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The Surfer, Furiosa join list of Aussie films to premiere at Cannes

Nicolas Cage will be an important asset in selling <i>The Surfer</i> in Cannes.

Nicolas Cage will be an important asset in selling The Surfer in Cannes. Photo: Radek Ladczuk

It was an obvious choice for the $350 million blockbuster Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga to make its world premiere at the 77th Cannes Film Festival, however two other Australian films have also been selected.

Filmed entirely on location in Western Australia, the psychological thriller, The Surfer, that stars Hollywood icon and Oscar winner Nicolas Cage, will screen as an official selection for the festival’s Midnights section.

Cage will be there for the premiere, according to Thierry Frémaux, general delegate of the Cannes Film Festival.

Withered Blossoms, a short film spoken in English and Cantonese made by Australian Film Television and Radio School students, will premiere in the film school La Cinef section.

George Miller’s epic Furiosa, starring Chris Hemsworth and Anya Taylor-Joy, was filmed across New South Wales and western Sydney will premiere in the Out of Competition with a gala screening on May 16.

“This is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the strength of our world-class screen industry,” Screen Australia’s (SA) Deirdre Brennan said.

The Surfer joins a long list of Australian films premiering at Cannes dating back to 1985, when Bliss and The Coca Cola Kid made their premiere.

In fact, 134 feature and short films have made their mark on the prestigious 10-day festival since then, including Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom (1992), Moulin Rouge! (2001) and Elvis (2022).

There was also Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993), Fred Schepisi’s Evil Angels (1988), PJ Hogan’s Muriel’s Wedding (1994), Stephan Elliott’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), and Justin Kurzel’s Snowtown (2011).

Warwick Thornton’s The New Boy (2023) premiered last year, following Nitram in 2021.

At a recent Ausfilm talkfest in Queensland, US director Ron Howard and actor John Cena pulled no punches when it came to being part of Australia’s filmmaking industry.

Cena praised Australia as a film location following his starring role in Melbourne-based production Ricky Stanicky.

“I love the aspect of [Melbourne] city … it’s a blend of a modern and old-world construction and how they use the old-world buildings.”

“Shooting in Australia has been a blast. Everybody here’s a surgeon, the crews are razor sharp and very good at what they do,” Cena said.

Howard echoed his sentiments off the back of shooting his upcoming movie Eden on the Gold Coast.

He said the Location Incentive Program “remains key” to his decision to film here, he told Screen Forever in March, adding “you’re going to be able to do your best work there” thanks to Australia’s talent, incentives, and experience.

“People like Australia and I’m just speaking as a foreigner. There’s nobody that doesn’t like going to Australia.”

Nicolas Cage in The Surfer. Photo: Radek Ladczuk

‘Massive coup’

Ausfilm says The Surfer was made possible due to the state-run WA Production Attraction Incentive.

Cage spent several weeks filming with a majority WA crew in a single location, Yallingup, known for its iconic beaches.

“This is a massive coup for the filmmakers and for Western Australia,” said Screenwest boss Rikki Lea Bestall, confirming the film was the first produced in WA using the incentive.

The Surfer is an intensely unnerving film in which a man returns to Australia to buy back his family home after many years in the US, reads the official logline.

He is humiliated in front of his teenage son by a group of local surfers who claim ownership over the secluded beach of his childhood.

Wounded, he defies them and remains at the beach, demanding acceptance. As the conflict escalates he is brought to the edge of his sanity and his entire identity is thrown into question.

Withered Blossoms is about a young woman who, after attempting to conceal her separation from a long-term partner, finally visits her grandma who is grappling with age.

“This self-financed project showcases the burgeoning diverse and multilingual talent emerging from Australia’s film industry,” states Screen Australia.

The 77th Festival de Cannes in France runs from May 14 to 25

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