Monthly Archives: February 2014

Still More Berlinale Photos Featuring Hugo Weaving & David Wenham + New Interview, Healing Updates

New photos (and improved copies of earlier ones) continue to trickle in, so a new entry is warranted to assemble the latest finds. Note that some of these did appear in the previous entry in lower-res versions; I do always try to share the best-available copies but apologize if this seems redundant. I also found an AP site with (slightly) less obnoxious watermarks; since some of the photos are unique and wonderfully expressive, I’ll go ahead and post them despite my misgivings. If anyone has clean copies of ANY watermarked photos, as always, there are a lot of fans very eager to see them…

As is often the case, there are some lovely fan photos in the mix too… thanks to everyone who took them and shared them online.


A distinguished shot from Martin Briese (via Twitter)


Above two photos: Hugo Weaving and David Wenham sign for fans at The Turning’s gala screening 9 February  Photos: LevelK Film/Facebook


Very interesting composition. 😉 David Wenham, flanked by Hugo Weaving and Robert Connolly  Photo: DoctorWarning, via Twitter


Hugo Weaving, Robert Connolly and David Wenham walk the red carpet  Photo: Cinemazzi

Finally, Zimbio came through with larger, unwatermarked versions of Clemens Bilan’s Getty pics from the Turning premiere (five total)


Onstage at the premiere event  Photo: Jamie Rose via Twitter/Instagram


At the press conference  Photo: richietozzier via Instagram


Another great one from richietozzier (via Instagram)


Signing for fans at the premiere (KeTe via Instagram)

The following pics are watermarked… again, my apologies. And if anyone spots better version… you know the drill. 😉


Berlinale Turning press conference  Photo (plus next 9): Joel Ryan/AP


Photo: Francois Berthier/Getty Images/Contour

There are also several web articles summarizing the festival’s highlights thusfar, including at Cinemazzi and Berlinale Press Releases ; unfortunately, The Turning hasn’t gotten abundant coverage, nor have any internaional sales been announced except those noted by Inside Film and Screen Daily… so if your’re in Russia, the Benelux countries or frequent “world airlines” …rejoice. Ideally, the film has picked up distribution further afield as well. (It has already been shown in New Zealand as well as its well-received “special presentation” release at home.)

Healing

Hugo’s forthcoming film Healing (directed by Craig Monahan) has had a quieter presence at Berlinale, as it’s primarily being shown to potential distributors, but the raves it’s already won from Variety and Screen Daily have gotten the attention of the Australian press, with excerpts and other details about the film posted at Inside Film. Note that the film’s Australian release date is now May 8 (not April 4, as some sites previously reported.)

Also: film extra Simone Maree shared this glimpse of Hugo on the set via her Tumblr account:


“Hugo Weaving – my girlfriend and I were extras in his most recent film.”

STOP THE PRESSES: Film3Sixty just posted transcripts of their interview session with Hugo Weaving and David Wenham at Berlinale!

CLARIFICATION:  All red/colored text in WordPress entries are links back to source material/website.  So if you wanted to see the Film3Sixty webpage, just click on the red type  above. In some cases, I’ll say “___ can be read here” instead, but in all cases it’s my strict policy to  name and link back to sites/sources of origin via hyperlinks.  Apologies if that was unclear to anyone.

5 MINUTES WITH HUGO WEAVING & DAVID WENHAM

Hugo Weaving and David Wenham are both well known for starring in Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy(2001-2003) as Elrond and Faramir respectively. Now, they have embarked on a very different project, The Turning, helmed by producer Robert Connolly.

Based on the best-selling collection of interlinking short stories by Tim Winton, this ambitious film sees a whole host of Australian talent come together to make 17 individual short films concerning ‘turning points,’ in the lives of a group reoccurring characters.

For the first time, Wenham takes the director’s chair for one chapter titled “Commission,” and stars Hugo Weaving. The plot concerns Victor (Josh McConville) who travels out to the Bush to find his father, Bob (Hugo Weaving) and inform him that Carol, Vic’s mother and Bob’s wife, is dying. Finding Bob living in a ramshackle hut, Vic rekindles the bond between father and son and tries to come to terms with why his father abandoned him and his mother.

Playing as part of the Berlin Special Gala, we caught up with Weaving and Wenham in Berlin to discuss the project.

Film3Sixty: This film feels like a showcase of who’s who in Australian cinema, would you agree?

Hugo Weaving: There are a lot of people that you might know of, but I don’t think that it was ever Robert’s (Connolly)intention. I don’t think it was ever his aim was pull-together the top Australian actors and directors together, it was more Robert thinking about who inspires him creatively and who would respond to this wonderful book by Tim Winton.  He has gathered a lot of people who don’t necessarily work in film. Certainly not as directors, there are a couple of choreographers, visual artists, actors and a theatre director. It is quite an unusual project. It could have been much, much more obvious, starry and showy cross-section of the Australian film industry, but actually I think that it is much more of an idiosyncratic project.

F3S: Did you know the book before you came to the project?

HW: Yeah, the first time that we (David Wenham) worked together it was on an adaptation of a Tim Winton book, that was adapted for the stage called That Eye, The Sky. We are both very familiar with his work, and Tim is really the reason why we were all drawn to it. The Turning is very popular in Australia.

F3S: Were you at all intimated by the scope of the project?

David Wenham: Being responsible for just one eighteenth of the book. I am speaking on Robert’s behalf here, but he actually didn’t know how the film would look as a whole. It is a very ambitious project that empowers 18 different directors to interpret a story in whatever way they wanted, there were nothing dictatorial from Robert, meaning that we could be as open ended, as we wanted to be. How those 18 disparate project projects would come together if they would come together was another concern. The films were shot over a period of 18months, and none of the directors had any interaction with each other, so when it came to the premiere in Melbourne last year, all the other directors were as interested as everybody else as to how this would unite. What is incredible is that, even thought they are all very different, what unites them is greater than what divides them, and I believe that this is a testament to the initial source material. People, regardless of where they came from, and their disciplines were affected by Tim’s book in ways that were similar, meaning that the whole project was united.

F3S: David, How was the shift from acting to directing?

DW: It was a very natural for me. It didn’t happen overnight, I had wanted to direct for a number of years. Robert and I had talked about it for a long time, and this seemed like the perfect introduction. This was a manageable project, it runs for about 12mins, and I learned so much in the period that we made the movie. I absolutely adored the process, it fired me creatively, and subsequently I have written a feature that I hope to direct this year.  It has come just at the right time, and I am glad that I didn’t do it earlier in my career. I think that actors, especially those who have been doing it for some time, come to directing with a slight advantage that directors don’t have that being that actors have worked with a lot of directors and can draw on that knowledge.  A director, if they are lucky, makes a film every 2-5 years, and rarely has the opportunity to work with other directors, so they only have their sync in the vision. We are very fortunate in a way in that we have seen a lot of different forms of creation through lots of different prisms of lots of different talented people.

F3S: Did you draw on any other sources, other that Winton’s book, for inspiration?

DW: I had a little scrapbook, which I used to collate ideas. One of the biggest influences though was Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show (1971), which helped in terms of the simplicity of the piece. One scene that I drew upon involves a man that sits down on a log, rolls a cigarette, and begins to tell a story. In terms of the cinematography it is very simple, only 2 shots, one wide shot and then a two-shot that tracks in. It concentrates solely on the performance, and it allows the actor (Ben Johnson) to own the screen and tell the story, incidentally that actor won an academy award for that performance.  There are no gimmicky tricks, it is simple, good story telling. That was the key when it came to making my movie. I didn’t want it to be gimmicky, or tricky, especially in the use of camera. I didn’t want an artificial light either, and all the light sources are natural, like a campfire.

Did you find doing just one short, within the larger body of the anthology limiting at all?

HW: With this one you are shooting for a shorter period of time, and it is possible to watch them as a stand-alone piece. I don’t think that they are as interesting on their own, and they’re more interesting together in how they reference each other. So with the character that I play, Bob Lang, although he is essentially in this one, “Commission,” he is outlined and mentioned in many of the pages of Winton’s novel. This means that over the story you get a strong sense of the character. From that perspective,  it then becomes similar to a feature. Short films can be wonderful, but they demand you to be incredibly economical in a very hard way.  It is like haikus, they can be great, but they are all very similar because of their structure.

F3S: Several different actors play your character, Bob Lang, were you ever preoccupied with the thoughts of how other actors would be playing the character?

HW: I did think about it, but I didn’t really have time to be overly concerned.  I did wonder how many Bob’s there were and who would be playing him. I never had any contact with the other actors who were also playing Bob. This was the same for everyone involved in the project. We were all working purely on our own, so when it came to the screening at the Melbourne Film Festival we were all looking at the film for the first time.

You have both worked together before, both in theatre and in film. Was it a fairly natural process collaborating again?

HW: It felt really easy. I was excited that David wanted me to work on it as it was his first piece of direction. The actually filming of it was lovely. It was completely unadorned; we were out in this beautiful part of the world, all under one roof. It was a bit of a backwater where we filmed, so there was a lot of camaraderie.

DW: Directing ticks a few more boxes for me. It afforded me the opening to play in areas where I hadn’t been able to before. I love the visual arts, so to be able to paint something, as opposed to being a picture in the frame was wonderful. I love working in the editing suite, and actually constructing the film. Directing allows you more options and to work in many different areas. It is a much wider focus than you get being an actor…

HW: One of the frustrating aspects of being an actor is that you can feel that your creativity can be limited. You want to work beyond the boundaries of what normally you have to do.

DW: As a director you get to put on the captains hat and be in control. Ultimately though it is about being able to tell a story the way that you would like to do it. As an actor, you get to play with your character, but that is about it.

The Turning screened as part of the Berlinale Special.

 

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More Pictures, Video of The Turning Press Conference & Gala Premiere At Berlinale

Sorry for the delay in getting some of this stuff up; I had to attend to some less riveting matters like work, sleep and other forms of personal maintenance.

We do finally have video of the FULL Berlinale press conference for Tim Winton’s The Turning, though only edited highlights were posted to YouTube. I’ll attempt an embed of both, but if only one appears, it’s because LJ is up to its usual tricks in not allowing non-YouTube embeds. But the full event was only around 24 minutes, with Hugo Weaving fielding only two questions (one about his character, Bob Lang, the other about the film’s continuity and scoring.) I hadn’t known this yesterday as I waited for the delayed press conference to begin, but the press were distracted by events at the preceding Berlinale event: I knew at the time it was for Lars von Trier’s latest controversy-engine, but this time Shia Le Boeuf’s ongoing attempts at career implosion out-controversied even von Trier. I’ve always thought artists should get attention for quality work and professional behavior, but all too often– even at prestigious fetivals– a tabloid atmosphere pervades, and serious, non-sensationalist work like The Turning gets short shrift.

So I guess that’s where us fans have to do all we can… here are those videos. 😉

The full press conference (note: there is no audio during part of the film clip)

YouTube Press Conference “highlights”

PopSugar has posted four interesting supplemental clips featuring Weaving and Wenham: one features the Star Wars refutation from last night’s Getty clip (plus Hugo’s bemused resignation that he’ll probably be doing Hobbit films for the rest of his life) but the other four are refreshingly on-topic about The Turning. It’s great to see these two smiling and jibing with one another after the somewhat rushed, perfunctory press conference.


On David Wenham's directorial debut


Hugo, on working with David as a director


On the pleasures and challenges of The Turning's unusual structure


On The Turning's shooting schedule, how the pieces fit together


On "never leaving Middle Earth", not wanting to do Star Wars

Lots of new photos are turning up in the usual disorganised manner; oddly, none of the Berlinale social networking sites have given the film much attention, but the main website makes up for that with a lavish gallery of “star portraits” and event photos; the film’s Facebook page and several other media outlets have also come through, though only a couple of Getty’s pics of the premiere gala (as opposed to the press conference) have appeared without watermarks. A few others I might try and “adjust”, but some sites watermark photos so heavily that they basically ruin them (and make it nearly impossible to gauge if the photo is worth buying in the first place.)


Smashing ‘star portrait’ of Hugo from the Berlinale website gallery; Photo: Gerhard Kassner / Berlinale


Hugo Weaving and David Wenham share a laugh at the gala premiere  Photo:Clemens Bilan/Getty Images


Hugo at the Turning gala premiere  Photo: Clemens Bilan/Getty Images

Hugo Weaving acknowledges audience at The Turning’s gala premiere 9 February  Photo: The Turning’s Facebook page


The Turning’s cast and crew (well, a selection of them) at Berlinale  Photo: The Turning’s Facebook page


Hugo and the directors introduced onstage at the premiere gala  Photo: The Turning’s Facebook page


The February 9 press conference  Photo: The Turning’s Facebook page


“No, honestly, people, I have no interest in being in the Star Wars movie. Can we please stay on topic?” ;P Seriously, though– Hugo discusses the film’s score and full effect
Photo: The Turning’s Facebook page


David Wenham signs autographs after the press conference  Photo: The Turning’s Facebook page


Hugo signs for fans outside the venue for the gala premiere (debunking online detractor who said he didn’t)  Photo: The Turning’s Facebook page


Hugo and David in the middle of an animated discussion with festival director Dieter Kosslick (Please tell me there’s video of this!) Photo: Berlinale Star Boulevard gallery


The cast and crew acknowledge audience while going to their seats at the gala premiere  Photo: Berlinale Star Boulevard gallery


The press conference L to R:  Yaron Lifschitz (Director), Jonathan auf der Heide (Director), Shaun Gladwell (Director), Rhys Graham (Director), Hugo Weaving (Actor), David Wenham (Director), Robert Connolly (Director, Producer);  Photo: Berlinale Star Boulevard gallery


David Wenham  Photo: Berlinale Star Boulevard gallery


Hugo Weaving  Photo: Berlinale Star Boulevard gallery


Producer Robert Connolly (Hugo in background)  Photo: Berlinale Star Boulevard gallery


Hugo Weaving and David Wenham at the premiere gala Photo: Clemens Bilan/Getty Images


Photo: Clemens Bilan/Getty Images


Photo: Clemens Bilan/Getty Images


Photo: Clemens Bilan/Getty Images


Hugo signs autographs at the Turning premiere gala  Photo (plus next three): JC/Splash News

Watch this space, as more photos will probably be added soon…

There are additional, more heavily watermarked (and smaller) images at AP and ImagesCollect. As usual, if anyone has clean copies of these, do let us know. 😉 My thanks to the usual lot of Hugo Weaving and David Wenham fans for sharing everything they’ve found.

Mystery Road, The Turning Receive More Awards Nominations

Hugo Weaving has another nomination for Best Supporting Actor, this time for his role in Mystery Road, from The Australian Film Critics Association. Mystery Road received additional nominations for Best Actor (Aaron Pedersen), Supporting Actress (Tasma Walton), Film, Director (Ivan Sen),  Screenplay, and Cinematography (both Sen). The Turning was nominated for Best Film, Best Supporting Actress (Rose Byrne), Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography (various). The award winners will be announced 1 March. For more details and the full list of nominees, go to the AFCA’s website or FilmInk.

Healing

UPDATE: Craig Monahan’s film Healing has drawn another positive review after its Berlinale press screenings, this time from Variety.  Here are excerpts:

“A group of conflicted men, prisoners and inmates discover the majesty of great birds — and through them, the cleansing power of redemption — in the deeply felt outdoor drama “Healing.” The first film in a decade from director and co-writer Craig Monahan, whose 1998 psychological thriller ‘The Interview’ remains an uncommonly smart genre piece, this equally intelligent and satisfying item will prove therapeutic to distribs on the hunt for quality fare….

The film is inspired by the formation of the real-life alliance between the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary in the outback, northwest of Melbourne, and the state-run penal system Prisons Victoria….Into this facility comes Viktor Khadem (Don Hany, extraordinary), who, after 18 years behind bars for murder, has little understanding of the contemporary world and nothing to look forward to from his long-estranged Iranian family. Viktor is assigned to Matt Perry (Hugo Weaving), a committed officer with a fondness for rescuing Raptors and, like Viktor, weighty past issues of his own. On the suggestion of Healesville bird specialist Glynis (Jane Menelaus), Matt rams the rehabilitation program past his skeptical superiors and installs Viktor as supervisor….

It’s refreshing to see a film that takes its own sweet time building characters and the subtle conflicts simmering among them. Led by the familiar and bankable Weaving, the cast, under Monahan’s sure guidance, deftly underplays what could have been, in other hands, an awkward melodrama.” — Eddie Cockrell

The Turning Berlinale Press Conference (w/ Hugo Weaving, David Wenham); Hugo Dismisses Star Wars Rumors

Tim Winton’s The Turning was the subject of a brief (too brief, IMO) press conference this morning at the Berlinale; the first press photos are starting to appear, along with a few fan photos. Some online fans are slagging Hugo and the other participants for not stopping to pose for photos, but people should be aware that no photo call or red carpet was scheduled for this film, and that Berlinale’s event organizers seemed to be keeping everyone on a very tight leash.  I was able to record a limited amount of live video (including all of Weaving and Wenham’s answers– Hugo got two questions and David got maybe three) but am trusting Berlinale will have an official, professional-quality copy up shortly, once they get over oohing and aahing over Lars von Trier’s latest opus about sexual sadism. 😉

But first I might as well get those pics posted:


This and next 10 images: Athanasios Gioumpasis/Getty Images Europe via Zimbio



Hugo Weaving and David Wenham (center) with producer Robert Connolly (furthest right) and four of the film’s other directors (L to center:  Yaron Lifschitz, Jonathan auf der Heide, Shaun Gladwell, Rhys Graham)

Photo: Antonio Cuomo via Twitter/Instagram

Here are a few screencaps I was able to grab from the live feed:

(For additional fancaps, check out Yvette (LyridsMC)’s, Wenhamania and Random Scribblings’ Twitter feeds)
I’ll post links or an embed of the full press conference video once the Berlinale website/YouTube channel makes it available; hopefully Hugo Weaving and the Turning’s directors will do additional press interviews while at the festival; it would be a shame for them to have come so far for just a brief press conference.

MORE TO COME

UPDATE: Sorry, had to spend a few hours at work, then another hour fixing an audio issue on the computer. (Apparently all the screen recording overtaxed the poor thing…) No, Berlinale still hasn’t stopped gushing over Lars von Trier long enough to post the Turning press conference, but I have something just as good from Getty Videos. Hollywood Reporter and about a zillion fanboys will want to take note, as this concerns those Star Wars rumors:

He not only hasn’t heard the rumors and hasn’t auditioned or spoken to JJ Abrams… but he’s just not interested. Anyone who’s actually read Hugo’s in-depth interviews in the past few years shouldn’t really be surprised, but The Hollywood Reporter and about a zillion movie websites might wanna fact-check a bit more thoroughly in the future. And no, I don’t think he’s being coy either. Hugo doesn’t play games that way. If he was interested or in talks, he’d say something like “I don’t know, you’ll have to wait and see,” as he did when asked about The Hobbit through all those years of development hell (and premature rumors). Consolation prize, though: it appears David Wenham is ready to take on any of Hugo’s rejected cartoon-villain roles… so you fanboys can start painting old film stills of him blue-faced or in Imperial uniforms if you like. 😉

I’ve been somewhat confident in debunking these particular rumors because Hugo is scheduled to film Strangerland and then star in Macbeth when Abrams’ film allegedly rolls… but I really did need to hear it from the source to be certain, as Hugo never does what ANY fan expects 100% of the time. And, great as this is, I’d really love to see some “Turning interviews” that are actually about The Turning. Or about Healing. Or any film Hugo Weaving is actually in. 😉

Getty and Wire Image have five new post-press-conference pics (Hugo’s finally looking like he’s enjoying himself in them, now that the hard bit’s done)… I’ll wait a few hours and see if Zimbio won’t provide clean versions for inclusion here, but they’re worth looking at in any form if you’re impatient. I’m being called away on another late gig, but for some reason, I suddenly feel much better. 😉

Hugo Weaving To Appear At Berlinale; Festival Screenings For Healing, The Mule; Awards Update

Awards Update

Apologies for the lack of updates recently; I’m recovering from a bout with the flu. Also, I found the results of the AACTA Awards and Sydney Theatre Awards a bit wanting, to put it mildly. The AACTAs chose to reward style over substance, larding Baz Luhrmann’s glitzy but empty Great Gatsby remake with honors while snubbing genuinely Australian actors and films in most of the high-profile categories. Rose Byrne was given The Turning’s sole award (for Best Actress) and Mystery Road was snubbed altogether. The Sydney Theatre Awards took an opposite tack, seeming to deliberately slight any actor with a degree of fame (Cate Blanchett, Hugo and Richard Roxburgh were also overlooked) in favor of more obscure performances, though one could argue there might have been vote-splitting in some categories. STC’s Waiting For Godot was, at least, rewarded Best Mainstage Production and Luke Mullins Best Supporting Actor.

I had assumed in advance in the AACTAs that Hugo was unlikely to win due to his role in The Turning being only about ten minutes long, and because he’d won Best Supporting Actor for Oranges and Sunshine only two years ago. But a last-minute flurry of opinion pieces and predictions in the Australian press damnably got my hopes up, particularly this Herald-Sun article (see below the cut). Though Hugo attended last year’s event to present an award, he seems to have been absent this time around, or at least to have avoided the red carpet and photographers. Since he also gave the event a pass the previous year (when he won for O & S) it would appear that he prefers celebrating other actors to competing against them; the last time Hugo collected an award in person was in 2005 for Little Fish. Props to Leigh Paatsch, Eva Orner (via Inside Film) and other writers, bloggers and journalists who thought The Turning and Mystery Road deserved better.

Fortunately, awards have never been a primary motivator for Hugo; to date I’ve never seen him engage in the sort of campaigning and self-publicity that Oscar contenders routinely undertake.  But there will be more possible accolades for both films (and other films underappreciated at The AACTAs, like The Rocket and Satellite Boy) when The Film Critics Circle of Australia hand out their honors on March 11.  Hugo was nominated for Best Supporting Actor honors for both Mystery Road AND The Turning, meaning he’s in the enviable position of splitting votes with himself. Mystery Road is also up for Best Feature Film, best Director (Ivan Sen), Best Lead Actor (Aaron Pedersen), Best Actress (Tasma Walton), Best Script, Music, Cinematography and editing (all Sen),  and Production Design. The Turning picked up another nod for Rose Byrne’s performance, though this time it was classified a supporting performance.

The Turning at Berlinale

I was uncertain as to whether or not Hugo Weaving would attend this year’s Berlinale; he has two films screening there (Healing has press and distribution screenings, while The Turning has its international premiere, including a press conference tomorrow morning) and he tends to go all out in supporting Australian films at such events, but his name didn’t appear on any early guests lists. But yesterday we had the first hints in the direction of confirmation he would indeed be on hand. First a fan who works at the Abu Dhabi airport posted a new photo:

Photo: Josh Cher via Instagram/Twitter

Of course, there are any number of reasons Hugo might be in Abu Dhabi, but I wondered if he might not be en route to another event. My suspicions were confirmed a few hours later when Hugo was photographed at the Berlin airport:

Photo: Chad Buchanan/Getty Images via WireImage

Note: I have mixed feelings about images like these, as they might seem intrusive to some. (Hugo is not actively participating in a public event, though he’s en route to one). So I’ll apologize upfront if anyone thinks these cross the line into paparazzi invasion of privacy. Since Hugo seems aware of and not upset by the photographer, and these aren’t unflattering, I’m going ahead and posting them, but I do have misgivings.   Ideally we’ll have some more relaxed, subject-approved pics once the press conference gets underway tomorrow.

All above photos: Chad Buchanan/Getty Images

UPDATE: I found a few more; these four are Patricia Thom/Geisler-Fotopress via NewsCom

The Turning’s official Berlinale press conference will begin soon, at 15.45 CET (9.45 AM EST, 2.45/14.45 GMT). David Wenham, who directed Hugo in “Commission” is also on hand in Berlin. To watch a live-stream of the press conference, keep an eye on Berlinale’s Live Video page; the completed video will then appear on their YouTube feed, and I’ll embed it here.  You can also see new photos of Berlinale events on the festival’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds.

Healing

Though Craig Monahan’s film isn’t having a formal gala screening at Berlinale, it is being screened for critics and potential buyers; thus we already have our first review for the film– a positive one– from Screen Daily. Here are excerpts:  “Three wounded creatures need healing in this attractive Australian feature — a broken-winged eagle, the reluctant prisoner given responsible for its rehabilitation, and the officer in overall charge of the raptor programme. Though the three outcomes are hardly in doubt, the heartfelt tale is told with plenty of soaring nature shots in and above Victoria’s photogenic Macedon Ranges. Aussie academy award winning cinematographer Andrew Lesnie (The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit) adds much visual panache to the otherwise plain narrative….This is director/co-producer/co-writer Monahan’s third feature with actor Hugo Weaving… and there’s a brooding masculinity about the low-security inland prison farm community in which Healing based. Violence is constantly threatened.

Iranian/Australian Viktor (Don Hany) is in the final 18 months of a 16-year sentence for a drunken crime for which he has no excuses, only self-loathing. Deliberately aloof, he antagonises his fellow inmates (“He may have been a hard man once,” says one, “he’s just an old man now”) and he seems a hopeless case until officer Matt (Weaving), himself unable to recover from a family blow, initiates a programme to assist the nearby wild bird sanctuary. This introduces Viktor to various falcons, owls and Yasmine, a magnificent wounded wedged-tailed eagle….Performances are strong. Tough and wounded, both Weaving and Hany hold our attention throughout.”

The Mule

Screen Australia put together a lovely promotional PDF for the Australian selections at Berlinale; in addition to highlighting Tim Winton’s The Turning and Healing, it included a nice surprise amid promos for other Australian films in various stages of production, our first look at Hugo Weaving in The Mule:

This followed hot on the heels of the announcement that The Mule will have its world premiere next month at the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX as part of their Narrative Spotlight section. (Specific dates and times TBA). So I was technically mistaken in calling Healing Hugo’s next film to see release in the last entry, though it will be the next one in theatrical release in Australia. SXSW’s page for the film features a very different film still than the one I’ve elected to share. Though I can’t be certain which actor the still depicts, I will say I’m quite certain it isn’t Hugo. 😉  (My best guess is that it’s Leigh Whannell, who, according to most sources, plays the hapless title character.)

Here’s the official synopsis: “In 1983, a naive man detained by Australian Federal Police has lethal narcotics hidden in his stomach. Alone and afraid, ‘the mule’ makes a desperate choice to withhold the evidence…literally….Defying his bodily functions, ‘the mule’ inadvertently drags the cops, the criminals and his family deep into the bowels of hell, confirming – ‘it’s what’s inside that counts.’ ”

Oddly, we still have no information on Hugo’s character; since John Noble is known to be playing a crime lord/club owner, one might assume Hugo is playing a cop, but he might be playing a different crime lord, the smuggler’s father, or a character yet unknown. We do know it’s a period film, and that’s he’s sharply dressed, but that’s about it.  Whannell is quoted in Screen Australia’s announcement of the film’s festival berth: “”Austin is a film fan’s town and we are so excited to be holding the world premiere of The Mule at SXSW, a festival that embraces independent and original films… We cannot wait to see the crowd in Austin devour it.”  More info, and the full slate of SXSW films, can be read at IndieWire and We Got This Covered,  It’s unknown how the film will be distributed beyond SXSW; let’s just hope it fares better than The Key Man, which debuted at SXSW 2011 and mostly vanished without a trace (apart from a few random cable screenings and online streaming in the Middle East and Eastern Europe)…

In Other Hugo News

Mystery Road had a successful Australian TV screening on 26 January (and subsequent online streaming for Australian audiences). The DVD is officially released 12 February (Blu-Ray as well). Tim Winton’s The Turning will follow a similar distribution route, airing 23 February on ABC1; the DVD/Blu-Ray will follow on 24 February. Though The Turning has secured distribution to some countries, according to Inside Film,  no specific release dates outside of Australia have yet been announced, nor has it acquired an American distributor. Mystery Road has American and UK distributors, but no release schedule as of yet. Variety posted the first Berlin review; unfortunately they didn’t know what to make of the film… but in an interesting reversal of many Australian critics, they praised the “Reunion” segment (starring Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh) while faulting the title sequence (featuring Rose Byrne.)

Individual tickets for STC’s Macbeth, which will star Hugo alongside Kate Box, John Gaden, and Melita Jurisic in an innovative reversed staging, go on sale 10 February, for those lucky enough to live in the Sydney area (or who have a lavish travel budget). Details at STC’s website.

In Memoriam

As many of you know, the acting world was dealt a heartbreaking blow with the premature passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman earlier this week. Longterm fans will remember that Hoffman directed Hugo Weaving in the 2007 premiere production of Andrew Upton’s Riflemind for the Sydney Theatre Company. (He returned to direct True West for the STC in 2010.) At the time, Weaving characterized working with Hoffman:  “Obviously, I’ve been an admirer of his acting work for many years, and it was a real delight to meet him. We just had a lovely meal [in New York, during the run of Hedda Gabler], and that was when it was decided we were going to do [Riflemind]….It’s a very wonderful, challenging, difficult play,and Phil’s an incredibly warm human being who is helping us to dig our way through the piece. He’s a very gentle presence in the rehearsal room, always just asking himself and us questions. There’s no pressure on us at all. We put enough pressure on ourselves as it is – all actors do – and he understands that.” (as quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald.)


Hugo Weaving and Philip Seymour Hoffman take a break from Riflemind rehearsals, 2007 (Photo: Simon Alekna/Brisbane Times)

I’ll be back with Berlinale coverage as soon as possible.