BIFF director Maxine Williamson on the festival’s return
‘The Square’ will open this year’s BIFF.
The Brisbane International Film Festival will seek an injection of more funding when it returns this week after a three-year hiatus.
Festival director Maxine Williamson said she is happy with the level of corporate and audience interest in the festival considering “we had literally two months to turn it around.”
“Next year we will have more of an opportunity to do more of a sponsor drive,” she said.
The BIFF, with its focus on films from the Asia-Pacific region, was a revered and distinct event on the local film festival circuit before it was displaced by the well-funded Asia Pacific Screen Awards on the Gold Coast and then the Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival in 2014 during a power struggle between the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Williamson was previously film director of APSA for a decade and the Brisbane APFF.
She said the first approach to Screen Queensland for funding was in April, so to assemble a festival including two world premieres and seven Australian premieres in such quick time was an achievement.
“What I’m proud of is in a really short period of time we were able to build some structure to the program,” she said.
“I’m really happy we were able to have the faith of Screen Queensland and receive the $250,000 grant to deliver this program,” Williamson said. “It’s not a huge amount of money but what we’re delivering is huge bang for the bucks.”
The figure pales next to state and city funding for the major Melbourne and Sydney film festivals, so Williamson won’t be reticent asking for increased funding after this iteration.
And with BIFF’s renewal, the unsettling politicking within Queensland screen culture appears to have faded.
“It’s good to have some steady times,” Williamson laughed. “It’s difficult when a brand hasn’t been in the market for three years. We’ve had to reintroduce a brand that had great international recognition.”
She added the festival will try to renew its strength in showcasing Asia Pacific cinema, just as her predecessor, Anne Demy-Geroe had done.
“And it’s complementary to be working with the other significant cultural event here, in its 11th year, the APSAs.” The 11th Asia Pacific Screen Awards will be presented in Brisbane on Thursday 23 November 2017.
BIFF opens with this year’s Palme d’Or winner from Cannes, Swedish satire, The Square, and concludes with Kriv Stender’s documentary about the hometown heroes, The Go-Betweens: Right Now.
Other highlights include the Centrepiece Gala, featuring the Cannes Film Festival jury Prize winner from Russia, Loveless, four showcases featuring contemporary works from Iran, France, Vietnam and Hungary, and a retrospective of work by Russian auteur, and Venice Golden Lion winner, Andrey Zvyagintsev (including Leviathan, Elena and Return).
Festival guests include Stenders (whose feature, Australia Day, also screens), Australian filmmakers Jeffrey Walker (Ali’s Wedding), Gregory Erdstein and Alice Foulcher (That’s Not Me) and Richard Gray (Summer Coda) with the world premiere of his US thriller, Broken Ghost.
The festival will use two venues, those of major partner Palace Cinemas, Barracks and Centro.
Williamson admitted: “I know there’s been some questions about Palace’s involvement but [programmer] Richard [Sowada] and I have been driving this festival completely.” Nevertheless, she anticipated expanding to more venues next year.
“I really do need to give the nod to [Palace founder] Antonio Zeccola here,” she said. “This wasn’t just a desire for a commercial outcome. He comes here a lot, loves this city and they knew it just wasn’t good for anyone’s business for a city that’s known for the Asia Pacific Triennial and has its own theatre and ballet companies and everything else, not to have it’s own film festival.”
The Brisbane International Film Festival runs from 17 August – 3 September 2017 .