Director: Eytan Fox

American-born Israeli director Eytan Fox’s films may be familiar to some readers. In Yossi And Jagger, a compact film shot on DV for TV and the festival circuit, Fox continues his study of homosexuality in the Israeli army, an issue he first explored in his 1990 debut, Time Off.

Using a true story of young military commanders who are also lovers as a basis for his third feature film, Fox tells a highly perceptive and sensitive story of a generation in Israel whose lives are determined by military service. Although Yossi And Jagger is only a little over an hour long, Fox shows considerable skill in drawing out natural performances from a largely unknown cast to tell a poignant tale of lost youth and love. It’s a sweet film, funny and almost M.A.S.H.-like at times, although this is ultimately tempered by tragedy. Yossi And Jagger screens at the State Theatre in the first week of the festival.

Director: Kim In-Sik

Road Movie (Lo-Du Moo-Bi) is billed as South Korea’s first gay movie and is 42-year-old gay novelist Kim In-Sik’s debut feature. Kim says he wanted to make a film about the essential qualities of love in a world where love and pain are entwined. Kim also wanted to take audiences on a long exhausting road trip so they could better experience for themselves the endless journey that he thinks the search for true love becomes.

This is a chaotic film which starts off with a frenzied coupling which you suppose will set the tone for the film but in fact bears little relationship to what unfolds. Road Movie is Korean melodrama at its best and is full of obvious observations of homelessness, prostitution, gay self-hate and sexuality as well as the usual serving of violence. Kim says he wanted to make an avant-garde epic of love and pain whilst examining Asian cultural sensibilities but it is hard not to be alienated by this film which really looks at three people trying to sort out their own lives and existences. Road Movie is one of two Korean films on the schedule this year and will screen at Dendy Opera Quays in the first week of the festival.

Director: Baltasar Korm?r

Readers will remember the delightful 101Reykjavik (2000), an off-the-wall-with-a-gay-twist film that was Icelandic director Korm?r’s debut. The Sea (Hafid) is his second film and plots a much darker course through family dysfunction set against the backdrop of economically unsustainable fishing villages on the Icelandic east coast. No lightweight romps here, just pure Ibsenesque torment as we are invited into a family tearing itself apart. The Sea is based on a 1991 stage play by Loafer Hauler which won the Icelandic Theatre Prize. The film was incredibly popular in Iceland and won honours for Korm?r in their 2002 Film Awards.

Korm?r succeeds in giving us another vision of life in Iceland, this time exploring the effects of globalisation on small communities and its impact on family life. The Sea screens in the New Directors Program at Dendy Opera Quays in the first week of the festival.

Directors: Patrick Bernard, Xavier Brillat, Pierre Trividic

Ballroom is an odd film. It seems as though a collective of friends, including artists and screenwriters, some with television experience, happened upon an old ballroom on the coast of France and decided to make a feature film because they had a DV and it wouldn’t cost much. The result is a mish-mash of ideas and genres thrown up on the screen without thought for plot or characterisation. Plastic bears, blow-up bears and cut-out bears appear throughout the film but seem to have no logic beyond the motif. Are the gay protagonists bears? Who knows, in a film that more resembles a video accompanying an art installation than a stand-alone feature film?

Ballroom won the Prix de la Presse at the 2002 Rencontres Internationales du Cin? ?aris and screens in the New Directors Program at Dendy Opera Quays in the second week of the festival.

Director: Gus Van Sant

Gus Van Sant has just won the Golden Palm at Cannes with his latest film, Elephant. Van Sant made a classic indie film, My Own Private Idaho (1991), early in his career and then went mainstream in To Die For (1995), Good Will Hunting (1997) and Finding Forrester (2000). Gerry sees a return to indie film-making in a more pure sense of the word. Van Sant works with the landscape and co-writers/actors Matt Damon and Casey Affleck, who both play characters called Gerry, in a film with improvised dialogue and very little action. According to Van Sant, he made the film to pay homage to such seminal figures as Hungarian filmmaker and theorist B? Tarr, Belgian director Chantal Akerman and Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami (whose Taste Of Cherry won the 1997 Cannes Golden Palm).

Gerry premiered to mixed reviews at Sundance in 2002 and may now get a wider cinematic release as the result of the success of Elephant. Don’t go expecting another My Own Private Idaho in a film that is really a visual tribute to the power and beauty of the landscape. Gerry screens at the State Theatre in the first week of the festival.

Director: Sofya Gollan

Preservation is a feature-length short directed by Australian Sofya Gollan for SBSi. Gollan, who is deaf, has previously made several award-winning shorts and is a graduate of NIDA and AFTRS. Preservation stars Jacqui Mackenzie in a very odd film about love and taxidermy. It is good to see Mackenzie again on the big screen even if she is struggling to find love amongst dead animals in this 1890s pseudo-Gothic tale. Preservation screens in the Seven Little Australians program at the State Theatre in the first week of the festival.

Director: Alexander Rogozhkin

Russian writer-director Rogozhkin dealt with the banality of war in his last film, Checkpoint (1998). This time round he has chosen a funny, anti-war film to show his deft ability to direct with humour, subtlety and wit. The setting is September 1944, when Finland was forced to sign an armistice conceding territory to invading Soviet troops. During WWII, Russian soldiers used the term cuckoo to refer to enemy Finnish snipers who inflicted serious damage on the Red Army in what were considered suicide missions.

Rogozhkin sets The Cuckoo (Kushka) in the rugged awe-inspiring country that is the northern wilderness of Finland. Here a female Lapp reindeer farmer struggles to survive the war and into this oasis stumble a Russian soldier and a Finnish sniper. None can speak the others’ language.

All three performances are outstanding, as is the tautly written screenplay which Rogozhkin cleverly uses to distil large slabs of history into the quirky, intimate relationship between three people. Here the message is peace, as war is futile.

This is a beautiful film with some truly funny moments. It was easily the best feature I previewed. The Cuckoo screens at the State Theatre on the opening weekend of the festival.

Festival tickets are available from Ticketek, from the festival office on 9571 6766, the State Theatre or Dendy Opera Quays.

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