Reuniting with the Sydney Film Festival to celebrate 60 years

14 May 2013

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney has announced its cultural partnership with the Sydney Film Festival, reuniting the university with the festival on its 60th anniversary.

At the forefront of the university's involvement this year is Master of Film Studies graduate and Saudi Arabia's first female filmmaker, Haifaa Al Mansour, whose film Wadjda is included in the Sydney Film Festival Official Competition. Her visit to Australia is supported by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

The University of Sydney has a deep connection with the Sydney Film Festival. Its halls and buildings were the festival's first home from 1954-1968, including Wallace Theatre, Holme Building, the Old Teacher's College and The Great Hall; and David Donaldson, the festival's inaugural director, was the president of the Sydney University Film Group.

The time was 1950s Menzies-era Sydney, when cinemas primarily screened only British and American films. The Sydney University Film Group had regularly screened European films and so the the campus, with its ready-made support base, became a natural location for the first festival.

The inaugural festival in 1954 screened renowned classics such as Jacques Tati's first film Jour de Fete, Roberto Rosselini's Germany, Ground Zero, and retrospective offerings such as Buster Keaton's The General (1926) and Carl Theodore Dryer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928).

The Sydney Film Festival has created a comprehensive archive of its history - including an essay written by Mr Donaldson, and also details of his contribution as a festival director.

Professor Duncan Ivison, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, said the Faculty is delighted to reconnect with the festival. He said the faculty's renewed alliance presents an opportunity to showcase the cinematic research within the faculty.

"Film is one of the great artistic and communicative mediums of our time and our researchers are currently thinking, writing and teaching about film across a wide spectrum of our disciplines - including not only film studies and screenwriting, but English, history, classics, philosophy, media, languages and economics," he said.

To demonstrate this rich tradition, the university will host a series of events. For example, in addition to the screenings of her film Wadjda, Haifaa Al Mansour, will also participate in the Apple Store talks series, in conversation with Film Studies lecturer Dr Richard Smith, who oversaw the original script of Wadjda when Haifaa was undertaking her postgraduate studies.

University film experts will also feature in a range of short talks, with the return of the Sydney Film Festival Hub @ Lower Town Hall. In the discussion 'Short Cuts 1: Quick Talks By Film Addicts, Dr Bruce Isaacs from the Department of Film Studies will join a panel to share his take on the classic Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo.

A series of four 15-minute talks by faculty academics will also take place at the Festival Hub event 'Short Cuts 2: Quick Talks By Film Experts'. Among the topics are sex on the screen by Professor Annamarie Jagose, portrayals of the ancient world on the big screen by Dr Alastair Blanshard, representations of race in film by Dr Jane Park, and an investigation of documentary making for global change by Professor James Der Derian.

Film-loving students will have the chance to experience a taste of the Festival right on campus, with a special event scheduled for Monday 20 May featuring Sydney Film Festival Director, Nashen Moodley.

The Sydney Film Festival runs from 5 to 16 June 2013. For further information about our line-up of events, visit our new Sydney Film Festival microsite.

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