IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD REVIEW AVAILABLE AT FILMINK

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We’re getting towards the end of year and people start to reflect on what their best films of the year have been. I’ll probably do a list in March next year when all the Oscar releases have come out in Australia. Three though are already on the list as a given and they are Dunkirk and Blade Runner: 2049. The third was a film we saw in September at the Brisbane International Film Festival from Japan called In This Corner Of The World. An animated film about the war years in the Japanese homeland it is a moving tale about the growth of young woman amidst such turmoil. The Australian release date 7th of December coincides with the remembrance of the bombing of Pearl Harbour which would have been an oversight if it had been the U.S. release date but that was the 11th of August and the film has already been seen in most parts of the world. Now it will be Australia’s turn and I highly urge people to seek it out.

You can read my review of the film here https://filmink.com.au/reviews/in-this-corner-of-the-world/ Please feel free to like or share via social media platforms or comment on review page itself or here if you prefer. Appreciate you taking the time to read.

I don’t think it is my best review but I have been lucky enough to have it published at a new publication FilmInk. FilmInk are celebrating their 20th Anniversary this year having gone through several evolutions starting out as a fortnightly free press to a monthly digest sold in newsagents to a monthly free press distributed in cinemas to a premium bimonthly magazine and now Australia’s premiere online magazine. They’re continuing to evolve too moving to cover more streaming and television programs and increase their video content. They are major partners with the Gold Coast Film Festival and the Supernova Pop Culture Expos. As someone who still has quite a few old issues of the magazine that I bought over the years it is quite a thrill to now say I contributed a review to FilmInk.

-Lloyd Marken

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BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2005 PART III

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Here we are back again to look at the history of the Brisbane International Film Festival. By the way just look at that poster above, one of my favourite BIFF posters although as some of my fellow BIFF vollys pointed out what was happening in the picture? Was the poor girl drowning, was that the symbol of our film festival?! Never the less I think it’s gorgeous and a print of it appeared on all our Volly T-shirts of which I still have mine. The 17th BIFF, the third I attended and second I volunteered at had a strong line-up of road movies of which I took full advantage of and shifted a lot of screenings to South Bank Cinemas. At it I saw 18 films apparently, from India, Israel Austria, the U.S.A., Australia, and kicked off a deep affection for Canadian cinema with The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess and Phil The Alien.

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BACKROADS: Saturday the 6th of August I was back in Regent Cinema 1 to see the Australian classic Backroads in Regent Cinema 1 at 5:50pm. There was short film called Yella Fella which I saw at least bits of beforehand. It was about the life of mixed race actor Tommy Lewis (star of The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith) who grew up not feeling part of either community at times. Backroads itself only runs 60minutes and was shot in 16mm back in 1977 featuring the debut of director Phillip Noyce who had some great movies during his career effortlessly gliding between Hollywood blockbusters and films of substance. A first rate storyteller. Backroads starred the great Bill Hunter and Gary Foley who drive around NSW on a bit of a crime spree. These men are not friends, they’re brought together by circumstances, by today’s standards Bill Hunter’s Jack is racist and even by the standards is openly confrontational with Gary Foley’s Gary. Yet through these lack of political correctness and open disrespect comes direct dialogue where opinions are put forward and explained why by the character’s own experiences. Both men begin to view the other in a different light and Jack’s confused feelings about race and beliefs begin to be challenged. I found the film excellent and revealed Noyce’s talent at making exciting action but thoughtful ideas existed right from the beginning of his career.

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HOTEL: I can’t tell if I saw Backroads as Volly or a paying customer but I assure you I saw Hotel a horror film from Austria/Germany in Regent Cinema 1 at 9:40pm with the privileges of being a Volly. A slow burn of horror film, there’s no gore and no threat really every sighted. We’re left to wonder what happens, directed by Jessica Hausner, this is all about mood and atmosphere. I really enjoyed it but barely remember much all this time later including whether I snoozed a little near the end.

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UP AND DOWN: There was a screening of this film (a co-production of the Czech Republic and Australia), at 03AUG2005 at 7:25pm in Regent Cinema 3 but I believe I saw it Sunday the 7th of August, 2005 at 2pm in South Bank Cinema 4. Wow time really does fade the memory, I barely remember much about Up and Down except that it was a really good movie. Reading through my BIFF booklet somethings come back, a couple who adopt a child sold to them by people traffickers, a son returning to Europe from his utopian Australia. The last bit was particularly ironic. You see the child is ‘brown’ and the husband does not want to keep it as a result but his wife who can’t have children feels very differently. There’s various races represented by the characters and the racial tensions that were already smouldering in Europe at the time. Of course while the film doesn’t present this, these are similar issues facing Australia as well. The film caps off a trilogy started with Divided We Fall and Pupendo from writer/director Jan Hrebejk and co-writer Petr Jarchovsky. Of course I don’t have answers for these complex questions. Up and Down doesn’t really either but its a timely reminder that we’re all human, we’re all looking for a better life for our families and there will be predators exploiting that need. Since Up and Down the growing threat of domestic terrorism has only expanded. If we close our borders and our hearts the monsters who drive cars into people, behead British soldiers and set off bombs in Paris will win. On the other hand we can’t idly by and not react. Up and Down is a reminder that most immigrants only make a nation richer, to recognise our common humanity, to remain hopeful for the future and to never let racism thrive no matter the circumstances. In that way Up and Down only gets more timely.

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WALL: Screening on Sunday 07AUG2005 in Regent Cinema 3 at 7:30pm was Wall from Israel and France directed by Simone Bitton. Pretty sure I came over from South Bank to the Regent to catch this. May have snoozed but this followed on from the previous film in terms of how we shut ourselves out to be safe but that doesn’t necessarily make it so. An interesting film I may have been guilty of snoozing a tad through this, it seems to happen more in the sessions I get into as a Volly rather than a paying customer, coincidence? Images of Israel and Palestine have haunted me from this film ever since. The question of how we can hate ourselves so much and how can we come to peace with each other is at the heart of similar war torn territories from the Sudan to Northern Ireland to the former Yugoslav to the Middle East. I hope we find the answers one day.

ROADGAMES: Was the last film I saw at BIFF 2005 and the last film I saw from the Blacktop Dreams program. An Australian film made in 1981 it screened Sunday 07AUG2005 at South Bank Cinema 4 at 9:20pm. The landscape of the time was fascinating, Road Games was the most expensive Australian film ever made at the time and the Australian film industry was at the height of its powers. A mish mash of tributes to the style of Alfred Hitchcock and 1970s Australian road movies and starring the Scream Queen herself Jaimie Lee Curtis it had dated very badly by 2005. Stacy Keach’s humour didn’t stand up and while he was a likeable enough lead I can’t help but wonder what could have been if original choice Sean Connery hadn’t been so expensive. Still the visuals are great and there’s some neat stuff. Quentin Tarantino says its one of his favourite movies, that’s great Quentin…I’m happy for you. I remember leaving late after the screening with one of the front house staff. I never really saw myself as very useful so I always tried to make up for it with an enthusiasm to help where I could. I hope I did.

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THELMA AND LOUISE: There is one more film to cover that I saw at BIFF 2005. I can’t tell you when I saw it, it was part of the free screenings at the Suncorp Piazza but obviously not CineSparks. These included the Max Max trilogy and many others so as you can see there were many road movies at BIFF 2005 that weren’t part of the Blacktop Dreams program which makes sense. Most of the films in that program were rare hard to find titles whereas the free screenings at the Suncorp Piazzi mostly included titles people had seen several times and possibly owned in their home collection. I chose to see Thelma and Louise for two simple reasons. It is my favourite film and I wanted to see it with a live audience and see how they reacted. So on a cold evening I think during the week I sat on the aluminium seats and watched up on a relatively big screen Thelma and Louise. I can’t say enough things about this film, once somebody seemed surprised that it was my favourite film as a man. I don’t identify as a feminist and but I think it is certainly a great feminist film. It rails against all the hypocrisies of our society and the way it treats women. It takes a classic male story of rebellion and freedom and gives it to these women. If you ever had the special edition of the DVDs I highly recommend for the commentaries from stars Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, write Callie Khouri and director Ridley Scott. Scott who hails from Great Britain and is a master visualist captured what was so beguiling about the idea of the American open road. Most of the film was shot outside LA in regional California with some in Utah. When a helicopter flies through smoke swirling everything in its rotor wash everybody understands how Scott makes things look better. Yet  take for example a diner scene with Sarandon and Michael Madsen. The next scene is the same diner table with Davis walking in as Madsen leaves. One is shot closer with more intimate lighting. You won’t notice the difference until its pointed out to you and yet it evokes different moods. Its these subtleties that I don’t think Scott gets recognised enough for. Sarandon and Davis start out as two women wearing make-up and sunglasses. As the film goes on they get wilder, more boyish in their clothing, more natural and yes more beautiful. We’ve talked about car chases a bit with BIFF 2005, Thelma and Louise has one of the best car chases of all time that I don’t think gets celebrated enough.

That’s Davis sitting next to the stunt driver as they plough through the fence. But to get back to why it appeals to me? Because its about hitting the open road, its about not taking shit from anybody anymore, its about empowerment. I spoke to author and BIFF 2005 guest Jack Sargeant who had written quite a lot about road movies at the break-up party. I asked him what he thought of Thelma and Louise and he said he liked it but he didn’t think it was fair that Thelma and Louise paid for it in the end. I knew Ridley Scott’s intention was to make them mythic legends but I think Sargeant has a point. I’d be interested to know what Callie Khouri’s intention was with the ending. Hopefully one day soon I’ll write more about my favourite movie.

The next day was the last day at BIFF and true to tradition I did not work as a Volly but did attend the Volly party. The closing night film was The Jacket starring Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley.  We had the break-up at some pub at South Bank reflecting our move away from the Regent. I had spent some hours up in the foyer outside South Bank Cinema 3 and 4. I got out a mop and bucket and wiped the floor in between sessions because I could feel the stickiness of dried soft drink on the bottom of my shoes. I had gotten to hand with more of the front of house staff. One of the twins went to a café with me and got me to drink chinoto for the first time with coffee. Having a sweet tooth I was not a convert but I was surprised to find he didn’t care for Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and was fascinated by his reasons. I hung out with Andre again and met his wife. There was a Volly from Norway who’s name I can’t remember but who was just the nicest guy who everybody fell in love with. Maybe I did work, I remember carrying an amplifier up to the top of that pub in preparation for the party. I asked the Executive Manager again if he felt BIFF had been successful and why. I had applied for a job with BIFF that year and so now knew the likelihood of that happening was minimal. I started to think of going back to uni to become a teacher rather that save up and travel to Canada. Looking back I really wish I had gone to Canada you make choices and these our the paths we take. BIFF 2005 was the best year I had at BIFF, BIFF 2004 will always hold a special place in my heart but this was it and I’m very grateful for these memories.

Today is Remembrance Day here in Australia, I would like to acknowledge all those who have sacrificed so much in war including those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Lest We Forget.

-Lloyd Marken

THOR: RAGNAROCKS BUT PLEASE NO THOR 4

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Taika Waititi did the impossible and got us excited about a Thor Movie. How he did it is pretty simple, he got us excited about Taika Waititi movies and just happened to be directing a Thor movie as well. The trailer promised a rocking soundtrack, gaudy colours that evoked memories of Flash Gordon and a comic tone that would lampoon previous entries. The film delivers on all the marketing in that regard, Thor: Ragnarok has laughs and spectacle as promised but it is missing one key ingredient that previous Waititi films has possessed and where the similarly styled Guardians of the Galaxy films have also shared and that is one of emotion.

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There are massive stakes in this film for Thor regarding his family, his homelands and his friends. You won’t see him shed a tear which is fair enough, maybe that’s not true to his character (by the way what is his character? a smart arse Prince who has matured? after five films I’m honestly not sure) but while throughout he continually references having to get back to Asgard to save his people we honestly don’t feel his connection to them. We don’t really know who they are. It feels almost like two films are running at once, Thor on another planet trying to get back and playing out a fun movie with characters for the most part unrelated to Asgard. Idris Elba as Heimdall on the other hand is engaged in helping the Asgardians and what is happening back home. The film never makes an attempt even a heavy handed one to draw that connection. Adding to that is a cut away to a joke at various times when the impact of a moment could be felt instead. In Hunt For The Wilderpeople we felt loss more keenly there of loved ones and the displacement of home. These themes are present in Thor: Ragnarok but are not nearly as well covered. In that film too things were not glossed over either, if a man had been homeless all his life he could learn to love again but not necessarily be a responsible guardian.

 

So what does the movie get right? First off the opening scene sets the tone with a big battle, some unexpected humour and the use of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song which featured in the teaser trailer. Brushing over some plot elements not shown in marketing  Thor finds himself on a planet named Sakaar trying to get back to Asgard. He is imprisoned and forced to fight in gladiatorial contests. It might have been great to leave somebody he fights as a surprise but we all know what kind of world we’re living in. Keeping that secret would have been impossible and just dumb given how much of an impact it could play in marketing but in a different world that is definitely how you would ideally play it. Speaking of The Hulk, having not reverted back to Banner for some time he is a newly developed character capable of doing good but behaving at times like a sulky toddler. One scene with him and Thor is one of the stronger character beats for both. Other characters include Jeff Goldblum being Jeff Goldblum (that’s not a bad thing), Tessa Thompson as former warrior Valkyrie now a mercenary and Cate Blanchett as new big bad Hela. Blanchett is having the time of her life strutting around confidently as a demi-God with serious betrayal issues and looking damn fine in her skin tight costume. She’s the most powerful character in the film surrounded by men trying to take her down a peg or too constantly. Subtext abounds not least of which when she delights in bossing around macho Karl Urban. Related imageThe pain of Valkyrie and Hela are not undermined by immediately following with a joke and I wish we could have seen some of that given to Thor’s trials and resolving of his relationship with Loki. Still if it is laughs you want this film has them and Waititi himself plays rock monster Korg who gets some of the best laughs. Having this special brand of New Zealand humour present on such a massively global blockbuster must be a real thrill for Kiwis and as an Aussie I certainly enjoyed it.

Maybe I’m getting old but like a lot of blockbusters of late I didn’t care for the ramped up CGI-athon third act finale. The spectacle didn’t engage in the same way say the ending of The Avengers did. Some critics believe the meta-humour and need for a laugh undermines the drama of the Guardians of the Galaxy films but I cried during the sequel as well as laughed. I regret to inform you in Thor: Ragnarok I just laughed. Yet its good to see Marvel taking chances and this is an enjoyably light diversion in this ongoing cinematic universe.

-Lloyd Marken

 

P.S. There was a Museum Exhibition in my hometown a little while back which I hope to do a post of soon. For now here’s a sneak peak of some items you may recognise from the film Thor: Ragnarok.

BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2005 PART II

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And we’re back talking about the Brisbane International Film Festival, the first post about BIFF clocked in 2,988 words, the first about BIFF 2005 at 2,305 words so it may relieve some viewers to know this is razor thing at 1631 words. Recaps on BIFF 2007 and BIFF 2008 will most likely be split into parts too. We’ll see about BIFF 2017.

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P.S.: My first showcase screening was for the movie P.S. starring Laura Linney on Tuesday, the 2nd of August 2005. It was screened in the old IMAX screen South Bank Cinema 5 which was massive. I don’t know if any change was made to the projection of the 35mm film but it was big cinema with a big crowd for such a character based movie, another benefit of early screening at festivals. I was a big fan of the leads Linney and Topher Grace and liked the idea of the story, a university administrator who finds herself falling for a younger man who reminds her of a long lost love from when she was about that age. I’ll admit how cool she looked in the above picture rocking that shawl got me interested in seeing it too. How you perceive films changes over time, I of course saw things from the perspective of the young male who would be perfectly happy to bone someone as beautiful as Laura Linney. As I get older I understand the trepidation of doing such a thing with a much younger person. Yet perhaps I’ve always been an old soul, Linney’s character is full of regrets and anger about how life can turn out and that was something I was only too keenly in touch with at only 24 going on 25. I had already accumulated skeletons in my closet, disappointment at my prospects and shame at my changing body. Yet I remained a romantic and enjoyed love stories that recognised that life isn’t always perfect but there can be solace and respect and affection if you meet someone good for you and that you have to be prepared to not hide away due to fear and bitterness. I’ve read reviews that weren’t so kind to P.S. but I enjoyed it and whatever your misgivings about the film you can’t deny that there is one particularly powerful scene which I will attach below. This scene says so much about life and ageing and has always stayed with me.

 

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VANISHING POINT: Take a look at the picture above which was in the BIFF pamphlet. Now who doesn’t want to see that movie! In the age of internet, dvds, streaming, etc more and more films get remembered but in Australia 2005 you would’ve been hard pressed to get a copy of Vanishing Point much less see it on the big screen. Another film from the Blacktop Dreams program I was seriously excited to see Vanishing Point on Wednesday 03AUG2005 in South Bank Cinema 3 at 9:20pm. On the surface it has a fairly minimalist plot, the power of it was in it being part of the long forgotten past and an indulgent B-grade action film. Naked girls riding motor bikes and stunts galore. As previously mentioned there was something in car chases from this era where you feel the speed of the vehicles, there is always a sense that tyres won’t hold, the car could veer out of control and it makes you feel more connected to the action. This film was made in 1971, before The French Connection, barely after Bullitt and The Italian Job. The kind of car chases I grew up regularly seeing in film and tv were in their infancy and it is remarkable how much this film has never been bettered for what it captured. Every shot is beautiful and creates such kinetic energy, a wonderful collaboration of cinematography and editing. As time has gone on though the central conceit of the lead character Kowalski broken down by life and effectively committing one long act of suicide has only increased in value. The film does reflect the disillusionment of the time, raging against the man, (Kowalski is a man formerly of respectful institutions who has completely turned his back on them) but a sense that the flower power is over too and offered no solace to Kowalski either. With minimalist dialogue too the of vagueness of why Kowalski is doing what he is doing only makes it more powerful. I find it a lot deeper now but at the time it was immediately a BIFF highlight.

 

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PADAM ONNU: ORU VILAPAM: Another Showcase screening at BIFF 2005 was the French actioner 36 Quai des Orfevres which I was very tempted to see but I was committed to seeing films from all around the world and so instead I saw on Thursday the 4th of August 2005 in South Bank Cinema 4 at 6:30pm Padam Onnu: Oru Vilapam from the Fifty Years of Malayalam Cinema program. Directed by T.V. Chandram who started out as an actor and an assistant in the film industry. The title translated into English means Lesson One: A Wail. The film follows a talented young girl growing up in rural India who is good at her studies but the culture around her wants her to get married off and some of these marriages don’t last. I was caught up in the narrative of this film and the plight of the young girl played by Meera Jasmine (who won Best Actress at the Indian National Film Awards for her performance) which was so affecting. I still haven’t seen the French film.

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GATTACA: As part of the CineSparks program for young people there were free screenings in the Suncorp Piazza just a stone’s throw away from the South Bank Cinemas. I went over during one of my volunteering stints and watched Gattaca (which I had seen on VHS a few years earlier) at the Piazza 10am on Friday the 5th of August. I was moved more this time, the ending is quite sublime. Additionally for those who are fans or not fans of the actor Jude Law I urge you to check out his performance in this film which is very impressive. I won’t spoil it for you here but the plot is about a young man played by Ethan Hawke who is growing up in a world where most people have their children genetically conceived. This is not cloning but your offspring are essentially a combination of the best of your genes. Hawke’s parents conceived him the old fashioned way at the advent of all of all of this. With birth  defects rare a class divide has sprouted up, people pick partners based on the best combination of genes and those with weak hearts, bad eyesight are doomed to less fruitful employment, etc, etc. In some ways these are truths that have long existed but this kicks it into another gear. Yet there have always been people that fight the status quo, that dream big and pursue their goals no matter the obstacle. There is no gene for the human spirit.

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PIN BOY: Pin Boy screened Saturday 30JUL2005 in South Bank Cinema 4 at 2:10pm. I may have seen it then but I believe more likely I saw it at another session on Friday the 5th of August in South Bank Cinema 4 too at 1:50pm. I probably just got to go in during my Volly Shift, not planning on seeing the film or buying a ticket but it seemed interesting. It was from Argentina and told the story of a young man from the country working in  manually operated ten pin bowling alley. I knew that once upon a time bowling alleys had been like this in my country and I was keen to see another place in the world that I may not see without the power of film. I’m afraid the festival was catching up with me and I fell asleep during the film at a couple of points and its so long ago I can’t tell you much more except that it was interesting and I wish I had not snoozed a bit.

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NEAR DARK: We’re heading towards the final weekend of BIFF 2005 where on Friday the 5th of August 2005 I went to Regent Cinema 1 to watch another Blacktop Dreams film  Near Dark at 5pm. Kathryn Bigelow’s career was not in hyper drive at that time but Near Dark was a cult classic and everybody loved Point Break. This has a lot going for it, made in the wake of Aliens sharing certain cast members, nostalgia for the 80s, a vampire movie. On the point of Jenette Goldstein, Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen they are brilliant. If you only know Goldstein as Vasquez in Aliens then check her out here and Bill Paxton was always such a character. It’s very sad he is no longer with us. I thought I would love this film and was a little underwhelmed by my reaction. Its true it was gorgeous looking film, my heart was warmed just to see Pepsi signs the way they used to be and the vampire characters were an interesting idea for how to see vampires. Essentially a family unit and white trash Image result for near darkrather than European aristocracy. Image result for interview with a vampireThey didn’t look sexy, they looked miserable but also loyal to each other. Think about the last words Lance Henriksen’s character says in the film and you kind of have a really strong theme there. Maybe it is due a re-watch.

Well that’s it for Part II, hopefully we’ll conclude 2005 with Part III. I hope you’re enjoying this look back at not just film but the history of the festival itself and the inspiration it can provide to young minds far from the streets of Hollywood and open up the whole world’s cultures, regions and histories to those who can’t afford to travel far.

-Lloyd Marken

 

BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2005 PART I

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The 14th Brisbane International Film Festival was some of the most fun I ever had. I had graduated from University and moved back in with my parents but was still working at the hospital casual. I bought a BIFF Take 10 Pass and decided to go hard or go home. Evidently so did the organisers of BIFF, there were over 200 films screened, a free public screening program across the suburbs for kids called Cine Sparks and a relocation to South Bank Cinemas. While the bulk of movies screening were at South Bank, the BIFF Offices were still located at Regent. In 2004 the whole program ran out of the Regent in their 4 cinemas. This time they were screening downstairs in the classically elegant Regent 1, in the 1970s refurbished Regent 3. Over at South Bank films were screening at South Bank Cinema 3 and 4. The former IMAX screen (the only one in Brisbane and no more even then) South Bank Cinema 5 was where the Showcase screenings occurred. While a bigger cinema I don’t think there were special conversions for playing on this screen. Of course all these years later I can’t recall exactly what I bought tickets for and what I get into as a Volly though I will try.

I can tell you one day we needed to get something from the Regent down to South Bank. There is a lot of downtime as a Volly. I was 25 and overweight but maintaining irregular exercise with weights and jogging. I offered to run from the South Bank Cinemas across the river into the Regent in the city. There were cars allocated to the festival from one of our sponsors Mazda but God bless’em they let me do the run. As I ran across the fountain courtyard at South Bank I saw a bagpiper and offered him some change. I asked could he play The Bonnie Banks O’Loch Lomond? I ran off to the bridge in the hot sun hearing his notes fade into the background of the traffic and the wind blowing over the bridge. A long time ago a tourist bus driver sang this to me and a group in Scotland and I’ve asked every bag piper to play it ever since. A young one once answered he didn’t he was just learning. Another night in town an older player with some personality told me “Every bagpiper knows that song!”. Maybe I settled for Scotland the Brave that day, maybe it was the young guy. Maybe it was someone else and I heard Loch Lomond. I can’t remember which but I remember smiling like a big kid as he powered my legs forward as the sweat began to pour and I had to pace my breathing. I was young, hanging out at the film festival again, running with the wind and enjoying every second.

Most likely I saw the movies I did in 2004 for free during shifts as a volunteer. In 2005 I decided I would buy tickets to movies I really wanted to see so as a paying customer I could relax I wouldn’t be called away. I also did shifts as a Volly at all hours of the day any day of the week. Still I didn’t attend Opening Night as Volunteer or cinemagoer. I was just too shy.

Just wanted to let Beetley Pete know a favourite of his Bombon: El Perro screened at BIFF 2005. Unfortunately, no I didn’t see it Pete but I will.

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I AM A SEX ADDICT: There was a screening at Regent Cinema 1 at 7:10mpm on 30JUL2005 but most likely the first film I paid to see at BIFF that year was I Am A Sex Addict at South Bank Cinema 3 at 6:40pm on Thursday the 28th of July the day after opening night with U-Carmen eKhayelitsha from South Africa. If you see the photo above and notice the word sex in the title you’ll pretty much know why I chose to see this. I was a young man, always been a horndog and was single. I was interested in depictions of sex, discussions about sex and relationships and what could be learned about sexual addiction. So was this film some smut or did it have something to say? I believe the latter, Caveh Zahedi was genuinely a sex addict and was far from likeable with some of his decisions in his life. Yet the honesty to say that and put himself forward warts and all seems brave. Caveh Zahedi attended BIFF 2005, before the film screened he was asked to introduce the film. The only thing he would say is “Everything you’re about to see is absolutely true and actually happened.” There was humour in it to be sure but also some dark places. I’m not sure I would like Caveh very much. He films people when they want their privacy, was snarky that a porn star didn’t want to do a sex scene with him and revealed one co-star as an alcoholic. He does throw that kind of full disclosure about himself painting himself in an uncompromising and embarrassing light at times. It would be interesting to see now what I think of it but at the time I found it fascinating and remember it as a good movie that also raised interesting discussion. Caveh must have known that and fronted up to the crowd afterwards where he was quite charming, self effacing but also straight forward. It was nice to see that by film’s end he was in a solid relationship and happy.

THE LOVE CRIMES OF GILLIAN GUESS: Right after in South Bank Cinema 3 at 9:10pm was the Canadian film The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess. Again a pick from my insatiable 24 year old libido. Directed by Bruce McDonald and starring Joely Collins (daughter of Phil Collins) the film tells the story of the real life case of juror Gillian Guess who slept with the man on trial who she was on the jury for. Another film that would be fascinating to watch in through the prism of now and some hopeful extra maturity. A few things stand out, first of all the film I remember being very sexy. Secondly with the running set-up of Gillian telling her story on a talk show and flashbacks to her adolescence perspective was everything and we were treated to looking at Gillian’s story in many different ways. Despite the sexiness, Bruce McDonald I believe had some insight into how women can be viewed. How some can be led to believe that their sex is the only power they’ve got and how people can appear one way and that’s not the whole story. How men can view women too. How condescending and smug they can be at times. This was one of my favorite films I saw at any BIFF and something I probably would never have seen otherwise. It also turned me on to seeing Canadian films if I could at BIFF. Sadly alas I missed Maudie and Weirdos (which I found out was directed by Bruce McDonald too) this year but maybe next time.

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BADLANDS: There was a program at the 14th Brisbane International Film Festival, amongst others called Blacktop Dreams which concerned 14 road movies. The 14 were It’s A Mad Mad Mad World, Two-Lane Blacktop, They Live by Night, Vanishing Point, Gun Crazy, Badlands, Don’t Look Back, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Backroads, Near Dark, Roadgames, The Road to God Knows Where, Wrong Side of the Road and Gallivant. Out of the 14 I saw 5 and I still that I didn’t get to see Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. In addition free screening next door at the Suncorp Piazza had the Mad Max movies, Thelma and Louise, The General and goodness knows how many more possible road movies. Jack Sargent who had written Lost Highways: A History of the Road Movie was a guest at BIFF 2005 and at the break up party I asked him about Thelma and Louise but we’ll get to that later. I had seen The Thin Red Line at the cinemas and not been particularly impressed but Roger Ebert had loved Terence Malick and I had read his review of Badlands several times over the years. So on Friday 29JUL2005 at South Bank Cinema 3 for a 3:30pm session I saw it. Related imageBadlands is a beautiful film, still most probably Malick’s best. Telling the story of a young man who went on a killing spree and the girl he took with him it introduced the world to Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen. Having grown up watching them as middle aged people it is still a treat to see them in such a different light, Sheen really did have a bit of James Dean about him in this film. There are no easy answers for why they what they did or how they felt about it. Maybe they just weren’t right in the head, maybe they were scared, in love, maybe they just didn’t want to lose. Their restless, boredom, sadness but also romance is captured wonderfully and I was delighted to find a first rate car chase in the film. Tyres don’t always hold, there’s a power in early car chases where the cars always look like they could lost control. The first classic film I saw at the film festival, what it gave me was an opportunity to see films that hadn’t come to DVD and hadn’t been seen in years let alone on the big screen. Now this is less of a big deal, the Gallery of Modern Art regularly holds screenings of classic films on large screens and cinemas hold special screenings of classic hits regularly now. However a lot of these will be digital screenings, a 35mm print was shipped to Australia to watch this in 2005. For me too, there is something about 35mm film on a big screen even with scratches which is really special. These are experiences I will miss and hope are not completely non-existent in the future. Albeit digital does things easier and with people like Roger Deakins it can look good. I remember carrying a 35mm print up some stairs with another guy and this was only half of the film. They’re heavy. In the projection room I looked over and saw what looked like a videocassette. I was told that was a digital copy. It looked unimpressive, surely that was not the future sitting right there?

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ME AND YOU EVERYONE WE KNOW: Later that day at Regent Cinema 3 there was a film screening at 9:30pm and I attended. It sounded like a quirky love story about outsiders who were hurting. Written and directed by Miranda July and starring her along with John Hawkes I was very interested in it. It started off with Hawks burning his hand which was interesting but sadly I have to say I kind of snoozed and so can’t really fairly tell you what I thought. Having missed some of it I might have even left. This does happen from time to time I have to admit.

PHIL THE ALIEN: You may recall from the post about BIFF 2004 that Phil the Alien was intended to screen there due to some legal issues with the music. It screened twice at BIFF 2005, on Saturday 30th of July at 11:15pm in Regent Cinema 1 and on the following Friday at 10:45pm in South Bank Cinema 3. I’m fairly certain I saw it at the Regent but memory can play funny tricks. I thought Phil the Alien was everything I hoped it would be, telling the story of an alien who crash lands in the wilds of Canada and is befriended by a young boy. The anti E.T. follows with Phil becoming a drunk and a Christian rock singer amongst other things. The biggest star in it at the time was Nicole deBoer who some will remember from the latter seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and who was a completely different character here. Alumni of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart may also be recognised by some here. It was the feature film debut of Rob Stefaniuk who wrote, directed , co-edited and starred as Phil. To my joy it came out a year or two later at my local video story on DVD and got my brother and father to watch it. They didn’t seem so impressed but I can tell you the packed crowd there at BIFF 2005 laughed and clapped and cheered. It was a fantastic crazy Canadian cult film to see at a midnight screening at a film festival with similar minded folks. We might have had to wait another year to get it but Phil the Alien proved well worth the wait. The music by the way was a crucial part of it and I’m glad we waited.

 

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THE GENERAL: On Sunday 31JUL2005 at the Suncorp Piazza 1:30pm I went and saw Buster Keaton’s The General with my friend Mike. This as it turned out would be the only time Mike and I went to BIFF together. The silent film was accompanied live by organ player Ron West who played his organ at the Majestic Theatre in Pomona which still screens silent films and is Australia’s longest continuously running cinema. Ron himself only recently retired in 2011, of course having Ron come and perform in Brisbane was a special treat. The genius of Buster Keaton has not dimmed in all the years, a fantastic physical performer who told a story effortlessly The General still entrances with its scope, speed, daring and yes heart. I was surprised to hear it was not a huge success at the time and led to Buster Keaton having less creative freedom subsequently. In the end though good films endure and their makers remembered. I was glad to see such a film with my friend.

-Lloyd Marken

 

REVIEW OF YOUNG AUSTRALIAN FILMMAKER SHORTS AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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A week earlier I was lucky enough to attend the Bryon Bay Film Festival at Brunswick Heads to review the new documentary The Go-Betweens: Right Here. The following Saturday I was able to attend again to see the Young Australian Filmmaker program in Byron Bay itself. We parked on the beach and got caught in the rain on our way to the Bryon Community Centre arriving a little soaked. There were ten short films all made by a group of talented young people vying for the Young Australian Filmmaker Award. You can read more of my thoughts on the films here http://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/young-australian-filmmakers-programme-review-byron-bay-film-festival-20171017

Afterwards it was arranged for me to talk to the director, Cody Cameron-Brown of one short Watchdog. This was an informal chat rather than an interview, nothing was recorded and I simply asked Cody about things that occurred to me after watching his work. Watchdog was inspired by the story of the late Don Ritchie, OAM the hero of The Gap. Image result for don ritchieA man who rescued hundreds of people from suicide over the course of several decades. Speaking to Cody two things became apparent, this is a remarkably talented and insightful artist. Secondly he had done his research about the subject matter and it showed. He had sought out the Ritchie family and their trust in sharing some of Don’s story was not misplaced. While the film is more inspired by Don’s example than telling his exact story the young filmmaker appears to have been driven to honour the man’s legacy and their trust and he has.

It was great to talk to Cody and to see all the films from such promising young talent.

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr. is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. With over twenty years 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 Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane every month. If you’re into music they’re a great read but they do cover all of the arts including festivals, stand-up comics, fashion, theatre and film. It is the last two where I’ve been fortunate enough to do some coverage of which I’m very grateful.

-Lloyd Marken

BRINGING BACK BIFF – The Beginning and BIFF 2004

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The Brisbane International Film Festival returns this year and I couldn’t be happier. There’s a wealth of thoughts and memories that I wanted to write about that I wouldn’t be surprised if these posts just become a jumbled mess. I met my wife at BIFF, I volunteered at BIFF, saw over 20 movies at one BIFF and my history with it is just a small part of a much larger tapestry. How can I do that justice? What should I include or omit? What is private and what is too interesting not to share? What you read here may or may not be the entire truth but I will try to evoke the wonder of having a hometown film festival.

The first Brisbane International Film Festival was in 1992 screening 43 films. I didn’t cross paths with the festival until 2003. Two of my oldest dearest friends and I went to see the movie Gerry at the festival that year at the Regent Cinemas. The Regent Theatre was built in the 1920s in the American style of the then popular picture palaces. A redevelopment in the 1970s broke the original theatre into 4 but much of the old grandeur remained when I passed through the lobby in the early part of this century. That lobby was heritage listed in 1992 and remains but the Regent as I knew it has been lost. Ahead of the lobby was Regent 1 and 1 and bar on the first floor. Alternatively up a grand staircase made of Queensland marble led to Regent 3 and 4 which had been built in the 1970s and looked it. In Melbourne a similar Regent cinema was remodelled into a live theatre complex and is doing very well as a grand venue. Sometimes we get things wrong. In 2009 I went to the Regent and purchased some post cards that were being sold and signed a petition for it not to be destroyed.

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I went to see Gerry in a morning session on the weekend and subsequently fell asleep during a few minutes in the third act. It mattered little, I got it. It set the stage for my film festival going where not every film you see is a great one but they sure are trying. Also falling asleep would remain a tradition too. I had been brought along by my friend Mike. Mike who brought a DVD of The Station Agent, Dr Strangelove, Cube and Contestant 7 to my house. Mike who championed American History X and High Fidelity to me. Mike who dragged us to the west side of town to see Inception, the first feature from Christopher Nolan. Mike with whom I would go with or have come along with to see foreign films, documentaries and independent cinema while gushing over the new auteurs of blockbusters. The Fog of War at the Schonell, Sideways and The Secretary at Palace Centro, Bowling for Columbine and Napoleon Dynamite at Dendy George Street, Murderball at Indooroopilly. Mike, another friend Tim and I met each other at Scouts long ago but as that came to a close along with high school our friendship deepened. There are two men outside of my family that I admire deeply for their moral courage and loyalty. They are Mike and Tim. In a very real way they were my 20s along with another friend called Rachel. A year went past and Mike suggested that I go and volunteer at the film festival. I was getting 23 going on 24 and in the last year of my university studies in arts. I knew I had to start getting out there if I wanted to land a job so I put my hand up. Mike was steering me towards good things again.

I think I had to fill out a form from their website and submit it to their office. Things are so long ago it is hard to recall details but I ended up being a Volunteer at the Brisbane International Film Festival. There was a information session for the ‘Vollys’ as we were called run by the Operations Manager Debbie one evening. I went in and Debbie was an amazing manager of people, we were all unpaid staff who would be dealing with the public and receive little training. She made it something fun and informative. She’s been a Store Manager somewhere and knew how to run a crowd and the subsequent times I volunteered at BIFF her presence was missed.

I was a hospital wardsman and still a full time student so I set something myself up to do a few weekend sessions and that was it. Opening night Queen St Mall got locked down with a red carpet as Paul McDermott premiered a short film he directed and Geoffrey Rush came home for the Australian premiere of The Life and Death of Peter Sellers and to pick up The Chauvel Award. I was not there on opening night 27 July 2004.

I did volunteer for a few shifts on each weekend wearing my BIFF 2004 T-Shirt which I still have and treasure. I was nervous of course but it quickly became obvious that especially on a Saturday morning things were relatively peaceful. You handed out survey forms (people could tear at the edge in line with a rating) which would be collected by us as they left to count up the scores and send up to the main staff. We also collected tickets from patrons as they entered. I got to meet the famous film critic David Stratton asking him tongue in cheek if he wanted a survey form to which he declined with a smile. I had conversation with my fellow Vollys once audiences were tucked inside. I quickly came to know some of the Front of House and Box Office staff, there were the twins Stephen and Daniel, Luis, Andre and Michelle. These guys seemed to go a way back, Michelle and Andre might have been volunteers back in the first BIFF. They were effectively our supervisors, if you didn’t know what was going on you got one of them to help you. They were paid staff and they knew their stuff but they always made it fun for us. I soon learnt we were allowed to sneak into the back row of a movie and watch it if we weren’t needed as long as we were the first to leave. A massive perk! I can’t remember if I bought any tickets or just got to see these films for free but I caught The Land Has Eyes, Repatriation, S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine and Samaritan Girl.

BIFF 2004 ran from opening Tuesday night 27th July to Closing Night 8th of August. Looking back I know I was interested in other films, I really wanted to see Crimson Gold from Iran, I think I got to sit in on American Dreams by James Benning but I just mostly napped with that one.

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S21: THE KHMER ROUGE KILLING MACHINE: Screened at 10am on Saturday 31st July in Regent Cinema 2 downstairs. It was probably a film I was allowed in to during my shift. It remains one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. I can’t get over the Khmer Rouge and what they did. Most of the killing occurred due to starvation but there was direct murder and plenty of it. S21 is at the heart of a nation that wiped out a million of its people in 4 years. In Tuol Sleng, a former school was converted into a prison and there over 17,000 inmates were killed. Only six lived and two told their story in this powerful film. The film opens in a hut with a middle aged man clearly broken with a thousand yard stare and sunken shoulders. His mother talks to camera about how he is not the same. We see a victim and then it is revealed that he was a guard. The humanity of director Rithy Panh just blows me away with this choice. Panh himself and his family had suffered greatly at the hands of the Khmer Rouge but he chose to open the film like this. Filmed at S21, the two survivors Chum Mey and Vann Nath bring two different personalities to the equation. Mey more openly discusses his emotions drawing out expression from the quietly dignified Nath. It is Nath who asks a confrontational questions to his former captors late in the film. Nath was kept alive because the warden liked his paintings and Nath recounts how in his mind many greater painters were murdered because of this warden’s preference. That random choice and its consequences are at the heart of the injustice of the prison and the trauma of the incredibly scarce number of survivors. I’ve never forgotten this film or what it told me. I saw some people leave throughout, why I do not know but perhaps because they found it just too upsetting and that is fair enough. Vann Nath has since passed on but his story that he shares with others should not be forgotten and thankfully this film will endure for a long time to come. One of the great experiences I’ve had at all the BIFFs I’ve attended.

 

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THE LAND HAS EYES: screened at 4:20pm in Regent 2 on Sunday the 1st of August, 2004. The director was there and there was a Q&A afterwards. I went in with some interest but believe I was simply making use of the Volly privilege to view films if not needed. I’m really glad I got to see it. Set in the 1970s it was directed by Vilsoni Hereniko, the first feature film set and shot in the Fiji islands directed by an indigenous filmmaker. In one scene in a classroom the teacher turns to the class of all ages (probably all of Rotuma’s school going children) and tells them that only one of them will get to go to the capital of Fiji on a scholarship. I never forgot that scene, it put into perspective the privileges of my time and place and upbringing. There is something tranquil and beautiful in life on Rotuma that we envy but at least we have opportunities that those children did not. This is in the final years of British colonial rule of the island and has something to say about the joys and sorrows of small communal island life where religion holds sway. How lies and politics can turn the majority against the innocent and how brave and hard it is to stand up to such wrongs and bring forth the truth.

Image result for the land has eyesThe story was based on Hereniko’s childhood but to overcome writer’s block he changed the gender of the character based on him and found it gave him a great deal of freedom and creativity. Above is his wife and producer of the film Jeannette Paulson Hereniko. Shot on Betacam with many performers who’d never seen a film let alone be in one, the natural beauty of the island added to the production values but it also had the feel of you being there walking along the tracks with this young girl. A beautiful film of a son who has travelled far and done well but wanted to come back and tell a story about his homeland with his people warts and all but with a native son’s love and reflection.

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REPATRIATION: Saturday the 7th of August was a big day for me from the looks of it. I saw from South Korea Repatriation and Samaritan Girl. The former a documentary I enjoyed quite a bit more.  Directed by Kim Dong-won, it was about North Korean soldiers who had been released from prison after decades in the South. Having not converted from communism and now elderly they are left out in the world to make their way with no pension or support. There is kindness shown to them from South Koreans including the filmmaker himself but little of their experiences convince them that democracy is a better way of life. The film goes deeper into the history of the conflict and the ongoing cold war between the two sides. There’s bright spots too with soccer. Another great thing about film festivals was present when I attended a Q&A with Repatriation director Kim Dong-won and director Solrun Hoaas.

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Kim Dong-Won at the Q&A being nervously photographed by author in 2004 on his Nokia mobile phone. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Kim Dong-won was a thoughtful and eloquent speaker which came as no surprise having watched his work. With a strong social vision he had also made a documentary about the clearing out of old housing for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Can you believe this Q & A was free?

 

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SAMARITAN GIRL: There were two sessions for Samaritan Girl, one on a Thursday 29JUL2004 at midday in Regent 1. The other on the final Saturday at 6pm in Regent 1 07AUG2017. This is more likely session I caught probably sneaking in as a Volly. I was captured by the striking photo featured in the BIFF booklet and I’ve long had an interest in visiting South Korea. I remember a medititive film with long quiet takes and characters slowly imploding. Directed by Kim Ki-duk it tells the story of two school girls who decide to prostitute one of themselves out while the friend is effectively the pimp. The latter has a father who is a detective. Things don’t go well and there’s strong themes about sexuality, parenthood, possessiveness, etc. Apparently themes of Buddhism is also at the heart of the film but I can’t remember much. It was probably not a good film and certainly not one that got its hooks into me but it was an opportunity to see another culture through their own eyes telling their stories and so for me there were positives to be drawn out of the experience.

That was it for the film I saw at BIFF in 2004. In terms of other interesting stories I’m not sure what to tell you. That night there was a scheduled late night screening of Phil The Alien, a fun weird movie from Canada but a legal battle had broken out about the music of the film. I was there the night a large midnight crowd was told Phil The Alien would not be screening. Nothing hair raising happened, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was stepping into the breach but it certainly put into my mind how disappointing such a moment could be for a film festival crowd. I was young at the time and I can tell you such films are usually the must sees at a festival. I was disappointed too.

Being a Volly was a unique experience that I enjoyed, you got to meet lots of different people, hang out and discuss film. I enjoyed handing tickets over to people and sharing in the joy of being able to attend a film festival. There were some odd moments, one night I was trying to look after an elderly man descending stairs and may have grabbed a younger guy who didn’t see him. I was still a wardsman at the time. I’m not sure I could be a Volly now but I have fond memories. That Saturday night I didn’t eat, I ran around up and down stairs excited like a kid at the fairground proudly wearing my BIFF T-shirt. Tim and Mike came to meet me in the middle of the night at the end of my shift so we could head on over to a regular haunt of our’s the Pancake Parlour. I felt headachey and vomited in the bathroom seeing some blood. Afterwards I felt relatively fine and went back to my friends. I guess this was the beginning of getting older and having to realise one needs to take better care of one’s self. I don’t know but I was electric. It was one of the best days of my life. I loved BIFF, I really did but such days are moments in time. You have to move on to the next one and the next one. I’m glad I still have Mike and Tim in my life but we’re not catching up like we did back then now and that’s a good thing as much as I long for yesterday.

The next night I went in for the Closing Night party for staff which was thrown in thanks to the unpaid volunteers. It would start after the last patron left. We would get fed at the bar outside Regent 1 & 2 and get some free drinks. I’m shy by nature but I was rather emboldened by how welcoming the staff had been at BIFF. I was going to miss going into the offices upstairs in the old building, miss Andre and Michelle, Danny and Steve and Luis. There was a volunteer I would miss too who had blonde hair and was studying foreign film over at the University of Queensland. I asked Executive Manager Gary how he felt the festival had gone. I asked everybody about films and life. We headed out to Jimmy’s on the Mall which one of the twins had worked at and knew the owner. This was the old one before the new one opened years later that was situated right outside the Regent. I didn’t want the night to end but it did. There was more drinking, some people  got “real happy” and I couldn’t help but get a bit emotional myself. I was wondering how to say more to the girl from UQ with blonde hair. I wanted to stay with these people, I wanted to work a paying job for BIFF, I wanted the film festival to run all year round. Barely a year earlier I had not even known there was a film festival. A few weeks earlier I didn’t care much but now a whole world had opened up to me and it was ending. There was some comfort in knowing it would be back next year.

-Lloyd Marken