Long time readers will recall the affection I hold for my hometown film festival. We lost BIFF for a little while there 2014-2016 and I planned to write of my fond memories of it when it suddenly came back last year thanks in no small part to Palace Cinemas. Now having gone out to tender, it is back this year with a new home base at the Gallery of Modern Art and a new Artistic Director in Amanda Slack-Smith but we will always owe a debt to the Zeccolas for their part in bringing BIFF back in 2017. Palace Cinemas are not venue partners for BIFF this year instead a wide range of cinemas are involved including New Farm cinemas which held the first Brisbane Film Festival back in the 1960s.
Karen won tickets through local rag and BIFF Sponsor The Courier Mail to attend a special preview screening at GOMA the day before opening night. We were welcomed by the Artistic Director to watch Woman At War from Iceland. The whole event had that air of being let in on a little secret and getting a sneak peek of what was to come. The atmosphere was warm and friendly and full of mutual love for cinema. A perfect way to kick off the film festival before “kicking off” the film festival, whoever came up with the idea should pat themselves on the back.
At the entrance to GOMA. Copyright Lloyd Marken
Copyright Lloyd Marken
Karen and I before the movie. Copyright Lloyd Marken
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It was Karen who texted me that BIFF had ceased to exist years ago and it was Karen who texted me that BIFF was back on last year. It kind of struck at the right time and enthused to show what support I could, Karen and I bought a few tickets and I finally went to the Opening Night of the Brisbane International Film Festival. Palace Cinemas came on board as major partner of the Brisbane International Film Festival 2017 effectively making it possible and making it happen in short turnaround. In some circles this has been criticised for compromising smaller community led events with commercialisation. As cinemagoing dwindles in Australia and other countries, film festivals have remained lucrative and seen an increase in numbers.
Palace cinemas has been at the forefront of this. I’m of two minds when it comes to this but for me it really boils down to the fact that without Palace cinemas we may not have seen the return of BIFF at all. On opening night at BIFF 2017, Antonio Zeccola was thanked and given credit for making the return of BIFF possible. It made me feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to thank his son Benjamin, CEO of Palace Cinemas, earlier for the return of BIFF. This is personal for me having been a long time attendee and former volly and while I would not want it to be not without business considerations and ambitions for the Zeccolas but I feel that it is personal for them too. They are business people yes but they have made their business cinema and it appears that has been borne out of their ongoing love for the art form.
The 23rd Brisbane International Film Festival ran from the 17th August to the 3rd of September (moving it back closer to the time of year it used to run) showcasing over 60 films from Australia and the rest of the world. There were the two venues of Palace Barracks and Palace Centro. There were no volunteers and the staff listing was significantly smaller than the years I was a volly. This was seen as a re-launch and a testing of the viability of BIFF. As much as things had changed though, as much as my heart aches at fond memories of the Regent and my twenty something self racing around excitedly, BIFF 2017 was a wonderful experience for me and proof that we turn over to new pages and begin anew.
THE SQUARE: Opening night I came from work to meet Karen and her best friend Erin to watch The Square. Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes earlier that year I was more entranced with the film than the girls. Directed by Ruben Ostlund it tells the story of a museum curator who gets caught up in a series of escalating situations. Pointing a finger at the contradictions of art, wealth, altruism and gender tropes I found it riveting although the conclusion was underwhelming for me.
The thoroughfare where years earlier we had eaten at the Gala screening for Copacabana in 2010 was now jumping with people again. There was champagne when we arrived and later when we came out there was a board of donuts hanging on pegs. Appearing like an art installation several minutes passed before some brave soul grabbed one off a peg and chomped it down but once that happened people quickly got the idea. Delicious.
There was a bath tub with glitter balls in the middle of the thoroughfare and a dancer inside a bubble. From the official website there is a picture of me grabbing something delicious.
I went upstairs and stood in line for a caricature portrait. As I was sketched I talked to my renderer about the struggle to be an artist and pursue that in a way to make a living out of it. It was a really good conversation and I was well pleased when he handed me a very handsome looking portrait. Karen and Erin though criticised it for not looking like me at all. Given the handsome visage I saw before me I was not pleased with this response. I ask you to be the judge.
Walking around I saw what appeared to be a few familiar faces from BIFFs gone by that I was happy to see there. Time marches on, things change but BIFF was finally back and I couldn’t be happier.
I didn’t intend to go away for over a month, there’s been things I’ve been doing and I planned to post often but it just got away from me, overtime shifts, an impromptu getaway and feeble attempts to improve my health and sleeping patterns. So here we are and it’s been more than a month. I feel very frustrated that I’m not getting to write and read as much as I used to but the first thing I had to do was write about Kelly. Now that I’ve done that I will try to catch up on some things I’ve gotten published in the past month.
A few weeks back I jumped at the chance to interview the Festival Director of the Italian Film Festival which tours around Australia at this time of the year. Alas she was ill and last minute I got to speak to the CEO Of Palace Cinemas himself Benjamin Zeccola. Interviews are still a relatively new thing for me and often listening back to the tapes I hear a nervous interviewer building to his questions. How the hell was I gonna go with a CEO?! Well Mr Zeccola was so charming that I grew in confidence during our conversation. We spoke for about 30 minutes about how I met my wife at a Palace cinema, the changing landscape of media and how to program a film festival. It was a truly fascinating conversation with a man who revealed himself to be very grounded, a hopeless romantic but also a savvy businessman. It gave me a great deal of confidence coming out of it and made me realise what a dream it would be for me to do this for a living full time. Alas due to word count restrictions we were only able to print his thoughts on the 2017 Italian Film Festival which you can read here http://scenestr.com.au/movies/lavazza-italian-film-festival-coming-to-a-cinema-near-you
Later I attended the return of the Brisbane International Film Festival where his father Antonio Zeccola was acknowledged for his work in bringing back my favourite hometown film festival. I had thanked Benjamin and Palace for doing so during our interview and I feel eternally grateful for the privilege of being able to do that as a writer for Scenestr.
Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr. is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. With over twenty years of publishing history they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They also publish Scenestr magazine in print every month and I was lucky enough that this featured in all the September issues published across the country. In the Queensland issue it featured alongside another interview I conducted. A digital copy of the printed magazine with two interviews I did for the Queensland September issue can be found here http://scenestr.com.au/read/QLD/2017/1095-QLD/scenestr-QLD-1095.html#p=63
Scenestr focus mostly on music gigs, festivals, stand-up comics, fashion and interviews with local and international bands. If you’re into music they’re a great read but they do cover all of the arts.