5 of the best from the American Essentials Film Festival

Naomi Watts and Laura Harring in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. Photo: supplied

Naomi Watts and Laura Harring in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. Photo: supplied

Despite being a global phenomenon, the United States remains the spiritual home of cinema – with hundreds of films produced in Hollywood alone each year.

Given Melbourne’s love of all things film, it’s only fitting that we get the chance to see some of the best independent cinema America has to offer.

The American Essentials Film Festival runs from May 11-24 in Melbourne, and promises to thrill and challenge audiences with its eclectic mix of contemporary and classic celluloid wonders – including multiple works from visionary filmmaker David Lynch.

Saddled with the difficult task of whittling down the lineup is festival director Richard Sowada.

“I feel personally connected to each film in the program,” Richard says.

“Whether it’s looking deeply as to how one film works with another in the program or the journey of the archive search or the simple unexpected surprise of a special work landing in front of me.”

To give you the inside scoop, Richard has shared his five favourite films in the lineup – in no particular order:

1. Columbus

“This beautiful romance set against architecture in the town of Columbus is something really very rare. It’s very mature filmmaking with a young cast, lovely clean lines and a genuine relationship between the characters and their environment. It’s absolutely the kind of film that should be given the chance on a slow-burn commercial release.”

2. Are We Not Cats

“Xander Robin’s unique love story pulls into play some of the trends right at point in contemporary US and international independent filmmaking. A good dose of magical realism, high-concept production design and fearless storytelling will give audiences a real surprise and signpost for them – and me – a name to keep an eye on. It’s one of those “yes I saw his first film when it came out” type moments. It’s high risk filmmaking.”

3. Becoming Bond

“I’m not a Bond fan but this is a real surprise. It’s so funny and our very own Bond – George Lazenby – is such a great storyteller. It’s so warm and well put together and just a great yarn – pure and simple – as Lazenby lurches from personal moment to another. It’s also really interesting insight into how Hollywood works. A real crowd-pleaser.”

4. David Lynch: The Art Life

“I love films about art and architecture so this film about Lynch’s art and how his experiences in the art world fed directly into his film practice hits the spot for me. It’s got a very nice style and texture which makes it not just a mirror but gives the film creative integrity in its own right.”

5. Andy Warhol’s Bad

“I remember seeing this in flea-bit independent cinemas in Sydney at close to the birth of the independent film exhibition movement, so this film has a special place in my heart. It’s also been very difficult to get hold of, which is why it’s in my top 5…there’s an experience behind not just seeing it but getting it. Travelling through the world or Warhol archives and collections trying to track it down makes me feel like I’m somehow now connected to the history of the film.”

 

AMERICAN ESSENTIALS FILM FESTIVAL

  • SYDNEY: Until May 24 – Palace Verona and Palace Norton Street
  • MELBOURNE: May 11 -24 – Palace Cinema Como, Palace Westgarth and The Astor Theatre
  • CANBERRA: May 16-28 – Palace Electric Cinema
  • BRISBANE: May 17-28 – Palace Centro
  • ADELAIDE: May 18-28– Palace Nova Cinemas

 

 

 

 

 

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