Richard Roxburgh, Emma Booth and Daisy Axon in ‘H is for Happiness.’
The Australian presence at the Berlin International Film Festival has been bolstered with the selection of the shorts Elders, Grevillea and The Flame in the Generation program and Girl and Body in Berlinale Shorts.
It will be the world premieres for Jordan Giusti’s Grevillea and Nick Waterman’s short doc The Flame and the international premiere of Charlotte Mars’ Girl and Body.
Tony Briggs’ Elders played at the Melbourne and Sydney Film Festivals and had its first international screening at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto.
John Sheedy’s debut feature H is for Happiness, which opens in Australian cinemas on February 6, was announced today as the opening film of the Generation KPlus section, its international premiere.
In addition, Australian director Kitty Green’s #MeToo US drama The Assistant will screen in the Panorma sidebar, which the programmers say is “emblematic of the urgency for political action and civil disobedience.”
The Generation line-up includes two shorts from New Zealand, Isaac Knights-Washbourn’s Money Honey and Lucy Knox’s Hot Mother.
Some 59 shorts and features from 34 countries will compete in that program, featuring 29 world premieres and 11 debut films; a healthy 58 per cent are from female directors.
Head of Generation Maryanne Redpath said: “A keen and open eye, the questioning of conventions and the often dramatic transgressions of borders make the films in the Generation program particularly powerful: in their stories and topics, but also in their film language.”
As IF reported, Stephen Johnson’s Aussie Western High Ground will have its world premiere in the Berlinale Special screenings section, while the first two episodes of the second season of Bunya Productions’ Mystery Road and Matchbox Pictures and Dirty Pictures’ Stateless will screen in Berlinale Series.
Produced by Julie Ryan, Tennille Kennedy and Lisa Hoppe, H is for Happiness stars Daisy Axon as Candice Phee, a 12-year-old with boundless optimism who is determined to bring her dysfunctional family back from the brink.
Wesley Patten is Douglas Benson, her friend who claims to be from another dimension, with Richard Roxburgh and Emma Booth as her parents, Joel Jackson as her rich uncle Brian and Miriam Margolyes as her teacher Miss Bamford.
Screen Australia provided the major production investment. The co-investors are the Western Australia Regional Film Fund, Screenwest, the Melbourne International Film Festival Premiere Fund, Film Victoria, Soundfirm and Fulcrum Media Finance. The world sales agent is Tine Klint’s LevelK.
Elders, Briggs’ first short film, which was funded by Screen Australia’s Short Blacks initiative, is based on the true story of a boy who must find his way home at the behest of his grandparents.
Scripted by Tracey Rigney, produced by Briggs’ wife Damienne Pradier and featuring Wayne Atkinson, Rod Briggs and Muraany Andy-Harrison, it will screen on the ABC.
The fourth short from writer-director Jordan Giusti, Grevillea is a coming-of-age drama set in Melbourne’s Youth Justice Centre.
Reuvi Kramer plays the lead, a wrongly convicted teen who is torn between new and old customs, with Lucas Pittaway as a tattoo artist and fellow inmate.
“As a Jewish teen going through the Victorian public schooling system, the thought of wearing my religious garb and seamlessly fitting in to my environment seemed nigh on impossible. I convinced myself that to conform was to adapt, and the only way to survive,” Jordan said.
The filmmaker, who has an advanced diploma of screen and media at Swinburne, self-funded the short and since the Berlin selection has received travel and marketing assistance from Screen Australia.
“Shorts to me, at least right now, are incredible ways to refine my craft in an environment free from the pressures of feature filmmaking, but the ultimate goal is to graduate to feature films,” he tells IF.
Waterman directed and co-wrote The Flame, which follows a young girl and boy in a remote town who remember a time before a cold wind first swept across the land.
It was a time when fire was a warm, safe and familiar place for families to sit together, where stories were passed down and where culture was kept alive.
Produced by Waterman and Raphaela Rosella in collaboration with Beyond Empathy, an arts organisation which believes that through creating and sharing art, individuals and communities can be transformed, the doc features Dayannah Baker Barlow, Tyrese Fernando and Lance Whitton Jr.
Funded by Screen Australia and produced by Ella Millard, Girl and Body follows a young dancer who collapses during rehearsals and struggles to make sense of her mysterious medical condition and her even more enigmatic hospital roommate.
Opening in US cinemas on January 31, The Assistant is described as a searing look at an assistant (Julia Garner) to an entertainment mogul who grows increasingly aware of the insidious abuse that threatens her position. Matthew Macfadyen co-stars.
by Tony Briggs
Documentary form / Short film
Nature teaches us vital lessons. In Wojobaluk Country, two elders introduce their grandson to the characteristics of the country of their ancestors. With keen senses, great attention to detail and the necessary respect for the environment, the boy becomes acquainted with the terrain.
by Isaac Knights-Washbourn
World premiere / Short film
Hank is in a bad mood. Red wants to cheer up her buddy. Perhaps, with a bit of luck and business acumen, they might acquire enough money for an Elvis sandwich with peanut butter, banana and bacon?
by Jordan Giusti
World premiere / Short film
Black ink on white skin. An incarcerated youth of Jewish faith decides to get a tattoo with the leaf of the Australian silver oak, against the conventions of his religion. A visual-sensual snapshot of a possibly irreversible decision.
by Lucy Knox
World premiere / Short film
A horror trip based on a true incident: The feel-good atmosphere of the wellness resort cannot calm the tense mood between mother and daughter. They relentlessly criticise each other. Ultimately, in the hot sauna, there is no escape for either of them.
by Nick Waterman
World premiere / Short film / Documentary form
Fire, wind and smoke have been the fundamental elements for Aboriginal people for thousands of years. Their knowledge of the original power of fire is passed on from one generation to the next. A creative development of oral storytelling in audio-visual form.
H is for Happiness
by John Sheedy
International premiere / Debut film
With a smile on her freckled face, and accompanied by her seemingly unshakable optimism, Candice Phee faces the big problems of life: from A to Z. A fast-paced coming-of-age comedy based on Barry Jonsberg’s hit novel My Life as an Alphabet.
Girl and Body
by Charlotte Mars
After collapsing during rehearsals, a young dancer struggles to make sense of her mysterious medical condition and her even more enigmatic hospital roommate… A meditation on the relationship between mind, body and identity.
by Kitty Green
with Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Kristine Froseth, Makenzie Leigh
Jane has started her dream job as a junior assistant to a powerful entertainment mogul. Her day is much like any other assistant’s, but she is soon confronted with an abusive daily routine, only to discover the true depth of the system into which she has entered.