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© Neena Bhandari, Mid Day

ImageSYDNEY: The first Australian Film Festival of India (AFFI) 2011 kicks off in Mumbai on March 23 with a special retrospective of acclaimed director and producer Bill Bennet and some of the best features including award winning Samson and Delilah, Red Hill and Bran Nue Dae, each providing a unique viewpoint of indigenous Australia.

“We are looking at distributing Australian films through social networking sites to a whole new audience of vibrant, interested, international and well connected Indian audience”, Festival co-director and film entrepreneur, Peter Castaldi, told Midday.

“We are looking at Online distribution so people have the choice to watch a film when and where they want”, says Castaldi, who fell in love with India during his first visit in 2003.

The five-day festival, organised by an independent body, An Australian Film Initiative, in collaboration with FRAMES 2011, will feature 20 films including a special presentation of Paperback Hero starring Hugh Jackman, and Bennet’s Kiss or Kill, the fast paced thriller set in outback scenery, In a Savage Land, an intense love story that shows the exotic culture of New Guinea, and the director’s favourite A Street to Die, an emotional true story made on a Vietnam veteran who takes legal action as he suffers from effects of Agent Orange, amongst others.

“Our two film industries are similar but there is a cultural gap”, says Bennet, who has been fascinated by India, especially Kolkata, since he was 12 years old. However, as a backpacker youth he travelled to Asia, but consciously avoided India.

“In the early 1970s, I felt intimidated by India and all the stories of backpackers being robbed and falling sick. I had this inbuilt fear so during my first visit I padlocked everything on my back, but then a stranger’s gesture changed my perception of Indians forever. It was in the walled city of Jaipur that after shopping we were returning to the hotel in an auto rickshaw, when at the traffic light a man on the motorbike approached us with a packet of our expensive shopping, which we had dropped behind. I can say that would not happen in Australia”, says Bennet, who was in India earlier this year to produce commercials for Tourism Australia.

The Initiative is pushing for a co-production treaty between the two industries and aims to promote Australian films and distribution networks in emerging and non traditional markets of India, Middle East, South America among others.

As Festival co-director, Anupam Sharma says, “We want to showcase that Australians make and satisfy a broad range of tastes through their films. We see India as an important partner for filmmaking in our region and we believe that this Initiative will stimulate exciting creative and commercial relationships”.

VENUE: Screenings will be held at Cinemax India, Thane Vashi, and Infinity Mall Versova. All FRAMES delegates get free passes and all industry professionals, executives and film students will also get free passes on presentation of accreditations. General public have the option to register on the website or seek an invitation pass from the venue at the screening theatres or the AFFI desk outlets at FRAMES conference and Renaissance hotel.

Bill Bennett Films

1. A Street to Die

2. Backlash

3. Malpractice

4. Mortgage

5. Spider and Rose

6. Two if By Sea

7. Nugget

8. Tempted

 © Copyright Neena Bhandari. All rights reserved. Republication, copying or using information from any content is expressly prohibited without  the permission of the writer and the news agency through which the article is syndicated. 

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