The wizards of Oz

Camels, murder, wine and women are the focus at the 10th Australian Film Festival.

AARON PEDERSEN plays a detective in ‘Mystery Road’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
AARON PEDERSEN plays a detective in ‘Mystery Road’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Australia is well known for kangaroos, koala bears and some very good movies. The 10th Australian Film Festival in Israel, which runs through July 5, showcases their films.
Sponsored by the Australian Embassy and the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, the festival will be presented at the Cinematheques of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Holon.
This year’s program features four films that highlight the diversity of the Australian film scene.
The festival opens with Tracks, directed by John Curran. Based on a memoir by Robyn Davidson, Tracks tells the story of a young woman who makes a nearly 3,000-kilometer trek from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean. The film stars Mia Wasikowska, the actress from The Kids are All Right and Alice in Wonderland, who seems poised to join Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman as another leading export from Australia.
The determined young woman wants to walk alone, accompanied only by three camels carrying gear, and her beloved dog, but she agrees to meet up once a month with a National Geographic reporter, played by Adam Driver of HBO’s Girls, who intends to document her trip.
This movie was meant to be seen on the big screen, so it’s very fitting that it will be part of this festival. It presents the Australian wilderness in a way it has rarely been seen on film since Nicholas Roeg’s classic, Walkabout. Curran also directed the acclaimed indie films Stone and We Don’t Live Here Anymore.
Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road is a psychological thriller that also illuminates an off-thebeaten track side of Australia. The film stars Aaron Pedersen as an aborigine who became a detective in a rural community.
No longer trusted by his own people, he doesn’t fit in with the white officers either, and he must fight prejudice and apathy while he investigates the murder of a teenage girl. Hugo Weaving, who played V in V for Vendetta and Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy, portrays another detective. Ryan Kwanten, best known as Jason on HBO’s True Blood, plays a redneck who may be involved in the murder. The film’s theme and tone are similar to the miniseries Top of the Lake from New Zealand, starring Elisabeth Moss, that was a hit this past year.
Russell Crowe narrates the documentary Red Obsession. Co-directed by Australian filmmakers Warwick Ross and David Roach, this film examines changes in the wine industry. The film focuses on the chateaux of Bordeaux (and other vintners around the world, including Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola) who struggle to maintain the quality of their wines in the midst of a voracious new market: the intensely status-conscious nouveaux riches of China.
The filmmakers travel to Asia to show the booming wine market there. They watch a cutthroat auction in Hong Kong and meet a Chinese oenophile who made a fortune in sex toys and now owns a wine collection worth over $60 million.
Rebecca Barry’s documentary, I Am a Girl, investigates what it means to be a girl in the 21st century. The film follows six young women from Australia, the US, Cameroon, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea, respectively. The young women in the film all have obstacles to overcome.
One was sold into prostitution at the age of 12, another lives in a tough inner-city neighborhood, while a third struggles to get an education. They all have compelling stories to tell. Director Rebecca Barry made commercials and television shows before she switched genres to tell moving stories.
Ambassador Dave Sharma of Australia said, “The Australian Embassy is proud to present four movies that will take you around the world and put you at the heart of Australian life.”