The wait is finally over – Down Under Berlin’s 2019 festival program has arrived and we’re stoked to present our fresh line-up of exceptional Australian and New Zealand films. Sit back, relax and enjoy… This year is better than ever.
This year’s program shines a light on extraordinary Antipodean film talents as well as the essential and captivating, yet often marginalised stories they tell, with a handful of humour and a pinch of quirkiness mixed into the blend. Under the motto “EmBrace Yourself”, this year’s films tackle the universal themes that are most crucial to understanding the human connection: mental illness, love and friendship, loss and grief, responsibility and those good old family ties. Our motto addresses how important it is to “embrace yourself” for who you are – to stand up for yourself and your beliefs, even if the rest of the world wants you to “act normal” and “brace yourself”.
With a brilliant program of short films, feature films and docos, ranging from the quirky to the moving to the down-right bizarre, this year has something for everyone. Take a look below at what the Down Under Film Festival has to offer.
TimeOut, The New Zealand Herald
For the first time in Down Under Berlin’s history, the opening night film will be a Kiwi feature – independent drama Stray by award-winning writer and director Dustin Feneley. Set against the breathtaking Southern Alps of New Zealand, Stray tells the story of a complex relationship between a young man on parole after serving time for attempted murder and a woman just released from a psychiatric facility far from her homeland, who cross paths in the cold and remote landscape of Central Otago. With its stunning cinematography and sparse dialogue, Dustin Feneley’s feature film debut is a modern classic, holding the record for the highest amount ever raised through crowdfunding for a New Zealand film. Stray boasts a string of awards and an impressive list of festival screenings, including the Best New Director Award at the Brooklyn Film Festival and the Best Actor Award at the Moscow International Film Festival.
Leading an array of poignant documentaries is Gabrielle Brady’s highly acclaimed Island of the Hungry Ghosts, made with the support of Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, BFI’s Film Fund and Screen Territory. Brady’s “hybrid-documentary” turns on a haunting metaphor, depicting land crabs in their millions migrating to the sea from the same isolated jungle of Christmas Island that hides an Australian high-security detention centre that has locked away thousands of asylum seekers. Among other accolades, the film received the Best Documentary Feature Award at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival and was nominated for the German Documentary Award 2019.
Made over eight years, Martin Thomas’s and Béatrice Bijon’s documentary Etched in Bone gives extraordinary inside into the deep and enduring conflict between scientific and traditional forms of knowledge. The film brings lived Indigenous culture to the screen, while tackling essential political questions about repatriation and social responsibility.
Highly personal is award-winning director Paul Gallasch’s documentary Love in the Time of Antidepressants, which centres on his own mother and her lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety. With lots of raw honesty and dark humour, the film opens up the discussion about the fragility of mental health and how to deal with an illness that spreads throughout society and yet often remains unseen.
We are proud to present the hard-hitting drama Greenfield made by Webby-nominated and multi-award-winning writer/director Julius Telmer. The film tells the story of a man trying to re-build a life with his former girlfriend only to find himself in the middle of an explosive mixture of male dominance and violence after learning a volatile secret.
Clever, honest and sometimes rakish, Heath Davis’s dark comedy Book Week is about a cantankerous English teacher and disgraced author who must show he’s a changed man if his latest manuscript is to be published. Taking place in the most suburban of settings and featuring talents such as Alan Dukes, Airlie Dodds and Susan Prior, this award-winning film is not to be missed.
This one is for all the independent filmmakers and struggling artists out there! Maybe Tomorrow, by filmmakers Caitlin Farrugia and Michael Jones, revolves around a young couple who start work on their new self-funded film and in the process, discover who they are as partners, parents and artists. It’s a modern and nuanced film that successfully balances between comedy and drama.
Once again we take pride in our carefully curated short film program, featuring four Aussie and two Kiwi short film slots! From 2018’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner – Charles Williams’ deeply personal All These Creatures, through Alison James’s narrative short Judas Collar (with eight camels in leading roles) to as-quirky-as-it-gets I F***ed a Mermaid and No One Believes Me by Madeleine Gottlieb. Most of these short films will have their German or European premiere at Down Under Berlin – so don’t miss out on this unique chance to be entertained and enlightened by some high-quality, bite-size cinema.
Stay on board until the very end because our closing night film is a must-see! To round up this year’s program, we are thrilled to present Richard Lowenstein’s Mystify: Michael Hutchence. Lowenstein – director of numerous INXS music videos and cult classic He Died With a Felafel in His Hand – gives us an intimate glimpse into the turbulent life and the untimely passing of the talented and charismatic INXS frontman. With rare archival footage made by Hutchence himself and recent interviews with former girlfriends Kylie Minogue and Helena Christensen as well as family, friends and fellow musicians, this film takes us through this complex and shy singer’s life, from his fractured family beginnings to the peaks of rock stardom and down into the depths. A powerful tribute to an Aussie icon.
Birth. Movies. Death.
The Daily Telegraph
This year’s program testifies to the power of film to engage, entertain and embrace our shared humanity. Some films will make you laugh, some may challenge you. But that’s what all good films should do. So don’t miss Down Under Berlin 2019 – save the date and join us at Moviemento Kino for the biggest celebration of Aussie and Kiwi cinema that Europe has to offer!
Full DUB program here.
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