Thank you, Nicole, for that wonderful introduction. And thank you to the Canberra International Film Festival for inviting me to this highlight of Canberra’s cultural calendar. The U.S. Embassy is a proud sponsor of this festival, and it is a pleasure to be here with you and open this amazing series of international films that addresses the diverse lives of so many in our world.
Former Secretary Clinton once said, “What people love about American culture is the sense that freedom courses through our art.” Nowhere is this more represented than in U.S. independent film festivals such as Tribeca, Sundance, and Telluride. Like these festivals, the Canberra International Film Festival supports emerging and established filmmakers of all nationalities in making their voices heard. This year with films that focus on the individual and the planet such as “All is Lost” and “Ringbalin” and those exploring larger cultural issues including “Any Day Now”, “Our Nixon” and “Michael Kohlhaas,” I predict that there will be plenty to talk about in Canberra over the next twelve days.
This is fortunate, because the measure of a good film is the number of conversations it inspires. Of course, these conversations sometimes become debates as we argue about what moments impacted us, who were our favorite characters, and what motivated their actions. One of the qualities of art is that it can take taboo topics, and put them into a form that allows us to discuss them. It is, therefore, fitting that such a diversity of screen culture is presented here in Canberra, where debate and discourse are part of the city’s identity. Perhaps the only thing that we’ll all be able to agree on is that like the title of the sci-fi, fantasy, cult, comedy, horror classic predicts: John really does die at the end.* I know you will enjoy the choices of films, the panel discussions and the opportunity to discuss amongst your friends afterwards.
There is something about movies that draws us in. In the two hours that we spend in a darkened theater, it doesn’t matter who we were when we came in, we all identify with the lives of the characters on the screen. We love what they love, we hate what they hate, and we feel the pain they feel. For a brief period of time, we live within them. It is this magic of cinema that hits us in a visceral way. It encourages us to share our thoughts with others. Art embraces the difficult and encourages us to do so as well. Art, like life, is messy and we support the artistic freedom of all people to depict the reality of this messiness so that we may discuss it openly.
This year’s festival is designed to get you talking, and I have no doubt that it will achieve its goal. I look forward to discussing “All Is Lost” and many of the other films with you at the reception and in the days to come. With that, it is my great pleasure and honor to declare the 17th Canberra International Film Festival open. Thank you and enjoy the film.