2:16pm and on the road back to Sydney. Saw another session of shorts this morning at the RSL including Tresa’s film My Nan, the Next Cate Blanchett which was very funny and had the packed house laughing. And a packed house it was – for the 10:45am screening. Very encouraging. Other highlights included Stephen Kanaris’ beautiful and ambitious Boundless, Ben Phelps’ dark and literate Nice Shootin’ Cowboy and the massive crowd-pleaser, Glen Hunwick’s excellent animation Mutt.
Archive for May, 2009
Raining in DunBLOG. Great after-party to Kriv Stenders’ new film Lucky Country (which we didn’t make it to the town in time for) last night. The buzz in the room was electric – sounds like The Kriv has done it again. He must be challenging Rolf de Heer for the title of “Australia’s Can-Do, and Do It Without Compromise” Director. After-party was great. Film luminaries included Aden Young, The Kriv, Matt Newtown, Ewan Leslie and many, many more. Great staff, a great room and a great buzz. Newtown revealed to Film Mafia that his feature Three Blind Mice (playing in the prime slot of tonight – Saturday – at 6:30pm at the James Theatre) will get a cinema release from John L. Simpson’s Titan View, which was created in response to seeing The Jammed here at Dungog two years ago. Simpson had a great run with that film and at least a critical success with Men’s Group so it’s looking good for Newtown’s home-made flic which has already secured excellent international fest cred and (I believe) some distribution overseas.
On the way to the Dungog Film Festival and its started to rain. Report has come from our man Mr. Television, already at the Festival since its opening last night, that the rains have been heavy at the tiny town that is annually turned into an alterna-Sydney Film Industry party for four days and nights. It also shows films… only Australian films. I’m headed up there as a Filmmaker; my nineteen-minute film Do Not Pass Go is playing there tomorrow (Saturday) night as part of a session of short films. It’s a good slot: Saturday night, 8:45pm, in the main venue, the James Theatre, supposedly the oldest continuously operating cinema in the country. It does conflict with the Saturday Night party, but, knowing the Dungog Fest as I do from my attendance there in its inaugural year in 2007, that party will go way late into the night (although – shock horror – you have to purchase tickets to the parties now! Sure wasn’t like that in the first year…) My colleague Tresa Ponnor is also coming up – her short film My Nan, the Next Cate Blanchett is also showing at the Festival. My colleague and great mate Luke Eve is already there – he’s got a short in too, called Man’s Best Friend. I had a blast at the Festival two years ago but word is it’s changed a whole lot… I figured two years ago that it would get too big for the small town and it sounds like it already achieved that last year! But Alannah Zitserman, the Fest’s director, is one of the most capable organisers I’ve ever met so I’m hoping for great things. And certainly great films!
OBSERVE AND REPORT ***
RIP: A REMIX MANIFESTO ***
OBJECTIVITY AND TRUTH: ULI EDEL’S BAADER-MEINHOFF COMPLEXITY
THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX ****
There can be no faulting the casual German-filmgoer in the non-German cinema for thinking Uri Edel’s new film, THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX, was directed by his compatriot Oliver Hirschbiegel, who made the outstanding 2004 film DOWNFALL. Both films were nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards; both are long (over two and a half hours); both feature immaculate period design and superb acting (including the force of nature that is Bruno Ganz); and both are based on terrible, violent episodes in Germany’s history. Most importantly, however, these films form a union based on their objectivity.
Like DOWNFALL, THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX avoids any judgement. The earlier film carries its own weight: we know Hitler was a monster, and possibly psychotic: we bring to the film our own (fair) prejudices, and, remarkably, Hirschbiegel let us. Edel does the same, but in THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX, he is dealing with a much more delicate question, as the monster is not out in the open at all.
Depending on your political leanings, you may find the activities of the Red Army Faction (RAF) in Germany in the 1970s either laudatory or completely reprehensible. The genius of Edel’s film is that he lets you make that choice. Unlike many of the (sometimes very well-made) films about the IRA that surfaced in the 1980s and 1990s, THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX is about as objective about a difficult and contentious subject as a film could get. The story is told through the eyes of the organization itself – there’s no doubting that – but they aren’t celebrated; neither are the German forces out to stop their operations. All the big issues that the RAF were fighting against are examined (in quite delicate detail) but a stand is never taken: the viewer is left to examine the facts – as presented in this movie – for themselves.
This film could be shown in classrooms. It does not take a side – it takes the opposite. Certainly not a docudrama, THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX nonetheless is a level-headed examination of an important period in recent German history. I suspect part of its immense worldwide appeal rests with that: its audience are learning, without being lectured. It is a major film.
BOLD NEW WORLDS:
SAMSON AND DELILAH and the New Australian Cinema
SAMSON AND DELILAH *****
Mark my words: Warwick Thornton’s debut feature, SAMSON AND DELILAH, will win the Camera D’Or (for Best Debut Feature) at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It will also make, as a per-screen average, more money than any other Australian film this year, and possibly more money per screen than any movie this year (released into Australian cinemas).
This extraordinary film, about the most marginalised of subjects (petrol-sniffing amongst Australian Indigenous youth) has gripped the Australian public imagination. How do I know this? I just saw a packed 12:15pm Sunday session; as I came out the line for the 2:15pm session went out onto the street, and the afternoon sessions were already sold out. SOLD OUT. This is a sign of a true cultural phenomenon.
Now, granted, the cinema I was at was the Dendy at Newtown, which would have to be the most leftist intellectual cinema in the country (per “capita”, or head). But this is the type of cinema where this film is playing, and that is partially why it will be such a per-screen success.
Why else, however? Well, the advance reviews have been spectacular, with Australia’s two most visible film critics, David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz, doing the unthinkable and both giving the film five stars out of five on their nationally televised At The Movies. Likewise, in The Australian, Mr. Stratton gave the film the line “one of the finest films ever made in Australia”.
But what else makes a small, marginal film like this – a film with nothing approaching a star, about subject matter most people recoil from, shot on a tiny budget – a hit? WOM. Word of mouth. And why will this movie have WOM in spades? Easy. Heart. This film has heart to burn. It is a portrait of love every bit as tender as ROMEO AND JULIET – the Shakespeare version, the text. It has so much to say about why people love each other – and says it with so few words (there is barely any dialogue in the entire movie) – that people will not be able to contain themselves from saying to their friends, “Yes, it’s bleak. But it’s magnificent. Go.”
SAMSON AND DELILAH is magnificent. Go.
Daniel Craig again proves himself the most charismatic actor around as the leader of a group of forest-dwelling Jewish Bellorussian resistance fighters in Mark Doher Zwick’s masterful telling of an almost-forgotten but amazing historical event.
A FILM WITH ME IN IT **1/2
Mark Doherty writes and stars – with Dylan Moran, in this low-key, very black comedy that might have seemed very funny on set but has lost something on its way to the screen.