THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2018 PART I – SPECIAL PREVIEW SCREENING OF WOMAN AT WAR REVIEW AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

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Long time readers will recall the affection I hold for my hometown film festival. We lost BIFF for a little while there 2014-2016 and I planned to write of my fond memories of it when it suddenly came back last year thanks in no small part to Palace Cinemas. Now having gone out to tender, it is back this year with a new home base at the Gallery of Modern Art and a new Artistic Director in Amanda Slack-Smith but we will always owe a debt to the Zeccolas for their part in bringing BIFF back in 2017. Palace Cinemas are not venue partners for BIFF this year instead a wide range of cinemas are involved including New Farm cinemas which held the first Brisbane Film Festival back in the 1960s.

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Seen recently at New Farm Cinemas. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Karen won tickets through local rag and BIFF Sponsor The Courier Mail to attend a special preview screening at GOMA the day before opening night. We were welcomed by the Artistic Director to watch Woman At War from Iceland. The whole event had that air of being let in on a little secret and getting a sneak peek of what was to come. The atmosphere was warm and friendly and full of mutual love for cinema. A perfect way to kick off the film festival before “kicking off” the film festival, whoever came up with the idea should pat themselves on the back.

 

You can read more of my thoughts here https://www.weekendnotes.com/woman-at-war-film-review-brisbane-international-film-festival-2018/ with a review I have had published with a new sixth publication Weekend Notes.

Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

-Lloyd Marken

 

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THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2017 PART IV

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THAT’S NOT ME: This little Australian film directed by Gregory Erdstein is the kind of little local film that can be championed by home country festivals and boost them towards international deals. One of Karen’s picks I was still happy to go along and had solid hopes. If you’re keeping score all of Karen’s choices came a cropper and mine didn’t fare much better but I picked the best film of 2017 so there’s that. Karen still stands by The Party and I still don’t think it’s that great. We saw this film at Palace Centro Cinema 7, Thursday night at 6pm 31AUG2017 and grabbed some chow from a nearby Italian restaurant after.

Co-written and co-produced by star Alice Foulcher, who plays dual roles of aspiring actress Polly and her twin Amy also an actress who gets a big break and is off to Hollywood. Specialising in the kind of awkward understated character driven humour that Ricky Gervais made an industry out of, I admired a lot in this film but can’t say I really enjoyed it. I admired the work from Foulcher and the rest of the cast, to be natural in their performances and to play their roles as imperfect humans.

I liked the low production values that still lit atmospherically backyard townhouse parties favoured by young broke artists getting older every day. I liked how it was shot in L.A. and Victoria and showed how clearly without the 35mm film lenses of my childhood Hollywood more and more is just another pretty Pacific Ocean town not too different from where I live. As a comedy though I seldom laughed and as a character piece I found it more and more challenging to get caught up in the plight of this flawed character no matter how honest and real she was written and performed.

 

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AUSTRALIA DAY: Those who follow my blog will recall I covered with some excitement getting to review this film at BIFF for Scenestr magazine. Australia Day screened at 6pm, Palace Barracks Cinema 1 Saturday 02SEP2017 with BIFF 2017 closing down the following day. It turned out to be a great way to finish off BIFF 2017 with a good local film made here in Brisbane. As “press” I got to mingle at a party beforehand and by mingle I mean stand and chat to my wife. I did notice Hornblower himself – Iaon Gruffudd was present. BIFF 1.jpgAfter the film there was a Q&A with some cast, producers and director Kriv Stenders who also made the excellent closing night film of BIFF 2017 The Go-Betweens: Right Here which I later saw at Byron Bay. Kriv Stenders is one of the great modern directors of Australian cinema and the producers were local boys, of Hoodlum Productions, who had done good and were making their first feature film. Karen and I went to Libertines again afterwards for delicious crab sliders and other favourites where I noticed them celebrating with loved ones.

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Libertines on the night of 2nd of September, 2017. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

You can read more of my recap of events here and my review of the film here but suffice to say it was a great way to end our attendance at the Brisbane International Film Festival 2017. Australia Day was a moving energetic film perhaps not subtle in its themes but I found it terribly effective and affecting. I put it in Honourable Mentions for my end of year list and I still stand by it. Getting to be on assignment for Scenestr at BIFF was a personal highlight and I was pleased everything went well.

 

All up Karen and I had seen 7 films, 2 from Asia (one animated from Japan and another from Vietnam), two films from the U.S. (one a documentary), two films from Australia and one film from Europe (in this case the U.K.) Not a bad collection and while only two really passed the grade with me they did so by a far margin. BIFF is returning in 2018 and I hope to share some memories with you about it soon. I also hope to write about my attendance at the Sydney Film Festival in 2008 at some point but we have come to the end for now of my recaps of past BIFFs. I hope you have enjoyed, I admit there is a nostalgic twinge for the ones of the previous decade that I do not get for 2017 but time moves on. You treasure memories and create new ones and I look forward to making many new BIFF ones. I will close by thanking Palace Cinemas once again for bringing back my beloved BIFF.

-Lloyd Marken

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2017 PART III

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Some films arrive at Brisbane International Film Festival having won at Cannes or made a splash at Sundance and expectations can be high. Films like Chop Shop or 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Most come with some kind of buzz or recognition but you don’t know what film you’re really going to fall in love with until you see it. That was how it was like for me and the formerly mentioned and S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine and Black Ice and The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess and Away From Her and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.

 

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IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD: Again Mike was steering me to good things with his recommendation of Japanese animated films. On a whim I choose to see a Japanese animated film that was screening at BIFF 2017. On a quiet Sunday afternoon 27AUG2017 Karen and I arrived at Palace Barracks for a 12:45pm session and I saw the best film of the year. Set before and during World War II, it followed the story of one young girl’s personal growth into a woman set against the backdrop of Japan’s transformation during those years ending with the agony of defeat and the simple need to rebuild no matter the trauma if there is to be a better tomorrow. A film that took Japan 70 years to make but it is a timely reminder of the true losers in war and the hope that comes from tomorrow. I was later lucky enough to have my review of the film published in the magazine FilmInk but I never see truly happy with the words I use to recommend it. See it for yourself.

 

CITIZEN JANE: BATTLE FOR THE CITY: Monday night after work Karen and I went to Palace Centro Cinema 7 to see the American documentary Citizen Jane: Battle for the City at 6pm. Some good documentaries have screened at BIFF and Citizen Jane had a lot to say about rising populations and the urban housing projects of yesteryear. There are many lessons that could be learnt from the showdown between activitst Jane Jacobs and urban planner Robert Moses in mid-20th Century New York that is relevant to today. Yet as the film went on I found myself asking for a different viewpoint, it seemed the film lacked any nuance or alternative argument. It wanted to celebrate Jane and belabour these foolish men who had built buildings but torn down communities. A under-resourced but indomitable spirit and intelligent mind going up against big interest groups is compelling to be sure but I couldn’t help but feel there was more to it than that. That Jane Jacobs had got it right and if not for her efforts we would have lost out more but why she had to fight, whether there were good intentions gone wrong there, what the solutions ultimately are for us now in the 21st century I felt the film could have gotten into a bit more. By not presenting somebody from the other side arguing their case you don’t really have a debate that you win. Just an echo chamber that feeds your narrative. Still maybe I was tired, I think I may have nodded off for a little and it wasn’t a bad film by an means.

 

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THE WAY STATION: Wednesday night 30AUG2017, 6pm we went to Palace Barracks Cinema 1 for The Way Station from Vietnam. Trumpeted it as a seminal moment in the history of the Vietnamese film industry it was a gala screening we attended. Directed by Hong Anh a famous actress in Vietnam it won best film, best actor and best cinematography at the ASEAN film awards. Not bad for her feature debut. It follows the story of a young man who gets work in the kitchen at a small restaurant and starts to learn the secrets of the compound he lives and works in. It was a passion project for Hong Anh and it deals with ideas of gender, sex and family. We had a Q&A afterwards with Hong Anh and 2017 Festival Co-Director Maxine Williamson and something that impressed was her discussion of how to shoot the space of the restaurant.  For me they did a great job of keeping it interesting, maintaining clear sense of geography and also bringing forth such a strong sense of place that it almost becomes another character. In some ways this a tragic story and I can’t deny that it was not one of my favourites but it was shot well, had interesting ideas and took me to another small pocket of the world I had never been in which I what I love best about the films I see at BIFF. Afterwards we came outside to eat food put on by the nearby Libertines which Karen and I both love. These included little bamboo boats with mushrooms dumplings inside them.

-Lloyd Marken

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2017 PART II

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The Brisbane International Film Festival‘s triumphant return in 2017 included many features long missed. There was a Baltic spotlight, short films, world premieres, a showcase of Masters, opening and closing night film (The Square and The Go-Betweens: Right Here which I was lucky enough to see at the Byron Bay Film Festival and placed in my Top 5 Films of last year) and a retrospective on Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev which included Return, The Banishment, Elena and Leviathan with at its centrepiece  his latest film Loveless. Buying tickets we wanted to cast a wide net and I also wanted Karen to get some picks in plus schedule around our jobs. We missed The Baltic Spotlight also in the running was Ali’s Wedding, Loving Vincent (Karen has since seen it), Maudie and Loveless (alas two Canadian films too including one directed by Bruce McDonald who did The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess from BIFF 2005), Last Men in Aleppo and Returnee from Kazakhstan (just the type of obscure foreign film that can transport you to another place on Earth at street level so to speak), Aussie flick Watch the Sunset and Karen was keen on My Year with Helen. Saw none of them but I was very grateful to be back at BIFF seeing multiple films. It perhaps should be noted that beyond the focus of a film festival most of these films missed I have not gotten around to seeing which I think there is something in that. A film festival really elevates and spotlights interesting movies.

 

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The Leviathan: Screening Sunday 20AUG2018 at 10:30am in Palace Centro Cinema 7 was this movie which I proudly chose and bought tickets to see on the big screen. But alas while going to opening night on Thursday, seeing a Chekov play Uncle Vanya for Scenestr on Friday night after work and heading along to my first Impromafia show Lord of the Thrones on Saturday night for Scenestr and writing the reviews I noted we were running late Sunday morning and decided to give it a miss. All my old BIFF traditions were in full force. I’ve heard it’s great and will be interested to hear if any of my fellow bloggers have seen it and what they think.

 

THE PARTY: This was one of Karen’s choices (although it had been on my shortlist) which we went to see late Wednesday night 23AUG2018 at The Palace Barracks Cinema 1 at 8:15pm. It was the ninth anniversary of the first date I went on with Karen. So we had dinner beforehand at Libertine restaurant which included delicious crab sliders, beef san choi bao and delicious cocktails.

The Party shot in black and white and directed by Sally Potter follows a dinner party of well to do privileged members of class celebrating the hostess Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) having ascended into the parliament ministry. Of course as the guests arrive simmering tensions come to the boil from old friends, partners and unexpected guests. Just describing it gets me all excited about the possibilities but alas I found the characters for the most part unlikeable and the comedy lacking. One of those films where people think they are cleverer and funnier than what they actually are and more is the pity given the extraordinary cast including Patricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy and Timothy Spall but there you have it. Karen on the other hand loved it so they’ve got that going for them.

 

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FUN MOM DINNER: Now to another of Karen’s choices in the form of a comedy from America starring the amazingly talented Toni Collette in what has to be arguably the worst movie I saw last year and probably one of the worst if not worst films I ever at the Brisbane International Film Festival. It was Friday 25AUG2018 at 6pm Palace Centro Cinema 7.

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After some of the renovations to Palace Centro, just in time for BIFF 2017. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Okay it’s a film about mums having a night out on the town, a more mature and nuanced attempt at the premise of Bad Moms except well that film was funnier and better. Sorry. I admire the ambition to go deeper in terms of characterisation but the film is trying to have it both way by remaining a broad comedy. Classic example, two Mums don’t like each other so they light up a joint and hilarity and reconciliation ensues. Except it doesn’t. Bridget Everett’s character ran the gamut between being obnoxiously opinionated and bossy (at both the beginning and end – did her character learn nothing during the course of the story) and honest and profound at tother times. The only shining light was Molly Shannon’s take on a older divorcee trying to find her way back to true confidence and happiness. There are good ideas but close to zero good execution. Even in the most lacklustre films I’ve seen at BIFF I”ve been able to defend the ambition and lack of funds of new filmmakers, originality of ideas, the transformative ability of taking me to another culture and landscape. Maybe I’m harsher on Fun Mom Dinner because it takes me to California, had the benefit of some money and is totally unoriginal but when I think of the worst film I saw last year this always comes to mind. Bad Mommy, Bad Mommy and not in a fun way.

-Lloyd Marken

 

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2017 OPENING NIGHT

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It was Karen who texted me that BIFF had ceased to exist years ago and it was Karen who texted me that BIFF was back on last year. It kind of struck at the right time and enthused to show what support I could, Karen and I bought a few tickets and I finally went to the Opening Night of the Brisbane International Film Festival. Palace Cinemas came on board as major partner of the Brisbane International Film Festival 2017 effectively making it possible and making it happen in short turnaround. In some circles this has been criticised for compromising smaller community led events with commercialisation. As cinemagoing dwindles in Australia and other countries, film festivals have remained lucrative and seen an increase in numbers.

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At Palace Barracks early for Opening Night. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Palace cinemas has been at the forefront of this.  I’m of two minds when it comes to this but for me it really boils down to the fact that without Palace cinemas we may not have seen the return of BIFF at all. On opening night at BIFF 2017, Antonio Zeccola was thanked and given credit for making the return of BIFF possible. It made me feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to thank his son Benjamin, CEO of Palace Cinemas, earlier for the return of BIFF. This is personal for me having been a long time attendee and former volly and while I would not want it to be not without business considerations and ambitions for the Zeccolas but I feel that it is personal for them too. They are business people yes but they have made their business cinema and it appears that has been borne out of their ongoing love for the art form.

The 23rd Brisbane International Film Festival ran from the 17th August to the 3rd of September (moving it back closer to the time of year it used to run) showcasing over 60 films from Australia and the rest of the world. There were the two  venues of Palace Barracks and Palace Centro. There were no volunteers and the staff listing was significantly smaller than the years I was a volly. This was seen as a re-launch and a testing of the viability of BIFF. As much as things had changed though, as much as my heart aches at fond memories of the Regent and my twenty something self racing around excitedly, BIFF 2017 was a wonderful experience for me and proof that we turn over to new pages and begin anew.

 

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THE SQUARE: Opening night I came from work to meet Karen and her best friend Erin to watch The Square. Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes earlier that year I was more entranced with the film than the girls. Directed by Ruben Ostlund it tells the story of a museum curator who gets caught up in a series of escalating situations. Pointing a finger at the contradictions of art, wealth, altruism and gender tropes I found it riveting although the conclusion was underwhelming for me.

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The thoroughfare after the screening. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

The thoroughfare where years earlier we had eaten at the Gala screening for Copacabana in 2010 was now jumping with people again. There was champagne when we arrived and later when we came out there was a board of donuts hanging on pegs. Appearing like an art installation several minutes passed before some brave soul grabbed one off a peg and chomped it down but once that happened people quickly got the idea. Delicious.

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Karen with a doughnut. We may or may not have had more than one each. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

There was a bath tub with glitter balls in the middle of the thoroughfare and a dancer inside a bubble. From the official website there is a picture of me grabbing something delicious.

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Courtesy of BIFF 2017 website.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

I went upstairs and stood in line for a caricature portrait. As I was sketched I talked to my renderer about the struggle to be an artist and pursue that in a way to make a living out of it. It was a really good conversation and I was well pleased when he handed me a very handsome looking portrait. Karen and Erin though criticised it for not looking like me at all. Given the handsome visage I saw before me I was not pleased with this response. I ask you to be the judge.

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Walking around I saw what appeared to be a few familiar faces from BIFFs gone by that I was happy to see there. Time marches on, things change but BIFF was finally back and I couldn’t be happier.

-Lloyd Marken

 

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Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2010 and THE LOST YEARS

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I didn’t go to BIFF in 2009, I had started a new relationship and a new second part time job and so that was that. During decluttering I found a program for BIFF 2010 which featured Jucy, the next film from All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane director Louise Alston but that was for a gala screening and I remember Karen and I went and saw the film at a normal screening so it must have been just after BIFF. BIFF 2010 was significant for a number of reasons far more momentous than whether I attended or not.

First of all Artistic Director Anne Demy Geroe who had been there since the first BIFF in 1991 stepped down at the beginning of 2010 to pursue a PhD in Iranian cinema at the University of Queensland, she now teaches at Griffith University various film classes. As a volunteer I had very little to do with Dr Gemy-Deroe or Ms as she was then but its undeniable the impact that her imprint on what BIFF was and is cannot be measured. BIFF suffered following her tenure and I noticed her last year in attendance at BIFF 2017 on opening night. It was good to see her there, it just wouldn’t be BIFF if she wasn’t there.

Other changes were in store in 2010, the festival moved from late July/early August to November and the Regent cinemas were no longer around so BIFF screened at Palace Centro and the new Palace Barracks cinemas and the Tribal Theatre over on George Street. When I was a young man, Tribal Theatre was owned by Dendy cinema but had come under new management. The Tribal Theatre actually had a long history of being a place to go for alternative cinema for Brisbanites but whatever plans the owners had, the Tribal Theatre is no longer with us. I have fond memories of Napoleon Dynamite, Bowling for Columbine and other films when it was Dendy and of seeing films for BIFF in 2010 year at Tribal. The Regent Cinemas I was even more sad to see go, in 2009 I signed a petition for them to be kept but petitions don’t always work. Money talks but here is but a reminder of what was lost albeit the grand foyer remains.

 

The 19th Brisbane International Film Festival ran from the 4th to the 14th of November 2010 and featured 101 features and 51 shorts. Significantly down from say the 2005 program but still larger than the return of 2017. Some of the language in the program reflects changing times urging people to surrender their small screens and think big while also stressing that BIFF was going digital. Following earlier artistically vague and thematic posters from the past here there was a more direct reference to the Brisbane CBD and classic mainstream cinema. For the record the Opening Night film was Cane Toads: The Conquest and Closing Night film was Reign of Assassins starring Michelle Yeoh and as usual I attended neither. There were a lot of great things happening at BIFF 2010, a writer’s room showcase, a dive-in cinema showing Jaws and Deep Blue Sea over at Splash Leisure Fitness Centre, Monsters, The Room, The Dark Crystal, Winter’s Bone, a tribute to Jack Cardiff (I really wanted to see The Red Shoes), Lebanon. I would have loved to have seen those but there were four films we saw and they were as follows.

 

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COPACABANA: My first Gala screening at BIFF and my first screening at BIFF at Palace Barracks took place on Friday 12NOV2010 at 6:30pm. I went and saw the film with a group of friends including Karen and Karen B. Telling the story of a mother and daughter it starred the esteemed Isabelle Huppert as a free spirit who seeks to change her ways when she realises her daughter is so embarrassed by her – she has not invited her own mother to her wedding. Very French and very charming we all enjoyed the film. Standing outside on the walkway outside the cinema after the film it seemed to take forever until the food arrived and was carried around by staff on platters as we all sought to grab some and fill our bellies while also grabbing a glass of something. Eventually those small tasty morsels add up and we were close to full. Most of my screenings at BIFF were solitary experiences maybe with one other person. I note that here I was with a group, an experience that has been repeated at the Alliance Francois French Film Festival and the Italian Film Festival but not often at BIFF. Although I’ve never gone to a screening alone since 2008 and this would start with BIFF 2010. I also saw Andre again who had made his first feature.

 

RESTREPO: Karen and I saw this American documentary the next day at Palace Barracks 2, Saturday 4pm 13NOV2018. Sebastian Junger and the late Tim Hetherington made the film while embedded with a platoon from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in the Korengal Valley for a year. The war in Afghanistan was ongoing at the time and Australian casualties were seeing a sharp rise. Film Festivals can’t help but reflect what is going on in culture at the time. Restrepo was an outpost named after Private First Class Juan Sebastian Restrepo a platoon medic who was killed. While the Korengal Valley was one of the hotspots of the war at the time the film footage reflects the confusion and fast movements of combat. The enemy is seldom seen and its hard to always know what is going on. A lot of action involves indiscriminate sudden rounds coming in and the outpost responding in kind but never really knowing the result. Afghan civilians and attempts to build things with them are shown too but there’s a definitely a feeling of disconnect. For the soldiers it boils down to missing home and girls and just trying to get by day by day. The most haunting part comes during Operation Rock Avalanche where in the heat of battle a soldier finds one of his friends mortally wounded and breaks down sobbing and wailing like a little boy. The striking reality of combat for all to see. An important film that should be seen by many.

 

I LOVE YO PHILLIP MORRIS: From Restrepo we headed to Palace Centro 1&2? (seriously the program says both) at 9pm Saturday 13NOV2018 to watch this French/U.S. co-production which sports one of the best Jim Carrey performances and some of Ewan McGregor’s more admirable work of recent years. Carrey plays a gay conman and McGregor his true love whom he met in prison. Even these handful of years earlier it was seen as unusual for two mainstream stars to be playing gay men whereas now we might complain if the roles weren’t cast with gay actors. I found their love scenes authentic and moving, the relationship is sweet and non-explicit anyway. Carrey delivers a great performance nonchalantly narrating throughout some classic lines but also evoking a real sense of hurt and longing near the end. Based on the life of Steven Jay Russell it is an affecting character study but there is not much else to it. We’re sad the two men are apart, we marvel at some of Carrey’s antics but in the end a criminal is in jail for ripping people off. What drives someone to do that? The film offers no answers.

 

JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK: It’s hard to pick a favourite from the films I saw at BIFF 2010 but it may just be this film which we saw at Tribal Theatre 2 on Sunday 14NOV2010 at 4pm. I didn’t know a lot about Joan Rivers before watching this except for some plastic surgery jokes. What I found was a comedian whose humour I admired. An example is how clearly the pain her husband’s suicide caused her and the jokes  she relentlessly she brought to bear about it at her own expense to win you you over by sheer willpower. Whether you like her comedy or not this is a stirring examination of a late in life comedian’s unwavering work ethic and a fantastic pondering of what makes somebody like that tick. One of my favourite later Roger Ebert reviews is about this film and David Letterman I feel spoke so eloquently about the appeal of Rivers upon her passing in the clip below.

 

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MELANCHOLIA: I got married in 2011 and would not be surprised if we didn’t attend BIFF that year but its possible we saw Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia at Palace Centro as part of BIFF. This was BIFF’s 20th Anniversary so it’s nice to think I was there. Maybe it was later when the film received national release. New to Lars Von Trier’s style I found the story of a woman (Kirsten Dunst in an exceptional and difficult performance) seeing the impending doom of the Earth haunting and thought provoking. I saw it with Karen and our friends Rosie and Sandro who I wrote about a hike we took together here Sandro was a man’s man but also very kind and respectful at all times. I miss him. BIFF increased it’s slate of films and partnerships in 2011 and saw an increase in attendance and box office. Then there was a change of government.

 

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THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY: In 2012 funds were tight but when I saw The Good, The Bad and The Ugly would be screening on a big screen at BIFF, we found a way and saw it at Palace Centro cinemas. There’s not a lot more I can add about that classic except if you haven’t you really should. At the time Sergio Leone’s westerns with their sweaty faced protagonists seemed like a like a new type of realism in the 1960s. Now with the anti-hero firmly established in popular culture, the mythic qualities of the storyteller get more recognition. It’s hard to argue he made a better film than this one but Once Upon A Time In The West makes a good case. The later film about the West giving way to modern society and with it the men who populated it. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly capping off a trilogy of bandits and mercenaries is meditative about violence and death with the American Civil War serving as a backdrop. A transformative score from Ennio Morricone and great performances from Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach.

I didn’t go to BIFF In 2013 even though money may have been less of an issue but the part time job did take up a lot of my time and energy. As it turned out this was the last Brisbane International Film Festival for some time. The Qld State Government cut funding through their organisation the Pacific Film & Television Commission (now Screen Queensland) which was mainly responsible for BIFF and in corralling several corporate sponsors. The Brisbane City Council stepped in and created the Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival and a group of academics got together and created the Queensland Film Festival which is still going. This is very admirable but I’m afraid I attended neither, in the case of the former I was livid that BIFF had been stopped and effectively replaced by BAPFF. As late as mid-2017 I drew plans to write these series of posts to start an underground movement (not really?) to call for BIFF to be brought back and then a strange thing happened. They brought back BIFF. To be continued.

-Lloyd Marken

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BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2008 PART V

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When I planned what I was going to see at BIFF 2008 I intended to go to a seminar and ten years later I can’t be certain but I think it was DIY- Distribution: Maximise Your Chances of Festival Success! on Saturday 9 August at GoMA Cinema B. It’s possible burnt out and tired I didn’t go. It’s possible I arrived late. It’s possible I went and it was great. So I’m putting it here. These are all about memories, sliding too much into a journal of free flowing thoughts and feelings. Hardly prose for public consumption but you have kindly indulged me and I guess even these confused meanderings are something taken on the record now before they become more faded.

The idea of this series though is not supposed to be about self musing besides a little light nostalgic fondling. It’s about a Film Festival in my home town that was so special to have and to celebrate whatever memories I have. To make a case for why these film festivals are important for creating communities of like minded patrons but also dreamers and makers who have a platform to be inspired by or even to showcase their work. I hoped to show that by saying how good it was to be a Volly, to showcase local filmmakers getting a big launch for their debut and to point out all these films I saw that I would’ve skipped past on the shelf at my local video store or now streaming content displayed on my screen. Ask around, see how many people have seen Hunger even if they’ve seen Shame or 12 Years A Slave? Ask if they’ve seen a film from India or Romania in the past year or even 10? The only Romanian film I’ve seen I saw at BIFF 2007 and it was amazing! Even average films took me to the Chinese countryside or Korean cities or Mali courtrooms. The great ones made me reconsider my life and our place in the world.

When I set out to write this series BIFF was gone, which we’ll get to shortly, and then in 2017 it came back and I want to celebrate it and bring new fans in and make others appreciate their own local film festivals or get involved in organisations that create similar opportunities where they live. Let me know if I’m doing that even a little and no…I still can’t be sure if I went to the seminar but I’m glad there was one.

 

IRMA VEP: If I did go to the seminar then the next thing I went to Saturday 09AUG2008 was Irma Vep as part of the Olivier Assayas program at Palace Centro 1 at 4:20pm. I went and saw this with my friend, work colleague and pimp Karen B who kindly set up me to meet her friend Karen earlier that week. I’m sad to report that I remember a lot about Irma Vep but not much of the plot. It was an interesting film about film making and featured Maggie Cheung in a very engaging performance and a tight black leather costume at times which I suspect was part of the reason why I was happy to see it. I can’t speak for Karen.

 

THREE BLIND MICE: Finally we get to the final day of BIFF 2008. I went and saw Three Blind Mice at Palace Centro 1 with my sister Nadia at 2:30pm. A film I’d been interested in but missed at the 2008 Sydney Film Festival, it was a great movie and solid directorial debut from actor Matthew Newton. It centres on three Royal Australian Navy officers (Ewen Leslie, Toby Schmitz, Newton) spending their last night of freedom in the city of Sydney before reporting for duty at their ship the next day. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the film and I don’t know how accurate it would come across to me now with military details but it is more and more a relevant subject matter. The men are shipping out for the Middle East yes but this is not about one last grab for freedom before the gloom of war. One of these men is haunted already and there is a tension between the three bubbling away. This is not a film about combat but about abuse. Abuse by those in positions of power and authority. That happens in the military as it happens in every part of society but it is particularly painful when considering that those who are abused are usually some of the most idealistic, patriotic, loyal and selfless people we are lucky to have put up their hands to possibly face death on our behalf. Newton was available in a Q&A afterwards with other cast members and spoke about how he couldn’t think of anything more horrible then being away on a boat surrounded by ocean and trapped with someone doing the wrong thing.

The film effectively conveys this central theme while also being a healthy exploration of masculinity within a humorous night on the town story as well. A top notch cast of Australian talent including Pia Miranda, Brendan Cowell, Alex Dimitriades, Marcus Graham, Bob Franklin, Gracie Otto, Barry Otto, Jacki Weaver and Bud Tingwell. Shot on Digibeta too the film has that nice edge of verisimilitude while also capturing Sydney at night in a beautiful way.

S/W Ver: 99.31.08R

Matt Newton at the Q&A for Three Blind Mice. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

Newton is the son of Australian television and entertainment royalty Bert and Patti Newton and was already flying high following films like Looking for Alibrandi. His partner Gracie Otto was there at the Q&A having edited Matt’s writing/directing effort and co-starred. Matt was a charming and thoughtful speaker about his film and his cast. There’s no denying his talent…So I don’t know if its ironic or not to add that a man who made a strong film about bullying and the pain it causes had several incidents of assault first reported with his long time girlfriend Brooke Satchwell in 2006, later with girlfriend Rachael Taylor (her work in Jessica Jones must be informed by her experiences) in 2010 and hotel staff and police. Newton was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and checked into rehab. I wish him the best but I’m glad to see the strong women he hurt have survived and flourished with their careers and lives in the after mark of what would have been very painful incidents. I like Three Blind Mice and I don’t pretend to know everything about anybody but I just thought I should let you know these things when considering whether you want to see the film.

 

Image result for boarding gate filmBOARDING GATE: After the Q&A for Three Blind Mice I went outside and said goodbye to my sister before meeting up with Brian to watch Boarding Gate kicking off at 5:10pm back inside Palace Centro 1. Boarding Gate starred Asia Argento who I knew from XXX and who was actually a real life hero by then even if the rest of the world didn’t know it for years yet. The French film directed by Olivier Assayas started Argento as a former hooker meeting up with ex-boss and lover played by Michael Madsen. Argento gave it all her and there was some great location shooting in Paris and Hong Kong but I’m not sure if I can tell it was a great film or even what I recall happened in the end. Brian did notice thought that Madsen in one scene cleared all contents off a table surface just like he did in Thelma and Louise suggesting it was a go to move of his. Certainly Madsen’s scenes stayed in my memory and seemed to have given the film some electricity.

 

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WHAT WE DO IS SECRET: The last film I saw at BIFF 2008 was What We Do Is Secret at Palace Centro 2 at 8:40pm. I think Brian and I grabbed a bite to eat beforehand. There were always a section of films/docos related to music in every BIFF program and I always wanted to go see one of those and so I managed in 2008. What We Do Is Secret directed by Rodger Grossman is about the late 1970s LA punk scene, about The Germs and about their lead singer the late Darby Crash. If you know about one of those 3 three things or are a fan of them there should be something in this film for you. For me there was not any of those things but I was impressed by Shane West’s performance as Crash having seen him previously on the show Once & Again.

I saw 21 films at the 17th Brisbane International Film Festival and one seminar or at least watched whole 20 films and maybe went to a seminar. Of the 20 films I stayed awake for there was Hunger (U.K.), The Battle of Algiers (Algeria/Italy), Alvin Purple (Australia), Diary of the Dead (U.S.), Late August, Early September (France), Cargo 200 (Russia), Four Women (India), The Man From Hong Kong (Australia/Hong Kong), Small Gods (Belgium), Wendy and Lucy (U.S.), Chop Shop (U.S.), Katyn (Poland), Raja 1918 (Finland), Stone (Australia), The Visitor (U.S.), Black Ice (Finland/Germany), Irma Vep (France), Three Blind Mice (Australia), Boarding Gate (France), What We Do Is Secret (U.S.) and quite a few short films screening in there as well with some features. That was 1 film from Africa, 2 films from Asia, 4 films from Australia (including 3 Ozploitation classics), 5 films from America and 10 films from Europe (3 of them directed by Olivier Assayas).

Never again would I see so many films in such a short span of time, I like to think when I retire I’d like to do it but getting to retirement and having that kind of cash in it seem very unlikely these days. It was an indulgence and you’re lucky if you get one in a lifetime. I still saw front of house staff and talked briefly with Andre about how I had been a gopher on a B-grade action flick shot on the Gold Coast the previous year. He was looking to make his own movie and I kindly came into possession of the BIFF booklet that have been featured at the beginning of these BIFF 2008 posts. BIFF 2008 was jam packed full of great films and memories but the stand out was meeting a beautiful girl on the steps of Palace Centro.

-Lloyd Marken