The Proposition is a tough, hard-hitting Western, set in rural, 19th century Australia and is extremely violent.

The Proposition 298 88 (photo credit: Courtesy photo)
The Proposition 298 88
(photo credit: Courtesy photo)
Although The Proposition was the opening attraction at the Australian Film Festival, when I spoke recently with its producer, Chris Brown, it did not have a distributor here yet. Let's hope that it soon finds one, because it has appeal for a wide audience. It's a tough, hard-hitting Western, set in rural, 19th-century Australia and is extremely violent, in the tradition of Sam Peckinpah's films. The Outback has never looked more hauntingly beautiful and the tragedy of Australia's history as a penal colony with ties to England is front and center here. This is a movie in which there are not really any heroes and in which everyone is tainted, somehow, by the violence and injustice that are part of their lives. The entire cast - including Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Emily Watson, John Hurt, and David Gulpilil - are all good, but the standout is Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential, Memento) as an outlaw who makes a bargain with the sheriff to kill one brother in order to save another brother's life. Directed by John Hillcoat, it was written by rock icon Nick Cave. Brown confirmed the rumor that Cave wrote the tightly plotted script very quickly, in about three weeks. Cave also wrote the music. Because of the violence, it's not for everyone, but those who enjoy Westerns, as well as fans of the bleak American cinema of the Seventies that produced movies such as Deliverance, will find The Proposition rewarding. This year's Australian Film Festival had a strong lineup. Other standouts included Sandra Sciberras' The Caterpillar Wish, a low-key and heartfelt coming-of-age story set in an isolated seaside town. The bizarre animated film, The Mysterious Geographical Explorations of Jasper Morello, is a horror/mystery that is not for kids. Ann Turner's Irresistible stars Susan Sarandon in a film about a woman convinced she is being stalked, which has echoes of the recent French film, Hidden. Look out for these movies if they make it to a theater near you. DURING MY BRIEF conversation with Brown, he commented, "Israel has a lot of festivals." That's certainly true. The year's biggest festival, the Jerusalem Film Festival, is coming up. This year, it runs from July 6-15, and tickets go on sale on June 23. If you plan to attend the opening, which is always a lot of fun, buy your tickets early, because they sell out fast. There are many other prominent festivals throughout the year as well, including the Haifa International Film Festival in the fall and Docaviv in early spring, plus festivals in Eilat, Ashdod, Rosh Pina, and Sderot. In addition, the country's cinematheques sponsor several festivals spotlighting films from various countries, including France, China, India, and England, as well as Australia. Every week, it seems, there is another festival. The 11th International Student Film Festival at the Tel Aviv and Nazareth Cinematheques just concluded. It featured such prominent directors among its guests as Gaspar Noe (Irreversible) and Randal Kleiser, known for his ultra-commercial films, Grease and The Blue Lagoon. Kleiser was in Israel also to participate in this year's Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Master Class, sponsored by the Jewish Federation. TA-LA regulars writer/producer Lynn Roth, screenwriter Dan Gordon, producer Pamela Rosenberg, and talent manager Danny Sussman were also among this year's teachers. The Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Master Class program brings together film students from the US and Israel in a series of intensive workshops held in Tel Aviv. The first annual Homo-Lesbian International Film Festival is running now in Tel Aviv. For details, go to its Website at There are lots of theater and music festivals in Israel, too, and the Jerusalem Jazz Festival begins Monday. In addition to the concerts, there will be many programs at the Jerusalem Cinematheque. Several parts of the Ken Burns documentary, Jazz, will be screened, at 2 p.m. today, 5 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. on Saturday, and 8:45 p.m. on Sunday. Other jazz films include Bert Stern's Jazz on a Summer's Day, on Monday at 9:30 p.m. A filmed record of the 1958 Newport Festival, Jazz on a Summer's Day includes performances by Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Dinah Washington, Mahalia Jackson, Chuck Berry and Chico Hamilton. Clint Eastwood's Bird, starring Forest Whitaker as Charlie Parker, will be shown on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. Taylor Hackford's biopic of Ray Charles, Ray, starring Jamie Foxx, is screening at 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday. For information on live performances, call (02) 679-4040 or go to the Website,