Movie Review – BackTrack Boys

Australian filmmaker Catherine Scott makes a heartfelt documentary that looks into how troubled kids can be taken in and taught responsibility by caring for and training dogs.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Elle Cahill 

BackTrack Boys is about a rehabilitation program for troubled youths in New South Wales run by straight-talking Bernie Shakeshaft. The documentary follows three troubled kids, Zak, Tyrson, and Rusty who are all part of the Backtrack program, and their journey in and out of trouble as they struggle to take the lessons they learn through the program and apply them to their dysfunctional home life.

Similar to documentaries focused on groups of people like Jesus Camp and Dying to Live, what really makes BackTrack Boys a documentary worth watching are the characters featured. Director Catherine Scott does a brilliant job at drawing out the personalities of the three featured children and the harsh environments they have grown up in, which would have more than likely led them to a life in jail. Whether it be good-natured Zak who has worked his way through the Backtrack program to become a leader; Tyrson who regressed after leaving the program and wound up in jail for a couple of years; and the youngest of the group, Rusty whose foul-mouthed, tall tales are tolerated by the others as they realise he’s just a young kid who hasn’t had the easiest start to life.

The program itself is interesting in that Shakeshaft pairs the kids with a dog that they are expected to train, feed and prepare for local shows in events like high jump wall. The idea is that the dogs don’t judge the kids but instead give them a sense of responsibility. Intermingled in this are campfire heart-to-hearts, where the boys share stories, their feelings and fears when they’re ready to. It’s group theory done in a trusting environment and it’s Shakeshaft straight-talking both around the campfire and in private with the boys that helps them take responsibility for their actions, and more importantly, their lives.

The documentary is beautifully shot and Scott manages to get access to a lot of areas to really capture the kids’ realities (including the juvenile prison). Ultimately the documentary is about second chances and showing that there are alternatives for troubled kids, and that whilst these alternatives might be a bit left of field, they may just be the best circumstances for these kids to learn and grow into responsible adults.

BackTrack Boys  is available in Australian cinemas from October 25 (Western Australia limited release 27th -29th Oct)

Image courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment

Advertisements

Movie Review – 1%

While 1% boasts some strong performances, its unremarkable story fails to live up to its high-octane setting.

⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic 

Shot right here in Perth, 1% is a crime drama set in the underworld of Australian motorcycle club gangs. It follows Vice President of the ‘Copperheads’ Paddo (Ryan Corr) who has been leading the group while President Knuck (Matt Nable) has been behind bars. As Knuck nears release from prison, Paddo’s younger brother Skink (Josh McConville) puts him in a compromising position that threatens his loyalty to both Knuck and the Copperheads. Paddo must decide how to solve his dilemma before he loses everything he’s worked for.

Corr does well in expressing the conflicting emotions of a man constantly having to weigh up his loyalties and juggle his relationships. The film continuously puts Paddo between a rock and a hard place, and Corr did a good job of earning my sympathy towards his character’s situation.

Another standout is Aaron Pedersen (Goldstone) as Sugar, the President of a rival gang. His screen presence is like a breath of fresh air and it’s disappointing that his role was reduced to just a few scenes. Pedersen has a natural charisma and I love seeing his career expanding.  I’ve only known him to play good guys, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how well he could take on a more villainous role.

What brings it all down is the story. One of the major flaws of the film is that all the conflicts are caused by one character: Paddo’s brother. Literally everything he does is a mistake that ends up causing more grief for Paddo. His role is essentially the only driving force moving the story along. Every scene he’s in made me roll my eyes because I knew he was going to do something wrong and then the film would try to resolve it. It became repetitive and boring.

There’s also some really questionable events. Without giving too much away, there’s a subplot with Knuck’s character that makes absolutely no difference to the story. And the final act has one of the strangest standoffs I’ve seen in a long time.

1% tries its hand at being a gritty Australian crime drama, but it’s let down by its thin narrative. The film is entirely carried by its performances, which are the only real reason you should go and see the film.

1% is available in Australian cinemas from October 12 

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution

Movie Review – Ladies In Black

Imagine a beautiful, simple world filled with 1950’s Hollywood glamour and natural Australian charm… well, that’s exactly the experience you’ll get from Bruce Beresford’s latest entry.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Cherie Wheeler 

Adapted from the novel by Madeleine St John, the titular ladies in black run the women’s clothing section at a high-end department store. From the young and naïve, yet sharply intelligent Lisa (Angourie Rice) who anxiously awaits her exam results, to the hopelessly romantic Fay (Rachael Taylor) who can’t catch a break in her dating life, each woman faces her own set of hurdles. While all so different – none more so than Slovenian socialite and style aficionado Magda (Julia Ormond) – they each make an impact on one another and form unexpected bonds.

Set in the late 50’s in Sydney, Ladies In Black is a reminder of a time when people were more appreciative of what they had. Even when what they had was so little. With no mobile phones or modern world pressures intruding upon them, the characters in Ladies In Black are free to fully enjoy their city, food, wine and each other at a leisurely pace.

In this sense, Bruce Beresford’s film is a breath of fresh air. But its simple ways can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Although each core character has some form of dilemma to tackle, there’s no real stakes at play. All the conflict is fairly superficial, and when darker themes do start to emerge, they’re mostly glossed over and forgotten.

Perhaps that’s OK, though. Maybe we need to have more films that don’t get bogged down in the real drudgeries of life. Especially Australian films. Until the last couple of years, many of our films tended to fall into 1 of 2 categories – outstanding gritty dramas that only a handful of people would go to see, or average comedies and B-grade fluff pieces. Recent times have certainly shown a shift, with talented filmmakers producing high quality, thought-provoking stuff that’s appealing to broader audiences. It may not be ground-breaking, but Ladies In Black is definitely a solid addition to our stream of newer films.

Its cast is essentially a ‘who’s hot right now’ showcase of Australian performers of all levels. There’s the legendary Noni Hazlehurst as the leader of the ladies in black, young up-and-comer Angourie Rice (Jasper Jones, The Nice Guys) and late bloomer Rachael Taylor (Jessica Jones), who’s only now starting to land decent roles roughly a decade into her career. After starring alongside his real life brother in Brother’s Nest earlier this year, here Shane Jacobson features as Lisa’s simple-minded father, and Ryan Corr, who’s managed to get himself into every Australian film from Ali’s Wedding to Holding The Man, here presents as a key love interest.

Corr steals the show from the moment he struts in sprouting an oddly spot-on Hungarian accent. He’s the source of a lot of comedy and fits the role of a charming and cultured European immigrant like a glove. Julia Ormond, one of the very few non-Australian cast members, follows closely behind him as the posh and judgemental, yet well-meaning Magda, and she is truly a joy to watch.

Ladies In Black is like a fizzy glass of lemonade on a warm summer’s day – it’s sweet and refreshing, easy to enjoy and free of any bitter aftertaste. If that’s the type of movie you’re in the mood for, then you can’t do much better than this one.

Ladies In Black is available in Australian cinemas from September 20

Also screening as part of  the RoofTop Movies Program 1 on Nov 14.

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

Hooked On CinefestOZ

Elle Cahill

CinefestOZ was quite the event this year. Sigrid Thornton won the CinefestOZ 2018 Screen Legend award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the Australian film industry. Minister for Local Government, Heritage, Culture and the Arts, the Honourable David Templeman talked about his “soiled” crotch. And Jirga took out the $100k Film Prize.

Some of the HOF team were lucky enough to journey down to the South West and enjoy all the food, wine and films on offer. So, without any further ado, here’s our top picks from the 2018 festival.

Madhattan
Documentary

Madhattan follows the story of Broome local, Felicity ‘Flic’ Brown as she prepares for her first solo show in New York Fashion Week. The documentary is full of beautiful landscapes, regional Australian personalities and more importantly, a lead subject whose positive outlook on life is contagious.

CinefestOZ Madhattan September 2018

Director, producer and cinematographer Carolyn Constantine does an exceptional job of capturing Western Australia as she follows Flic all over the Pilbara region. Constantine very carefully shows the change in environment once Flic arrives in New York, with one week to prepare for her show. The change of pace is rapid, and while Flic’s mega-watt smile never falters, the experience is draining on her as the usual hiccups take place.

The documentary wouldn’t have been the success that it is without Flic. She radiates energy and her enthusiasm for her creations is truly captivating. There is no life-changing event that happened to make Flic pursue her passion. The documentary is simply about a woman who fell in love with a craft and worked hard at it to become a success story, and there’s something beautiful in that alone.

Dying To Live
Documentary

Dying To Live takes an in-depth look into organ and tissue transplantation in Australia as it follows the story of five people who are all in desperate need of a donation. The documentary is absolutely heart-breaking as director Richard Todd carefully navigates through each person’s story, capturing the rawness of each individual’s ups and downs.

CinefestOZ Dying To Live September 2018

The documentary ultimately highlights the importance of having the conversation about organ donation with your family, while also showing a rare insight into the whole process. Todd makes a point of highlighting the fact that organ donation can be needed at any age, and that once an organ has been matched to a person on the list, the process doesn’t stop there as sometimes the organs don’t take immediately.

Overall, it’s a tearjerker that carries an important message about being able to give the gift of life after you or your loved one have passed on.

Reaching Distance
Feature Film

Reaching Distance follows Logan who wakes on a bus late at night to find one of the other passenger’s is his twin sister’s killer. As Logan continues to relive his interaction with the man and his fellow passengers on the bus, he begins to realise that all their lives are entwined and not all is as it seems.

CinefestOZ Reaching Distance September 2018

Reaching Distance is the first offering from director David Fairhurst, and it marks him as one to watch. He has created a clever and dramatic exploration of the effects guilt can have on a person and how their previous actions can impact their conscience long after the event. Fairhurst puts a unique spin on the idea of purgatory and forgiveness and delivers it with thought.

Armed with a talented cast, particularly lead actor Wade Briggs, the film unfolds in twists and turns, with the truth slowly coming to light. Despite the film sometimes drawing out for too long in some parts, the film is a great first offering from Fairhurst, and one that keeps you thinking long after the final credits have rolled.

Finke: There and Back
Documentary

CinefestOZ Finke There And Back September 2018

Finke: There and Back follows five people’s stories as they prepare for the Finke Desert Race – one of the longest off-road motorsport tracks in the world, which also happens to be Australia’s most deadly motor sport event. The documentary gives an insight into the relatively unknown event (for those outside of the motorsport world), and the perils that those who race it regularly come up against.

Director Dylan River not only sheds light on those who are willing to risk everything for the race, but also to those who have risked everything and lost, like Isaac Elliott. He decides to take on the course again despite being a paraplegic from a horrific crash that took place while training for the Finke race in 2007.

The documentary is a clever piece of work, and doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities that some of the racers come into contact with. It is packed full of footage from the race and many close calls that will leave you gasping as the film unfolds.

CinefestOZ image sourced from cinefestoz.com.au. Madhattan image sourced from madhattanthemovie.com.au, courtesy of Constantine Productions. Dying to Live image sourced from IMDb.com, courtesy of Aquarius Productions & Gifting Life Pty Ltd.  Reaching Distance image sourced from IMDb.com, courtesy of Reaching Distance Pty Ltd. Finke: There and Back image sourced from screenaustralia.gov.au, courtesy of Brindle Films Pty Ltd . 

Part 2: Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2018

Here’s the next set of reviews for the Rev Fest screenings for the coming week end! Screening from July 5-18, this is your chance to check out the latest and greatest in independent cinema. Featuring films and documentaries from Australia and all over the world, here’s a snippet of what’s on offer!

Get revved up!

Beast
Drama 
UK

A beautiful, intense film from first-time feature director Michael Pearce.

Elle Cahill

BEAST 1.jpg

Beast follows the story of Moll, a loner misfit who’s domineering family control every aspect of her life. After a mysterious stranger, Pascal Renouf, saves her one-day from a sexual predator, she’s immediately drawn to him, and starts a passionate relationship with him. The discovery of a young girl’s body, however, makes Moll start to question just how well she knows Pascal and if there’s something sinister lying beneath his quiet demeanour.

Jessie Buckley plays Moll to perfection. She manages to encapsulate all of the years of damages that Moll has, and her slightly unhinged characterisation has you constantly guessing about how accurate her version of events are. Johnny Flynn matches Buckley’s performance, adding a quiet intensity to Pascal and an air of all the things left unsaid. It’s quite a departure from his comedic, happy-go-lucky character Dylan in the TV series Lovesick, and it’s exciting to see him take on a completely different role.

The story is gripping and tender all at the same time, and Benjamin Kracun’s cinematography is stunning. His attention to capturing both the beauty and the isolation of the location is flawless, and its shot in the way that you can feel the distance between the minor characters, particularly Moll’s family, and equally the closeness the pair of them have.

Beast is a fantastic film that manages to get under your skin as well as stun you with its beauty. Writer-director Michael Pearce is definitely one to watch, especially if he keeps putting out films to this calibre.


RocKabul
Documentary 
AUS

Afghanistan’s first heavy metal band, District Unknown, is determined to bring music to the people, no matter the costs.

Elle Cahill

RocKabul 3 .jpg

RocKabul follows the journey of Afghanistan’s first heavy metal band, District Unknown, and the political and cultural challenges they have to compete with in order to be able to play their music. With the help of director Travis Beard, the band are given the opportunity to play their music not only in Afghanistan, but at festivals in India as well. Unfortunately, as Western forces pull out of Afghanistan and their safety becomes comprised by the Taliban, the band has to decide how important playing their music is to them.

RocKabul is an interesting study into how people living in the war zones in the Middle East become accustom to regular bombings and accept it as a fact of life. While the music component is prominent and has a whimsical feel to it, it’s really seeing how these young men live and try to pursue an activity that has been deemed as sinful that is most interesting.

The documentary doesn’t shy away from some of the harsh realities of the going-ons in Afghanistan, such as footage of bombings, religious acts that could be seen as barbaric, and the band receiving very real threats from officers casually holding machine guns. However, it also doesn’t conform to popularist Western views on the people of Afghanistan, and instead tells a story about a group of young men who were born into an unfortunate situation but still have impossible dreams that they’re determined to achieve. Equally heart warming and harrowing at the same time, this documentary is a must-see


Five Finger Marseilles
Drama
South Africa

Michael Matthews’ Five Fingers for Marseilles is a neo-western that’s every bit as authentic as the westerns of old.

Zachary Cruz-Tan

Five-Fingers-For-Marseilles_6.jpg

Five Fingers for Marseilles is clearly a western, because we identify so much of the genre’s classic imagery – long dustcoats, expansive terrain, shotguns, the local saloon. Yet it’s not just a copy; the movie is about something. It’s set in more recent times, not in Texas or Arizona but in South Africa. Instead of horses there are cars. Its characters are not rip-offs of old western heroes. They have purpose, style, and most importantly, they are dangerously flawed. This is quite an impressive movie by director Michael Matthews that doesn’t yield to its ambition.

The plot begins with five kids who are unhappy their indigenous kin have been shovelled to a hilltop, out of sight, while white settlers take over their land. They vow to rebel, not for the sake of rebellion, but for the respect of their country. Then tragedy strikes, the film jumps 15 years ahead, and the five kids, now adults, have been shaped in one way or another by the harsh realities of their town.

Unathi (Aubrey Poolo), the faithful storyteller, has become a misguided pastor; Bongani (Kenneth Nkosi), the plump little rich kid, has invariably become mayor, hustling about in his Mercedes SUV; Luyanda (Mduduzi Mabaso), picked upon as a kid, is now a ruthless cop; Lerato (Zethu Dlomo) tries desperately to survive; and Tau (Vuyo Dabula), the lion, is our wandering hero, who now has to face the evil forces that threaten to dismantle the memory of his childhood.

One could argue that it doesn’t take a lot of thought to make a western, since the genre is usually defined by what we see and not how we feel. The great westerns, like The Searchers (1956) and Unforgiven (1992), gave us more than just cowboys and horses. Five Fingers doesn’t penetrate the depths of the human soul as well, but it makes a solid attempt, is beautifully crafted, and in the striking figure of its hero Tau finds a character who is simultaneously weak and unbreakable. Great stuff.

To book your tickets go to http://www.revelationfilmfest.org/

 

Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2018

Movie Review – Upgrade

Slick, scorching, grisly and clichéd AF – strap in for an Upgrade.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Pascoe

Written and directed by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious), new Australian film Upgrade is a screaming collision of Paul Verhoeven tech-thriller, grimy cyberpunk mystery and grotesque David Cronenberg body horror. There are moments of intense gore and dark humour, with fantastic choreography and inventive camerawork tying it all together. Think Robocop and Minority Report meets John Wick and Avatar.

If that sounds like your kind of thing, buckle in for a wild ride. Whannell serves up a frenetic 90-minute sci-fi thriller that opens with Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) and wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) brutally assaulted by a quartet of cybernetic thugs. Waking up in hospital as a paraplegic, Grey’s only hope for exacting revenge is an experimental computer chip called STEM (Simon Maiden), which not only gives him the ability to walk, but also kick-ass and take names. It also talks to only him and feeds him advice, sort of like if the devil on your shoulder had a baby with a vaguely sarcastic Siri knock-off.

Even if it’s a setting and a premise we’ve seen umpteen times before, Upgrade is garnished with just enough to keep it afloat. The futuristic tech is believable and the stream of dark humour is fun and ensures the bleak Black Mirror-esque paranoia isn’t suffocating. Marshall-Green is the real standout though; his performance is touching, hilarious and badass, sometimes in the very same scene. Just the right balance of mirth and gravitas for this hokey B-movie fluff.

Where Upgrade struggles is its plot; the twists and turns are immediately obvious to anyone with half a brain and are ripped straight from the guidebook on dark sci-fi horror. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all, I guess.

Upgrade is available in Australian cinemas from June 14 

Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment 

Movie Review – The Gateway

This Perth-produced sci-fi thriller earns a B+ for ambition, but can’t quite make the grade anywhere else.

⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

Jane Chandler’s (Jacqueline McKenzie) time is unevenly split between her family and her all-consuming job as a particle physicist on the brink of creating a functioning teleportation device. A breakthrough in her work reveals that her machine does not in fact transport matter, but instead sends it to a parallel universe; a revelation put on hold abruptly when Jane’s husband (Myles Pollard) is killed in a car accident. Overwhelmed with grief and unable to cope without him, she journeys to a parallel universe to bring back another version of her husband – without realising that the universe he is from has dark and violent tendencies.

The term ‘know your limits’ exists for a reason. It’s a rule that applies to filmmakers too; your idea may be bold, but that might not outweigh the resources you have available to you or the cliché-ridden script that embalms it. Someone should probably have told this to director/co-writer John V. Soto (Crush, Needle), whose heart is most certainly in the right place, but really should have been a bit more creative in bringing his sci-fi thriller The Gateway to life.

There’s always juicy potential in a premise that involves teleportation and multiple variations of our universe, and Soto starts engagingly enough with the determined Jane and her lab partner Regg (Ben Mortley) racing against the clock to make their matter-transporting passion project come to life before their executives cut their funding. It might not be such of a problem for international audiences, but right off the bat, the very blatantly Perth setting throws any credibility straight out the window – at least for local viewers. Perth audiences will no doubt scoff at the idea that our government would possibly commission scientists to experiment with the unbelievable, instead of, say, spending tax dollars on more speed cameras. Amazingly, in a film that features reality-hopping and lethal alien tasers, this is the most far-fetched concept.

Soto’s biggest downfall is shooting for that Hollywood blockbuster feel on a budget that is barely a fraction of their cost. As a result, his dependence on visual effects derails proceedings, bleeding the little money the production had into a hodgepodge of tacky CGI. Worse is the poor lighting palette and filters (particularly in the drab dystopia of the parallel world), which gives this the shabby feel of a Syfy Channel original.

Soto should have looked to his micro-budgeted peers for inspiration. Take James Ward Byrkit’s Coherence, for example. On an even smaller budget, it managed to be far more engaging and thought-provoking without the reliance on any visual trickery, simply because it focused instead on making its characters strong and ideas heard. And as a local filmmaker, Soto should have taken a leaf from Ben Young’s book; last year’s Hounds of Love was miniscule in scale and yet enormous in impact and resonance. Bigger is not always better – what’s the point in copying Hollywood when forming our own creative identity is much more interesting?

It’s not all bad of course. Jacqueline McKenzie does her best in attempting to elevate the material, as does Ben Mortley in forming a likable enough partnership. The early mix of science and family stuff fares fine separately; it’s just unfortunate to see it culminate in Myles Pollard doing his best Robert Patrick in Terminator 2 impression to become killer dad and hunt down his family. As tempting as it is to support local productions, the truth is you can see the same elsewhere and executed much more successfully.

The Gateway is available in selected Australian cinemas from May 3

Image courtesy of Rialto Distribution

Movie Review – Breath

A worthy attempt by first-time director Simon Baker to capture a truly Australian story.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill

Based on Tim Winton’s novel of the same name, Breath follows two teenage boys in WA’s South West who strike up a friendship with local surfer Sando (Simon Baker). On their search for adventure, the two boys find themselves navigating moral minefields as they struggle to grow into the men they want to be.

Breath has so far been well-received by those familiar with the novel and Winton’s writing. In his feature film directorial debut, Australian actor-turned-director Simon Baker has captured the essence of Winton’s writing style and successfully translated it onto the screen. However, in being so true to the source material, I fear Breath potentially alienates any who lack knowledge of or simply don’t appreciate Winton’s ways of storytelling.

Baker’s film moves at a slow and meandering pace that takes the time to ‘stop and smell the roses’ and express the laidback vibe of 1970’s regional WA. While this approach allows for some beautiful cinematography of the ocean and the landscape, it also means the narrative tends to take a bit of a back seat.

Understand that when I say the story unfolds slowly – I mean it’s glacial. Sitting in the cinema, I became painfully aware of the amount of time it was taking to set up the story and began to wonder if it would all be over before anything really happened. Then, when the conflict finally came, it hit so hard and fast that it felt rushed as it tried to tackle such complex and confronting themes.

Thankfully, the film is somewhat saved by its two lead performances. Cast based on their surfing skills and with no prior acting experience, Samson Coulter and Ben Spence are startlingly good as the two young boys at the centre of the story.

Coulter plays the main protagonist Pikelet and brings a sensitivity and maturity that seasoned actors struggle to conjure. His ability to keep Pikelet’s emotions just below the surface keeps you rooting for him, even when some of his actions are less morally driven.

Pikelet’s quiet sensibility is off-set perfectly by the loud and brash Loonie (Spence), whose knack for wild tales and ocker expressions brings some much-needed comic relief. He is the perfect embodiment of the slightly rougher characters you find in Australian country towns, but whether the character will resonate with international audience is yet to be seen.

How Breath fares at the worldwide Box Office will be the real test. Here we have a classic Australian story and a worthy adaptation, but any lacking context may not connect with it.

Breath is available in Australian cinemas from May 3

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

Movie Review – Sweet Country

Imagine the most typical Australian film ever and you’ll end up with something that resembles Sweet Country.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic 

The Australian film industry has always been obsessed with travelling back to colonial times to look at the atrocities and prejudice against Indigenous people. Following his 2009 award-winning film Samson and Delilah, Warwick Thornton continues to add to the likes of Rabbit-Proof Fence and Ten Canoes with his latest film Sweet Country.

Set in the Northern Territory in the 1920s, Sweet Country follows Sam (Hamilton Morris), a middle-aged Aboriginal farmer who kills a local white man in self-defence. Knowing his side of the story will be quickly dismissed by the law, Sam decides to go on the run with his wife, and the subsequent manhunt for Sam soon turns into a hunt for the true meaning of justice.

As Australians, we are proud to live in a country where freedom and peace are the standard way of life, but these values have been and continue to be denied to some. While not as powerful or relatable as Thornton’s modern retelling of the biblical Samson and Delilah, Sweet Country does serve as a reminder that we must never forget our roots, no matter how tough it may be to stomach.

In terms of storytelling, however, Sweet Country is a relatively stock standard affair. It’s a well-made piece of filmmaking, but it fails to truly captivate, mostly because we’ve seen better films handle the same subject matter in the past.

Sweet Country is still a worthy addition to Australian cinema, mostly thanks to its stunning cinematography. As he did with Samson and Delilah, Thornton once again takes on the duties of director and cinematographer, but this time around he has truly upped the ante. From vivid, orange sunsets to wide, sweeping shots of dense bushland and the red outback, the Australian landscape is on full display here.

Production designer Tony Cronin and costume designer Heather Wallace also deserve commendation for their faithful representation of the era, not only in what it looked like, but also in what it felt like. Those were tough times, and the sweat on people’s brows, and the dirt on their clothes works well to recreate the hardship experienced by people back then.

Sweet Country isn’t the most exciting film, but it is an important reminder for the pain and hard truths we will always face as Australians.

Sweet Country is available in Australian cinemas from January 25 

Image courtesy of Transmission Films

Who Should’ve Won At The AACTAs

Josip Knezevic 

The AACTAs, Australia’s version of the Oscars, celebrate the finest achievements in Australian cinema. 2017 brought us a strong pool of nominees that represent a bright future for Australian film, and while these films won’t put Australia on the international film map as say Lord of the Rings did for New Zealand, they’re still remarkable achievements for Australian filmmaking.

Yes, you may be thinking the AACTAs took place in December last year, but seeing as it’s Australia Day long weekend, it seems apt to look back at who won versus who should have won and honour the greatest Australian films of 2017.

Best Film
Winner: Lion
Who Should Have Won: Ali’s Wedding

From the outset, it was obvious that Lion was going to take this top spot, as it did in so many categories. It boasts a much larger production budget than its fellow nominees and also features some of the world’s biggest stars in Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel and Rooney Mara. I can’t complain that it won, it’s a beautiful and gut-wrenching story, but at the same time, Ali’s Wedding represents a fresh breath of air for Australian storytelling and the depiction of our culture on screen. Yes, it may just be a simple love story on the surface, but it has so many little charms and quirks that make it genuinely funny and interesting to watch. It would have been a very deserving winner.

Best Direction
Winner: Lion (Garth Davis)
Who Should Have Won: Hounds of Love (Ben Young)

Although I enjoyed the emotional journey Garth Davis took us upon in Lion, I can’t help but feel that Ben Young’s skills should have been recognised here, and not just because his film Hounds of Love was filmed in WA. Most of his film takes place within the walls of a small home and focuses on the relationship between two emotionally twisted and disturbed serial killers. Young shows great restraint throughout the film, tending to let your imagination take over, rather than simply showing a lot of graphic violence. He creates a lot of tension and directs some skillful, emotional performances from his leads all on a very small budget. I’m looking forward to seeing him take on bigger projects in the future.

Best Lead Actor
Winner: Sunny Pawar (Lion)
Who Should Have Won: Sunny Pawar (Lion)

Cuteness will always reign supreme. 9-year-old Sunny Pawar took out the Best Lead actor category and I agree wholeheartedly with this choice. Let’s hope this child protégé continues his acting success as an adult.

Best Lead Actress
Winner: Emma Booth (Hounds of Love)
Who Should Have Won: Emma Booth (Hounds of Love)

Without Emma Booth’s powerhouse performance, Hounds of Love would not have been anywhere near as enjoyable. Booth brought an emotional delicacy to her serial killer role that encouraged sympathy towards her, despite her horrendous pursuits. Ever since her days on TV’s Underbelly she’s proven herself to be a fantastic actress, and I’m glad she’s getting recognition for her work on the big screen.

Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Dev Patel (Lion)
Who Should Have Won: Dev Patel (Lion)

Much like Emma Booth’s strong example in Hounds of Love, Dev Patel has such a powerful and resonating performance in Lion that without him, I doubt the film could have reached the same strong ending. Together, him and Sunny Pawar made a fine team on their emotional journey to find their way home. Patel has gone from strength to strength ever since his lead performance in Slumdog Millionaire

Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Who Should Have Won: Nicole Kidman (Lion)

The Lion train continues, and the fine performances on offer in this film should make everyone jump on board. Lion is a prime example of what happens when you put together a cast of A-list Hollywood actors and everything clicks. Nicole Kidman plays the mother who adopts a young Indian refugee, and her wisdom as an experienced actor brings an emotional connection to the film that would not have been anywhere near as strong without her.

 

Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment