MIFF audiences respond to The Turning

05 August, 2013 by Don Groves

Fifteen of the 17 directors of Tim Winton’s The Turning who attended the world premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival understandably were nervous before the screening on Saturday night.

Only one of the directors – Robert Connolly, who conceived the idea and produced the film with Maggie Miles – had seen the completed, three-hour film.


As one, the directors were surprised and delighted when the audience clapped and cheered at the end of the first chapter directed by Warwick Thornton. And even more surprised when the crowd applauded after each of the ensuing segments.

Afterwards the tributes flowed. Radio National film critic Julie Rigg declared the film “a huge success,” observing, “Despite trepidation on the part of the different filmmakers, none of whom had seen each other's films, they flowed.”

Australian Directors Guild executive director Kingston Anderson said, “It was a great night and the audience responded enthusiastically to the film. It is a milestone in Australian filmmaking to have 17 Australian directors working together on the one project.”

The two directors who didn’t attend the premiere had valid reasons. David Wenham was on stage in the Melbourne Theatre Company production of The Crucible and Yaron Lifschitz is in Israel. Wenham and 12 of his fellow directors took part in a Q&A on Sunday with Winton, who described the production as an act of 'creative insurgency'.

Mia Wasikowska, who made her directing debut on the film, flew in from Toronto and Justin Kurzel made the trip from London for the premiere.

Connolly described the MIFF audience’s response as amazing and he was heartened by the ensuing discussion about each film.

Composer Guy Gross, who created the score for Stephen Page’s film Sand, said, “I was blown away. After a four hour flight to get there, how my bum sat through a three-hour movie was a surprise. It really kept me engaged. Biggest surprise was how connected most the films felt despite their disparate crews. To me it shows clarity and strength in the underlying Winton material. An amazing snapshot of a part of Australia, both its psyche and geography, certainly equal to and greater than the sum of its parts. Huge credit to Rob Connolly for the vision.”

Tony Ayres, who directed the segment Cockleshell, said: “I can genuinely recommend this as a unique cultural event.”

The Turning premieres nationally on September 26, with two weeks of event screenings in the capital cities.