Director Stephan Elliott confronts his critic


The 2012 Australian Academy film awards will be remembered less for the winner of Best Film (Red Dog), than for the barb that film director Stephan Elliott delivered to film critic Jim Schembri of The Age newspaper. The critic rather savagely criticized Elliott’s new Australian film A Few Best Men, which has just been released here, the first major release of an Australian film in 2012. Elliott thought that the criticism was un-Australian, and the controversy continued for several days with both sides having their say. Despite the review, A Few Best Men opened very strongly with a bountiful A$2.5 million for the first week.
Another new Australian film, Any Questions For Ben?, just opened and received a great number of very positive reviews—another good sign for the local industry in 2012. Any Questions for Ben? is a comedy about a successful 27-year-old with a good job and lots of girlfriends, but nothing really to show for it.

James Cameron announced his intention to buy a large farming property in the South Wairarapa district on the North Island of New Zealand, where he and his family wish to settle. It also seems that Avatar 2 will be shot mainly in New Zealand, where much of the special-effects work for the first Avatar film was done. Cameron has also been busy in Melbourne opening an office of his Cameron Group.

2011 was not a good year for the Kiwi box office. The year's total was NZ$161.8 million, down 9% on the record 2010 year. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 took in almost 5% of the year’s total box office with NZ$7.8 million. Australia fared rather better, with the total of A$1.094 million being around 3% lower than 2010's record total gross. Again, Harry Potter was tops and took about 5% of the total box office with A$52.6 million. Aussie cinemas also suffered in another aspect of their business model, with screen advertising dropping by 5.8% in 2011 to A$48.2 million.

Filming just started on The Grandmothers in Sydney. Two grandmothers who are lifelong friends fall for each other's teenage sons. This French-Australian production features a script by Christopher Hampton and stars Naomi Watts and Robin Wright as the title characters.

The Independent Cinemas Association of Australia (ICAA) has struck a new deal with digital-cinema integrator Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. and expects to have the virtual print fee (VPF) scheme in place by April 14. This will increase the already rapid transition of Australian cinemas to digital projection.

Send your Australia/New Zealand news items to David Pearce at