FILM: AUSTRALIAN FILM FESTIVAL

Neighbours, Home and Away, Prisoner: Cell Block H... while the small screen legacy from Down Under remains questionable (the sepia-tinted, tank-topped soap The Sullivans still stands alone in downright dullness), Australia's cinema goes from strength to strength. In recent years The Piano, Muriel's Wedding, Shine and Love and Other Catastrophes have all proved the breadth and imagination of Antipodean film-making, so this week why not go walkabout through some of the country's latest releases at the Fourth Australian Film Festival?

Running from Friday at The Barbican, the bite-sized festival opens with Bill Bennett's thriller Kiss or Kill, which describes how a couple of con artists go on the run after a routine heist goes fatally wrong. Leaving a trail of murder behind them, each begins to suspect the other is to blame for the slaughters and questions the very fabric of their love. A brilliantly sustained conceit, the film makes for compulsive viewing, keeping you teased and tense right up until the end.

Other offerings include Sue Brook's quirky comedy The Road to Nhill (set in a desert town so slow people don't even bother finishing their sentences), delicious 30-something romantic comedy Thank God He Met Lizzie (starring up-and-coming actress Cate Blanchett), Heaven's Burning (above, a zippy thriller about a Japanese bride who fakes her own kidnapping while on honeymoon, starring LA Confidential's Russell Crow) and the bright and breezy Hotel De Love, set in a gaudy Melbourne hotel for newlyweds.

Then there's Paws, a family film about a sleuthing pooch (voiced by Billy Connolly) and even a sneak preview of Sundance hit The Castle, a wry David- and-Goliath comedy about a family who decide to save their home from being flattened under an airport runway. And not a tortured teenager, sadistic guard or wobbly wall in sight.

Barbican Screen, Silk Street, EC2 (0171-382 7000) to 19 Mar

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