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Capturing the spirit of punk on screen

Andrea Simpson

Adelaide Film Festival is honouring free-thinking filmmakers and 40 years of rebellion in their 2017 program.
Capturing the spirit of punk on screen

A scene from How to Talk to Girls at Parties starring Elle Fanning. Image supplied.

When punk exploded onto the music scene in the 1970s, its rebellious spirit stunned some and thrilled others. The raw sounds of bands like Brisbane’s The Saints, The Sex Pistols in London, and New York’s The Ramones sent shockwaves through other creative sectors, including fashion, poetry and naturally, film.   

This year’s Adelaide Film Festival (ADLFF) celebrates the disruptive nature of punk. Amanda Duthie, CEO, Adelaide Film Festival, said: ‘What we are doing this year is celebrating not just literally the 40 years since the punk movement was born, but celebrating all those extraordinary screen creatives and filmmakers who are the embodiment of punk.’

What does it take to capture punk’s spirit? ‘Screen creatives who are big thinkers, free thinkers, they are the outliers,’ Duthie answered.  

This year’s festival gives filmmakers a platform to share their spirited ideas, saluting nonconformity with a program that embraces everything from Indigenous rebellion and out there aliens, to the extremes of the human spirit.

Tickets to ADLFF are on sale from Wednesday 2 August: click here to learn more

Cultural provocateurs

Fresh from Venice Film Festival, Warwick Thornton’s highly anticipated Sweet Country will have its Australian premiere at the festival.

Sweet Country tells the story of stockman Sam, who is forced to go on the run with his wife after killing a white station owner in self-defense. The film was inspired by real events and is set in the Northern Territory in 1929.

Duthie said: ‘We are acknowledging the incredible storytelling of Indigenous filmmakers and of course the new and latest major work from Warwick Thornton. We are so delighted that we can show this movie in Adelaide in October.’

Learn more about the 2017 Adelaide Film Festival program

Another courageous film is After the Apology, directed by Eualeyai/Kamillaroi woman, writer and academic Larissa Behrendt.

‘I think After the Apology will turn out to be an incredibly important film,’ said Duthie. ‘It’s an extraordinary film in terms of the subject matter that it’s wrestling with.’

After the Apology centres on four grandmothers who start a national movement to utilise extended families as a solution to counteract the rising number of Aboriginal children put into care.   

‘Larissa’s ability to tell the story – to be able to take such a complex issue and make it so accessible to a really broad audience, with heart but also with supreme intelligence – I think she is a real talent to watch and I think it’s a really amazing film,’ Duthie said.

Among this year’s international titles is How to Talk to Girls at Parties, directed by John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus) and staring Elle Fanning. Set in 1977, this off-beat movie is based on a short story by Neil Gaiman, and centres around two outsiders – an alien and a punk. Described by The Playlist as ‘a match made in bizarro world heaven’, How to Talk to Girls at Parties is ‘a bit mad, but ultimately rather moving,’ according to Screen International.

Book now for the 2017 Adelaide Film Festival

Other films that embody punk’s iconoclastic spirit are Lefteris Charitos’ Dolphin Man, about free diver Jacques Majol, and Cargo, directed by Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling, which breathes raw new life into a tired genre – just as punk did in the Seventies. ‘The zombie genre is very well travelled for audiences but this is a very fresh reading of that genre – I’m excited to show this one to the genre fans.’

Homegrown talent

ADLFF is well known for its previous investments in Australian creatives, a trend which continues at this year’s festival.

‘I think that there is an incredible pool of talent in South Australia – SA is not as big as the other states but the talent is incredibly dynamic and really adventurous. We are working with local screen storytellers like Sophie Hyde. We are delighted that one of her new works, a comedy series, will feature as an omnibus presentation at the film festival this year,’ Duthie said.

Screen creatives aren’t the only ones being honoured, ‘We are working with not just traditional filmmakers but working with artists and photographers, and other major creatives in South Australia.’

Adelaide Film Festival runs from 5-15 October. Visit adelaidefilmfestival.org for full program details. 

About the author

Andrea Simpson is an ArtsHub staff writer.

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