In The Numbers

31 May 2012 | 11:58 am | Dave Drayton

Newly appointed Sydney Film Festival director Nashen Moodley talks to Dave Drayton about Sydney’s cinema culture.

While the 2012 Sydney Film Festival is the first under the direction of Nashen Moodley, he is by no means a stranger to such affairs. Having cemented his skills in directorial roles at the Durban and Dubai Film Festivals, Moodley now brings his vision to Sydney for the 59th film festival.

“I knew quite a bit about the festival, I know Clare Stewart quite well from the festival circuit, so I'd been following Sydney Film Festival,” says Moodley. “But getting here it's great to see that it's a city where people really love cinema and really support cinema and I think Sydney is the centre of the Australian film industry which is also really important for the festival.”

Attuned to his fertile surrounds, Moodley's vision is truly large in scope. Under his direction the festival has already grown to include the addition of a festival Hub for the first time in its history, and a programming partnership with Blackfella Films that will curate the best Indigenous films from around the world, not least of all the hotly anticipated Mabo.

The program boasts 156 titles across various filmic genres that arrive from 51 countries and feature 49 different languages, and while Moodley has stated that the joy of festivals comes from the depth and diversity of the program, he also acknowledges how important Australia's appetite for film has been in allowing him such a diverse range. “I think what's really unique right now – perhaps in the entire world – is that lots of films are bought for Australia, and quite a range of films; there are a number of distributors and such a range of films are bought and that situation is not the same anywhere else in the world. Actually, fewer and fewer films are being bought – I'm talking about films that play in festivals, films from around the world; films beyond Hollywood basically – so it's a very different and very exciting context.

“The problem, it would appear to me, is that there's not enough screen space, not just for this international cinema, but also for Australian cinema, there aren't enough screens to sustain these greats films and they don't get to last very long, which is why festivals are still really, really important in the Australian context; they provide a great platform, not just for Australian films, but for a broad range of international cinema,” Moodley says.

As always, there's a lot of focus on the competition. Actress Rachel Ward will be chairing the jury of the competition, now in its fifth year and offering a $60,000 cash prize, with previous winners of the prestigious title including the brilliant Bronson (2009) and last year's winner, Asghar Farhadi's A Separation.

“I'm immensely proud with the competition,” Moodley proclaims, “It's filled with really striking films and each film really demanded to be in the competition, so that's what I'm very excited about. It's always difficult to secure films from Cannes, given our timelines we announce well before Cannes begins, so it was great to get a number of films that are playing at Cannes to great reviews, like Beasts Of The Southern Wild and Amour for instance.”

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