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Film festival highlights Sydney as movie mecca

Crowds gather at the Sydney film festival

Web posted on: Tuesday, June 22, 1999 5:41:25 PM EDT

In this story:

A country of film buffs

Festival fare

Hollywood and Sydney -- mutual admiration

'No Teamsters'


From Lauren Sydney and Paul Vercammen
CNN Entertainment News Correspondents

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Australia is the latest stop on the film festival circuit. And unlike some other screen jams, organizers say, the 46th annual Sydney Film Festival is less about competition and more about the art of cinema.

The first night fiesta marked the premiere here of the U.S. film "Limbo," a winner at flashy festivals like Cannes.

"It's not like a Sundance Film Festival," says David Pratt of the Australian Film Commission. "Certainly it's more about the craft and celebrating the actual art of filmmaking, not necessarily a business-type situation."

Throngs of film-loving Aussies pour into the theater
A country of film buffs

Gayle Lake, director of the Sydney Film Festival, agrees. She says the event is more for the people of Sydney and cinema lovers.

"Compared to the United States and certainly a lot of other countries around the world," Pratt says, "per year, Australians do see more films."

There's no better place to celebrate celluloid, says Australian actress Rachel Griffiths.

"We only have a population of 17 million people, though we are, I think, almost the highest cinema-going population in the world. And now we're doing all these festivals. We're using Australia as a little screening ground. I think 'Titanic' grossed $50 million in Australia. You know, for this tiny little population, we love the movies."

"Run, Lola, Run" has been the darling of other film festivals this year
Festival fare

This year, an estimated 12,000 festival visitors have plenty to see. More than 150 features from more than 20 countries are unspooling in Sydney, mainly at the opulent State Theater, a 70-year-old picture palace in the heart of town.

"Gods and Monsters" (1998) makes its premiere here, as does another Oscar nominee, Iran's "Children of Heaven" (1997). Venice festival winner, this year's "Cabaret Balkan," is being showcased along with the German hit "Run Lola Run" (1998) a favorite at the North American Festival.

Director Tom Tykwer says he's curious to see how "Run Lola Run" will translate below the equator.

"It's very interesting to go on the other side of the globe and see what people think about that movie," Tykwer says.

The next "Star Wars" installment will be partially shot here, at Twentieth Century Fox's new studios in Sydney
Hollywood and Sydney -- mutual admiration

The American entertainment industry has been moving many film and TV projects to Australia.

When "The Matrix" hit No. 1 at the U.S. box office this spring, Sydney's film community probably wanted to shout from the rooftops. The film, which was made in Sydney, further established Australia as a new production mecca.

"It was just a lot of fun, really great," says Keanu Reeves, star of "The Matrix." "Nice people, great artists, crew, it's a great city, and for the look of the film it's great too."

Both "Babe" movies also were made down under.

"I love the whole process. I loved being in Australia. I loved the crew," says James Cromwell, who played Farmer Hoggett in "Babe" (1995) and "Babe: Pig in the City" (1998)

The sequel to "Mission Impossible" (1996) is currently being shot in Australia. Parts of the follow-ups to "Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace" are also expected to be shot here too. Fox Studios are betting on Australia as a center of production with its new state-of-the-art facility in Sydney.

"We have a full digital-effects facility. We have full sound and vision post-production facilities. We have sound stages that have great support spaces to them for production offices and dressing rooms." says Kim Williams, chief executive for Fox Studios Australia.

The NBC television movie "Noah's Ark" was also shot in the "land down under"
'No Teamsters'

Television projects are also thriving. The top-rated NBC mini-series "Noah's Ark" was filmed just outside Melbourne, and another fantasy is project underway, "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch Down Under."

"Farscape" on the Sci-Fi Channel is another production operating in Sydney. Advantages include: the strength of the U.S. dollar against the Australian dollar, lower wages and reduced transportation costs related to union regulations found in the United States.

"There are no Teamsters in Australia, so you immediately wipe out a huge amount of money because here the crew members drive their own truck," says Matt Carroll, producer of "Farscape."

Sydney is considered a sophisticated, forward-looking city. It's no accident many of the subjects filmed here have futuristic tones.

"The best material to bring to Sydney is fantasy material, anything that's science-fiction or set in some nondescript world," says "The Matrix" producer Andrew Mason.

Films during Human Rights Watch fest highlight Balkan region's problems
June 14, 1999
Review: Artfully hanging in 'Limbo'
June 3, 1999
Review: 'Matrix' offers tales from the cryptic
April 9, 1999

'Limbo' official site
About 'Children of Heaven'
'Gods and Monsters' official site
'Run Lola Run' official site
'Matrix' official site
'Star Wars: Phantom Menace' official site
'Babe: Pig in the city' official site
'Mission Impossible' official site
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