American Essentials Film Festival

Fresh indie films from the US festival circuit at Palace Cinemas

It was only last year that Palace Cinemas added American Essentials to its line-up of international film festivals. Not before time – for decades film buffs had known US indies are some of the boldest, funniest, brainiest and downright strangest movies made anywhere in the world. Anyway, once again in 2017, they’re now being celebrated with a line up of twenty Aussie premieres, both features and docos, plus and a whole bunch of classic cuts.

The three-week fest kicks of conventionally enough with the Oscar-nominated 20th Century Women (above pic) staring Greta Gerwig, Annette Bening and Elle Fanning, director Mike Mills’ first film since Beginners. But then indie-Queen Gerwig turns up again (of course she does) in Todd Solondz’s Wiener-Dog, a little-seen provocation that no one has dared screen since last years’ Underground Film Festival. Another mad oddity is the magical realist Are We Not Cats, easily the wildest of the films Ciao has previewed. That’s if we don’t count the twisted crime thriller Detour staring Bel Powley as a very bad girl.

Phillip Roth’s acclaimed novel from the disillusioned 70s, American Pastoral also comes to the big screen in Ewan McGregor’s ambitious directing debut. He also stars in it alongside Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Connelly.

Naturally there is an impressive smattering of controversial docos like The American Anarchist, in which the author of the counterculture bible The Anarchist Cookbook wishes he kept his mouth shut. California Dreams, about the everyday people trying to make it in La La Land – the real LA – is a standout, and so is G-Funk, exploring West Coast hip-hop, featuring interviews with Snoop DoggDr Dre, and Ice Cube

Edgy alternative-tinged classics from the 70s and 80s include Mulholland Drive, Annie Hall, Eraserhead, Andy Warhol’s Bad and (to mark the death of Carrie Fisher) Postcards from the Edge. Lots more, but a special mention goes to original screen bad boy Mickey Rourke in Barbet Schreoder’s 1987 Barfly, which screens with an exciting new documentary about the famed low-life poet Charles Bukowiski.

Head to the festival website  – bookings are now open.

We have 10 double in-season passes to festival films to give away. They’re valid for any session except the opening/closing night, special events, and on public holidays. Tickets subject to availability. They are valid for sessions with “no free tickets” listed. Head to our movie giveaway page!

Compiled by Russell Edwards