By Simon de Bruyn
The accolades look set to continue for director Christopher Weekes and his debut film Bitter & Twisted, after the film received an extended standing ovation at the Turin Film Festival, where it is currently playing in official competition alongside 14 films from around the world.
The festival reception caps off a stunning year for Weekes, who has travelled with the film to the Sarajevo, Montreal, Seoul and Tribeca film festivals so far. In addition, Bitter & Twisted cast Noni Hazlehurst and Leeanna Walsmann have each been nominated for AFI Awards, in the best actress and supporting actress categories respectively.
The Dungog Film Festival is the only Australian festival to screen the film so far.
Speaking from Turin, where is a currently a guest of the festival along with the film’s lead actor Steve Rodgers, Weekes told INSIDEFILM said he was ecstatic at how far the film had come from its modest beginnings.
“It’s a real honour to be invited to screen Bitter & Twisted in competition at this year’s Torino Film Festival. I never in my wildest dreams imagined this little film would one day find itself all the way across the world at a giant festival in Italy – playing alongside the work of such heroes of mine as Roman Polanski, Oliver Stone and Nanni Moretti. It’s been an experience and opportunity I will never, ever, forget,” he said.
He said the Turin festival had flown Rodgers and his family over for the film’s first screening, as the actor had not yet seen the completed film.
“Steve Rodgers, who plays Jordan, hadn’t actually even seen the film before this week as he’s been doing a play in London. The festival flew his family over for our first screening here and he finally got to see this little story of hope we’ve all been struggling on for so long now – thousands of miles from the sunburnt Sutherland this adventure started in years ago,” he said.
Rodgers told INSIDEFILM that he was overwhelmed by the reception from the festival crowd.
"It’s been so great to see something I did a while ago get recognised here in Torino where they eat and drink film day and night. At the opening night screening I hadn’t seen the film before because I’ve been out of Australia doing theatre in London, so it was a really emotional night for me," he said.
"I’d forgotten how much heart Chris had put in the film. When they stood up at the end I couldn’t get the smile off my face. I felt like the white headed, big bloke version of Megan Gale. This truly is an independent success story."
Bitter & Twisted was produced by Bridget Callow and Odin’s Eye Entertainment is handing worldwide sales of the film.
Odin’s Eye principal Michael Favelle said: “It’s really rewarding to see this little film, deemed not worthy of government support, be received so warmly all over the world. I’m really happy for Chris; he has done a great job and deserves some time in the sun.”
The 15 competing films in this year’s Turin Film Festival are competing for the prize for Best Film (25,000 Euros); Special Jury Prize (10,000 Euros); Best Actress and Best Actor.
The festival wraps Nov. 29.
The full competition lineup is:
Bitter & Twisted, Christopher Weekes, Australia
Demain, Maxime Giroux, Canada
Dixia De Tiankong, (The Shaft), Chi Zhang, China
Donne-Moi La Main, Pascal-Alex Vincent, France/Germany
Entre os Dedos, Tiago Guedes and Frederico Serra, Portugal/Brazil
Helen, Joe Lawlor and Christine Mollowy, Ireland/U.K.
Mein Freund Aus Faro, Nana Neul, Germany
Momma’s Man, Azazel Jacobs, U.S.
The New Year Parade, Tom Quinn, U.S.
Nikoli Nisva Sla v Benekte (We’ve Never Been To Venice), Blaz Kutin, Slovenia
Non-Dit, Fien Troch, Belgium
Prince Of Broadway, Sean Baker, U.S.
Quemar Las Naves, Francisco Franco, Mexico
Tony Manero, Pablo Larrain, Chile/Brazil
Die Welle, Dennis Gansel, Germany