Looking back on the last six years, Gayle Lake can see a huge change in the Sydney Film Festival under her leadership.
It’s a vastly different festival. Instead of one big event under a subscription, it is now about 180 little events. Each show is different, she says proudly.
She’s increased ticket sales by 50 percent, massively increased the under-35-year-old audience share and taken the festival to new venues like the Dendy Opera Quays. This year for the first time there will be a digital program at the Opera House’s Studio. As she notes, it’s now Sydney’s biggest winter event.
Also for the first time this year, the festival will open with a New Zealand feature. Lake believes In My Father’s Den will be a big hit.
It’s a very, very good drama and a beautiful script and it’s an actors’ film. Sometimes you have films with good scripts but they don’t give actors enough space but this one really does. It is a debut feature that looks like it’s made by an old hand, she says.
She has many favourites on the program but seems drawn to films that either tell a good tale or stories that make a good point.
Two of the feature documentaries in the program exemplify these qualities.
The Fall Of The House is a local documentary about Eugene Goossens, the acclaimed conductor who transformed the Sydney Symphony Orchestra into a world class orchestra but left the country under a cloud after customs officials caught him with 1,200 obscene photos.
It’s a great story and a very Sydney story and the film doesn’t cast any votes either way. It is the story of his talent and definitely his complexity. You get an understanding of where that talent comes from. Sometimes it is in a different part of one’s soul or one’s psyche and his interest in some elements of paganism were very much part of that creative process for him, Lake says.
Anthem, which explores the fraught current relations between Australia and America, is another local documentary that Lake is proud to have as part of the festival.
I really do love Anthem. It’s a film about the world today, it’s about politics, it’s about government, it’s about humanity, it’s about war, it’s about peace. It’s one of those free-ranging kaleidoscopic looks at what the hell are we doing with our planet, Lake says.
There is something for everyone in this festival and there are important films that everyone should see.