MIFF 2010

by stronged

1 1059 – AU HASARD, BALTHAZAR Fri 30 Jul 4:45 PM

A classic. An extremely sad story about a donkey’s life forever being mistreated by it’s numerous owners. His only true friend, a young girl Mari who nurtures him on and off over the period of his life.

Quite a profound film. I felt as if it was mirroring the mistreatment of females during the period, commenting on the stirring feminist movement within Western culture at the time. The protagonist of the piece, the donkey, representing a woman being mistreated by males all of her life. Strangely, all of the cruel owners of the donkey were males.

This film was a slow beginning to my MIFF 2010 experience. And a sad one at that. I left the cinema feeling quite shattered….thankfully, i had some gospel on the way home to cheer me up!

2 8060 – REJOICE & SHOUT Fri 30 Jul 7:00 PM

The history of Gospel Music. Prays Jesus Hallelujah! Some fantastic archival footage was presented in this humble little doco that traced the origins of gospel music from the cotton pickin’ field barber-shop-quartet style singing to the present day evangelist highly studio polished gospel we hear today in the United States.

Although shabbily executed, this doco certainly had some soul to it. From the intriguing characters of the interviewees to the archival recordings from decades ago there was a strong resonance of spirituality in this piece. One of the great moments spoken by Smokey Robinson as he informs us that we will not be taking any of our material belongings with us to the kingdom of heaven, we will only be taking our soul. So we should focus on developing our soul for whatever shall come after this life. A notion that seems to echo throughout every religion the world over.

Some of my favorites were shown throughout this doco. The Staple Singers, Mahalia Jackson, The Golden Gate Quartet, the Blind Boys from Alabama, etc. I was lovin’ the old footage of them performing live. It is great to witness such showmanship that seems to have fallen out of existence. Even comparing the present day gospel singers to the gospel singers of past generations there seems to be quite a difference. There seemed to be much more humility and humbleness to the past generations. The issue being with the current gospel singers that their enthusiastic and persistent efforts to convert people to their religion seems to repel me rather than attract.

Highlights in this doco were definitely the old footage of the male singing groups doing their back and forth double acts as well as footage of Mahalia Jackson. Every time i see footage of that woman i am blown away. My most cherished moment being when she sung in Jazz on a Summers Day http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052942/.

The only draw back for this doco was the drawn out length; it DID drag a fair bit. And the clunky way with which it was put together in the edit.

3 5065 – THE INVENTION OF DR. NAKAMATS Sat 31 Jul 12:15 PM

Hilarious. Those crazy Danes sure know how to bang together a doco. Good on ’em. When you fuse together the whackiness of the Japanese invention culture with the witty eye of a Dane you have a quality documentary.

Thankfully it was well paced and allowed some poignant dramatic moments to give us a chance to catch our breath amongst the bountiful laughter had. Such an interesting character and i cherish the unique and intriguingly original manner in which he conducts his life. Taking a picture of every meal you have had for 35 years is a sterling effort in itself!

4 2066 – JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT: THE RADIANT CHILD Sat 31 Jul 2:30 PM

A great bio-doc on an interesting artist of the twentieth century. I must admit, i wasn’t the biggest fan of his work before seeing this doco. Although, now having been informed about Jean-Michel Basquiat personally and understanding where he was coming from i have adopted a great admiration for him and his work.

What an incredible artist. I particularly love the notion he has about expressing himself from feeding off other influences. Not by plagiarizing other artworks but capturing what he had remembered from the source material and interpreting it in his own way. He spoke of “Boom for Real” as an analogy. A phrase that represents the action of exploding reality into pieces to create something new. Reminded me of discussions i have had with fellow peers about A Clockwork Orange. A theme from this being the act of destroying something is a creation in itself. I feel as though when you interpret an experience purely subjectively it tends to give much more than if you had objectified it. A bond is made between you and the experience…and all of your past experiences. Something that is uniquely you. Something no one else could possibly create. Individualism. This is the most exciting thing about art from my point of view.

Technically, the doco dragged on a little bit. However, i came out of the experience genuinely saddened by such a loss of a talent yet also inspired by Basquiet’s spirit, intellect and passion. His death represented yet another isolated soul in this machine we have created in Western culture. When community has ceased being a discussion over a home made dinner and now is a microwaved dinner pack in front of the television. Human contact is becoming estranged to human beings. It’s absurd. Fear has corrupted people’s courage to connect. True sincerity is dying out in our society and it saddens me. Particularly when it spawns such life threatening situations of isolation and misunderstanding.

5 2067 – ACCELERATOR 1 Sat 31 Jul 4:45 PM

Pinion – I had my hopes up for this one having been made by two dear friends of mine. Despite having pretty images it fell flat for me. I loved the overall concept but was stung by the wooden performances and regressive structure of the narrative. A real shame.

The Mystery of Flying Kicks – Liked this quite a bit. Nice to see a doco up in Accelerator for a change. I also enjoy narratives that weave together a myriad of different formats in order to tell it’s story. An interesting subject to learn about. I am sure it will be a great traveling short to hit the festival circuit having, incorporated so many cultures points of view and it seems as though there is a pair of kicks up from Rome to Kathmandu.

Fatso – If only they had cast an elderly gentleman to be the lift operator the film would’ve had a whole lot more cred for me. The performance from the little boy was definitely the stand out and offered some welcome relief from the dragging plot line.

Manurews – I was blown away by the scope of this short. I was impressed by the production standards and parallel story lines all occurring dynamically. When the Robbers Dog logo came up at the end of the credits the penny dropped. The kiwi production house has quite the repertoire. I have been an admirer of their work for a coupla years now. Unfortunately, i was hoping for the filmmakers to add something fresh to this much seen scenario. It didn’t connect with me emotionally nor intellectually. It seemed to just recount an article one might read in a newspaper that you have read a million times over before. Nothing new. I enjoyed the fusion of cultures and production standards.

Out In That Deep Blue Sea – This short was powerful. I was enthralled by the filmmakers use of close ups and tight shots. Captivated by the leads performance. I felt it not only was strikingly honest with it’s depiction of the baby boomers generation it also had a few things to say about how men and women communicate. It really hit home for me.

Franswa Sharl – It is such a welcome relief when a short that is purely entertaining springs out of a showcase. I am grateful for Selena Tan to have compiled a mixed bag of goodies for this years Accelerator program. My first impressions of this short was that it would be the same old “coming of age” story i keep witnessing at film festivals and indeed Australian cinema at large. I was pleasantly surprised that the plot took a turn in a heart warming direction. Also, that i began to like the protagonist who at first i had a repulsion towards.

Deeper Than Yesterday – My heart went out for these guys when the projectionist began to put up the lights and people started to leave before this short had come on. Luckily, loud accusations from the audience put a halt to the premature ending of the session. I had heard from one of my friends that this short was the bees knees. Having been accepted into Cannes Critic Week and AFI nominated this kid Ariel Kleiman is sending out ripples whilst still making his way through VCA’s bachelor of film an’ tele. Impressive. It was hyped up so i felt the weight of my expectations begin to influence my judgment as i began to watch this short. I enjoyed the European sensibilities and ensemble performance. Although, nagging thought echoed in my mind about the opening scene in the shared shower – How can a submarine have such an immense shower if it has to conserve it’s water supply and space? I dunno where this thought came from but it sure nagged away at me. Once i got past that i enjoyed the narrative. I liked the fact that one man is holding fast to his principals and restoring dignity the only way he knows how. Yet, he was also a flawed character with his inability to control his hasty reactions. I don’t think i will ever tire experiencing stories with these messages.

6 2075 – ACCELERATOR 2 Sun 1 Aug 2:30 PM

The Prelude – I liked the cinema verite style of shooting and the composition of shots. Although, the short could’ve been tightened up substantially in the edit and crafted a little more interestingly. The premise shows promise but the execution half baked. Good to see the Otto Empire getting their two cents in though.

The Kiss – Great short. Good concept, good performance and execution. I am glad it picked up an award at the Best MIFF Shorts. The first time i viewed it the discontinuity with the lighting got to me. Especially at the beginning on and off the bikes. Cutting from a mid to a two shot had a dramatic change in lighting. This distracted me for the first part of the short. When it got into the plot i was gripped, as i would imagine the other audience members around me were, with the characters and their plight. Great to see strong story and performance coming back into the short film format. PS. Were those CG bubbles for some of the underwater shots? Strange…

Stony Point – Another coming of age story. I was neither impressed or disgruntled by this short. Unmoved either way.

When The Wind Changes – Well, what can i say about this one. Firstly, i must admit i am somewhat biased considering the director is a friend of mine. However, objectifying the experience of watching the short i was still fully entertained by the performances, the plot development and how it was crafted generally speaking. A great setting for a short film. The absurd landscape of a muddy lake. I feel the concept was explored to it’s fullest without dragging the plot. The performances were exceptional and above all the audience loved it to bits. I am completely grateful for these filmmakers to add some more warm fuzzy entertainment in the often depressive and at times aggressive line-up of shorts at MIFF.

Choice Night – This short hit home for me. Having been interested in exploring this chapter in an adolescents life, particularly the lesson of deciding to follow ones lust as opposed to ones emotional connection is one that i can relate to personally. As, i am sure many males can also relate to. It is an integral lesson in a males life to learn – and more often than not the hard way (no puns intended). I also appreciated the smaller details in this short. How the protagonist(s) was not “the handsome football star” and how the adolescents world was created in such an isolating manner. I keep getting impressed by the caliber of films coming out of New Zealand. They are definitely upping the ante.

Poppy – Goddamn collective consciousness! I had this very same concept a couple of years back. When showing a fellow peer my first draft he remarked how unbelievable it is for a soldier to adopt a child for his own retribution and atonement. However, this short animation (the only animation in accelerator – not counting the Flying Kicks doco that incorporated elements of animation within it’s mixed format narrative) made my concept into a more digestible format…palming the baby off to some nuns as opposed to adopting it and making the soldiers out to be heroes rather than bitter, trauma-riddled anti-heroes as i had conjured up.
An interesting style of animation where attention to detail was given to the soldiers uniforms and equipment rather than the polishing off of their skin and features. Nevertheless, the animation was captivating.

Muscles – Having seen Au Hasard, Balthazar as my first MIFF feature this year i couldn’t help chuckle when a shot of a donkey came up in this short. I thought this short was powerful yet could’ve shown more of an insight into this unique world of muscle building and aggressive tactics in day to day life. I particularly liked the bit where the mother and father duke it out in a boxing match to see who does dinner that night. I feel as though this short could’ve been more holistic in the way that it captured the young protagonists world. Unfortunately i couldn’t help feeling like it was trying to live up to Jerrycan from the previous year…

7 3076 – ANIMATION SHORTS 2 Sun 1 Aug 4:45 PM

A little underwhelmed by this session. Sadly, there were a few duds in this showcase. Out of all MIFF sessions i normally pick one of the animated shorts to attend because i know it is a guaranteed entertainer. Every time. ‘cept this time. The Astronomers Sun bored me. The Polish avant garde animation Maska made me want to press fast forward on the projector. Thankfully the Norse animation about the Angry Man and a couple of the British shorts (Bruce and Mother of Many – a topical animation about midwives that should really get some air play down here in Oz) payed for the session. I also thought The Wonder Hospital was fantastic. Pretty scary. Alma was a nice haunting end to the session.

I don’t get it, people in the audience keep jumping the gun in shorts compilations. They do not even wait for the credits to roll down. I remember some old school cinema-goers used to wait until the entire credits finished before exiting the cinema out of respect for the people who put the piece together. Now people seem to have a firecracker up their arse, rushing off to their next session in order to stand in a cue for forty-five minutes to get a good seat. How times have changed (says Grampa Ted). The communal experience is now turning into an experience made up of agitated people, ticking time bombs waiting for the most minuscule excuse to set them off to vent on anyone or anything around them. As a close friend of mine responded to this dilemma in a conversation today: “Chill out (people)!” Going to the cinema is a magical experience and the audience should feel fortunate to sit in a comfortable cinema to enjoy a medium that transports them to another world and informs them of a story that may or may not be useful in their lives. We are so completely lucky to have MIFF and indeed cinema that is so accessible to us all.

8 2077 – MIFF SHORTS AWARDS Sun 1 Aug 7:00 PM

Lano. Nice to see you. Good to see you are still alive and Woodley isn’t the only one keeping the dream going. Although, a sense of urgency would have been appreciated. One bit that sticks out in my memory of Dr. Nakamats is when he got up to receive some award and made a speech. “Live your life longer, a speech is best shorter” (or something along those lines) and left the podium to sit down. Brilliant. Take note of this MIFF MC’s and presenters…and the Australian Film Industry in general. Time and time again i see people conducting a speech like it is a downhill ski competition – having to make every gate and turn in order to complete their mission (to thank every person on their several page long list). The only thing i want out of someone in front of a mic is to know that they are human and are personable. I want a brief insight into who they are in a grounded sense. Not the image they want to portray of themselves to please the audience and get the big bucks.

The Mystery of The Flying Kicks; The Kiss; Franswa Sharl; and The Lost Thing all got awards for best shorts for the 2010 Best of the MIFF shorts comp. It was my first experience of The Lost Thing. I can remember reading The Rabbits and thoroughly enjoying it (note to self: I must check out his other books) so i am not surprised that i liked this short adapted from one of his other picture books. Such a great open metaphor that can be interpreted in many different ways for many different people. A nurturing story that makes you feel special rather than ostracized. Good on ’em.

9 3078 – MARWENCOL Sun 1 Aug 9:15 PM

Exceptional documentary. Incredible. Faviourite in the festival thus far (although, i haven’t been able to get to as many sessions as i would have liked to have). I also have quite a bias for GI JOES…i must admit. I was one of those kiddies who played with their GI JOE the whole day through. Making up imaginary situations, characters and story lines to entertain myself and stretch my creativity. And now, being a filmmaker, my brother remarked on my 21st birthday that i no longer play with miniature toys in fictional realities but life-sized actors to fulfill my interests. Not a very large leap forward really.

Marwencol (http://www.marwencol.com/) incorporated an astounding array of themes and topics that are important within our society. Like any great documentary, it pried open the exterior of our society to reveal some underlying truths about the paradigm of which we are bound in. Exposing topics such as: identity, confidence, expression, communication, friendship, community, sexuality, trauma, etc. etc.

It is commendable that when the system failed this man, Mark Hogancamp, he did not spiral downwards into a pit of despair but proactively (and creatively) sought to deal with his issues himself with his own style of therapy. Ingenious.

I hope SBS or ABC take this little gem of a doco up to screen it for the Aussie public because it is something to cherish and learn from.

10 1081 – THE ROBBER Mon 2 Aug 2:30 PM

Thoroughly enjoyed this film’s simplicity and realism. I can’t really think of much Austrian cinema from the top of my head except that lovable Inspector Rex. If this film is anything to go by though, i feel as though Austrian filmmakers are some of my faviourite filmmakers 🙂 I never really liked the place myself when traveling there. People seemed aggressive under the surface. I felt as though a local could snap at any moment and unleash something totally unruly and fiercely cruel. I always had this feeling of a malevolent animal just below the surface in Austria. Perhaps my hunch is right. For this film is just about that. The protagonist being ever driven by some beast within. Unable to submit to authorities, love ones or himself. I was pretty tired after watching such an epic.

The single most important aspect of European cinema to me is it’s ability to underplay a narrative yet still hold your interest. Characters are generally complex entities that tread a plot line that does not spell anything out to the audience. There are no scenes that soften you to the character artificially yet portray the characters in realistic terms. You do not feel manipulated by the film, instead, you are intrigued to find out more about these players.

11 6094 – BOY Wed 4 Aug 12:30 PM

Taika Waititi up to his old antics. A touching and important story about growing up and finding ones direction. Adorable kids in the cast portraying some very funny childhood nostalgic scenarios. I thought this was a fun and important film. Although i was not bowled over by it. It uses formula’s that i have seen many times before.

12 1096 – THE WOMAN WITH THE 5 ELEPHANTS Wed 4 Aug 4:45 PM

Although quite slow moving i really thought this doco about an elderly translator returning to her fatherland very special. I feel as though there should be more films made about the older generation in our society. They are a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. The simplicities of her lifestyle made me warm in the stomach and her unique compatriots made me have a chuckle here and there. The doco was very well formed in the edit. Many great truths were articulated by this elderly woman. I felt assured of my bearings when i left that cinema.

13 5098 – WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE: A FILM ABOUT THE DOORS Wed 4 Aug 9:15 PM

Jim…oh Jim. Having seen the Jean-Michel Basquiet doco earlier in the fest, and now seeing this, i am haunted by these lost young artists who are brought down by their own demise. Strangely, Andy Warhol was mentioned in both docos.

The reconstruction of Jim hooning around the desert in a monster of a car listening to the report of his own death on the radio struck me as a little odd. I kind of liked it but at the same time would’ve approached the doco in a different manner if i were behind the wheel. If given access to all of the bands personal footage as well as media access i would have had a field day with it. Although, the whimsical nature of Jim burning up the asphalt down a desert highway was a nice image to bemuse over.

I was unaware of certain chapters in the Doors story that were made clear to me through this doco. So i feel privileged to have been able to see it. Especially seeing that it was a sold out session the event was made much more special. The audience members all fully aware of the mesmerizing affect Morrison had/has and genius of his work. Loud Indian war whoops rung out and applause for key poetry and lyrics sung by the man was appreciated by this cinema goer. Again, being smitten by the MIFF experience of community and connectivity.

So ends Ed’s MIFF extravaganza 2010. I had hoped to have gone to many more, purchasing a passport and injecting myself with as much cinematic goodness as possible. However, it is fitting to see the festival out with The Doors “this is the end..”

PS. I was also intending to introduce myself to some of the hardcore MIFF devotees. Namely, the bearded man with a day pack that seemed to have stepped out of the wilderness and live inside the cinemas like a true devotee. It intrigues me to see where this man has come from and what he actually does for a living to allow him the time to sink his teeth into MIFF in such a ferocious and sacrificial way.

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