By Rachael Turk 

Two Australian feature films – one a feature debut – have made it into the lineup for the Sydney Film Festival’s inaugural Official Competition, announced today.

Nash Edgerton’s film The Square, in which he directs his brother (and the film’s writer) Joel Edgerton (Kinky Boots, King Arthur), and Matthew Newton’s Three Blind Mice, will screen in international competition alongside 11 films of world renowned directors such as Mike Leigh, Carlos Reygadas and Vincent Ward.
With the Sydney Film Prize being awarded for ‘new directions in film’, executive director Clare Stewart says both of the Australian selections fit the criteria of having ‘emotional power and resonance’, are ‘audacious, cutting edge and courageous; and go beyond the usual treatment of their subject matter’. 

Of The Square, which is described as ‘broody, suburban noir’ and is Edgerton’s first feature, Stewart says: “Nash’s short film work [Spider, Lucky, Fuel, Loaded] showed his capacity to draw out something about Australian masculinity; here it is seethingly present. And he does this in an interesting way, taking the genre elements of the rough and tough ‘40s film noir of, say, Anthony Mann and rendering this in a colloquial way.”

Three Blind Mice, the actor Newton’s second film as director after Right Here Right Now (2004), she says, “came out of nowhere. It’s gutsy and raw and tautly scripted. The interaction created between the three key characters is gripping. It shouts out in a youthful way. 

Stewart says the fact that two of the 12 films selected are Australian is a healthy reflection of the position of Australian cinema in the international context. 

SFF is the first Australian film festival to have an Official Competition accredited by FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Associations). The 2008 selection comprises three world premieres and nine Australian premieres. 

The Official Competition is supported by the New South Wales government, which announced its pledge of $1.8m over four years last September. The winning film will receive $60,000, provided by the SFF’s principal sponsor, Hunter Hall Investment Management.
The full Sydney Film Festival program will be announced on May 8 and the Official Competition jury, comprising two Australians and three internationals, will be revealed at the Cannes Film Festival.
The 12 Official Competition films:
Vincent Ward’s Rain of the Children, Nash Edgerton’s The Square, Matthew Newton’s Three Blind Mice; Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky, Steve McQueen’s Hunger, Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, Fernando Eimbcke’s Lake Tahoe, Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg, Antonello Grimaldi’s Quiet Chaos, Carlos Reygada’s Silent Light, Kimberly Peirce’s Stop-Loss and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata.

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