Australian Directors React to Cannes News

Julia Leigh unveils her debut feature "Sleeping Beauty" In Competition, while Ivan Sen will unspool his low budget digital film, Toomelah, in Un Certain Regard.

SYDNEY -- It doesn’t phase Australian novelist-turned filmmaker Julia Leigh that she’s up against more seasoned directors like Terrence MalickPedro Almodovar, Nanni Moretti and Lars Von Trier at this years Cannes Film Festival, after her debut feature Sleeping Beauty, was named overnight as one of nineteen films In Competition for the 2011 edition of the fest. 

“I’m deeply grateful to be participating in a festival which has long shaped my love of cinema,” said Leigh said Thursday. 
 
Starring Emily Browning, Sleeping Beauty is an erotic thriller about Lucy, a young university student drawn into a mysterious, hidden world of beauty and desire when she accepts work as a sleeper in a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ chamber. 
 
It was produced by Jessica Brentnall, with executive producers Jamie Hilton and Timothy White
 
Leigh said of the film, “I wanted to make a film where the audience responds with ‘did I really see that?’ and ‘did I really hear that?’ and ‘can such a thing really exist’? A response of intense wonder rather than shock”. 
 
The inclusion of Sleeping Beauty marks the first time in a decade an Australian film has been chosen In Competition– Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge opened the festival in 2001, while Jane Campion’s Bright Star was a British-Australian co-production. 
 
It also continues a tradition of Australian female directors competing at the festival’s top level. Leigh joins Australian directors Laurie McInnes, Samantha Lang and Campion,  whose films have been In Competition. Campion’s The Piano is the sole Australian Palme D’Or winner.  
 
Indeed, 2011 will see a second Leigh-inspired film released. Daniel Nettheim recently wrapped filming on thriller, The Hunter, starring Willem Dafoe and adapted from Leigh’s best known novel. 
 
Leigh will be joined in Cannes by compatriot Ivan Sen, whose low budget digital film, Toomelah, about his home aboriginal community in the NSW outback, will unspool in Un Certain Regard. 
 
With likely comparisons to the journey of Warwick Thornton’s Samson and Delilah two years ago at Cannes, indigenous filmmaker Sen said, “To be honest, the Cannes invitation was a huge relief. Toomelah is a pretty unique movie, which was made in a very unorthodox way. I try not to get too carried away about festivals, but Toomelah, the community, is my family’s home and I’m so proud of them all. I’m related to almost everyone there, and almost half the population pops up in the film. It will be an honour to take the movie and the cast to Cannes”. 
 
Toomelah is a provocative and comic tale of a boy called Daniel who wants to be a gangster and his life growing up in the remote community.
 
10-year-old Daniel Connors, who plays the lead will accompany Sen to Cannes  with his father Michael who also plays his father in the film. 
 
“Cannes is so important for a film like Toomelah. It really puts the film into a special place on the world stage and will give the film the attention I think it deserves. It's a very important film for Australia. It's like a first hand, intimate tour through an Australian Indigenous community,” Sen adds. 
 
Toomelah was produced by David Jowsey. Visit Films is handling worldwide sales. 
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