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American Essentials Film Festival Reveals Indie-Focused 2017 Program

Two Greta Gerwig films, Australia's own Bond and Ewan McGregor jumping behind the camera rank among the second-year festival's 31 titles.

There's more to going to the movies than just seeing the flicks that fill megaplexes, as Australia's thriving film festival scene demonstrates. The country's third-largest capital city might've just been robbed of its major annual cinema showcase, but our love of films beyond the mainstream can't be thwarted that easily. As far as Hollywood's addition to the movie-making fold is concerned, that's where the American Essentials Film Festival comes in.

Founded in 2016 as a way to fill select Aussie cinemas with the kind of US titles that don't usually make it to our shores, the touring festival returns for its second run with another lineup of noteworthy inclusions — 31 films and 20 Aussie premieres, in fact. Making its way around the country between May 9 and 28, complete with runs in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide, the fest kicks off with an Oscar-nominated performance, boasts a documentary dedicated to a talent who makes films (and TV shows) like no one else, and features everyone from Greta Gerwig (twice!) to Australia's own Bond to Ewan McGregor jumping behind the camera. Prepare for a busy movie-viewing month.

Fresh from earning a nod for best original screenplay at this year's Academy Awards — and garnering lead actress Annette Bening a Golden Globe nomination, too — 20th Century Women will get the festival started, marking writer/director Mike Mills' first movie since 2010's Beginners. Bening stars as a mother coping with the fact her son is growing up, and calling in pals played by Gerwig and Elle Fanning to help. As promised, Gerwig also features in Todd Solondz's Wiener-Dog, which comes to the fest after having its Australian premiere at last year's Sydney Underground Film Festival.

Also on the bill, and impeccably timed given that the third season of Twin Peaks starts airing during May, is highly anticipated doco David Lynch: The Art Life, while docudrama Becoming Bond keeps the factual fun going by delving into the Aussie that once played oo7. American Pastoral is the aforementioned McGregor's first stint as a director; California Dreams explores the real folks trying to make it in LA, La La Land-style; G-Funk dives into the style of hip hop started by Warren G, Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg; and 2016 Cannes hit The Transformation follows a 14-year-old who thinks he's a vampire.

As well as highlighting new flicks, with Are We Not Cats' magical realism and Detour's crime thrills also on offer, American Essentials shines a spotlight on classic titles in its Masters & Masterpieces retrospective. That's where audiences can watch Lynch's inimitable debut Eraserhead for its 4oth anniversary, as well as his 2001 standout Mulholland Drive — plus the Carrie Fisher-written Postcards on the Edge; Andy Warhol's Bad, which is the last film the artist produced before his death; and a Charles Bukowski double of doco You Never Had It: An Evening with Bukowski alongside the semi-autobiographical, Mickey Rourke-starring 1987 favourite Barfly.

The American Essentials Film Festival tours Australia from May 9, screening at Sydney's Palace Norton Street and Palace Verona from May 9 to 24; Melbourne's Palace Cinema Como, Palace Westgarth and The Astor Theatre from May 11 to 24; and Brisbane's Palace Centro from May 17 to 28. For more information, visit the festival website.

Published on April 16, 2017 by Sarah Ward

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