The 18th birthday is often referred to as the coming of age, a term that will no doubt get thrown about over the coming weeks as the Canberra International Film Festival celebrates its 18th festival, screening at Dendy Cinema from October 23 to November 9.
There isn't a sense of new-found maturity in the line-up of films – the festival has enjoyed strong audiences, has had a weighty presence in our city's cultural calendar, has had the pulling power to attract top-class films for many years.
There is a sense of consolidation – the festival is playing at just the one location this year, having dropped its second Arc Cinema location – but also a sense of largesse that comes with celebration – 120 screenings across 18 days.
That's a lot. Too much for those of us with kids and dogs and a mortgage and not enough Rec Leave up our sleeves. Lucky for you, then, that I've waded through the program, the second to be curated by Artistic Director Lex Lindsay, to help you target the better films and make the most of your valuable time.
For me, important among the lineup are two films from Canberra filmmakers. Sometimes Canberran Amin Palangi takes his camera to the streets of Afghanistan for Love and Marriage in Kabul (Sunday 2 November 6.45pm and Saturday 8 November 12.15pm), while with Locks of Love (Thursday 30 October 6.15pm), ScreenACT gave a handful of local directors their first feature film credit with an anthology of short love stories tied together by that romantic Parisian conceit of padlocks fastened to a bridge and, while they're shot by local directors, there are some big on-screen names participating, with the lovely Loraine Bayly, Aaron Jeffries and Les Hill among a cast of faces we will no doubt find familiar.
Canadian director David Cronenberg enjoys slamming behind-the scenes Hollywood in Maps to the Stars (Thursday 23 October 6.30pm, Saturday 1 November, 6.30pm) with a big-name cast including Julianne Moore, John Cusack and our own Mia Wasikowska, though with Twilight star Robert Pattinson as Moore's limo driver, expect an early post-teen ticket sell-out on those sessions.
There are three themed sections, the first of which acknowledges the World War One anniversary, entitled War, Hope and Denial, features films from big-name directors, including Wim Wenders study of photographer Sebastiao Salgado in Salt of the Earth (Saturday 25 October 4.15pm and Sunday 2 November 2pm), and the great John Boorman revisiting the characters from his 1987 film Hope and Glory in Queen and Country (Friday 24 October 6pm and Monday 3 November 6.30pm).
Robert Kenner may not be a big name but his last film Food Inc made quite a stir, and Merchants of Doubt (Monday 3 November 6.45pm and Saturday 8 November 4.30pm) should be equally topical – it's about those awful folk constantly quoted in the media casting doubt on good science – like vaccinations or climate change.
Audiences who saw the 2009 film Darwin's Nightmare will have had that film's content seared into their brains and they will be definitely interested in director Hubert Sauper's follow-up film We Come As Friends (Sunday 26 October 12.15pm and Saturday 1 November 4pm), this time exploring the rebuilding process of the nation of Sudan.
In a theme entitled Man, Woman and Child, the CIFF program explores ideas of identity, belonging and connecting, the most exciting of which is the return to the big screen of Rachel Perkins, recently of Redfern Now, also of Radiance and Bran Nue Dae, with the doco Black Panther Woman (Sunday 2 November 4.15pm and Tuesday 4 November 6.15pm). Perkins' camera follows Marlene Cummins, who fell in love with the leader of the Australian Black Panther Party in the early 1970s, an experience of mixed emotions for Marlene with 40 years distance to reflect on them.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is a film in two parts – Her (Tuesday 28 October 6.30pm and Saturday 8 November 6.15pm) and Him (Monday 27 October 6.30pm and Saturday 8 November 4.15pm), telling two sides of the same story, that being the death of a young couple's son, and their (she is Jessica Chastain, he is James McAvoy) grieving processes. Grim, but an interesting cinematic approach.
Among the documentaries of this section, the doco about the puppeteer who has brought life to Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird for 45 years looks terrific – I am Big Bird (Saturday 25 October and Saturday 1 November 2pm) is unmissable, while Children 404 (Saturday 1 and Saturday 9 November 4.15pm) looks like a nice kick in the teeth for Russia's appalling anti-queer policies.
Three weeks is a long slog, and the CIFF team have decided to reinvigorate the program at its half-way mark with screenings of the Kiwi drama The Dead Lands (Thursday 6 November 6.30pm and Saturday 8 November 4pm), an historical epic showcasing the ancient Maori martial art Mau rakau.
There are some big cinematic names fleshing out the thematic section entitled Then, Now and Next, including House of Flying Daggers director Zhang Yimou's latest Coming Home (Saturday 25 October 4.30pm and Sunday 2 November 12.15pm), and the new film from maverick Canadian director Atom Egoyan, The Captive (Friday 24 October 6.30pm and Saturday 1 November 8.15pm) with Ryan Reynolds and Rosario Dawson.
The kids may be interested in Andre 3000's performance as Jimi Hendrix in Jimi: All is by my side (Tuesday 4 November 6.30pm and Saturday 8 November 6.30pm), a film I hope is good enough to overcome that awful awful title, while the hipsters will be whispering excitedly into their beards at the screenings of Listen Up Philip (Saturday 1 November 8.30pm and Wednesday 5 November 8.45pm), with its misanthropic lead character played by Jason Schwartzman, and support from Elizabeth Moss and Krysten Ritter.
In a session called Freaky Fridays, we meet a suite of quirky characters including the first vampire film to come out of Iran in Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Friday 31 October 8pm), the steroids that turn its sports heroes into actual zombies in the French film Goal of the Dead (Friday 31 October 10pm).
And finally, those of you with the stamina to make it all the way through are rewarded with the festival's closing night film is the queer love story Love is Strange (Sunday 9 November 6.30pm) – though I believe the drinks at the after party are the real reward.
So, that was 20 films, culled from the 65 on offer. Pack yourself a nice hamper, remember to stretch. You can do this.