Cambodia International Film Festival

"The Last Wave," directed by Peter Weir in 1977.
“The Last Wave,” directed by Peter Weir in 1977.

Australian film critic Richard Kuipers, known for his work at Variety and as a programmer for the Freak Me Out section at the Sydney Film Festival, has returned to CIFF to introduce a lineup of captivating Australian films for 2023.

One of the featured films at the festival is “The Last Wave,” a remarkable Australian mystery directed by the acclaimed filmmaker Peter Weir in 1977. This screening continues the close partnership between the Cambodia International Film Festival and the Australian Embassy in Cambodia. Alongside “The Last Wave,” two other Australian fantasy films, “Next of Kin” (1982) and “Undead” (2003), will also be showcased at the festival.

"The Last Wave," directed by Peter Weir in 1977.
“The Last Wave,” directed by Peter Weir in 1977.

“The Last Wave” delves into the traditions and beliefs of aboriginal Australians, exploring “The Dreaming” or “The Dreamtime,” an ancient realm where mythical beings shaped the physical world and humans. The film follows the story of a lawyer whose encounters with a group of Aboriginal men challenge his understanding of the law and his place in the world. Directed by Peter Weir, known for his internationally acclaimed film “Picnic at Hanging Rock” (1975), “The Last Wave” played a pivotal role in reviving the Australian film industry in the 1970s.

Peter Weir, regarded as one of Australia’s greatest filmmakers, has a distinguished filmography that includes works like “Gallipoli” (1981), “Witness” (1985), “Dead Poets Society” (1989), “The Truman Show” (1998), and “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2003). “The Last Wave” stars Richard Chamberlain and Olivia Hamnett, delivering outstanding performances that captivate audiences. 

"The Last Wave," directed by Peter Weir in 1977.
“The Last Wave,” directed by Peter Weir in 1977.

Indigenous Voice of Australia 

Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil, who plays the role of Chris Lee, steals the spotlight in this film. David Gulpilil, a remarkable Yolngu dancer, actor, writer, and painter, first made waves in the film industry when he was discovered as a teenager in 1969. His breakthrough role came in the outback classic “Walkabout,” where he showcased his exceptional talent. Gulpilil’s illustrious career continued to soar as he starred in notable films such as “Storm Boy,” “The Tracker,” and “Rabbit-Proof Fence.” In 2015, he received the prestigious Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his remarkable performance in “Charlie’s Country.” Widely regarded as one of the greatest Australian actors of all time, Gulpilil’s contributions to the film industry are truly exceptional.

Richard Kuipers emphasizes the importance of consulting with indigenous communities when telling stories with indigenous themes. He acknowledges that this practice has become common and even essential in modern filmmaking. However, Kuipers highlights that this was not the case in the 1970s. He credits Peter Weir, the director of “The Last Wave,” and his fellow writers for breaking the norm by involving David Gulpilil and other Aboriginal actors in the creative process. By incorporating their responses and insights into the screenplay, Weir and his team ensured the film’s authenticity and integrity. This collaboration adds depth and truth to the narrative, making “The Last Wave” stand out among its contemporaries.

These efforts to involve indigenous voices in storytelling contribute to a more inclusive and respectful representation of diverse cultures on the screen. It reflects a growing understanding of the importance of cultural consultation and collaboration in creating meaningful and accurate portrayals. Through these progressive practices, filmmakers strive to honor the rich heritage and traditions of indigenous communities while captivating audiences with compelling narratives.

David Gulpilil’s involvement in “The Last Wave” and his subsequent achievements in the film industry serve as a testament to the extraordinary talent and cultural contributions of indigenous actors. Their inclusion not only enriches the cinematic landscape but also fosters a deeper appreciation and understanding of indigenous cultures among audiences worldwide.

"Next of Kin" by Tony Williams (1982)
“Next of Kin” by Tony Williams (1982)

Tales of Suspense 

“Next of Kin,” directed by New Zealand filmmaker Tony Williams, is another fascinating Australian fantasy film to be showcased at the festival. Often compared favorably to Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic “The Shining,” “Next of Kin” weaves a tale of suspense and mystery set in a haunted mansion. With its pulsating score by Klaus Schulze and Williams’ distinct filmmaking style, the film presents an intriguing cinematic experience.

Adding to the festival’s lineup is “Undead,” the debut film written, produced, and directed by Australian brothers Michael and Peter Spierig. This imaginative and darkly humorous zombie apocalypse film showcases the creative spirit of Australian cinema. With its unique blend of science fiction and horror, “Undead” gained international recognition and became a beloved midnight movie favorite.

"Undead" By Michael & Peter Spierig (2003)
“Undead” By Michael & Peter Spierig (2003)

The Australia Embassy’s support for this collaboration highlights its commitment to fostering cultural exchange and promoting the art of filmmaking. Through the universal language of cinema, the festival creates opportunities for understanding, friendship, and collaboration between Australia and Cambodia.

The Cambodia International Film Festival provides a platform for Cambodian audiences to explore the diverse range of Australian films and narratives. These films reflect the talent and creativity flourishing within the Australian film industry.

So mark your calendars and join us at the Cambodia International Film Festival. Immerse yourself in the wonder of Australian cinema as we celebrate the power of storytelling. Let these films transport you to ancient traditions, mysterious settings, and thrilling worlds. Experience the transformative power of cinema and its ability to transcend boundaries, connect cultures, and leave a lasting impact.





Written by Sotheavy Nou