Take a nostalgic trip through Sydney Film Festival's archive – without leaving the house – with SFF's new weekly series, Reverse Shot.
Each episode features a look back through the Festival’s archives to revisit filmmaker talks, hot topic panels and thought-provoking Q&As. You’ll hear from Australian and international filmmakers, plus actors and expert curators, on how they got their start, their career highlights, and the films that changed their lives.
Listen below, and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
EPISODE 4: WARWICK THORNTON
Warwick Thornton kicked off Sydney Film Festival in 2017 with his energetic and thought-provoking Opening Night film, We Don’t Need a Map.
The film explores where the Southern Cross sits in the Australian psyche, taking viewers on a bold journey through the constellation’s astronomical, colonial and Indigenous history.
It’s also the subject of this week’s instalment of Reverse Shot. In episode four, we dip into the 2017 archives to hear Thornton, and co-writer and producer Brendan Fletcher, discuss bringing We Don’t Need a Map to life.
Speaking to Sandy George, the pair revealed how they turned anger – and news headlines – into a poetic essay-film. Plus, how their “fast and furious approach” to shooting interviews with rappers, tattooists, astronomers and more shaped the film’s timely messages.
“[We said] let’s just go and do a sh-tload of interviews with people that we want to talk to; people we think are aligned with the way we think and dream,” Thornton explained of the process. “The only thing I said when we started the research was not a single frame in this film will be given to a racist.”
After his 2017 SFF appearance, Thornton premiered his gripping period western, Sweet Country, at Venice Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize.
This month, his stunning three-hour documentary event, The Beach, will air on NITV, SBS and SBS On Demand. In the documentary, Thornton swaps life in the fast lane for an isolated beach on the north-west coast of Western Australia to see if he can transform and heal his life.
Before you watch The Beach, get up to speed on Thornton’s past work with episode four of Reverse Shot:
Watch some of Warwick Thornton’s films
Sweet Country: watch on SBS On Demand, Kanopy, YouTube, Apple TV app, Google Play, Microsoft
We Don’t Need a Map: Kanopy
Samson and Delilah: watch on Stan, Kanopy, Apple TV app, YouTube, Google Play, Microsoft
The Darkside: watch on Apple TV app
The Beach: the six-part documentary series will air back-to-back as one piece of cinema across NITV, SBS and SBS On Demand on Friday 29 May at 7.30pm
About We Don’t Need a Map
SFF Film Note 2017
Filmmaker Warwick Thornton investigates our relationship to the Southern Cross, in this fun and thought-provoking ride through Australia’s cultural and political landscape.
In 2010, Warwick Thornton’s Samson and Delilah won the Camera d’Or at Cannes and he was nominated for Australian of the Year. When asked at a press conference what his main concern would be if he received Australia’s highest honour, he replied, “that the Southern Cross is becoming the new Swastika”. Seven years later, Thornton takes us on a journey through this five-star constellation’s astronomical, colonial and Indigenous history to the present day. For Aboriginal people the meaning of this heavenly body is deeply spiritual, a connection vividly expressed in stories from North East Arnhem Land, Katherine and the Central Desert. By contrast, the star-adorned Eureka Flag was emblematic of protest and defiance from its first appearance, a quality that caused it to be adopted by activists, and lately, the darker side of Australian nationalism. Produced by Brendan Fletcher (Mad Bastards) and shot by Thornton and his filmmaker son, Dylan River, this poetic essay-film features interviews with tattooists, rappers, astronomers… and bush puppets. We Don’t Need a Map doesn’t shy away from the tough questions about the place of the Southern Cross in the Australian psyche, but Thornton’s cavalier spirit and inventive filmmaking skilfully balances the provocative and the pleasurable.
About Green Bush
SFF Film Note 2005: Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films
Over one heartbreaking but empowering night, radio DJ Kenny realises that his job at an Aboriginal community radio station is about more than just playing music.
About Warwick Thornton
Director and cinematographer Warwick Thornton was born and raised in Alice Springs. His short films Green Bush (SFF 2005) and Nana (2007) premiered at Berlinale. His first feature Samson and Delilah won the 2009 Cannes Caméra d’Or, and numerous other awards. His second feature The Darkside (2013), also premiered at Berlinale. He also directed the opening segments of The Turning (2013) and Words With Gods (2014).
In the news
EPISODE 3: JUDY & PUNCH
After premiering her award-winning short film Dumpy Goes to the Big Smoke at Sydney Film Festival in 2012, Mirrah Foulkes returned to SFF in 2019 with another hit: her astonishing first feature, Judy & Punch.
The darkly funny film reimagines the Punch and Judy puppet show as a feminist revenge tale, set in the 17th-century town of Seaside.
A packed crowd flocked to the Festival Hub after the film’s Official Competition screening to hear Foulkes discuss her creative journey, along with stars Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman, and producers Michele Bennett and Nash Edgerton. We revisit their lively conversation (moderated by Sandy George) for episode three of Reverse Shot.
You’ll hear how Foulkes’s fascination with stories of violence throughout history shaped her script.
“The most interesting thing for me was the history of violence in popular culture,” she said. “From gladiatorial times – which is why there’s a sneaky little Gladiator quote there in the movie – through to contemporary times, and how that manifests in sport, how it manifests in cinema, how it manifests in theatre; I was curious about that.”
You’ll also learn how Wasikowska and Herriman prepared for their iconic roles, and why working with a dog – and sausages – proved to be a hilarious challenge on set.
Judy & Punch will be released in the United States this year. Lucky for us, it’s available to watch in Australia now via the streaming links below.
But first, enjoy episode three of Reverse Shot!
Revisit Mirrah Foulkes’s films
About Judy & Punch
SFF Film Note 2019
Mirrah Foulkes’s astonishing, indefinable feature debut reimagines the Judy & Punch puppet show as a blackly comic feminist revenge tale starring Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman.
Mirrah Foulkes’s astonishing, indefinable feature debut reimagines the Punch and Judy puppet show as a blackly comic feminist revenge tale starring Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman. It’s the mid-17th century in the anarchic town Seaside (which is nowhere near the sea), and The Enlightenment feels very far away indeed. Seaside has spiraled into violence, mob rule and God-fearing hysteria. Amongst the chaos, one glimmer of artistry remains: Punch and Judy’s puppet theatre. Once a master puppeteer, the charismatic Punch (Herriman) has fallen too much under the sway of whiskey, but his wife Judy (Wasikowska) is a puppeteering genius and ensures that their shows are a hit with the baying crowds. When a Punch bender goes disastrously and violently wrong, Judy decides to wreak vengeance on those who have wronged her and, as she discovers, many others. Mirrah Foulkes said: “My hope is that this epic female driven vengeance story incubates a wholly original and unique world, speaking volumes through its feminine inversion of the traditional hero’s journey. Judy & Punch is bat-shit-crazy and fun!” Taking cues from everything from Monty Python to The Crucible to Kill Bill, Judy & Punch is an ambitious film that finds its own singular path.
About Dumpy Goes to the Big Smoke
SFF Film Note 2012: Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films
Apart from a few cats, there’s not much to like about this place. Cast: Emily Tomlins, Anthony Hayes, Eden Falk.
About Mirrah Foulkes
Mirrah Foulkes is an Australian actor, writer and director, who graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2003. She wrote and directed three award-winning short films: Dumpy Goes to the Big Smoke, which won the Rouben Mamoulian Award at SFF 2012, Florence Has Left The Building and Trespass. Judy & Punch, her first feature film, premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
In the news
A dark, feminist revenge tale, Judy & Punch is a story for our times – The Sydney Morning Herald
Subscribe to the full Reverse Shot podcast – new episodes weekly!
EPISODE 2: BEN MENDELSOHN
In 2017, Ben Mendelsohn starred in two films at Sydney Film Festival: the emotionally intense drama Una (Official Competition) and a restored version of the Australian coming-of-age classic, The Year My Voice Broke.
While at the Festival, Mendelsohn sat down with director David Caesar for a special Vivid Ideas in conversation – which we relive this week for episode two of Reverse Shot.
Mendelsohn treated the adoring crowd at the Festival Hub to a spontaneous re-enactment from Star Wars, and paused to take a call from his father, introducing him to the audience via FaceTime.
The actor also reflected on his early Australian roles, his extraordinary international success and why he’s attracted to dark films projects like Una and Animal Kingdom.
“I’m aware that there’s a through-line of dangerous or difficult characters,” he said. “I used to be the sweet, affable, ‘couldn’t get a girlfriend’ type of guy. And then we perfected larrikinism, and then it suddenly went to murderers…”
Mendelsohn has continued to play difficult characters since his SFF appearance. He’s taken on two royals: King George VI in Darkest Hour, and King Henry IV in The King; starred in Captain Marvel; and returned to TV for the miniseries The Outsider, based on the best-selling Stephen King novel.
You’ll also see him alongside Essie Davis and Eliza Scanlen in the highly anticipated Australian film, Babyteeth.
But first, catch up on his career highlights in our talk below!
Revisit some of Ben Mendelsohn’s films
The King: watch on Netflix
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: watch on Disney+, Apple TV app, YouTube, Google Play
Una: watch on SBS On Demand, Apple TV app, YouTube, Google Play, Microsoft
Animal Kingdom: watch on Stan, Apple TV app, YouTube, Google Play, Microsoft
Cosi: watch on Amazon Prime, Apple TV app, YouTube, Google Play
The Year My Voice Broke: buy now
SFF Film Note 2017: Official Competition
Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn star in this emotionally powerful debut by Australian and international theatre director Benedict Andrews.
Celebrated Australian theatre director Benedict Andrews makes his film debut with this auspicious, emotionally powerful feature. Una stars Oscar-nominee Rooney Mara and Emmy-winner Ben Mendelsohn, and is based on David Harrower’s play Blackbird. Cate Blanchett directed the stage version at Sydney Theatre Company in 2007. Una (Mara) tracks down Ray (Mendelsohn) at his place of work. Fifteen years earlier, when Una was a minor, Ray sexually abused her – a crime he was arrested and imprisoned for. Una’s arrival threatens to destroy Ray’s new life which he’s desperate to preserve. Is Una there for revenge, or is there some more surprising motivation at play? In this intense emotional drama, the effect of the past has led to tragic circumstances, and two severely damaged people are left in a fiery standoff. Mara (who also appears at SFF this year in A Ghost Story and Song to Song) and Mendelsohn (who can be seen in a restored version of The Year My Voice Broke at SFF) both deliver extraordinary, nuanced and extremely brave performances. Daringly taking on taboos, Andrews handles this sensitive material with precision. Una is a film that will stay with you for a long time.
About The Year My Voice Broke
SFF Film Note 2017: Restorations
A rural NSW love triangle infused with teenage angst, as Noah Taylor and Ben Mendelsohn battle for the affections of a beautiful girl. Rediscover this 30th anniversary restoration.
Co-produced by George Miller (Mad Max), The Year My Voice Broke sparks with the joys and anxieties of being on the verge of adulthood. Danny (Taylor) is an awkward teenager with a near-obsessive crush on the beautiful Freya (Loene Carmen). His plans for seduction are abruptly halted by the arrival of an older rugby star, Trev (Mendelsohn in an AFI Award-winning role). Danny’s unreciprocated love, Trev’s rebelliousness and Freya’s family secrets soon send all three on a course for destruction. Set against the picturesque Braidwood in country NSW, director John Duigan (Flirting, Sirens) took inspiration from his own childhood. This intrinsically Australian classic won five AFI Awards including Best Film of 1987.
About Beautiful Kate
SFF Film Note 2019: Essential Australian Women Directors
In Rachel Ward’s feature debut, Ben Mendelsohn plays a man who returns to the isolated property where he grew up, to see his dying father (Bryan Brown).
For her feature film debut as director, Rachel Ward adapted an American book written by Newton Thornburg in 1984. It’s a story of a family torn apart by feelings of guilt about the events that occurred one summer several years ago. Ben Mendelsohn is Ned, who returns from the city to the isolated property, together with his girlfriend (Maeve Dermody), to see his father (Bryan Brown in one of his finest roles), who is dying. There Ned meets his sister, Sally (Rachel Griffiths), who has stayed at home to look after things. The reunion triggers painful memories of Ned’s twin sister, ‘beautiful’ Kate (Sophie Lowe). The hothouse atmosphere of the remote homestead is superbly captured in this evocative, sometimes erotic, movie.
Ben Mendelsohn in the news
Ben Mendelsohn on ‘Captain Marvel’ and the “Gentleness” of Tom Hardy – The Hollywood Reporter
Subscribe to the full Reverse Shot podcast – new episodes weekly!
EPISODE 1: BONG JOON-HO
Before director Bong Joon-ho flew to Oscars fame and glory, he was a guest of Sydney Film Festival in 2019, where Parasite won the Sydney Film Prize. Here, we premiere his Vivid Ideas in conversation with Festival Director Nashen Moodley.
Director Bong discusses the ins and outs of what makes Parasite so thrilling, and why it’s struck a chord with Korean – and international – audiences. Plus, he reveals what he learnt making his early films, and which Australian cult classic he’s seen more than 20 times.
The director is a long-time Festival favourite: he made his SFF debut in 2004 with the brilliant crime drama Memories of Murder and returned to the Festival with Snowpiercer (SFF 2014) and Okja (SFF 2017). Parasite won the 2019 Sydney Film Prize and went on to win four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
So, find the strongest WiFi signal (even if it belongs to your neighbours), make yourself a tasty bowl of ram-don and enjoy our conversation with Director Bong below. Be sure to watch Parasite first to avoid spoilers!
SFF 2019 Film Note
Straight from Cannes, renowned Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s follow-up to Okja (SFF 2017) is a thrilling, satirical take on income inequality as told through two families.
Bong regular Song Kang-ho (The Host, Snowpiercer) plays Ki-taek, whose family of four is close, but hopelessly unemployed. Without prospects, they hustle as best they can to scrape up the money to survive in their subterranean apartment. Hope comes in the form of an unusual offer. The son, Ki-woo, is recommended for a very well-paid tutoring job. Though Ki-woo lacks a university degree, it turns out his sister Ki-jung is a master forger and soon, bearing a fake degree, he is being interviewed at the luxurious home of the very wealthy Park family. Ki-woo gets the job as tutor, and quickly realises that the Park family could well prove to be the solution to his family’s money problems. With every frame beautifully composed, Parasite vividly contrasts the two families using humour, mystery and a creeping sense of tension. Bong once again skillfully fuses genre elements with social critique in a wildly entertaining, visually extraordinary and intoxicating manner.
About Bong Joon-ho
Bong Joon-ho was born in Daegu, South Korea, in 1969. He gained significant international attention in 2003 with the crime drama Memories of Murder (SFF 2004). His monster movie The Host (2006) and murder mystery Mother (2009) followed. He then made two English language films Snowpiercer (SFF 2014) and Okja (SFF 2017). Parasite (2019) was presented in the Cannes Competition and won the Palme d’Or.
Parasite in the news
‘Uncomfortable’ Parasite’s Oscar victory is thrilling, deserving and astonishing – Festival Director Nashen Moodley in The Sydney Morning Herald
‘Parasite’ HBO Limited Series in the Works From Bong Joon Ho, Adam McKay – The Hollywood Reporter
Bong Joon-ho’s Dystopia Is Already Here – Vulture
Stay tuned for the rest of Reverse Shot – new episodes weekly!