January 25, 2015
Nicole Kidman looks set to prove her critics wrong, with her performance in the new Aussie thriller Strangerland drawing a rapturous reception from audiences at the Sundance film festival in Utah.
The film – the feature debut from Australian filmmaker Kim Farrant – tracks a couple’s descent into rage and despair when their two children go missing during a terrifying dust storm in a remote outback town. Kidman and Joseph Fiennes star as the couple with secrets to hide, Hugo Weaving is the local cop trying to find the youngsters before it’s too late.
The rest of the cast of Strangerland: Lisa Flanagan, Meyne Wyatt, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving, Kim Farrant, Sean Keenan and Maddison Brown. Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Speaking at the film’s world premiere on Friday night, Kidman said the material – which features a daring nude sequence through the town’s main street – spoke to her in a profound way.
“I’ve not worked with a first-time female director, I haven’t worked on material like this,” she said. “It was a chance to explore grief and sexuality, which I thought was really compelling. I’m at a stage in my career and my life where I just want always to keep moving into places that I haven’t been.”
Her director, Kim Farrant, who’s just been snapped up by LA talent agency Gersh off the back of her Sundance selection, added: “It’s about what happens when you experience loss, the feelings that come up when you’re left wanting to connect, whether sexually or otherwise. Nicole was so brave and so willing to do that.” The film has sold to independent distributor Alchemy.
Sundance festival director, John Cooper, was equally effusive about Kidman’s extraordinary performance in Strangerland, telling Fairfax Media, “It’s a big one for her. She’s really good in it. And I don’t think she always gets a fair shake in reviews about her. She’s a much better actress than people give her credit for.”
As to how Farrant, a respected but relatively unknown documentarian and short-film maker, nabbed one of the world’s biggest stars for her debut feature, her star said it was very straightforward.
“We had a great conversation together,” Kidman said of Farrant. “So much of being an actor is working with people you want to be with. I wanted to spend time with her. It was that simple.”
Strangerland is one of three key features from Australia that premiered at Sundance this year. Matthew Bate’soffbeat documentary Sam Klemke’s Time Machine also screened over the weekend to a packed and boisterous reception. The film looks at a loveably odd American who has documented his life on film every year since 1977. “He is the original social networker,” Bate said of his charming subject, while another Sundance alumni, Ariel Kleiman, is to screen his debut feature, Partisan, starring Vincent Cassel, on Monday.
Among the other Australians attending the festival: Ben Mendelsohn, Margot Robbie and Toni Collette, in the similarly striking Glassland, from up-and-coming Irish director Gerard Barrett.
Sundance, set up by screen legend Robert Redford to champion independent filmmakers and creatives, opened on Friday with a documentary about music legend Nina Simone that was made by Netflix – the first time a major festival has headlined with a new media platform release.
The 31st Sundance film festival finishes on Sunday.