- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 21, 2002

CANNES, France — One year after the critical success of "Moulin Rouge," Australia is back at Cannes, virtually unseen in competition but doing big business behind the scenes.
This year's official lineup vying for the Palme d'Or is heavy on English-language features, but they all come from the United States, Britain and Canada.
Australia's sole contender for the 12-day festival is an animated short, "Holding Your Breath," to be screened this weekend.
That's a far cry from last year's event, when Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge" opened the festival and monopolized headlines from its spectacular premiere party onward.
However, the Down Under action remains furious in the market section of Cannes, where multimillion-dollar deals are signed among the 7,000 movie executives wheeling and dealing on the French Riviera.
The impact of "Moulin Rouge," the reliance of U.S. studios on Australia for shooting blockbusters such as the "Star Wars" and "Matrix" episodes, and the breakthrough performances of actors Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Heath Ledger all have contributed to raising the country's profile among producers and buyers, industry insiders say.
The Australian Film Commission (AFC), which is promoting about 15 films from its rooftop office here, says the Aussie attraction is so strong that big-movie lures in competition are no longer required.
"It's a mistake to equate a berth in the official Cannes Film Festival with the overall health of the Australian film industry," says AFC Chief Executive Kim Dalton.
He adds that the age-old problem of Australian talent running off to Hollywood has been compensated to some extent by "a sort of path back" for big-name Australian directors and stars to continue to be involved in domestic production and by new government incentives based on the Canadian model that are bringing foreign pictures into Australia to be made.
One of the big winners at Cannes is a fledgling Australian sales-and-production company called Arclight Films, which has signed an 80-million-euro ($75 million) exclusive distribution deal with British firm Spice Factory.
Although it's only weeks old, Arclight already has a slate of films. Some of them are Australian, such as the dark sci-fi actioner "Subterano," and some are foreign, including the British-made "Bollywood Queen," which has generated solid interest at the festival.
Carmel Coscia, the head producer for Taurus Rising, a film sales and development firm, says she drew on years of experience with Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow to line up "boutique" deals involving Australian co-productions and foreign pictures.

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