There are four members of the committee that brings the Armidale International Film Festival to the Belgrave Cinema each year – Caroline Downer, Linda Hess, Hilary Hutchinson and Martina Linnemann.
Tell us a little about the Armidale International Film Festival.
Linda: The Festival is always held on the first weekend of August, so this year opening night is 3 August. There are 13 highly acclaimed films from 13 countries, from Western and Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It is a window on the world!
What is the history of this festival?
Hilary: 2012 will be the 9th Festival. The first Festival was held in 2004 and was organised by the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics at the University of New England as part of the university’s 50th birthday celebrations. It has established itself as an important annual cultural event on Armidale’s calendar and since 2006, has been an community project.
The aim of the Festival is to increase cultural awareness and to gain valuable insights into other cultures through the medium of film. The connection with UNE still remains strong; our current patron is Mary Barber, and we continue to have the support of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
What makes it so special?
Martina: This is the only foreign language film festival in regional NSW and is a unique opportunity for people in the region to have access to films of this calibre. These superb films are rarely shown in regional and rural areas.
Linda: In previous years we’ve even had Australian premieres, like the first film from Yemen, A New Day in Old Sana’a.
Caroline: It is also a wonderful community event – most films are sold out, so there is an amazing atmosphere in the cinema. A perfect way to spend an Armidale winter’s weekend!
How do you select the films?
Linda: It takes the committee 9 months to put the Festival program together. We do lots of research, read many reviews, discuss recommendations; some of us manage to go to film festivals like Sydney or Wellington.
Caroline: We take into consideration awards as well – Oscars, Cannes and Berlin, for example.
Martina: Once we have a short list, we plan a program that has variety – from documentaries to thrillers and everything in between.
Hilary: Some films that we choose are not available for regional viewing, but we are very grateful to Samson and Sarah at the Belgrave, who spend much time and energy chasing the film distributors.
Do you have sponsors for this Festival?
Linda: We are fortunate to have the support of the University of New England, UNE Services and the Belgrave Cinema, and the Friends of the ABC and of course, the Armidale community that come to our festival each year. And we would also like to acknowledge our promotional media partner – ABC New England North West.
What are your picks for the Festival this year?
Caroline: It’s very difficult to pick one film! I’m looking forward to the Iranian film, A Separation, that won the 2012 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. But then again, the jazzy feel-good comedy from Italy, Basilicata Coast to Coast looks fun. And I’m keen to see the beautiful tribute to German dance pioneer, Pina Bausch.
Hilary: I agree that the highlight of this year’s festival is undoubtedly A Separation, which has won so many awards wherever it’s been screened (Berlin, Cannes). Second would be the new Dardenne Brothers’ film, The Kid with a Bike, as their social realism is always deeply moving – and for once it’s in colour.
I think that the beauty of our Festival is that we mix genres, languages and cultures and experience a whole range of emotions over three days. So many unmissable films – I don’t know how I can contain my excitement!
So where do we get the tickets?
Martina: Festival Pass Tickets go on sale on 1 July at the Belgrave Cinema. Festival Passes are for the 13 films. These are limited, and seating is numbered for Saturday and Sunday. Last year, patrons were queuing outside the Cinema before 7am … once all Festival Passes are sold, individual tickets are then made available.
This story was published in issue 62 of New England Focus