Aussie Film Fest offers taste of Australian drama & comedy

Photo: archive of Aussie Film Fest

The Aussie Film Fest opened at Prague’s Lucerna theatre on Thursday, with more days and more films in its second edition. This year, the festival is also being held in Bratislava and features a number of hits which saw premieres just recently.

Martina Vacková,  photo: archive of Aussie Film Fest
I spoke to the festival’s founder Martina Vacková asking how much of a boost last year’s success provided.

“Last year’s success had a big impact on us and helped us move forward and make a bigger festival which now runs over four days and takes place not only in Prague but also in Bratislava. After last year we were also better positioned to ask for state funding or even from the Australian Embassy in Vienna.”

It became clear that you had met a demand or created a niche…

“Yes, I think so. Last year there were many people who were curious about Australian films. There are a lot of festivals around focusing on European films but that wasn’t true of Australia and I think there is room for other parts of the worlds as well: South America, or Asia… Australian films are a little bit unique and people recognized that last year through just three films. And this year we have ten features, so we have grown.”

What are some of the films that you are going to be screening?

Photo: archive of Aussie Film Fest
“I am very proud that we were able to get two new Australian films: Last Cab to Darwin and The Daughter. Both had international premieres in Toronto and Venice in September. Both were playing in Australia when I visited and were among the top films. Last Cab to Darwin was among the top five, and I am very curious to see how it will be received in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. On one level it is a sad story (about a man who finds out his life is ending) but it is also very comic and it is about how he decides to live. I think it well be successful here.”

More and more, festivals have accompanying programmes; tell us some of the details.

“I am very happy that part of the festival is also an exhibition of large landscape photos of Australia, which was provided by Tourism Australia. You can photos of places like Red Center, The Pinnacles, nature with the characteristic red soil, the Sydney Opera House, Tasmania, Gordon River, the Great Ocean Road and more. I was in some of those places, some of which are harder to visit, so when I chose these pictures I realized I was also drawing on my personal experience there.”

Photo: archive of Aussie Film Fest
Do you miss being there? I understand you lived there for the better part of a decade…

“I get asked that a lot, but nowadays I don’t really. The reason is that I go back because of the festival and because of reciprocal festivals of Czech and Slovak film there, and these serve as a bridge. Instead, I am excited about bringing back a little bit of Australia here, so that people who have never been there or not been there yet, who know only a few films, learn more about this incredible country. It has a beautiful landscape and is so different, yet many of the stories, including problems faced, are the same as we know here.”

I read that Czech director Jan Hřebejk is the patron – how did he get involved?

“The reason is that he has been very successful there with his film Divided We Fall at the Sydney International Film Festival in Sydney. I met him there and once we got the idea to launch this festival, it was natural to ask him if he was willing and he kindly offered his patronage.”

Another aspect I’d like to ask about is the inclusion of the Australian TV series The Code. TV series or productions in the last decade have developed and improved to such a level that some rival or even outpace many films. Tell me about the idea to include this series.

Photo: archive of Aussie Film Fest
“Australia has strong TV production and I am happy that there was lot to choose from. But when I saw The Code, there was no question in my mind this would be a great fit. It is not too easy to get TV drama for film festivals but some of the bigger festivals have done it or are going to and we are following that trend. The Code is on TV but it works just as well on the big screen and it has a mix of everything to make great drama. Intrigue, politics, love, sex, crime in the form of computer hacking and more: I am really glad we were able to include it.”

As the festival’s founder what are your biggest hopes for this year’s edition?

“They are not different from before: I will be happy if the audience takes away a little bit of Australia and if they enjoy the films and the films opens doors for them, showing how beautiful and amazing Australia really is.”