The latest project from the producers of The King’s Speech and a sequel to Wolf Creek are among the enticing new films from Australia and New Zealand. By Sandy George
Aim High In Creation (Aus)
Dir Anna Broinowski
This documentary explores the former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s great love of cinema, and observes Broinowski while visiting North Korea. There she looks to make a short drama that complies with the film-making manifesto issued by Kim - the first two rules of which are “the director is commander of the creative group” and “aim high in creation”. Broinowski’s credits include the 2007 documentary Forbidden Lie$.
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The Babadook (Aus)
Dir Jennifer Kent
The debut feature from writer-director Kent is a psychological thriller about a boy who is convinced a monster lurks in his home, and his single mother (Essie Davis), who is struggling to cope. There is much interest in this project, which has been nurtured at the Binger Lab and the Berlinale Co-Production Market with backing from leading Australian producer Jan Chapman’s Waking Dream Productions. The Babadook recently wrapped and was the first film to shoot at the South Australian Film Corporation’s new studios in Adelaide.
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Beyond The Edge (NZ)
Dir Leanne Pooley
Pooley’s follow-up to The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls, which won the People’s Choice documentary award at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2009, is a dramatic documentary about the life of notable New Zealander Edmund Hillary, the first person confirmed to have reached the summit of Mount Everest with Nepalese sherpa Tenzing Norgay.
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Charlie’s Country (Aus)
Dir Rolf de Heer
The celebrated de Heer’s new film is set to star David Gulpilil in a tragicomic portrait of a man struggling to define himself as Aboriginal in modern Australia. De Heer, whose credits include The Tracker (also with Gulpilil), will shoot the film in Arnhem Land, where he made Ten Canoes, and in Darwin.
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Dir Matthew Saville
Joel Edgerton, whose acting credits include Animal Kingdom and Warrior, and Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming The Great Gatsby, has written, is producing and will star in this upscale thriller about a police officer who lies about an accident which leaves a cyclist in a coma. Edgerton is producing with Rosemary Blight, whose credits include The Sapphires. Director Saville has made several significant TV dramas since his critically acclaimed film debut Noise. Tom Wilkinson co-stars.
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Dir Anne Fontaine
The English-language debut of Coco Before Chanel director Fontaine promises scandalous themes and behind-the-camera smarts. Naomi Watts and Robin Wright play longtime friends who fall in love with each other’s teenage sons. “Think Fifty Shades Of Grey,” says producer Troy Lum of Hopscotch Features, which is co-producing with France’s Cine@ and Gaumont. Sister distributor eOne/Hopscotch will release the film in Australia. Xavier Samuel (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) and James Frecheville (Animal Kingdom) play the young men. Christopher Hampton adapts Doris Lessing’s novella.
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Mt Zion (NZ) [pictured]
Dir Tearepa Kahi
Comparisons are already being made to The Sapphires as this heart-wrenching drama is also an indigenous story that boasts a big musical component. Stan Walker plays a talented musician desperate to win the support slot for Bob Marley’s 1979 concert in Auckland. Temuera Morrison, best known for Once Were Warriors, co-stars as the father with whom he clashes. Walker won Australian Idol in 2009 and has a recording contract with Sony Music. Sony Pictures will release the film locally.
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Dirs Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Ethan Hawke is set to star in this sci-fi crime thriller about a ‘temporal agent’ who must recruit his younger self. Hawke has worked with the talented Spierig brothers - who are about the only people in Australia currently making sci-fi movies - on vampire title Daybreakers. Fans of that film and the work of source-material author Robert A Heinlein will keep geek interest buoyant. In an unusual move for an independent Australian film, Sony Pictures has already pre-bought US rights. Newcomers Paddy McDonald and Tim McGahan are producing and Screen Australia is among the project’s investors.
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The Railway Man (UK-Aus)
Dir Jonathan Teplitzky
Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman star in this prisoner-of-war drama based on Eric Lomax’s book about his Second World War experiences during the construction of the Thai-Burma railway. The film is a UK-Australia co-production between Andy Paterson’s Archer Street Productions and Chris Brown’s Pictures In Paradise, and shot in Scotland, Thailand and Queensland. Paterson adapted Lomax’s book with Frank Cottrell Boyce. Lionsgate International is handling international sales and Lionsgate UK will distribute in the UK. Transmission/Paramount will distribute in Australia.
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The Rocket (Aus)
Dir Kim Mordaunt
This Laos-set drama is about a boy, believed to bring bad luck, who sets out to prove he is not cursed. He decides to build a giant rocket and enter the lucrative but dangerous Rocket Festival competition. Mordaunt and producer Sylvia Wilczynski previously made the documentary Bomb Harvest, about a bomb-disposal specialist in Laos, and know how the country has been brutalised by war.
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The Rover (Aus)
Dir David Michod
Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson star as, respectively, a damaged man in ruthless pursuit of the people who stole his car, and the brother of one of the thieves. Their presence and the acclaim earned by director Michod following Animal Kingdom makes The Rover one to watch. David Linde’s Lava Bear Films is co-producing with Animal Kingdom producer Liz Watts.
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Taika Waititi Film (NZ)
Dir Taika Waititi
Waititi’s third feature is a vampire comedy. Producer Chelsea Winstanley declined to confirm details at press time but it is understood the film stars Waititi himself and Flight Of The Conchords’ Jemaine Clement. Waititi is something of a national hero in New Zealand: his feature Boy last year became the highest grossing independent local film of all time and he was nominated for an Academy Award for his short Two Cars, One Night in 2005.
Dir John Curran
Business partners in See-Saw Films and producers of The King’s Speech, Emile Sherman (Australia) and Iain Canning (UK), are making this true story of a woman’s solo trek across 1,700 miles of desert, from central Australia to the west coast. Mia Wasikowska plays Robyn Davidson and Adam Driver the photographer who checked in on her. This is the second film Curran has made in Australia since debut Praise in 1998.
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The Turning (Aus)
Dirs Rhys Graham, Ashlee Page, Benedict Andrews, Jonathan auf der Heide, Tony Ayres, Cate Blanchett, Mia Wasikowska, David Wenham, Justin Kurzel, Robert Connolly, Shaun Gladwell, Ian Meadows, Yaron Lifschitz, Claire McCarthy, Stephen Page
Based on renowned Australian novelist Tim Winton’s collection of short stories about ordinary life, this omnibus includes work from experienced film-makers and famous first-timers. Two of the 17 short films are already in the can.
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The Weight Of Elephants (Den-NZ)
Dir Daniel Joseph Borgman
New Zealand director Borgman has made most of his shorts in Denmark with producer Katja Adomeit, who is producing alongside New Zealand’s Leanne Saunders. Two of those shorts screened at Cannes and this debut feature script was supported by the festival’s Cinéfondation. The Weight Of Elephants is the story of a nine-year-old boy from a small town who is concerned by the disappearance of three children. Borgman has also written the script, an adaption of Sonya Hartnett’s Australian novel Of A Boy.
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Wolf Creek 2 (Aus)
Dir Greg McLean
McLean’s original film had a tiny budget, was selected for Sundance and grossed nearly $30m at the global box office. The premise of the franchise is simple: a crazed serial killer hunts carefree backpackers. John Jarratt returns as the chilling Mick Taylor. Helen Leake and Steve Topic are producing with McLean.
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