The 2019 SFF brings together two of Peter Ivany’s passions – film and the Sydney Swans – and comes on the heels of a large gift to help secure the future of the festival.
For Peter Ivany, the $200,000 he and his wife Sharon gifted to the Sydney Film Festival is the continuation of a life-long love of movies.
The young man, who made a film of his own while on a kibbutz, went on to become the CEO and major shareholder of Hoyts in the mid-80s, overseeing its growth from a small Australian player to a global business with 2,000 theatres in 12 countries.
When Ivany exited Hoyts in 1999, the serial entrepreneur set up his own investment company and added philanthropist to his CV.
“After I sold Hoyts, I made a vow to myself – I was only 43 – I said half of my time was going to be in philanthropy and community-based things and the other half would be in business. You’ve got to keep the business going or the philanthropy stops pretty quickly,’ he laughs. “And I’ve kept to that. Overall it’s been 50/50.”
The son of refugees, philanthropy is stitched into the fabric of the life Ivany shares with his wife and three children.
“Broadly we think we should give back, that’s just what we think. There’s always an element of luck in life and the world has been good to us, Australia has been good to us so. It’s not even duty-bound, it just feels right to do at every level. We’ve had a significant transfer of wealth and creation of wealth in the last 20 or 30 years, and that’s got to recycle itself back into the community otherwise what are we doing it for?”
Ivany believes in contributing through time and commitment, not just giving, and his list of community positions past and present is long. Alongside the Sydney Film Festival and Sydney Swans, right now much of his time is dominated by roles at the Jewish Communal Appeal, Sports Connect and NIDA, but he’s had long associations with other institutions such as the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS), the Museum of Contemporary Art (last year he announced a gift of $1 million to the MCA), and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, to name a few.
His association with the Sydney Film Festival stretches back more than 15 years and in 2006 Ivany became Chairman of SFF’s Advisory Committee.
“We’ve been there 15 years plus and we’ve watched it go through its various incarnations but we really like where it’s at the moment and we love the work it’s doing. The Sydney Film Festival has become accessible, successful and fulfills many roles in society. They just do a great job,” says Ivany.
“So it has the history, it’s well run, sustainable and more and more people are coming. At the same time the film business is showing less and less diversity as it is so dominated by the mega-players. A lot of filmmakers have nowhere to showcase their wares. If you don’t see the films there, you may never see them anywhere. It is an important part of Sydney’s cultural fabric and important for us to support.”
Of course this is particularly true of Australian film and Ivany loves that the SFF provides a platform to display the talents of all the students who have gone through the doors of the other cultural institutions he supports, such as NIDA and AFTRS.
“To enable people to pursue all their talents and passions is one measure of a society that is working. It’s good for the person doing the work, the people receiving it, the community around it. It’s creative, it’s positive, it’s not a destructive part of our community, it can hold the community together. Ultimately it gives people many, many positive experiences.”
Those experiences include the sharing and transfer of knowledge; the simple, pure pleasure of being entertained; and a sense of community.
“You get people from all walks of life who tap into their knowledge and come together to share their experiences,” he says of filmmaking. “In the end you create a more vibrant society, a prouder society that is a reflection of what we’ve achieved.”
This year SFF brings together two of Ivany’s great passions – film and football – with the screening of The Final Quarter.
Made by fellow philanthropist, Ian Darling, the film is mirror on events surrounding the racial vilification of champion Sydney Swans player, Indigenous leader and Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, during the final three years of his career.
“I can see what can happen if we move away from zero tolerance on these issues and accept that type of type of behaviour and what it can do to society. The film gives us the opportunity to tell the story to people who may not have seen it the first time. It’s a brilliant documentary. It’s not opinion, it’s all archival, factual material. It will give people exposure to archival footage of what was actually said, not other people’s interpretation of it. People will learn from it, and ultimately it will create a better society.
While the booing grew deafening, Goodes maintained his dignity even as his mental health suffered. And the Sydney Swans stood by their player.
“I’m pretty proud of where the Swans were on this,” says Ivany who has been Chairman of the Sydney Swans Foundation since 2005.
“We did the right thing by the community, we did the right thing by our supporters, we did the right thing by Adam. I think today that film will have more resonance because we’ve advanced as a community and I think the community is ready to understand what happened.”
Ivany has other passions – the Jewish community, education and health – but his support for the arts is steadfast.
“You don’t have a successful economy just to build big buildings,” he says. “How culture grows and develops is not only a reflection of the community, it is a social dividend.”
The Sydney Film Festival runs until June 16.
For screenings of The Final Quarter, go here.
Please call 1300 733 733 or visit sff.org.au for more information.