First Aussie Film Fest held at Prague's Lucerna cinema
Many have noted that Australian film productions are all too rarely showcased in the Czech Republic. But the 1st Aussie Film Fest at Prague's Lucerna Cinema would like to change that. The modest two-day event will see screenings of a number of top Australian productions like 52 Tuesdays or Tracks.
"The idea goes back to when I became part of a festival of Czech and Slovak films in Australia. It was a small event in Melbourne which aimed to being Czech and Slovak films to a wider Australian audience - not, by any means, just the expat community - and we focussed on bringing the hottest new films to show. We did this for two years and the second inception also included Sydney. After this experience, I wanted to bring a bit of Australia here and next year also to Bratislava."
How well was the original festival in Australia received?
"I think very much so, we got a lot f good feedback. Interestingly, many other film festivals showcasing national cinema tends to aim for the expat audience, some don't even include English subtitles. Greek, Serbian, Iranian. With us that wasn't the case, that wasn't what we wanted."
The festival is a small one: was it hard to get some of the films you wanted or to make a final selection?
"It really wasn't easy. I have to say communicating with international sales agents for Australian films is not simple. For one, Australian film is not showcased all that often in Europe and when you want to do something like this the costs are high. Australian screening rights are very expensive: you can show almost five Czech moves for the cost of one Australian one. Also, Screen Australia, the state institution, is more focussed - if on Europe at all - then countries like Italy or France. I hope we will be able to change that a little bit - we got, for example, three very successful films, and we are very happy about that. We hope it is something we can build on in the future."
One of the films being shown is called 52 Tuesdays. By all appearances, this is a film which doesn't shy away from difficult topics.
"It is a very sensitive film which told through the eyes of a girl who is losing her mother who wants to have a sex change. It had very high expectations and it is very moving. Anther film is called Tracks, which is based on the true story of Robyn Davidson who travelled across the desert from Alice Springs to Western Australia using camels. How she prepared for the difficult journey for a very, very long time. In Charlie's Country, the role of Charlie is played by the acclaimed Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil, who won best actor at Cannes. There is a true story behind that as well: Gulpilil went through a difficult period in his life, with troubles with alcohol, so this film marked a successful return for him."
In general, the response to having an Aussie Film Fest seems very enthusiastic. People I spoke with said something like that had been missing...
"For many Czechs, those who weren't there, Australia remains a very exotic country. Those who were, know that life in Australia, problems faced or daily events, aren't all that different from our own. Generally, Czechs have a very positive view and they responded very well to the poster, for example, featuring David Gulpilil, his charisma is fantastic."