The Canadian Possible Worlds Film Festival is back but in its eighth year has expanded its focus to include films from the United States.
From August 8 to 18 at the Dendy Opera Quays and Dendy Newtown and from August 21 to 23 at ARC Cinema (Canberra) the festival will screen 20 new feature films in official competition – ten from Canada and ten from the United States.
For its first seven years this festival screened Canadian films only.
“This year it is expanding to the US but the focus will be squarely on independent films,” festival director Mathieu Ravier said.
“We focus on very strong original voices that don’t normally get picked up by distribution companies. With Canadian titles now getting theatrical release on a regular basis, we are widening our focus to include independent American films which remain surprisingly little seen in local cinemas and festival.”
The other decision that has attracted attention in this festival is that the 2013 Festival Awards will be decided by an all-woman jury of six distinguished experts, in addition to the Audience Award for Best Film presented by World Movies.
Ravier said the all-woman jury was not initially planned; it just worked out that way.
“We have wanted to work with these women in the past. This festival has ended up with a strong focus on the female perspective: 10 of the films have women in the lead role and a very significant part of the program presents a strong female perspective.
“When this trend emerged in the submissions, we thought we’d turn it into a theme. Only four of the features are directed by women but even those that aren’t are written or co-written by women and make a strong effort to present a strong female voice.”
Ravier wonders whether the same interest would have arisen if it had been an all-male jury. He also points out that women are under-represented behind the camera.
“There are not enough female directors to choose from. On camera is a more complex discussion.”
The aim of this festival, presented by Cosmos Tours and non-profit The Festivalists, has always been to bring diversity to Australian screens, Ravier said, and this year the festival offers everything from fiction, to comedy, drama and documentary.
“It’s a promising snbapshot of what independent film-making looks like in North America now.”
The festival will open with Canadian director Sarah Polley’s acclaimed documentary Stories We Tell, one of the most acclaimed films of the 2012 Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, a moving portrait of a family dealing with a legacy of secrets and lies.
The festival closes with the American Joe Swanberg comedy Drinking Buddies.
“In between there’s a lot of variety,” Rainer says.
“Every film is political in some way but Northern Light, which has its Australian premiere during this festival, is an observational documentary that explores the American working class experience of three families in northern Michigan hit by the recession. All are involved in a sport, the new American Dream to escape poverty, which proves to be just as elusive as the old one.”
Asked to name other personal favourites Rainer says there are many, including Gimme the Loot, a New York comedy about two teenagers who are on a quest to realise the ultimate graffiti piece.
“Everything about it feels real and authentic. It’s sensational; heartwarming.”
And there’s the Canadian comedy My Awkward Sexual Adventure.
“It’s that rare kind of film: a sex comedy that’s as witty as it is raunchy.”
The jury for the Best American Film Award will include Festival veteran Alyssa Orvis (Tribeca, Abu Dhabi, Sydney Film Festival), 2013 Dendy Award winning producer Lyn Norfor and American academic Dr Jane Park from the US Studies Centre, University of Sydney.
The Possible Worlds Festival of American and Canadian Cinema August 8-18 (Sydney) and August 21-23 (Canberra) is a very social event, a space to chat and meet the filmmakers over a free welcome drink on arrival.
Bookings: 9247 3800 (Opera Quays), 02 9550 5699 (Newtown), Sydney. Canberra: 02 6248 2000.
For more information visit www.possibleworlds.net.au.