Oz Film Festival: Australian Films in London 6-8 July 2018

The second Oz Film Festival will run from 6 to 8 July for a weekend of Australian films at the Regent Street Cinema in London.

The Opening Night Gala is the European premiere of Ellipsis. Viv (Emily Barclay) is killing time in Sydney, waiting to fly to London the next day. When she crashes into a stranger, Jasper (Paul Anderson), on the street and breaks her phone, the pair decide take a chance, and embark on an adventure across Sydney that will transform their lives deeply. Far from a trite romance, this directorial debut from beloved Australian actor David Wenham is a pure delight. The wonderful performances of an ensemble cast, the meanderings of the night’s escapades and the characters they encounter along the way make this an utterly believable and enchanting piece of cinema. The film will be followed by a drinks reception, generously funded by the Australian High Commission.

Saturday begins with Kangaroo: A Love Hate Story. National treasure or common pest? This fascinating documentary delves into Australia's conflicted relationship with its most recognised native emblem. Drawing on interviews with conservationists, politicians, and farmers, as well as some amazing archival footage, this film builds a riveting picture of one nation’s struggle with its most iconic animal. Recognisable faces include BBC2’s Kangaroo Dundee and the late Steve Irwin’s wife, Terri Irwin. Full of passion, heart, and bloody hatred, Kangaroo: A Love Hate Story is an eye-opening examination of culling, an emotive issue shrouded in secrecy, lies, and vested interest. A film not to be missed, but definitely not suitable for children.

This is followed by the English premiere of Swinging Safari, Pass the Iced VoVos and crack open the chateau d’cardboard (aka wine box) as Kylie Minogue and Guy Pearce reunite for the first time since Neighbours, in the latest feature from Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), a madcap comedy that unceremoniously skewers Aussie family life in the 1970s. Centred on one suburban cul-de-sac and three ‘rudderless families’ - and told through the eyes of some very bemused children - Swinging Safari explores what it was really like to have grown up with baby-boomer parents determined to out-do their neighbours in everything groovy, forward thinking, and modern. This is Neighbours, but slightly unhinged and a lot ruder. Expect lashings of pure Aussie kitsch as it catches some of Australia’s best loved actors in uncompromising positions and decked in an array of amazing outfits. Jack Thompson revels in his mayoral role, and Offspring’s Asher Keddie is hilarious as a strung-out neat-freak housewife. But all eyes are on Guy Pearce (and his handlebar`tache) as he glows from the screen - quite literally, when he hits the beach in his togs! Family dysfunction, sexual tension, sunburn, and a giant beached whale. Be warned - this film is completely bonkers. But then, so was being a kid in the `70s.

Later on Saturday is the first of two films receiving anniversary screenings. Twenty-five years old, Rolf de Heer's Bad Boy Bubby is one of the wildest, most disturbing films ever to bubble up from the deepest recesses of the Australian psyche. It also happens to be one of the greatest. Imprisoned by his own mother in a dirty, windowless flat, thirty-five-year-old Bubby (Nicholas Hope) has never seen the outside world. But when he finally breaks free, it is the outside world that’s left reeling as he embarks on a twisted odyssey of self-discovery. Internationally revered and despised in equal measure, this is a cult classic in the truest sense. Screening from a restored digital print sourced directly from de Heer, this is a big screen experience not to be missed.

Sunday begins with a twentieth-anniversary screening of Babe: Pig in the City. The follow-up to the wildly popular international smash hit Babe (1995), this delightfully dark family romp has more than enough action and laughter to thrill kids of all ages. Having produced and co-written its predecessor, visionary director George Miller (Mad Max, Happy Feet) takes the reins for the sequel, thrusting everyone’s favourite sheep-pig into a fantastical, but unforgiving metropolis. A box office disaster criticised at the time for being ‘too dark’ for kids, some have argued that this remains Miller’s finest film. A true family classic that is ripe for rediscovery on the big screen.

Lovers of The Blue Planet will not want to miss the incredible documentary Blue: The Film, which takes viewers from Sydney beaches, and across the world, exploring the plight of the world’s oceans and its wildlife today. Jody Muston’s superb cinematography is utterly breathtaking, and the insight from some of the world’s leading conservationists and activists will leave you feeling empowered and positive that action is underway, and will continue to be taken, to save our struggling oceans.

Australians LOVE a barbie, right? Fans of deadpan Australian comedies like Kath & Kim will not want to miss the true-blue Aussie comedy The BBQ.

Proud father Dazza Cook (Shane Jacobson) is not only convinced he’s related to the man who ‘discovered’ Australia, Captain Cook, but that his beloved barbecue is the very one the famous explorer fashioned on the beaches of Sydney at the first landing. When his employer puts his barbecuing skills to the test by entering him into an international competition, he realizes he needs to up his game and enlists the help of a terrifying Scottish chef dubbed 'The Butcher' (Magda Szubanski). Can their combined talents conquer the world’s best barbecue professionals? And can Shane Jacobson do for barbecues what he did for portaloos in Kenny?

The festival ends with the London premiere of The Butterfly Tree, a beautiful coming-of-age story starring rising star Ed Oxenbould (Paper Planes, Puberty Blues), as a young boy who falls in love with a luminescent older woman, Evelyn (Melissa George), when she moves into his town. But sparks fly when his widowed father (Ewen Leslie) also falls for the former burlesque performer.

This year’s closing gala is dedicated to the memory of Cris Jones, who sadly passed away at the age of 37, a short time after presenting his feature debut The Death and Life of Otto Bloom at the 2017 festival. In tribute to Cris, a feature debut will be screened at every festival, and the director funded to fly over to participate in a Q&A. For this screening, director Priscilla Cameron will be joined on stage by former director of Edinburgh International Film Festival (and Adelaide-born), James Mullighan, who hosted the event with Cris last year. The gala will begin at 7:30pm with a drinks reception, generously funded by the Australian High Commission.

Look out for further coverage of the festival from The Digital Fix.

Tickets can be booked from the Regent Street Cinema here.

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