Magnificent 7 mark milestone
In Retrospect: Tokyo Story. Picture: Supplied.

Imagine having to pick just seven films from the hundreds of critically acclaimed classics, international award winners and audience favourites that have screened over the 60-year history of the Perth International Arts Festival.

Would you choose Federico Fellini's sexy 8 1/2 or Jean Luc Godard's influential hit A Band Apart (which Quentin Tarantino named his film company after). Should the Cold War commentary in Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation take precedence over the landmark Kiwi film Once Were Warriors? And who could split hairs between the madness of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo and Stanley Kubrick's Dr Strangelove?

That unenviable task came down to PIAF's new film program manager Madeline Bates, who was almost driven mad by the process of picking those seven films for In Retrospect: 60 Years of Festival Films.

"The best projects are always more challenging than you expect," says Bates, who was lured from the Edinburgh International Film Festival after long-time programmer Sherry Hopkins retired.

Eventually, Bates decided on one film per decade plus one Australian production, with the seven films screening over the next seven nights at the picturesque Somerville Auditorium at UWA. The only criterion is that each film must have screened at PIAF.

The week-long retrospective starts tonight with Yasujiro Ozu's 1953 masterpiece Tokyo Story.

"We were looking for some way to mark the 60th Festival," says Bates, who holds a masters degree in visual anthropology from Oxford and has also worked on the Sheffield International Documentary Festival. "Because the Somerville has been in operation since the Festival's inaugural year - and has really been home to some incredible international cinema - it seemed like an unmissable opportunity to look back on that history."

Bates collaborated with a team of Festival staff and called for feedback and suggestions from loyal patrons. "We paid close attention to which films have caught the public imagination and used their comments and feedback as reference points in our discussions," she says.

After Tokyo Story, the selections are Michelangelo Antonioni's The Red Desert (1964), Francois Truffaut's Day For Night (1974), Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire (1987), Jafar Panahi's Iranian masterpiece The White Balloon (1995) and Kay Pollak's rousing Swedish film As It Is In Heaven (2007). "It's eclectic, in terms of geography, style and mood," Bates says.

To close the Retrospective, Bates added Jane Campion's Australia-New Zealand co-production An Angel at my Table.

Bates says the selections are a mix of theoretical choices and practical considerations such as the availability of 35mm prints, which she sourced from the likes of the British Film Institute, the New Zealand Film Commission and the Sydney Film Festival.

"We didn't choose The Conversation, for example, because it was recently re-screened at the Festival (in the 2000s)," she says. "We also felt it would be a more notableexperience to screen a film that hadn't, such as Day For Night, which was recently re-released by the BFI in the UK, which meant a good print was available.

"So we were guided by practical considerations as well as trying to provide a cinematic experience that couldn't be easily replicated elsewhere."

While Bates admits she wasn't able to get every film on her wish list, she says the final seven provide audiences with an important reflection of the cultural and artistic impact of cinema. <div class="endnote">

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The West Australian

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