The outback is back

This year's Australian Film Festival starts off with The Proposition, a "bloodily psychedelic trip" through the 19th century outback.

outback red 88 (photo credit: )
outback red 88
(photo credit: )
This year's Australian Film Festival should start off with a bang, since it opens with The Proposition, a violent Western set in the Australian outback in the 19th century, written by rock star Nick Cave. The festival, sponsored by the Australian Israel Cultural Exchange, opens on May 29 at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and on June 5 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, and runs through June 2 in Tel Aviv and June 10 in Jerusalem. The Proposition, which stars Ray Winstone (Cold Mountain, Last Orders), Guy Pearce (Memento, L.A. Confidential, and Emily Watson (Hilary and Jackie, Punch Drunk Love), tells the story of two murderous brothers who accept the proposition made by a police captain to bring him their older brother, a criminal mastermind, so he will spare their lives. The two take a journey across the outback in search of their brother and, along the way, encounter a tribe of Aborigines threatened by the authorities. David Gulpilil, an Aboriginal Australian actor who has appeared in many films, notably Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Tracker, The Last Wave, and Walkabout, plays one of the Aborigines. Filmmaker Magazine calls the film "a bloodily psychedelic trip that stylistically draws upon American revisionist Westerns but ultimately draws its meanings from events buried within the pages of Australian history books." Many of the feature films this year focus on marginal characters on the wrong side of the law, including Oyster Farmer, directed by Anna Reeves, a gentle comedy about a man who moves to a rural oyster-farming community near where his sister has been hospitalized and, in a bumbling way, turns to a life of crime. Robert Connolly's Three Dollars tells the story of an engineer with a family to support who finds himself broke. He then runs into an old flame, who is now a successful and mysterious businesswoman. Susan Sarandon and Sam Neill star in Ann Turner's Irresistible, about a woman who becomes convinced her husband has a young lover who is stalking her. She becomes increasingly paranoid and begins stalking the young woman herself. Another film directed by a woman, Sandra Scibberas' Caterpillar Wish, has a different theme, as it looks at a girl in a coastal town in winter who longs for her absent father. Several of the documentaries on the program focus on nature. Israelis conscious of water consumption should appreciate Remembering Rain, a look at Australia's worst drought in recorded history. Wildness is a look at the life and work of Australia's two most prominent wildlife photographers, both of whom moved there from Europe, drawn by the haunting landscape. The Melbourne Shuffle looks at a freestyle dance craze that has swept the continent. Switch on the Light tells the stories of seven refugee children living in Australia - an issue that is relevant all over the world. A short film program looks at emerging young directors and features a wide variety of themes, including Aboriginal issues, coming-of-age stories and even a horror film. This year's festival will be hosting Chris Brown, producer of The Proposition. Brown's extensive list of credits includes the Bob Hoskins film Mona Lisa and the rock cult classic Absolute Beginners. Megan Simpson Huberman, director of development for the Australian Film Commission (AFC), will also be attending this year's festival. She directed the 1996 film Dating the Enemy, a romantic comedy starring Guy Pearce. For tickets and schedule information, call the Tel Aviv Cinematheque at (03) 606-0800, ext. 0, and the Jerusalem Cinematheque at (02) 565-4333.