The wizards of Oz

History, thrills and comedy are the focus at Israel’s 11th Australian Film Festival.

Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes star in the movie ‘Strangerland’ (photo credit: ROSS MCDONNEL)
Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes star in the movie ‘Strangerland’
(photo credit: ROSS MCDONNEL)
Israel’s 11th Australian Film Festival will take place this year from June 18 through July 9 at the cinematheques in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Sderot (the dates vary slightly at each venue). It features the best of contemporary Australian cinema, and is sponsored by the Australian Embassy in Israel and the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange (AICE), with the participation of Albert Dadon.
Australian cinema was once dominated by eerie movies such as Peter Weir’s The Last Wave and Picnic at Hanging Rock and Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout, and the festival’s opening movie, Strangerland, is very much in this tradition. Directed by Kim Farrant, the movie stars Australian native Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes as a couple who live in a rural outback town whose teenage children disappear just as a dust storm hits. Hugo Weaving (you may remember him as the malevolent Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy and Elrond in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit) plays a local cop who runs the search for the missing teens, and who uncovers some secrets about the family, as the parents are pushed to the breaking point.
Russell Crowe, another star from Down Under made his directorial debut with The Water Diviner, in which he also stars. The movie, which takes place against the backdrop of the trauma of the Battle of Gallipoli, is about an Australian man (Crowe), who travels to Turkey a few years after the war to try and locate his three sons reported missing in action.
There, he forms a relationship with the beautiful Turkish woman (former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko) who owns the hotel in which he stays. A Turkish officer helps him and the two travel across a wartorn landscape to try to discover the sons’ fate.
This year is the centenary of the Battle of Gallipoli, which became the basis of the Australian memorial day which is commemorated on April 25 and is known as Anzac Day. “Anzac” stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, which fought against the Ottoman Empire in the first World War.
The battle of Gallipoli was dramatized in Peter Weir’s 1981 movie, Gallipoli, which will be shown at the festival. The movie made Mel Gibson a star and also drew the world’s attention to Australian cinema.
“I am glad that we can note this important event in our history with the screening of two films, one new, The Water Diviner, and one old, Gallipoli, that delve into the legacy of World War I, and its implications for Australia and the Australian people,” said David Sharma, the Australian ambassador to Israel.
Not all the movies in the festival are dramatic or epic. “This year, the festival includes comedies. We hope you enjoy them and laugh with us while we laugh at ourselves,” Sharma said.
Josh Lawson’s debut feature, The Little Death, is a comedy about suburban Australian couples who, behind closed doors, delve into all kinds of fetishes and kinky sex. It was a big crowd-pleaser in Australia.
Just Add Honey is another comedy, about a suburban mother who is already pushed to her limit after her husband leaves her when her sister (Portia de Rossi of Ally McBeal and Scandal) suddenly comes to stay, along with her air-head pop star daughter (Lucy Fry of Vampire Academy).
Kill Me Three Times is a thriller starring the unassuming- looking Simon Pegg as a hit man. His botched jobs and other misadventures are told in three interlocking stories. Pegg is a well-known character actor, who starred in Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End.