If you love movies and you live in the Sydney region who definitely know that for twelve days in June the Sydney Film Festival makes it O.K to abandon life as you know it. Twirling the baton as the ringleader of our cinematic offerings for Sydney Film Festival is director Nashen Moodley, South African born wünderkind programmer and all round great dude who is back for his sixth year curating a blooming and eclectic movie playlist.
“Watching the films is a vital part of the work, but it’s not all of the work. And when people find out what I do they say, ‘Oh that’s the best job in the world, you get paid to watch movies.’ [B]ut there’s a lot that’s… less glamorous.” [LAUGHS]
Starting life in the seaside town of Durban in South Africa, Nashen’s father was an an auditor and his dress-maker and film loving mother was his entry point to the life of a working cinephile. And after talking with him, the eclectic beginnings of a festival goer seemed to have been imprinted upon him from a young age.
“My mother loved cinema from the time she was a child so I guess I watched films with her from a very early age. It was a range of things. She loved westerns so I saw lots of westerns. At the time cinemas were racially segregated and typically you’d see two films, one new film which would be say something that I would want to see like the first “Ghostbusters,” but the second would be something completely different. Just some print lying around. I remember in primary school we had a local cinema and as the second film they showed us “Easy Rider” [LAUGHS] That was how I first started watching films.”
Now in his sixth year at the helm of the festival, one had to ask him to reflect on his most memorable moment. “One of the great moments I’ve had at any film festival was a screening of “Mabo” at Sydney Film Festival. That was in 2012 and it was the second night of the festival it was interesting because “Mabo” was a film that was going to be screened on television - I think - the next week. So I met with the producers of the film (about other things) and they said we’ve made this film it’s going to be on television so ‘it’s not for you.’ I had just arrived in Australia, and I said I’d just like to see the film for my interests. I thought the film was incredible I really liked it very, very much and I said ‘o.k, we’re going to play the film at the festival.’ We thought people might not come to the festival to watch the film. Maybe they’d wait a few days and watch it on T.V; but that’s O.K, the film really needed a public celebration. Of course it was the first film to sell out and was screening at the State [Theatre]. We had many many members of the Mabo family in attendance and Bonita Mabo came on stage at the end of the film and it was just incredibly emotional experience. At the end of the film there were two thousand people on their feet - many crying - and yeah it was a fantastic.”
As this interview was conducted the festival was yet to be revealed, and now that the full schedule has arrived (you can browse it here - or look at our recommendations here) some of the topics of the interview lead me to highlight a top three.
Now that we’re in a world dominated by Netflix, and a world that Donald Trump is the President of the United States, documentary cinema and television has blossomed in an incredible way. I asked Nashen to comment on whether the impact of the international politics and changing appetites had influenced his selection of documentary films. Nashen predicts that;
“You will have many more fascinating films coming out of this period in American History. For me I think in a way they’ve (great documentary films) always been there. I think you have filmmakers engaging with issues, particularly in the documentary format and we show those films at the festival every year. I think it comes down to the context and how people are eager to see these films. Raul Peck’s film “I Am Not Your Negro” did incredibly well at the American box office. I think it has a lot to do with the context that we find ourselves.
Seeing that Nashen must keep abreast of emerging voices and formal stylings from the around the globe I asked about what country, from his perspective, is the pound-for-pound in the last few years.
“I find the cinema of Romania really interesting, their range of filmmakers are very different but always complex intelligent works their isn’t a very cinema going culture in Romania which makes these films all the more astonishing I think.”
Finally I asked, “do you ever rewatch films.” Nashen responds..
“I intend to”[LAUGHS]
Nashen expanded to say; “I have lots of DVDs of films by the directors I love, films that I have programmed but it’s difficult for me to go back and watch them because I don’t have very much time and I have a lot of films that I have to watch for the selection and I also want to see a lot of new films, not for the selection but just to see what’s going on. Every few years I watch “Rashomon” again because I have to… [LAUGHS] There are some films that when they come on television whether they are five minutes into it or two hours into it like ‘Goodfellas’.”
For more details about films or to purchase tickets to this year’s Sydney Film Festival go to their website sff.org.au