By Brendan Swift
The Sundance Film Festival has selected two Australian films for its 2011 competition line-up: feature Mad Bastards and documentary Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure.
Indigenous feature Mad Bastards will have its international premiere in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition – the same category which Australia’s Animal Kingdom won in 2010.
Writer-director Brendan Fletcher, who is currently finishing the upcoming six-part ABC series Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey, said he was excited by the news. “Things really couldn’t be better,” he said.
The film, one of only 13 films selected for the program, was developed over many years by Fletcher working with non-actors, who play characters based on their real lives, and features the music of the Pigram Brothers and Alex Lloyd.
Mad Bastards will have its premiere at the Sydney Festival on January 18 next year before its international premiere at Sundance later that month. The film will be released in Australia in May 2011 by Transmission Films.
Australian feature documentary Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure is the second film selected and will have its world premiere as part of the Sundance World Cinema Documentary Competition.
The project is the first feature to come out of the South Australian Film Corporation’s (SAFC) low-budget FilmLab initiative and also received funding from the Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund.
Shut Up Little Man! is a feature documentary that tells the story of two Gen-X slackers who, in '80s San Francisco, secretly recorded conversations of their two elderly drunk neighbours – a flamboyant gay man and a raging homophobe.
"We are gobsmacked by the news and are excited by the opportunities this presents," said the film’s writer-director Matthew Bate in a statement.
The $4.2 million FilmLab initiative was launched by SAFC chief executive Richard Harris, with Stephen Cleary as a key consultant to the project, and initially selected four teams to produce a low budget feature film with a cash budget of up to $350,000.
"FilmLab is such a unique program but it has been something of a leap of faith for all of us, so it is incredibly gratifying to have the first film greenlit from the program, get this recognition," Harris said in a statement. "It’s amazing what can happen when you decide to genuinely back talent."
Several other FilmLab projects are continuing to be developed including 52 Tuesdays, which is also being produced by the same team behind Shut Up Little Man!, and Ashlee Page's (The Kiss) first feature film, which is expected to go into production in 2011.
Screen Australia’s head of marketing Kathleen Drumm said it’s great to see Australian filmmakers recognised again at Sundance. The festival received a record 3800 submissions for 2011.
“Selection for the festival is a major achievement, which will springboard these films and the talent behind them into the international market,” she said in a statement.
Sundance will reveal its international short film competition selection on December 7.