Note: this is an archived entry. Some links might not still work, but I have tried to ensure scan and video embeds are still in place. If any linked material is unavailable, please let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy in my personal archives.
It’s been a fun week following the Sydney Film Festival remotely, but all good things must end. The festival closed today on a somewhat controversial note, with a film that divided the jury getting the top prize. Images from the awards ceremony are just starting to roll in, and ideally we’ll have some video footage too at some point. The competition field was full of worthy contenders, but I’m afraid I’d have to agree with Sydney Morning Herald critic Garry Maddox’s assertion that the winner “wasn’t in my top 11 of the 12 films in the competition”. 😉 (Technically I can’t say Only God Forgives was the worst of the twelve, as several competition films haven’t yet been released over here, but given how amateurishly pretentious Nicolas Winding Refn’s previous films have been, it’s a good guess.)
However, Hugo shouldn’t take full credit or blame for the winner– he himself acknowledged that the winning film “will polarise opinion as it polarised ours”.* He also conceded that it took much longer than expected (six and a half hours) for the jury to reach consensus: “I’m not very good at cracking the whip, so we kind of went over by about two and a half hours…[This was a a group of] very diverse and strong films. It was a very honest and free ranging debate with good humour and also a lot of passion. It probably wasn’t too difficult to cut the 12 down to six (but) we basically debated about a couple of films for quite some time.” (As quoted in The Australian.)
Critics and festivalgoers who loved– and who loathed– the winning film Only God Forgives are suggesting that since Hugo was the most famous jury member and the president/spokesman that his must have been the decisive vote, but I wouldn’t assume that. Hugo’s conciliatory nature is part of the reason he’s so beloved in the Australian film industry, and he does have a record of being talked into decisions… some good (he turned down The Matrix twice before reading the script and changing his mind) and some not-so-good (even Hugo can’t really explain why he did the Transformers voiceovers. He talks about the experience as if it was something that he accidentally stumbled into without fully understanding it.) More tellingly, director Rowan Woods (Little Fish) describes getting Hugo to change his vote on a previous awards panel where the two first met in this Australian Vogue interview. I found the wording of Hugo’s statement about the award-winning film interesting, but it’s impossible to say whether he was implying his own misgivings or acknowledging those of another jury member or members. (Some news sources say Hugo’s statement in giving the award was his own, others that he read something on behalf of the jury… so again, it’s unfair to be too definitive. The remarks about the decision process were definitely his.)
The Australian press has reflected the divided opinion about the winner, with some praising the choice as crowdpleasing, and others suggesting it was motivated by commercial rather than artistic interests. You can read more at International News/AAP, The Sun-Herald, The Australian, Inside Film, The Sydney Morning Herald, Urban Cinefile and Pedestrian TV. The winning film already has wide international distribution, so at least viewers can decide for themselves what they think, if this is the sort of film they’d see. Interestingly, the SFF’s judging criteria was “[Films that have] emotional power and resonance; are audacious, cutting-edge, courageous; and go beyond the usual treatment of the subject matter”. Quality isn’t mentioned, and this list would tend to value theatrical, visceral and shocking films above quieter, subtle ones. I also think to some extent that it’s the job of film festivals to raise the profiles of films that might lack wide distribution and international attention rather than to foist more attention on films already destined to receive it, but most film festivals no longer do this, at least when it comes to distributing awards. But I did learn about some fascinating films I hadn’t previously discovered through covering SFF, so on the whole it did its job. I would like to see an individual polling of the jury members though. 😉
[* According to AAP, the full awards announcement Hugo read went as follows: “After 10 days of captivating and diverse film viewing and passionate conversations, the jury arrived at a majority decision. In the true spirit of the Competition criteria, we award a visually mesmerizing and disturbing film, which polarised our opinions. The winner of the Sydney Film Prize is Only God Forgives.”]
The official closing ceremony, which awards other festival prizes, is currently underway and Hugo is definitely on hand, so I’ll add any new images as they roll in. Let’s at least try to keep things chronological…
“Forgot to say Hugo Weaving #SydFilmFest judge, kicked me out of my seat last night, alright his seat! #highlight” Erin M. McCuskey, via Twitter
The first 5 are from the Sydney Film Festival Facebook page:
Hugo Weaving, fellow juror Anand Gandhi and Festival Director Nashen Moodley at the premiere of Gandhi’s film Ship of Theseus, June 11 (It’s about a blind photographer, but is NOT an Indian remake of Proof.) 😉
Hugo Weaving and Amit Kumar at the premiere of Kumar’s film Monsoon Shootout, June 11
Pia Marais, Kath Shelper, Jan Ole Gerster, Hugo Weaving and Anand Gandhi at the SFF premiere of Gerster’s film Oh Boy, June 12
Some photos from the June 16 Festival Competition Awards Ceremony:
Jurors Paolo Bertolin, Pia Marais, Hugo Weaving, Kath Shelper and Anand Gandhi with Nick Hayes (center, next to Hugo) who accepted on behalf of absent director Nicolas Winding Refn Photo: The AU Review via Twitter/Instagram
Hugo announces the winner Photo: Ed Gibbs via Twitter
The SFF Jury, amid lengthy negotiations (and swag collection) 😉 Photo: Cardinal Spin, via Twitter
The SFF Jury and winner-surrogate pose before the Sydney Opera House Photo: Richard Milnes/Demotix (plus next 11
More Shameless Swag Display 😉 (the watches are from a festival sponsor)
“I guess they don’t know that I never wear watches”. 😉
The award’s hypno-wheel look sorta goes with the awards criteria. 😉
Some initial photos of the Closing Ceremony:
Hugo is at the lectern, jury to left Photo: Empire Australia via Twitter
Photo: Lina Mbirkou via Twitter
Photo: Luke Buckmaster, via Twitter
I’ll add more images as they appear; my thanks to everyone who posted photos. In spite of my misgivings about the main winner it looks to have been a wonderful film festival.
Here’s a new pic of Hugo and fellow SFF juror Pia Marais at the SFF closing film premiere, 20 Feet from Stardom
Photo: Richard Milnes/Demotix
On an even more wonderful note, I got some official confirmation that Hugo Weaving and Last Ride director Glendyn Ivin are planning another project together… from Ivin himself, no less. I managed the gumption to ask if he and Hugo might work together again during a live-tweeting event yesterday to coincide with SBS TV’s airing of Last Ride. For the record, I didn’t try to tweet while watching the film, and don’t personally mix tweeting with other activities. To their eternal credit, Ivin and several viewers agreed the film–ANY good film– deserves one’s full attention. I do have two copies of the DVD and the film is also available via Netflix streaming. 😉 But the fact SBS added commercials (another element laudably mocked by those live-tweeting) gave people a chance to take a break and ask questions. I retweeted the full, two-hour exchange, which should appear on my personal LJ cross-post soon. (Unfortunately, LJ auto-posted right in the middle of the event, so the tweets are spread over two entries; part one is here, part two here. Or you can just scroll down my Twitter feed to yesterday.) There wasn’t a huge crowd “in attendance”, but all on hand were intelligent, witty and entertaining, and there was a refreshing lack of stupid questions/comments. Yes, on Twitter. 😉 Quasi-miraculous, but goes to show you what the right film can inspire.
Since I get nervous in the presence (even the virtual-presence) of artists I admire, I waited a full hour to see if someone else would ask my question, but since no one did, I went ahead. Ivin answered within a few minutes, as he did almost all questions asked. The exchange went as follows:
That Marcus guy was hilarious for the duration, but also noticed details in the film even the director hadn’t. The full live-tweet session is worth reading if you have time… it was great “company” to be in. Since no official announcements have been made about what Ivin has in mind for his next project with Hugo, I can’t speculate further, but this is the best Hugo News I’ve had in ages. I know that the process of securing funding and getting projects greenlighted can be tortuous in Australia, so this one might take time (just ask Craig Monahan, who waited seven years between Healing’s announcement and its actual filming), but Ivin has won a devoted following and awards for Last Ride and his television work (Puberty Blues, Beaconsfield) … and I don’t think he’d let us in on plans if he didn’t have some notion of how to achieve them. Ivin is the only director of Hugo’s that I’ve actually met in the sense we exchanged words (though I attended premieres where the Wachowskis (Cloud Atlas) and Jim Loach (Oranges & Sunshine) were in attendance– crowds were too thick to approach them.)
I met Ivin at the 2011 MoMA screening/unofficial US premiere of Last Ride. He enthused about how much he enjoyed working with Hugo. Later that summer, I had Hugo sign my Last Ride DVD slipcase after a performance of Uncle Vanya at Kennedy Center, and he was similarly effusive. (“You’ve met Glendyn Ivin? Oh, he’s a lovely man.”) And I was absolutely sincere in saying Last Ride is one of Hugo’s best two performances of the past ten years. (I paraphrased Hugo slightly to fit a tweet: he actually said that Last Ride and Little Fish were his favorite experiences working on films in the past ten years, and the performances he worked hardest to achieve.) So the idea of them collaborating again on anything is the fulfillment of one of my fondest wishes. And it’ll be something to look forward to hearing more about as details become official. Meanwhile, Hugo has The Turning premiering in a month at the Melbourne International Film Festival, The Mule currently filming (though I assume Hugo hasn’t reported to the set, as, unlike his most famous character, he can’t actually be in two places at once), Mystery Road premiering in Australia in August and the US next year, the second Hobbit movie out in December (when Hugo will be costarring in Waiting for Godot with Richard Roxburgh for the STC)… and Healing debuting early next year. Exhausting just to read that off.
Anyhow, I’ll post this entry and amend with extra photos (and video if we’re lucky) as needed.