In Brisbane, you can experience the charm of a smaller and lucidly arranged event. Anne Démy-Geroe, who has headed the festival for over a decade, clearly does not follow the trend of squeezing more and more festival-mainstreamers into a tight schedule. To the contrary, she shows the films she likes, regardless of whether they have already toured through the festival circuit or been shown at the two other major Australian fests, Sydney (which take place prior to Brisbane) and Melbourne (which is concurrent with it). Her programming exhibits a remarkable disregard for the usual cutthroat rivalry between festivals. This gives her the freedom to compose a very personal program-and it is this freedom that has distinguished festivals such as Rotterdam or Locarno at their best.
Fortunately, this did not mean that there was a lack of material to discover. The series "Fifty Years of Malayalam Cinema" provided young cinemagoers with the chance to get acquainted with 'unknown Asian classics' such as Aravindan or the early Adoor Gopalakrischnan. "New Cinema Reloaded" introduced Korean independent cinema (in a series curated by Tony Rayns) and included several films unknown to even regular festivalgoers. The series "Lost In Time, Lost In Space: Contemporary Beijing Film Culture" (curated by Shelly Kraicer) offered an insight into recent developments in Chinese cinema, ranging from the underground scene to the studio system, and including Xu Jinglei's amazing adaptation of the Stefan Zweig novel Letter From an Unknown Woman (Yi Feng mo Sheng nu Ren de Lai Xin). The "Asia Pacific Cinema" series presented an astonishingly rich and diverse overview on the films of this large region. This series included one of the most aesthetically daring films of the festival, Vital, Shinya Tsukamoto's breathtaking description of the inner world of a man suffering from amnesia.
It is surely not by chance that Anne Démy-Geroe concentrated on the cinemas of the Asia Pacific region. This is a clear cultural-political preference, underlining the point that Australia, which has been under the cultural influence of the UK and the US for a long (and maybe too long) period, should look among its Asian neighbors for new cultural contacts, for aesthetic inputs and exchange, and for a new cultural orientation and experience.
And Australian cinema? Our Australian colleagues reported an increasing crisis of national cinema, combined with a troubling loss of public support. The more astonished our jurors were to see some quite interesting films, features as well as documentaries, which deserve to be screened internationally. Among them was the very original, fresh and risk-taking first feature by Sarah Watt, Look Both Ways, which has already been invited to the festivals of Toronto and San Sebastian, and which was the recipient of the Critics Prize at Brisbane.(Klaus Eder)