High Ground (2020)

Brisbane Film Festival returns next week


The Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF 2020) is on again next week, showcasing a selection of more than 70 international and Australian new release features, documentaries, short films and retrospectives in venues around Brisbane.

High Ground (2020)
The Australian premiere of director Stephen Maxwell Johnson’s acclaimed film, High Ground (2020), will be one of the highlights of the festival. Photo: Courtesy Madman Entertainment/BIFF


BIFF 2020 is presented by The Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), through its Australian Cinémathèque over 11 days from October 1 to 11.

Films will be screened at Australian Cinémathèque at GOMA in Southbank, as well as at the State Library, Dendy Cinemas Coorparoo, New Farm Six Cinemas, Reading Cinemas Newmarket and the Elizabeth Picture Theatre.

BIFF 2020 artistic director Amanda Slack-Smith said she was delighted to bring so many stories to life through the film festival.

“BIFF 2020 features curated strands that explore the meaning of transcendence, release, belonging, and homecoming, the latter celebrating the power of our local filmmakers and creative teams,” Ms Slack-Smith said.

“In addition to our fantastic funders and supporters, I’d like to thank our cinema partners for their unwavering commitment to BIFF 2020 so we can again present the Festival city-wide, as well as our wonderful BIFF champions who share our passion for film and the importance of sharing these stories together,” she said.

The Festival’s opening night on October 1 will feature the Australian premier of the highly acclaimed High Ground, which is a film that was inspired by Australia’s untold history, and features Simon Baker as a World War One army sniper-turned-policeman.

Jumbo (2020)
Zoé Wittock’s stylish debut feature Jumbo (2020) is one of the international films on screen at this year’s BIFF. Photo: Courtesy WTFilms/BIFF


In addition to screenings, the Festival offers a range of special events, including discussion panels, Q and A sessions, special opening and closing night events, and a unique food and film event with The Truffle Hunters, which includes a dining experience in GOMA’s Long Gallery.

There is even a panel discussion about screen production and creating in the time of COVID-19.

Ms Slack-Smith said this year’s festival highlights included the Australian premiere of Nine Days (2020), Edson Oda’s poetic investigation into the meaning of life, the Australian premiere of Red Post on Escher Street (2020), which is the latest film by Japanese cult superstar Sion Sono, and Brazen Hussies (2019), which is Catherine Dwyer’s powerful documentary on the Women’s Liberation Movement in Australia.

“We are thrilled to have international features such as Zoé Wittock’s stylish debut feature Jumbo (2020), a tale of a young woman who becomes romantically enchanted with a fairground ride, and mesmerising documentaries including Max Richter’s Sleep (2019), Natalie John’s behind-the-scenes look at the composer’s ambitious eight-hour performance for a sleeping audience, and P.S. Burn This Letter Please (2020), Michael Seligman and Jennifer Tiexiera’s revelatory exploration of the hidden history of the 1950s drag scene in New York,” Ms Slack-Smith said.

Another highlight of the festival is the screening in GOMA’s Cinémathèque of the restored and tinted 1915 silent feature film, Filibus, about the fantastical adventures of a female sky pirate.

“More than 100 years old, Filibus is a joy-filled adventure tale, and will be accompanied by the world premiere of a new score by David Bailey played on the Gallery’s 1929 Wurlitzer organ,” Ms Slack-Smith said.

Filibus 1915 production still
Silent film Filibus (1915) from director Mario Roncoroni will screen at a special event at this year’s BIFF, complete with accompaniment on a Wurlitzer organ. Photo: Courtesy: Milestone Films/BIFF


Amongst the documentaries screening at the Festival is Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra, which is a compelling and vivid documentary about the evolution of Bangarra Dance Theatre, which will be presented by its artistic director Stephen Page on October 11.

This year BIFF also welcomes multi-award-winning Australian actor Jack Thompson and Academy Award nominated Australian film editor Jill Bilcock as festival patrons.

Highlights from the pair’s expansive national and international careers will be screened throughout the festival.

Thompson’s selected films include the 1985 classic Burke & Wills, the moving 2001 Australian story Yolngu Boy, 2004’s The Assassination of Richard Nixon in which Thompson shares the screen with Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, and Mark Lamprell’s 2020 comedy Never Too Late.

“Bilcock’s extraordinary editing prowess is evident in the films she’s selected for the Festival including Baz Luhrmann’s critically acclaimed Romeo + Juliet (1996), Sam Mendes’s 2002 Road to Perdition starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law, Ana Kokkinos’s 2008 feature Blessed, and Jocelyn Moorhouse’s visually sumptuous The Dressmaker (2015) featuring Kate Winslet,” Ms Slack-Smith said.

Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra (2020)
The Festival will also feature the compelling documentary, Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra (2020), from directors Wayne Blair and Nel Minchin. Photo: Courtesy Icon Film Distribution/BIFF


BIFF’s short film award winners will also be announced on the big screen at the Festival’s closing night ceremony.

Award categories include the Screen Queensland Short Film Award worth $7500, the Best Festival Short Film award worth $2000, the Best Australian Short Film award worth $1000, the Special Jury Award worth $1000 and the Creative Achievement Award worth $1000.

Tickets can be purchased in advance through the website and limited tickets may be available at cinema box offices prior to screenings.

Ms Slack-Smith said COVID-19 safety measures would be in place for all screenings, across all six BIFF 2020 venues.

She said COVID-safe seating was being managed differently across all cinemas, and said participants needed to follow COVID-safe practices to celebrate together safely at BIFF 2020.

Tickets cost $16.50 for adults, $12.50 for concessions, $11.50 for QAGOMA members and $10.50 for children.

Panel discussions are $5 for adults and concessions and $4 for QAGOMA members.

For more information about BIFF 2020 or to book tickets, visit the festival website.

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