If you lived in Sydney in the 1970s and early ’80s, you would have been able to enjoy the cinematic delights on offer at the National Film Theatre of Australia, which delivered comprehensive programs of films from around the world, compiled into thematic seasons. It is where many people gained their knowledge about the rich cultural history of various filmmaking countries and, of course, a lot of those films were made in earlier times. It was a great way of being entertained while also increasing one’s appreciation of the artform. Since then, and with the subsequent demise of many repertory arthouse cinemas, there have been few opportunities to have the same access to the great movies of the past, at least on the big screen. Luckily, however, a group of dedicated cineastes came together a few years ago and established Cinema Reborn, a mini-festival devoted to exhibiting some of the many classic films restored by studios, labs and cinematheques each year. For example, this year’s output features movies from the Philippines, Iran, China, France, the USA, the USSR, Japan, Italy, Angola and Australia.
Cinema Reborn commences on Wednesday 27 April and runs until Sunday 1 May, plus two days of Best of the Fest screenings until Tuesday 3 May, and all are showing at the Ritz Cinemas in Randwick. Times and ticketing information can be found on the festival website. Opening Night is Claire Denis’ homoerotic masterpiece Beau Travail and the Closing Night movie features the original 1947 version of Nightmare Alley, recently remade by Guillermo del Toro. The initial film was directed by Edmund Goulding in B&W and starred Tyrone Power as the ‘mentalist’ conman.
One of the highlights will be a program that shines a light on the work of the Australian Waterside Workers Federation Film Unit, formed in 1953 to counter what the union regarded as anti-worker propaganda. The screening will feature four short films plus John Hughes’ 1981 documentary about the important role of the WWFFU, Film-work, and all have been restored by the National Film and Sound Archive. Also from Australia is Ray Argall’s small gem from 1990, Return Home, set in Adelaide and starring Frankie J. Holden and a very young Ben Mendelsohn.
Each one of the selected films is significant for one reason or another; best to go the Cinema Reborn website to make your own choice. An added bonus is that each of the works will be preceded by a short talk from a film historian, expert or critic, emphasising just why these films are regarded as such noteworthy cinematic artefacts. Comprehensive notes on all the titles are also available on the website. It’s a terrific program and it’s hard to choose between the films, so you could very well find that you’ll want to see them all. See you there!