BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2008 PART II

BIFF 2008

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LATE AUGUST, EARLY SEPTEMBER: Saturday the 2nd of August 2008 and I went to see Late August, Early September at 2:30pm in Palace Centro 1. This was part of a 4 film retrospective on the early works of French director Olivier Assayas including Paris Awakens (1991), Irma Vep (1996), Late August, Early September (1999) and Sentimental Desires (2000). Also screening at BIFF that year was Boarding Gate from Assayas. While sitting down waiting for the film to start I noticed the girl from UQ with blonde hair whom I volunteered with at BIFF 2004. I was surprised and quite happy to see her but did not go over to her. The film started. One of the weirdest things for me in doing these retrospectives is realising how much I have forgotten about movies. Movies have always been my passion and I could effortlessly retain details about them as I struggled to remember things for school tests. It was a running joke with family and friends. Part of getting old is forgetting things you once knew and it has thrown me to realise that I have forgotten an awful lot about movies. Reading from the program I see the film is about a writer weighing up his career options and a group of friends in their late 20s over a year where one is terminally ill. It seems a slice of life film about the transition from youth to middle age and the tug of making money or being an artist. Being French it is also about sex and relationships. One thing I do remember is Virginie Ledoyen as the girlfriend of the writer having her own secrets. I recall being satisfied with the film, thinking maybe it meandered but it was interesting enough and even then felt a little nostalgic (1999 was a great year). But honestly I don’t remember much.

After the film I had to walk past the girl from UQ and I said hello and she said hello much to my relief. I struck up a conversation and we hung out throughout the afternoon. She was an incredibly kind and intelligent woman. She once described the film Raise the Red Lantern to me in such a beautiful way that I’ve always wanted to see the film ever since. She was doing a thesis on Asian cinema and spoke so well of China and filmmaking. She had a great way of looking at things and I really enjoyed our chats. She also had a gentle manner about her that I found very endearing. We did catch up again but I’m afraid we never really pursued it much further and part of that was I started a new relationship following BIFF 2008 and time just got away. I’m sure she’s doing well and kicking ass and do miss her. I of course had a crush on her a bit and fate had handed me two opportunities to hang out with her which I sadly squandered. It goes like that sometime.

 

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CARGO 200: I was attracted to see Cargo 200 in the sense that it was a Russian film looking back at the dying days of Soviet era in 1984. I think I knew it would be dark and satirical but I really didn’t know what I left myself in for when I attended Palace Centro 2 at 8:50pm Saturday night after walking back from New Farm. Following on from Hunger and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days last year, Cargo 200 was one of the roughest films I saw. Unlike those two, the horrible things depicted going on here were done with an intended heightened sense of reality. It involves a girl, daughter of a Communist Party leader being kidnapped and kept hostage by a police officer because well he’s just a sick fucker. No I don’t have a problem remembering this film. Well shot with specific choices throughout it’s obvious director Alexei Balabanov is good at what he does. There’s a lot of things that haunt, the girl’s empty threats about her father being a powerful man as we see his ignorance and ineptitude at her kidnapping. We’re desperate to see her rescued as the film centres more and more on the horrible police officer Captain Zhurov played expertly by Alexsey Poluyan an impotent mostly mute man who lives with his mother and tortures the girl (Agniya Kuznetsova)with almost casual cruelty. Alas Balabanov doesn’t deal in easy answers and happy endings. A well made film with something to say even if in an over the top mode but hard going and not for everyone.

 

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FOUR WOMEN: Sunday August 3 I went to Palace Centro 1 at 6pm to see Four Women from India. Cut from the same cloth as Padam Onnu: Oru Vilapam from BIFF 2005 in the sense that it was about the difficulties women face in Indian culture. Directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan it told four separate stories about The Prostitute (Padmapriya), The Virgin (Geetu Mohandas), The Housewife (Manju Pillai) and The Spinster (Nandita Das). I found that film fascinating and moving as each woman in her story makes choices as best she can in the face of societal discrimination. Two things stand out from the packed screening which held a Q&A with Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

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Adoor Gopalakrishnan at the Q&A of Four Women at BIFF 2008 in Palace Centro 1 taken on old Motorolla phone with 1.3 Megapixel camera. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

When Adoor was asked about the symbolism of the location in one scene he replied that’s simply how the location was saying he had not intended anything more than that. This bewildered the interviewer and the crowd for whom such things had resonated. Secondly I recognised a female academic from my workplace at QUT at the screening and hailed from the subcontinent. I asked her later in the week what she thought of the film which I loved. She however told me that she would like to see different types of films being made about that issue or maybe focussing on other issues. It’s always nice to get a different perspective.

 

 

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THE MAN FROM HONG KONG: Following the Q&A with director Adoor Gopalakrishnan I darted across to Regent Cinema 1 in town to see my next film from the Ozploitation programme at 9pm. I’ve had a lifetime of watching American productions get made here but be set elsewhere. The Australian film industry I grew up with made some spectacular films The Lighthorsemen, Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max but I always wondered what it would be like to make a full action blockbuster in Australia. The closest to the visuals I guess would be Sydney getting shown off in Mission Impossible 2 but that seemed all wrong too. Little did I know the film had already been made and released in 1975. There are a whole bunch of films lost to time before the VHS era and part of the joy of going to a film festival was not only discovering these lost treasures but having them showcased and put up on the big screen. DVDs have helped too but you have to promote the films and get them into the culture again and as streaming takes off I’m seeing again a lot of classic titles just be lost to time.

Anyway the screening for The Man From Hong Kong in that beautiful classic downstairs Regent cinema late on a Sunday night was a film festival event in the best sense. Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, the film starred Jimmy Wang Yu as a Hong Kong cop out in Australia to bring down a major villain played by George Lazenby (who I think fared here even better than he did in his James Bond outing). Along for the ride were Rebecca Gilling, a young Sammo Hung, and Roger Ward and Hugh Keays-Bryne (the crowd absolutely erupted when he got put in his place by Wang Yu) both of whom would go on to feature in the original Mad Max. Also Bill Hunter is in there somewhere because Bill Hunter had to feature in every Australian movie ever made. It’s the law. Since it’s the 1970s there’s a lot of racist jokes going around but Wang Yu lets his fists do the talking eventually winning the day. Lazenby who knew martial arts also dives thick into the action and it blew my mind when I saw a series of classic 1970s Australian sports cars present in a full on car chase through Australian country roads that could measure up to anything being done today. There’s also a fight on top of Ayers Rock, (not possible today due to recognition of the sacred value it holds to the Aboriginal people now being recognised as Uluru) and they blew up the floor of high rise in Sydney’s CBD. It’s trashy, dated, over the top and fun as hell. One of the most fun films I saw at any BIFF but it only got better.

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Most will know about the classic Australian directors who came of age in the Australian film renaissance, amongst them Gillian Armstrong, Philip Noyce, Peter Weir, Fred Schepsi, Bruce Beresford but I had never heard of Brian Trenchard-Smith who is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favourite directors. Who stepped forward after the film to do a Q&A with Trash Video legend Andrew Leovold. I think I attended with a mate of mine who I worked with at QUT and we had a blast. Trenchard-Smith like his more well known contemporaries has gone on to work overseas too but in films like Leprechaun 3 and 4. He also directed Nicole Kidman in her film debut BMX Bandits.

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The now long gone Regent 1 with Brian Trenchard-Smith holding court on the left during the Q&A. Apologies to the low quality but it gives you sense of the atmosphere hopefully. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Here he regaled us of tales from The Man From Hong Kong‘s shoot including one where he set himself on fire to convince Lazenby to do the same for a fight scene. According to IMDB however when Lazenby shot the sequence he struggled to get his jacket off and subsequently received burns to his arm. You can see this in the finished film. Another close call can be seen in the final shot of the trailer where a car explosion saw the door come flying off towards camera barely missing the cameraman. Such stories are covered in the excellent documentary Not Quite Hollywood which screened at BIFF 2008 and covers a lot of the films from the BIFF 2008 Ozploitation program including The Man From Hong Kong. Apparently none of the car chase was filmed with closed roads or permits either. Brian also told us that the hero car a 1974 Chrysler Valiant Charger got smashed up for real and was then sent back to the wreckers and repaired. Then the car was sold and apparently when the buyer saw his rego number in the movie he understandably was taken aback. Image result for the man from hong kong

 

The film also features the classic Sky High by Jigsaw. When I was a teenager in the 1990s a group called Newtown did a cover of Sky High which was a favourite of mine. I was surprised and delighted when I heard the original in the film which charted around the world and is a bonafide classic. My goodness this film just has fuckin everything!  It might be hyperbole, all kinds of genre films got made over the years by the Australian film industry, but I think there’s something very special about The Man From Hong Kong. Check it out if you haven’t already. My friend Brian and I took off into the night and had a few drinks at the nearby Treasury casino before heading home to get up for the work next day. It had been a great weekend at BIFF 2008 and there were still lots of films to see. Little did I know the next day would change the course of my life.

-Lloyd Marken

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BLACK PANTHER REVIEW AVAILABLE AT BUZZ MAGAZINE

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It’s been a long time coming but I’ve finally done a review for Black Panther which has been kindly published by Buzz Magazine where  a lot of my reviews of blockbusters get published. The editor has been through a lot in the past year and I am happy to hear that Buzz magazine will be continuing due in part to his strength and resilience for which I’m grateful. There’s a couple of other reviews I did for Buzz a few months back that hopefully will be up on the site in the coming days. I hope you enjoy. You can check out the Black Panther review here http://buzzmagazine.com.au/black-panther/

Based out of Victoria, Buzz Magazine was one the longest running street press magazines in Australia being published in print from 1993 to 2010. Some fine writers have worked for Buzz over the years and gone onto successful careers in media since and there is simply no way to measure the contribution the mag made to local music over its print run. With such words and minimal advertising on the website the impression could be taken that Buzz is now semi-retired. Yet the site is quite prolific with new write-ups on a daily basis, the ongoing interest of fans old and new and contributions from some very talented people indeed.

-Lloyd Marken

 

BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2008 PART I

BIFF 2008

It’s almost comical to look back at this now, but I bought a lot of tickets in 2008 to see movies at BIFF. It even seems shameful in retrospect but oh how I love movies and I could and so I did. The 17th Brisbane International Film Festival ran from the 31st of July to the 10th August. Opening night film was Where in the Wold is Osama Bin Laden by Morgan Spurlock and Closing Night film was The Edge of Love starring Kiera Knightley and Sienna Miller. I saw neither nor did I attend Opening Night. What was odd is that there were a few films running after The Edge of Love on the last night so I don’t know if there was a party for the Vollys or when it started. I stuck with my decision to not be a Volly that year and cashed up with a full time job living at home I prepared to go nuts as a festival goer. I figured it would not take long to make back the money but little did I know that my life was about to radically change. There were a lot of great films at BIFF 2008 and it is interesting to note how some of choices were informed by simply being able to get to a cinema in time and also my own work hours so I missed festival darlings like Man on Wire, Son of Rambow, In Bruges and Persepolis which were all shown here. I still intended to see many films from many continents, sex as a subject attracted me and there was a fantastic retrospective on Australian B-grade cinema in the 1970s. Growing up I had heard a lot about the renaissance of Australian films in that decade with Picnic at Hanging Rock, Newsfront, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and My Brilliant Career. But these were a different type of Australian classics that pre-dated Max Max and I was anxious to see as many as possible. I’m sure I was scheduled to see a seminar as well but can’t be sure what it was now.

 

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HUNGER: One of the great joys of going to a film festival is the discovery of new talent in smaller films before everybody comes to recognise them. I have Irish roots and am always interested in stories that cover The Troubles and so it was, I chose to see Hunger at Palace Centro cinemas at 4:30pm on the 1st of August. At least I think it was since I can’t be sure of some of the sessions I attended now. Hunger was about a hunger strike carried out by IRA prisoners in the early 1980s. Such a simple sentence cannot capture what awaited me and the care with which the director would showcase the horror of his tale. The prisoners live in cells with nothing sleeping on the ground on hard concrete. They draw in their cells on the walls but they don’t use pencils. They’re beaten as they find ways to cause trouble with whatever means they have. There’s no end to the violence and squalor and we come to realise its killing the humanity in the guards too. The leader of the prisoners is a man who really existed called Bobby Sands who starved himself. The politics seem remote from the whole damn thing, we see men suffering and we’re left to wonder what the hell could justify it but also understand that its something very real and important to Sands.

A film virtually without dialogue, halfway through what seems an exhausting observance of what we do to ourselves Sands sits down with a priest (the excellent Liam Cunningham who would go on to do Game of Thrones) and discusses his resolve to not eat. In a long unbroken take for 17 minutes they talk and then the camera cuts to a close-up on the face of the actor who plays Sands. The next few minutes leaves you speechless. This was tour de force filmmaking and acting. The actor who played Bobby Sands and director would re-unite in 2 more films so far. Those films are Shame and the Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave but I saw Michael Fassbender and Steve McQueen’s first work together in 2008 and was riveted.

 

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THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS: On the same night I raced across to see the classic The Battle of Algiers at 7:15pm at GOMA Cinema A. This was part of a program on Resistance and Terrorism in Post War Europe. Hunger not part of this program seemed an appropriate entrée (in fact In The Name of the Father also about The Troubles and prisoners screened as part of the program). There’s not a lot to add here about The Battle of Algiers (1962) directed by Gillo Pontecorvo which is a well known classic. I probably owe watching it to Roger Ebert.  Basically it covers Algeria’s war of independence against France in the early 1960s. It is shot like a documentary film, as IEDs were killing soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan it felt timelessly relevant. Not just for a small force targeting civilians but also for the way that an occupying force can have good intentions. As the French commander notes, some of them were part of the resistance against the Nazis. Easily one of the best films to see at the Festival and a pleasure to see it on somewhat of a big screen.

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ALVIN PURPLE: The Ozploitation program featured many films that were covered in the documentary Not Quite Hollywood which screened at BIFF 2008. Sadly I missed it here but caught up with it in general release not much later. I did a few of the programmed films and the first was Alvin Purple which was scheduled to start at 9:10pm at Regent 1. One of my work colleagues from QUT who set me up with Karen noted I was going to struggle to all these films before they started and given Algiers runtime it was definite that I would miss the opening of Alvin Purple which I promptly did. I don’t know if she could understand why I would see so many films and still buy tickets to one I would miss the opening of but Alvin Purple was not often on the big screen and I liked the look of a naked girl with leather boots and a jockey helmet with whip so missing the first 10 minutes was something I was prepared to forgo. Alvin Purple starring Graeme Blundell for a certain generation is a classic (and features plenty of young Aussie actors who would go on to have long careers including Blundell and Jacki Weaver. While it was all very risqué for the time it has probably remained a favourite due to its own humour. Since it was before my time I held no nostalgic emotional baggage for it but found it light and funny and sexy. I think I read somewhere it was the highest grossing Australian film at that time (1973).

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DIARY OF THE DEAD: Believe it or not it was still the 1st of August 2008, Friday when I saw my fourth film of the festival and the night at Regent 1 at 11:15pm right after Alvin in the same cinema. I had seen Land of the Dead and I think the original Dawn of the Dead by George A. Romero and so was interested to see what he did with Diary of the Dead. Diary of the Dead wasn’t a great landmark film in the way that his classic Dead films were but it was perfect for a late night Friday session at the Regent and BIFF. I distinctly remember the crowd erupting at one character’s actions in the film. Set around a zombie apocalypse it follows young film students as they capture everything on their handheld cameras. It is admirable to have seen that at such a later time in life Romero was still interested in trying new things and commenting on society through zombies. I’ve read he changed dramatically the way he shot footage to allow for the look of the film to reflect the students just capturing things in the moment. Well that was it for the first night of BIFF 2008.

-Lloyd Marken

MY NAME IS MAURICE MICKLEWHITE, NOW THERE’S NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT KNOW THAT

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Every year the charity Lifeline has an event where they sell old books at the Brisbane Convention Centre. The Lifeline Bookfest “is the biggest fundraising event that supports the 24 hour Lifeline 13 11 14 Crisis Support Line. This life-saving service offers suicide prevention and bereavement support over the telephone as well as family and crisis support – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.” (taken from their website) I went many years ago and snapped up a few bargains and promptly they went in a cupboard and then got tucked even further away. Never read.

I had picked up a Michael Caine autobiography What’s It All About? because I knew he had served in the Korean War and had flicked through the book and noted there was something about this in there. Earlier this year I was in the process of decluttering and I got rid of some books and found the books I had bought at the Lifeline Bookfest and decided to place them in my living room and start reading them. I am touched to find scribbled on the front page a message from a Mum giving the book as a Christmas gift to her daughter in 1992. Somehow this makes me feel more privileged to have come into the possession of it since it was bought with love at some point as a nice gift. I had just gotten back into book reading thanks to my own birthday gifts The War For Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy by Bill Carter and Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman (great books by the way).

I was just about to leave for London and found in the short time I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. I took it with me on the flight over even though I only had carry on luggage and as a hardcover it took up some space. I have finished it now a while back not long after my return and thought I would share some thoughts since I believe it is one of the best books I ever read.

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It was published in 1992 with Caine well into middle age and at a reflective point in his career and life. His mother had just passed away, his career was slowing down and his youngest daughter was coming of age. From the first page as Caine described his earliest memories I was hooked but I wondered if when we got to Hollywood would the book become boring? Details of a boy growing up during the Blitz or a struggling actor making court appearances would possibly prove more interesting than having lunch with John Wayne. I needn’t have worried because Caine as a veteran raconteur always looks for the human elements in his stories. His stories of Wayne are terribly moving. Hell even Margaret Thatcher just becomes an apron draped busy body hostess, memories of unemployed miners not even mentioned. Except well they are. Because while Caine now entertains royalty and owns Rolls Royces he remains a Cockney kid with a chip on his shoulder and an actor who was on the dole at various times for 10 years. He remembers having nothing to his name and it informs the things he imparts to us. While shooting The Man Who Would Be King in Morocco he had a local driver and at the end of the shoot the locals went to the continuity girl who back then shot with a polaroid. The locals would get pictures of themselves with their employers signed and would use these to get work on the next international production to roll through their town. I don’t think other stars would think to include this in their biography close to 20 years later but Caine does and such stories are part of the reason why this bio remains entrancing. I dare not spoil all the stories here but you really must read it for yourself.

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Caine comes off looking pretty good even with his delight in bedding several girls in the 1960s and then hypocritically insisting he does not go for the kind of girls Alfie went for because they had no self-respect. We see a survivor who endured an awful lot before his big break. An ingratiating personality full of jokes and self deprecation. At another point he tells a valuable lesson given to him by a director on a film set that those with egos simply couldn’t admit to. Most of all we see a family man first and foremost who would do anything for a true friend. As he relays his new lifestyle and how much he was being taxed we understand why he left London for L.A. and why he was always destined to return. Good films and bad films are similar in that they often require leaving home for months at a time, hours on set waiting for set-ups and hanging with others at craft services. A great film will get you excited about the role and process but it’s a job like any other. As much as Caine revels in great memories of great films he did like Zulu, Alfie, The Man Who Would Be King, Sleuth, Educating Rita he also relates fond memories from films long forgotten by the public whether it be an illustrious co-star, an interesting role or an exotic locale. He makes you understand why sometimes he took the money. He once said of the truly horrible Jaws: The Revenge “I have never seen the film, but by all accounts it was terrible. However I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.” That makes sense and it makes even more sense when you read the book.

I actually wept a few times during the reading of this book as he relays deaths and close calls with loved ones. Caine effortlessly makes you laugh and makes you cry. You maybe surprised to find that Caine at one point lost his marriage, his child, his job and then his father as he approached 30 which in those days was a terrible old age to be living at home with your parents. Image result for michael caine parentsHe could not sink any lower as he stood in a hospital room watching his father die from cancer. He was handed his father’s personal effects which amounted to a few quid. His father served in the Army in the 1920s making Bombardier and being posted to India. He returned home and got a good job in the fish markets. During the war he served in Dunkirk, North Africa and Italy. He gambled though and so after a lifetime of work he had nothing to show for it. They didn’t even own the house. His son Maurice walked down the corridor out of the ward determined to make something of his life. Not everybody will be afforded his fairytale turn of events but I still think there is a lesson in this for us all and one I certainly find heartening in my current circumstances. Image result for michael caine being knightedWhen Michael Caine went to be knighted in 2000 he did so with his real name. He said at the time “I was named after my father and I was knighted in his name because I love my father. I always kept my real name – I’m a very private and family orientated person.” Maybe that is what it is all about. 

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P.S. There is a follow up book from 2010 titled The Elephant to Hollywood, another great read due to his ongoing charm and wit but not nearly as well written as this one. The follow-up feels like a journal with a lot of recaps of events from the first book but this time with more a realistic remembrance rather than the evocative memories of the first book. Maybe literature had suffered in the 18 year period but they’re both good reads and the latter has interesting stories about the making of The Quiet American and Harry Brown. Trips to India and time in Miami. Old friends getting older and his take on Australians. Apparently we have a pretty straight forward way of looking at things, one night while shooting in Australia and enjoying some mud crabs for dinner he asked his Australian waiter why such a delicious meal was given such a basic name. The waiter paused for a second and then surmised “Well I reckon it’s because that is where they’re from and that is what they are.” You can’t argue with that logic.

-Lloyd Marken

BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2007 PART III

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RESCUE DAWN: Thursday night and I went to see Rescue Dawn at Regent Cinema 3 at 7pm. I was not too familiar with the great director Werner Herzog but the idea of a German who became a pilot for the United States Navy and was shot down over Vietnam intrigued me and it starred Christian Bale coming off Batman Begins. It was a fantastic a film, a little low on budget for its flying scenes but right on the money in terms of portraying how harrowing POW camps and the jungle can be. It has a real lived in quality to what is ultimately a remarkable story. What these POWs endured was horrible and Bale is ably supported by Steve Zahn (honestly people need to give him a bigger career) and Jeremy Davies. It was noted that Herzog who made the documentary about the same subject matter Little Dieter Needs To Fly ten years earlier now had a narrative retelling that was more grounded than the documentary such was his nature. Whatever Dieter Dengler was a truly fascinating man and I was glad to watch this film.

 

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Bamako: Friday and I had to hustle from work to see Bamako at Palace Cinemas at 5:30pm. My first movie from Africa I had seen at BIFF (a co-production between Mali/France/United States) I am sorry to report I was not blown away by it. Telling the story of a court in a small village that puts on trial in a over the top manner the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. I’m sure there were interesting ideas here about modern corporate colonialism and the continued exploitation of the third world but all I can remember is a fun scene involving Danny Glover of Lethal Weapon fame. Obviously people told this story with noble intent and great passion about things that matter but my only memory is it was not a very good film. Still terrific song.

 

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Squatterpunk: I had some time to travel across to GoMA Cinema B for Squatterpunk at 9pm the same night. Whatever I thought of Squatterpunk it was an experience which we need more in art and film festivals in general. Director Khavn filmed in one day on Mini DV in black and white around the slums of Manilla a group of children. The film was silent and live in Brisbane, Khavn and his band The Brockas performed music alongside the images. There was no dialogue that I could remember and the music was loud and not always easy listening. Truly unique, raw and real. It may not have always held my interest or pleased my senses but it communicated effectively the poverty of some areas of the world and the resilience of some humans to survive in it.

The next day I volunteered my last shift for BIFF from 3pm to 1am at Regent Cinema 1. Regent Cinemas are gone now and so are my days as a BIFF Volly. They don’t even have them anymore. I know Day Watch was a film to see that night but I don’t recall taking it in or any other freebies. Maybe I wanted to just take in the moment. 2007 felt very far away from my experiences in 2004 only a short 3 years earlier. I can’t imagine the melancholy for others when BIFF went away later. I remember a gentleman who looked homeless once coming in and discussing films with someone. I saw David Stratton again and at one point William McInnes the week earlier. He was there for The Night and Unfinished Sky. I caught a glimpse of The Night‘s ending which was moving and Unfinished Sky was made by New Holland Productions who I went to once for a job interview. I did not get the job but I enjoyed the interview and was happy to see those producers enjoying success.  There was also a VIP guest from America there who I can’t remember the finer details about but I think worked on film festivals there.

The next day I came in for the break-up party for the Vollys which was to be held in the Regent bar as in 2004. Pizzas were ordered in and set up around the bar as Vollys worked the last screenings. Promptly VIPs attending the last screening in Regent 1 walked out into the bar and started tucking into the pizza. This is no fault of their own, such things could be expected from a Closing Film but the organisation of it would have been different in the past to avoid it. The scraps of pizza handed to the unpaid Vollys and tireless front of house staff for their thank you party was just one more indication that it was time to leave volunteering behind. I had seen one film Australia (from Brisbane no less!), Canada, China, France, Mali , The Philippines, Romania, Sri Lanka,  3 films from the U.S. and an Australian documentary. I had truly covered a wide spread of films from around the globe. For me the highlights were 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and Away From Her but Rescue Dawn, Bella, Waitress and The Search for Weng Weng all made an impression at the time. I hung out with the staff and my fellow Vollys. Being a small part of BIFF’s history is something I’m very grateful for and I have many fond memories. I think the staff who worked BIFF in those days really created something special I am particularly grateful to have met and worked with the fantastic front box office staff. We drank but if we went to Jimmys on the Mall this time we didn’t stay long.

The VIP from Hawaii whom I had spoken to earlier in the Festival was going to Byron Bay the next day. She was easy to talk to and a wonderful person. As everything wound down her and me ended up at the nearby Pancake Manor (an old Church me and my best friends frequented) and we talked some more. She was a little bit older than me and I don’t know if either of us did any obvious flirting but we were there talking at 2am alone. She had curly dark hair and this beautiful purple red dress kind of Grecian in design and what looked like very soft skin. I had been a skinny man who had put on some weight and she cut a very attractive figure. I carry a lot of guilt about the times I did pursue fleeting moments and maybe that is why this time I did not say anything. We had a really nice chat for hours and then I stood dutifully on the side of the road waiting for a cab with her. It could be my own warped imagination but the conversation seemed less easy at this point. There was an air of awkwardness now as if something was being left unsaid. I think when her cab came we hugged and lingered but she got in that cab and I went home. Perhaps it was for the best, very probable she was not interested…or maybe we were just two shy lonely people who had a nice night that could’ve been capped off in a pleasing way. Fortunately this was just the beginning of romance for me at BIFF. At the Brisbane International Film Festival 2008 I met my wife.

-Lloyd Marken

COVER STORY ON CHUCK NORRIS AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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Chuck Norris is coming to Supernova Comic Con & Gaming this month in Perth and Sydney and to celebrate Scenestr did a retrospective on the career of one Carlos Ray Norris. This was the Cover Story for the June edition of the Western Australian print issue and I was lucky enough to get the gig. This is my fifth cover story following on from my interviews with circus performer Jascha Boyce interview (WA DEC2017), Q&A with EDM legend Opiuo (QLD JAN2018), SNL superstar comedian Michael Che (WA FEB2018) and Adelaide Cabaret Festival Artistic Director Ali McGregor (SA MAY2018). I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have done these cover stories.

 

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There was a lot of freedom with the piece about Chuck Norris since it wasn’t a straight forward interview and he’s lived quite an interesting life. I’m really very happy with how it came together and hope you enjoy it too. You can read it here http://scenestr.com.au/lifestyle/chuck-norris-is-ready-to-roundhouse-at-supanova-sydney-perth

 

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Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr. is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Celebrating 25 years in 2018 of publishing history they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland every month. The feature on Chuck Norris is the cover story for this month’s Western Australian magazine featuring on pages 10 and 11. You can read a digital version of the printed Western Australia edition here http://scenestr.com.au/read/WA/2018/15-WA/scenestr-WA-15.html#p=11

-Lloyd Marken

BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2007 PART II

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From GOMA I went and volunteered at the Regent on Sunday evening late and then went to work the next day. The week ahead would see no let up as he had bought tickets to see at least one movie every weeknight. I was working at QUT and so found it quite easy to walk uptown to the Regent Cinemas located in the Queen St Mall. A grand cinema and for me the heart of the BIFF I remember. All lost in time but here we go with some more memories.

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Walking On The Wildside:  Monday I went to Regent 1 at 6:50pm to see from China Walking on the Wildside. There was also a short from Thailand called Graceland directed by Anocha Suwichakompong about a man meeting a mysterious woman one night in Bangkok and setting off a new journey. I can’t quite dredge up memories of it I’m afraid. Walking on the Wildside a Chinese/French co-production and shot on 35mm was made in the Shanxi province by Han Jie. It follows a gang of youths in an industrial province. Not much happens and I kind of felt the film’s lack of structure hurt it in the end because it kind of became boring. However I was seeing a part of the world I’d never seen before and watching individuals who had been raised in a different culture while reflecting some of the West’s influence as well. That is what I really enjoy about going to film festivals and so while not a particularly strong film it offered something different with its low budget verisimilitude style.

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Bella: Bella started an hour later upstairs in Regent the same night. I’ve read some bad reviews of Bella but I really was moved by it at the time and it also won People’s Choice Award at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival. I also don’t want to give away too much of the plot except to say that it follows a day in the life of two people. Jose (Eduardo Verastegui) is a beautiful man unkempt in the way that usually suggests something has hurt his spirit and now he’s just happy to work at his brother’s restaurant where there is a waitress named Nina (Tammy Blanchard)  who is dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. Written and directed by Alejandro Monteverde whose wife Ali Landry makes a small but pivotal performance too I was surprised to find that it is labelled a Christian film. Faith is certainly present and but I found it far from a religious film. These are people dealing with real struggles and yes they’re looking for answers but they find them in themselves and their choices. There is a very crucial flashback that I think says a lot. When you’re a moral person you go back when you want to leave. We find a person broken and wracked with guilt but in how he responded to his mistake reveals his future. Certainly a labour of love from all involved and a beautifully shot film and well told story.

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Away From Her: The next night I went to see Away From Her at 7pm in Regent 3 after work. My grandfather had dementia before he passed and I guess that may have informed this choice or maybe it the fact that Alison Polley who starred in Go and Dawn of the Dead was directing. Maybe I was just keen to see another Canadian film. I don’t know but it may have been the best film I saw that year. A Canadian film starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent as Fiona and Gordon. The kind of active good looking well off older couple we probably all aspire to be. Then Fiona gets diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and eventually the symptoms proliferate until she goes into a home. Then the film gets really interesting because not only is Fiona starting to treat Gordon like a stranger and crush on a male resident in the home but she also seems to be hinting at the fact that many years ago Gordon, an academic had an affair with a student. I think at this point we should commend Julie Christie on such a lengthy and stellar career. Christie bravely portrays someone with that condition but the emotional crux of the story is watching Pinsent as Gordon. It’s a slow burn of a film in the same way that the disease slowly takes everything away from a loved one. Under 30 and making her feature film debut Polley doesn’t put a foot wrong in terms of pacing and style effectively moving us to a knock out emotional finale.

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Waitress: Following in the same cinema Regent 3 at 9:20pm (yeah I got out after 11pm and went to work the next day a lot during this week) was Waitress. There was a lot of poignancy attached to the film when it screened at BIFF following Sundance. The director of the film Adrienne Shelly was murdered before it screened at Sundance, she was only 40 year old and had become a mother two years previous. Her husband has since set up the Adrienne Shelly Foundation which provides stipends, funds and scholarships to artists. Waitress is about a waitress Jenna (Keri Russell) in a diner who makes pies that are the stuff of legends. She is married to an abusive husband who is beyond pathetic when she falls pregnant. The examining Doctor is a new guy in town played by the strapping Nathan Fillion as somebody who is not very strapping. They go at it like bunnies accordingly. Maybe the film won’t hold up today but as a young man it was refreshing to see two films in one night worlds apart in tone and focus but directed by two incredibly talented women telling stories with a female eye. Shelly herself appears as a wallflower co-worker/friend as does the ever dependable Cheryl Hines on hand to get some laughs. The film made me laugh but it also made me think and it made me angry. Angry for how women can get chewed up in this world by some pretty pathetic men. I don’t think its an accident that there’s no major negative female characters in this film but then again Jenna (Keri Russell) can be pretty hard on herself enough.

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Sankara: I would have had to have left early on Wednesday to get to Regent 3 at 5pm for Sankara from Sri Lanka. Directed by Prasanna Jayakody the film is about a Buddhist monk doing some restoration work on a monastery where he is entranced by the beauty of a local woman. A lot of work went into the sounds and look of the film reflecting natural beauty and spiritual turmoil but I found it slow and too ponderous. Maybe worth a reappraisal. After watching the central female lead Sanchini Ayendra walk around in film with a natural look and simple clothes I was shocked when she stepped forward for a Q&A after the film. Decked out in a green top and white jeans with make-up she immediately looked a stunning beauty. Image result for sachini ayendraI would had no idea watching her performance in the film that she had been Miss Sri Lanka. The juxtaposition has always made me wonder about the presentation and perception of what is beauty and how we can be fooled or just be plain foolish. But then again she looks quite pretty naturally in this promotion still. Either way it was a privilege to meet a star and have her as a guest at BIFF.Image result for sachini ayendra

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4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days: Starting at 9pm I had to make my way from Regent 3 to Palace Cinemas 1 for this winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes from Romania. I’ve seen some pretty hard going films at BIFF and this was up there. Directed by Cristian Munglu and starring Anamaria Marinca in a performance for the ages. It is set in the late 1980s at the end of Communist rule when abortions are illegal. Marinca is Otilla helping a friend get one in a state that does not allow it so of course what is to be a harrowing ordeal becomes even more so. There’s not a lot more I can say by that but Otilla’s need to maintain secrecy comes at cost in a variety of fashions and shows just what strong women will endure when they are left little choice but to get on with it. One of the best but also most harrowing films I have ever seen.

-Lloyd Marken