Ask Hugo Weaving about how hard it is for Australian films at a time when Avengers: Endgame is swamping cinemas, and the veteran actor points to a little-seen revenge drama that is director Jennifer Kent's follow-up to the acclaimed The Babadook.
"The Nightingale was at Venice last year and it made a big splash," said the star of the Matrix, Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies at the launch of the Sydney Film Festival program last Wednesday.
"In the same year that Roma was winning awards there, The Nightingale was winning awards too - but we haven't seen it yet in this country."
While impressing at Cannes or Venice was once an excellent way of launching an Australian film, Weaving said it was no longer enough, which made the Sydney Film Festival - being held from June 5 to 16 and in its 66th year - even more important.
Director Nashen Moodley has selected The Nightingale, which stars Irish actor Aisling Franciosi as an Irish convict in 1820s Tasmania, for the festival, and given Weaving's new film, Ben Lawrence's Hearts and Bones, a world premiere in the $60,000 competition for "courageous, audacious and cutting edge" cinema.
Weaving plays a war photographer whose bond with a South Sudanese refugee is threatened by a shock discovery.
Also in competition is Mirrah Foulkes' Judy & Punch, a black comedy drama about 17th century puppeteers.
The festival will open with Rachel Ward's comedy Palm Beach, starring Bryan Brown, Sam Neill, Richard E. Grant and Greta Scacchi as long-time friends at an exuberant birthday party on Sydney's northern beaches.
Also screening is Kriv Stenders' Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan, about the heroics of outnumbered Australian troops during the Vietnam War.
Moodley has programmed some crowd-pleasers including the comedies Blinded by The Light, about a British-Pakistani teenager whose life changes when he discovers Bruce Springsteen's music, and Brittany Runs a Marathon, about a New York party girl who takes up running.
The 66th SFF includes 307 films from 59 countries. Held June 5 to 16.
- Details: sff.org.au