Explore the 11 strands of the 2021 BIFF Program.
Films that capture stories and experiences from distinct, diverse places.
Award winners, audience favourites and critical darlings. A selection of international films from across the globe. Bold, beautiful, and brave stories from unique places and exceptional storytellers.
New Australian features with unique insights into the Australian experience, contemporary or historical.
Experience the diversity of Australian stories and uniqueness of Australian experiences. Be captivated by powerful dramas, entertained by comedies, witness the emerging new wave of independent filmmaking and delight in restored classics.
THE DISCREET CHARM OF ERNST LUBITSCH
SIX ESSENTIAL FILMS
“Lubitsch? He invented the modern Hollywood.” – Jean Renoir
Cinema has never been the same, since legendary actress and producer Mary Pickford invited Ernst Lubitsch (1892 – 1947) to Hollywood in 1922.
Already famed for his historical spectacles and (subversive) romantic comedies in Germany, Lubitsch was one of the very first European masters to bring a continental sensibility and a sense of subtle eroticism to Hollywood. His sophisticated view on romance, sexuality, and marital issues, is liberating and is still remarkably modern. Charlie Chaplin was most impressed: “He could do more to show the grace and humour of sex in a nonlustful way than any director I’ve ever heard of.”
The son of a Russian Jew who immigrated to Germany and started a tailor shop, Lubitsch was not interested in inheriting the family business. Instead, he had a strong interest in theatre, and quickly became an actor in the theatre of Max Reinhardt, who had an enduring influence on his cinematic style.
Lubitsch’s cinema is one of wit, humour, and maturity, as he observes high society and human foibles with a little bit of cynicism and playfulness, and a great deal of intelligence, in a simplistic, elegant style that is replete with innuendos. He trusted that the intelligence of his audience would allow them to marvel at his intricate social puzzles. Whilst seduction, courting, flirting, and mènage a trois are common in his films, relationships are always portrayed with a light-hearted complexity; ultimately, these films are about the joy of life, and the pleasure of living it to the fullest.
The famous sign on Billy Wilder’s office door reads, “How would Lubitsch do it?” The celebrated “Lubitsch touch” might have been coined as a publicity slogan at the beginning, but it truly came to signify his mysterious ingenuity. One can write extensively on this subject, but to sum it up in a few words, the Lubitsch Touch refers to a clever way of “saying something without saying it”. Most of Lubitsch’s Hollywood films were made while the Production Code was rigorously enforced. The necessity to be inventive to get pass censorship became a delightful challenge, and certainly contributed to his creative portrayal of amorous relationships and love triangles. The Lubitsch sophistication extends to a mise-en-scene that makes remarkable use of space, framing, movement, and in particular, doors, to articulate intricate human relationships.
This modest tribute begins tracing Lubitsch’s legacy with one of the most endearing silent films of his German period, and features five of his finest accomplishments in Hollywood. Let’s immerse ourselves in his elegant world of code and gesture, passion and intrigue, and above all, wit.
The Ernst Lubitsch Tribute strand has been programmed by Kiki Fung.
A focus on relationships – family, community, romantic, unexpected.
In these seemingly disconnected and fractured times, a collection of titles focused on revealing the beauty of meaningful relationships, the delight of romantic encounters and the possibilities of unexpected encounters.
GRIT, POWER, POLITICS
Socio-political, hard hitting, powerful and timely titles that prompt robust conversation.
Grit, Power, Politics brings together incredible documentaries and shines a spotlight on some of the significant issues of recent times, whilst also taking a glance at moments in history and a look forward to the possibilities of the future.
Bold, immersive, and experimental works.
Future Moves traces out potential directions for film: exploring cinema’s ability to develop new forms and languages that speak to our contemporary moment and its context.
Cult films and genre films.
A passage to some of the year’s wildest cult films: outrageous science fiction westerns, horror films inter-spliced with me-too conspiracies and unearthed psychedelic animations. Each ready to dazzle your mind.
High octane, high stakes sport and adventure titles.
Take a seat and experience high octane documentaries, high stakes sport and adventure titles on the big screen. Thrilling tales of friendship, amazing Olympic feats, and tales of tacticity.
While nothing can quite beat the experience of real live music, these films certainly come close.
An opportunity to get reacquainted with our favourite rockstars, musicians, idols, and trailblazers. Get ready to be entertained by these captivating and compelling documentaries.