Nashen Moodley, the festival director of the Sydney Film Festival, took some time out of his no doubt hectic schedule to answer a few questions from DFI about how things are in Sydney this year.
DFI: Sydney is one of the world’s longest-running film festivals and it’s a big anniversary this year. How is life at 60?
Nashen Moodley: We certainly feel 60 years young! Each year the festival grows, it draws new and younger audiences, and we try to use innovative, modern means to communicate with our audience. So while we are celebrating our rich history, we are always looking to the future.
DFI: Tell us a bit about this year’s programme
NM: We have a programme of really superb films from around the world, 192 films from 55 countries. I’m particularly proud of the Official Competition and we were really delighted to open the festival with the world premiere of Ivan Sen’s magnificent ‘Mystery Road’.
DFI: It’s your second year heading up programming there. What direction do you see the festival programming going in next?
NM: It’s been great for me to learn more and more about the Sydney audience and their taste, and it’s really exciting to see how open they are to new films and experiences, so I’m eager to introduce the audience to new cinematic territories and to first-time filmmakers who will make up the next generation of masters.
DFI: Prior to Sydney, you were programming for Durban and for Dubai. Do you see any marked difference in the way audiences interact with films in Sydney vs South Africa or the Gulf?
NM: For the most part, no. Films that would work wonderfully in Durban or Dubai, seem to work just as well in Sydney.
DFI: What is the appetite for MENA films with Sydney audiences?
NM: The films we’ve played have done really well. We had really great screenings of ‘Wadjda’ and ‘Closed Curtain’ already. And last year, ‘Where Do We Go Now?’ was a big festival hit.
DFI: You’ve just finished up with opening weekend. How is everything going? Any big stories to share?
NM: Everything is going very, very well. We’ve had some great, emotionally charged screenings, happy filmmakers, full cinemas, and we broke our previous box-office record very early into the festival. And Steve Carell made a surprise visit to his ‘The Way, Way Back’ co-star Toni Collette at the screening. That was fun!