Twenty-one facts about the 21st BIFF

The Brisbane International Film Festival will open with a screening of The Sweeney.
The Brisbane International Film Festival will open with a screening of The Sweeney.

The 21st Brisbane International Film Festival runs from November 14-25. Here are 21 facts about this year’s event:

1. There are 136 feature films on this year’s program, plus 66 short films. They come from 38 countries.

2. There are 43 Australian premieres, including The Sweeney (with Ray Winstone) on opening night and Anna Karenina (starring Keira Knightley) on closing night.  There are three world premieres.

3. For the first time, films will be screened on the full dome at the Brisbane Planetarium at Mt Coot-tha, on November 23 and 24. These sessions are already filling fast, so book early.

4. Ai Weiwei designed the Bird’s Nest stadium for the Beijing Olympics. Check out his collection of films and learn why the government now has him under house arrest.

5. Fancy champagne with your cinema? The popular Bubbles at BIFF premium screenings return in 2012. Raise a glass to Pierce Brosnan in rom-com Love Is All You Need, or check out Helena Bonham-Carter’s take on Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.

6. Let the blood run free with the BIFF Monster Fest, for all your macabre needs. See soldiers fight Robo-Nazis from the future in Australian comic-horror The 25th Reich, or cover your eyes during the cut-and-thrust of Inbred; or watch a sexier take on the Wolf Creek style of killer in The Nullabor Nymph.

7. Want to know how Christopher Nolan got started  on the road to Batman Begins and Inception? Check out the First Films program, which has round up the debut features from respected directors including Nolan, Paul Thomas Anderson, Kathryn Bigelow and David Cronenberg.

8. Spaghetti westerns have their own special program this year, with screenings of the uber-violent Django (banned in Australia until 2005), Death Rides a Horse and Burt Reynolds as a native American in 1966’s Navajo Joe. Master of the genre Sergio Leone is a particular focus, with back-to-back screenings of his “Man With No Name” trilogy on Sunday 18 November.

9. Keen to tune in and drop out? The Timothy Leary Experience includes three short films from the high priest of 1960s LSD culture. Friday 16 November, 11pm at the Tribal Theatre.

10. Music fans will love the Beatbox program, which features documentaries about a diverse range of music-makers. Marvel at Mongolia’s hip-hop scene in Mongolian Bling, tear up at faded 70s rocker Bobby Liebling as he gets a second shot at stardom in Last Days Here, or rock out with Grandma Lo-Fi, the tale of a Icelandic septuagenarian who recorded nearly 700 songs using a Casio keyboard.

11. Russell Crowe doing kung fu? Yes please.  The Man with the Iron Fists is directed by and stars RZA, a rapper with Wu-Tang Clan. Set in China, RZA plays a blacksmith who forges brutally inventive weapons to protect his village from supernatural martial artists. Crowe plays an Englishman; Lucy Liu also stars. It’s violent, frenetic, and funny – and is also screening at Southbank as part of the Openair series on Thursday 15 November at 8:30pm.

12. One person’s trash is another’s treasure. The Rescue 911 section includes films that were saved from oblivion against the odds. The blurb for 1987’s Miami Connection reads as follows: “Motorcycle ninjas tighten their grip on Florida’s drug trade. Only one martial arts rock band stands in their way.” How can you resist?

13. Tragedy...or triumph? Heaven’s Gate has always been regarded as a box office bomb, an expensive train wreck of a movie that took its studio, United Artists, down with it. Now, watch a restored director’s cut of Michael Cimino’s sprawling western and see if you agree with more recent assessments that it might just be a masterpiece.

14. Feeling saucy? Enter the Forbidden Pleasures wonder dome, where the beast with two backs takes many forms. Turn Me On, Goddamnit is a Norwegian film about the solo sexual proclivities of a teenage girl; Compliance (which prompted walkouts at the Sundance Film Festival) is a psychological thriller; while Salon Kitty – about high-class prostitutes fulfilling every perverted desire of their Nazi clients – is a 1976 piece that makes 50 Shades of Grey look like Bambi.

15. With the cricket season underway, it’s a perfect time to see Save Your Legs!, an Australian bromance about the sport of gentlemen (and Greg Ritchie). Written and starring Brendan Cowell, it’s sure to do for cricket what Crackerjack did for lawn bowls.

16. Don’t forget the shorts – there are five sessions of them at this year’s BIFF, from Queensland, Australia and international.

17. Learn something of indigenous Australian history from Coniston, which weaves archival footage and contemporary accounts to document the slaughter of over 100 Aboriginal people in Central Australia in 1928. Sunday 18 November, 5:30pm, Tribal Theatre.

18. The 80s and early 90s were the golden years for supermodels. About Face documents the fashionistas then and now, and features interviews with such famous faces – and bodies – as Jerry Hall, Christie Brinkley and Isabella Rossellini. Also screening at BIFF is Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, about the one-time editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.

19. Local filmmakers can take advantage of the Industry Program, featuring discussions with directors such as Brillante Mendoza (Thy Womb) and editors like Walter Murch (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now), as  well as information sessions on financing, music in film, and how to become a YouTube sensation (with the creators of Bondi Hipsters).

20. BIFF has Australia’s richest documentary competition, with $25,000 up for grabs. Get along to BIFFDOCS screenings throughout the 12 days to make your picks.

21. Tweet your reviews of any film or short using the hashtag #biff12 to win closing night tickets to Anna Karenina, thanks to

This story Twenty-one facts about the 21st BIFF first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.