Only one Australian capital city film festival remains headless now following today's news that Nashen Moodley is the new director of the Sydney Film Festival, replacing Clare Stewart.
Adelaide is still in the process of appointing a new director with the recent resignation of Katrina Sedgwick. Besides Sydney, Adelaide is the only other festival with a competitive section for feature films, which can make it easier to attract the best films.
Moodley is a South African and is currently head of programming in that country's longest-running film festival, situated in Durban. He will relocate to Australia in time to take up his new role in January.
The media was formally notified of the appointment by George Souris, New South Wales Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality, Racing and the Arts. His statement carried a quote by Durban International Film Festival director, Peter Rorvik: "Nashen has contributed significantly to the growth and development of the Durban International Film Festival across the past decade, and whilst his departure is a great loss to DIFF, it is for Nashen, a big step into the international arena, and deserved recognition of his skills."
Moodley has been meeting the needs of filmmakers as well as film lovers, according to Souris's statement, and his activities have not just been confined to his part of the world. He established the pitching and financing event Durban FilmMart, for example, and has had various roles at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Berlinale Talent Campus and the Dubai International Film Festival, where he has been director of AsiaAfrica Programmes for the past three years. His writings about film have been published in a range of places.
Souris used the opportunity to sing the praises of the NSW film industry: its “world-class creative workforce”, “the most extensive screen infrastructure in the country” and “more than 1,400 film and television related businesses … employing close to 7,000 people and generating income of around $1.3 billion per annum.”
“The NSW screen sector brings culture and creativity to industry, which is a catalyst for innovation and vital to success in the NSW economy,” he said.
How much effort the festival board and Moodley decide to put into strengthening the links with the local film industry remains to be seen: there are always Australian film premieres that add glitter to the event, and there is an extensive competition for Australian short films but, unlike in Adelaide and Melbourne, there is no investment fund and having money on offer can make filmmakers really sit up and take notice.
The 59th Sydney Film Festival runs from 6-17 June in 2012.
Clare Stewart is now head of exhibition at the British Film Institute in London.