly of Kolkata in particular, with Davis and Billcock recounting past experiences of the city.
Noyce, who is among Australia’s most acclaimed and successful directors, said, “It is an honour to be here in Kolkata, the home of Satyajit Ray, who is perhaps the greatest filmmaker of the 20th century. He has inspired many of us to make movies. It is such an honour to present our films to a Bengali audience.”
Responding to a question about the Australian film industry, he pointed to the emergence of indigenous directors in the country, highlighting Warwick Thornton’s period film Sweet Country in particular, which won the Special Jury prize at the Venice film festival.
“This group of filmmakers is going to set Australian cinema on fire,” Noyce said. “They have a passion and they have been silent for 200 years. This is the most dynamic part of Australian cinema right now. Watch out for the indigenous filmmakers from Australia.”
Sue Maslin, producer of the revenge comedy drama The Dressmaker (2015), revealed that only 30-40 films are made in Australia every year and the majority of films released in the country are from Hollywood, so Australian films constitute just 3-4% of the country’s box office.
Given this competition, she said, “We have to fight very hard to get our films screened.”
On a lighter note, Noyce spoke about the shared love for cricket in Australia and India, saying, “The biggest thing we [India and Australia] have in common is spin bowling. Cricket is the one thing that the British gave us all, that unites us. I would love to do a film on that.”