Quick Picks – Scandinavian Film Festival – Part 1

The Absent One

A superb Danish noir-mystery; The Absent One will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Kit Morris

Director Mikkel Norgaard returns from last year’s critically acclaimed The Keeper of Lost Causes with The Absent One or Fasandraeberne; his second adaptation of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s successful novel series Department Q.

This brilliant sequel to the 2014 hit once again features the Copenhagen-based, cold case detectives Carl Morck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and his Syrian-born counterpart Assad (Fares Fares). Following a frantic plea to Morck to solve the mysterious murder of his teenage children, a former police officer commits suicide. Feeling indebted, Morck attempts to uncover how the death of the ex-cop’s twins really came about back in the mid 1990’s at one of Denmark’s most prestigious boarding schools.

Norgaard’s latest instalment stylishly flits between warm, sunny flashbacks of the past, and colder, more harshly lit scenes of the present day, but what really elevates this thriller is Kaas’ performance as the rugged detective. Whilst Morck acts primarily on instinct, and little exposition is provided in regards to his motives, this actually serves well to support the unpredictable storyline. This fast-paced, gritty thriller culminates in a most unexpected ending that will satisfy any fan of the genre. Highly recommended – 4 stars.

Screening: Sunday 26th July, 2:00pm. Cinema Paradiso, Northbridge


Underdog is a powerful film that features a complicated love triangle underpinned by a raw depiction of class and immigration issues in modern-day Oslo.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Kit Morris

Swedish-Finish actor Bianca Kronlof plays Dino, just one of the thousands of young Swedish migrants battling for work in Norway.  An aspiring artist trapped in a cycle of self-destruction, Dino lives out her days in slum-like conditions, working temporary jobs and fighting alcoholism, when she unexpectedly lands a job as a babysitter for wealthy sportsman-turned-restaurateur, Steffen (Henrik Rafaelsen), who engages her in a sultry love affair.

Svenskjavel, which directly translates as “Swedish bastard”, intricately weaves the recent power balance shift between Norway and Sweden into its romantic storyline. Since the 1960’s Norway’s wealth has been riding on the back of a North Sea oil discovery, whereas Sweden has fallen victim to two recessions in so many decades, causing young Swedes to take advantage of EU’s freedom of movement, and abandon their homeland for Norway in search of a better life. The relationship between the two leads juxtaposes the Swede’s plight against that of the middle-class Norwegians. At one point Steffen’s friends sip champagne, and lounge on sofas while one muses, “Who drives the buses? Who cleans the toilets? Who makes hotel beds?” and concludes with
“the Swedes”. Ronnie Sandahl‘s feature film directorial debut is gritty social commentary at its best; 4 stars.

Screening: Friday 24th July, 6:30pm. Cinema Paradiso, Northbridge

Young Sophie Bell

Buzzing with youthful energy and carnal desires, this Swedish coming-of-age tale’s important message of taking risks and being adventurous is somewhat overshadowed by uncultivated characters, and indulgently stylistic direction.

⭐ ⭐
Review by Rhys Graeme-Drury

Sophie Bell (Felice Jankell) and her best friend Alice (Hedda Stiernstedt) are inseparable, and plan to move to Berlin after graduation. It’s only when Sophie decides to stay in Sweden to study that their friendship becomes strained, and it isn’t long before Alice disappears to Berlin by herself. Without hearing a word from her in over a month, Sophie begins her search for answers by retracing Alice’s steps through the unfamiliar city.

As Sophie sheds her inhibitions, and immerses herself into the German nightlife, we’re taken on several detours that draw focus away from the central mystery of Alice’s fate. Whether it’s taking ecstasy, or fooling around with John (Iggy Malmborg), Sophie’s journey of self-discovery soon takes priority over her relationship with Alice. I felt the film failed to explore some of the key subtext in this area, and could have spent more time focusing on the inner workings of their friendship.

Director Amanda Adolfsson utilises numerous stylistic techniques to convey this sense of reckless abandon; from deep, pulsating ambient techno to gratuitous slo-mo, her work behind the camera soon becomes stilted and repetitive. It might have looked gorgeous, but at times it felt like less of a film, and more of a grungy indie music video.

There are fleeting moments of powerful emotional resonance in Young Sophie Bell; both Jankell and Stiernstedt give memorable performances, but the material just feels like a cheap, trashy, overblown Euro version of Skins.

Screening: Sunday 26th July, 6:30pm. Cinema Paradiso, Northbridge

Images courtesy of Palace Films & The Scandinavian Film Festival


Get Your Shorts On! – Top 3

To mark the end of this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival, here’s a selection of my top films from the Get Your Shorts On! screening, which featured six WA-made short films that were each funded by ScreenWest & FTI.

By Courtney Loney

Eighteen years ago, in the basement of Perth jazz venue the Greenwich Club, what is now known today as one of Australia’s most vibrant and eclectic independent film festivals began. This year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival certainly did not disappoint with screenings held at venues from Leederville through to Fremantle showcasing a wide array of feature films, documentaries and short productions from every country imaginable.

We were lucky enough to check out some of the outstanding films on offer (Quick Picks – Revelation Perth International Film Festival: Feature Films, Quick Picks – Revelation Perth International Film Festival: Documentaries) and last week I was given the opportunity to view some of the greatest short films to be produced in WA in recent years at the regular festival screening category Get Your Shorts On!

Sadly, we will all have to wait until next year to be able to once again have the chance to see so many unique, independent films made both abroad and in our own backyard, but in the meantime, here’s my top 3 short films from the Get Your Shorts On! collection.

3. Setting Them Straight
Kaleb McKenna
Starring: Brett Dowson, Greg McNeil & Sarah McNeil

In a society that is finally paving the way for legal same sex unions, Setting Them Straight offers an unorthodox angle on sexuality.

As the title suggests Setting Them Straight  follows Josh (Dowson), a young man who reveals to his parents that he is actually straight after living the majority of his life as gay, or as he says “on the spectrum”. While most filmmakers choose to tiptoe around serious subjects, co-writers Kaleb McKenna and Brett Dowson dive in head-on to create a current and satirical story about the absurdity of sexual discrimination.

With the shift in our society’s tolerance in regards to Marriage Equality and Gay Rights, most parents these days are loving and accepting of their children, but judging from Josh’s parents response to the news, maybe they were a little too understanding of his homosexuality… possibly to the point where they actually like him better because of it! His parents – whose on screen chemistry can be thanked to their real life relationship – openly poke holes at their own marriage in the belief that the arrangement itself is flawed.

Setting them Straight was a great audience pleaser, and a nice way to open the Get Your Shorts On! category by challenging the status quo, and sharing a gorgeously over-the-top, yet humorous reaction toward a shift in point of view on a hot social issue.

2. Love In A Disabled Toilet
Ruben Pracas
: Miley Tunnecliffe, Liam Graham and Claudia Cirillo

What do you get when you take an awkward situation, add a dash of sexual tension and top it off with toilet humour…?

Another film that executes such brilliance with its comedic devices is Love in a Disabled Toilet. It’s New Year’s Eve, and everyone seems to be having fun in the club, except for Dana, who is having a terrible time, which only becomes worse when she finds herself stuck in a disabled toilet with her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend!

Produced by Jess Black and directed by Ruben Pracas – whom were both nominated for Young Filmmaker of the Year at this year’s WASA awards – this hilarious short film, starring writer/producer Miley Tunnecliffe, mostly takes place within the toilet cubicle. The clever use of the disabled toilet as the transactional context for essentially a Boy-Meets-Ex-Meets-Current-Meets-Ex also acts as a subtle homage to the “Sh!t Happens!” scenario. The walls literally appear to close in on the characters throughout the film creating a deepening claustrophobia, and awkwardness to the unraveling situation.

Each of the three key characters manage to move through a very quick series of emotional and physical changes, and bring out the best in some well-written snappy dialogue that was sure to keep the audience amused. Without spoiling the short film for any future viewers the key relationship twist literally depends on a single word, err, auto-corrected word that is!

1. Dark Whispers
Director: Ngaire Pigram
: Naomi Pigram

One of the richest and most ambitious films on the program is producer Kelrick Martin’s Dark Whispers – one of three Indigenous dramas from Spear Point Productions at this year’s festival.

Written by Ngaire Pigram, Dark Whispers is the story of an Indigenous woman grieving the death of her two sons who finds solace in the sweet song of the Magpie, or “Burrugarrbuu”. This film is imbued with symbolism of the magpie throughout; while you hear it mentioned in the traditional language, it is also a significant metaphor for the joy and grief experienced by the main character Debbie (Naomi Pigram). With a particular emphasis on sound in this film, one of my favourite scenes is where we hear the warbling call of the magpie in the morning, juxtaposed with images of the smiles of Debbie’s children.

The dreamtime stories credit the magpie with creating the very first sunrise, and perhaps this film holds some extra significance for those who relate deeply to this cultural symbol. The burrugarrbuu’s song is a poignant reminder for the mother of her love for her children, and also of her loss, but also that the world comes alive again every dawn when greeted by the laughing magpie.

With beautiful cinematography, and a heartfelt performance from Naomi Pigram, who was nominated at this year’s WASAs, Dark Whispers is not just telling an important indigenous tale, but is a showcase for the industry, which evidently paints a bright future for all WA Indigenous filmmakers!

Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival, Red Mile Stone Productions & Spear Point Productions


Quick Picks – Revelation Perth International Film Festival – Documentaries

Parkerville Amphitheatre: Sets, Bugs and Rock N Roll

Parkerville Amphitheatre: Sets, Bugs and Rock N Roll will warm the cockles of any Revelation Perth International Film Festival attendees’ heart this season.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Tom Munday

Still from trailer for Parkerville Amphitheater - Sets, Bugs and Rock and Roll

Still from trailer for Parkerville Amphitheatre: Sets, Bugs and Rock N Roll

Much-anticipated Western Australian documentary Parkerville Amphitheatre: Sets, Bugs and Rock N Roll tells the overwhelming true story of one of the state and country’s best kept secrets. Opening in 1971, Parkerville Amphitheatre, located within the Shire of Mundaring just outside Perth, was considered a linchpin of Australian music, alternative art, theatre, and community spirit. Despite complaints from the council and neighbours, its founder’s (John Joseph Jones) never-give-up attitude and bright ideas made Parkerville an awe-inspiring landmark. The venue, having closed in 2001, is now a decaying shadow of its former self.

Directors Jenny Crabb and Susan Conte have spent the last several years bringing Parkerville back into the spotlight. Playing at this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival, the documentary aims directly at WA’s 40+ arts and entertainment crowd. Fuelled by nostalgia, the project covers everything associated with the venue’s conception. Broken into four parts, it effectively details its development, operation, downfall, and slow, painful destruction. Crabb and Conte’s vision, aided by everyone involved, provides a delicate balance of optimism and poignancy.

Crabb and Conte, restrained by the lack of recording and video footage, give each interviewee free reign. Focusing on John’s wife Derry and eldest son Lawrence, the documentary pays tribute to John’s extraordinary achievements. In addition, interviews with local musicians, theatre buffs, writers, and family friends craft a glorious and unique account of WA’s Woodstock. Now, as Perth’s live music scene is undergoing significant transformations, this documentary speaks directly to the state’s undying determination and artistic ingenuity.

Parkerville is a small production powered by the gargantuan support of Perth’s art and entertainment hub. This relevant and invigorating documentary is a sure-fire Rev. highlight.

Sat 11th July, 4pm – Cinema Paradiso
Sun 12th July, 12:00pm – Luna SX

Being Evel

What goes up must come down. Although the basic laws of physics supposedly didn’t apply to legendary motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel, they had a profound impact upon his life according to this insightful documentary from director Daniel Junge.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Rhys Graeme-Drury

Still from Being Evel

Still from Being Evel

Detailing Evel Knievel‘s zero to hero and back again story from humble origins to worldwide stardom, Daniel Junge’s film is an entertaining and well-researched examination of the complex man behind the star-spangled cape whose feats captured the imagination of a generation.

Junge rigidly adheres to a conventional doco template, but his mixture of different storytelling techniques keep the film cruising along at a good pace. A range of interviews with family members (Evel’s wives and children) and celebrity admirers (Johnny Knoxville, Travis Pastrana, Robbie Maddison) flesh out the impact Evel’s exploits had, as well as the legacy he has left behind.

Archive footage of his hare-brained stunts is both exhilarating and confronting; the shocking footage of Evel’s fateful Caesar’s Palace jump where he is tossed across the tarmac like a ragdoll is used for maximum effect.

The narrative does veer dangerously close to unrelenting jingoism in the first half, but Junge ensures that every shade of Evel is covered during the 99-minute runtime. His loveable tearaway image is slowly peeled back to reveal a more sinister and ugly side to the icon; his blatant disregard for authority gradually morphing into arrogance, chronic adultery and borderline insanity.

Being Evel is a warts and all depiction of an American icon, albeit one that does feel tonally uneven at times. Come for the stunts, but stay for the substance.

Fri 10th July, 6:30pm – Luna SX
Sun 12th July, 5:15pm – Luna Leederville

Best of Enemies

It’s Buckley vs. Vidal in the verbal match of the century; perhaps history’s most famous and influential televised arguments of deeply intellectual, political and social context. The winner? Television and the media itself…

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Corey Hogan

Still from Best of Enemies

Still from Best of Enemies

Making its debut at this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival is Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom) and Robert Gordon’s cerebral, politically-fuelled documentary Best of Enemies, an unexpectedly entertaining and, at times, emotional chronicle of the famous series of public debates between two intellectual heavyweights. In the conservative corner – author William F. Buckley Jr., right wing commentator and editor of the magazine National Review. In the liberal corner – patrician Gore Vidal, writer of countless plays, screenplays and novels (including the classic satire Myra Breckinridge). The two went head to head 1968, appearing in ten consecutive verbal disputes televised across the nation and defining civic discussion in the media itself for years to come. Punctuated with biographies of the pair, and the impact and outcome of each debate on the era, Neville and Gordon’s film makes for a compulsive and vital history lesson in media discourse.

It’s interesting to delve beneath the façade of opinions and wry words for a raw and visceral look at these two very different men; as each debate explodes it becomes clearer that Buckley and Vidal undoubtedly despised each other, yet always possessed a mutual respect, even amidst the increasing threats of violence. The Catholic Buckley disapproved of Vidal’s openly sexual and provocative notions, and vice versa, but most powerful are the final few debates, when the pair realise their escalating rivalry has become a product of the media; was genuine, passionate hatred merely entertainment? The film stumbles a little in its attempt to relate the impact to modern society, but for enthusiasts of political history this is a prudent and poignant relic.

Sun 12th July, 2:15pm – Luna Leederville

Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival, Susie Conte & Jenny Crabb, Madman Entertainment, Magnolia Pictures & Participant Media

Quick Picks – Revelation Perth International Film Festival – Feature Films

What Lola Wants

Fast, fun, and ferocious – What Lola Wants may just be Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2015’s boldest and brightest feature.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Tom Munday

Sophie Lowe in What Lola Wants

Sophie Lowe in What Lola Wants

Celebrity teenager Lola Franklin (Sophie Lowe) has run away from her Beverley Hills lifestyle into the wild, wild west. Believing she has been kidnapped, her parents stamp down a $1 million reward for her safe return. Lola meets rebellious, pickpocketing loner Marlo (Beau Knapp) in a diner, convinced he is the man of her dreams. Marlo, being hunted by Mama (Dale Dickey), is already neck-deep in trouble. The destructive duo heads out on the road, taking down anyone in his or her path. But which reward will Marlo choose – the girl or the money?

What Lola Wants is one of the biggest surprises of 2015. This crime-thriller is the pitch-perfect example of less is more – relying on character and tone over anything else. Australian writer/director Rupert Glasson injects his frenzying style onto every page and frame. Attributing to Quentin Tarantino and Sam Peckinpah, every plot-point, twist, and line of dialogue is drenched in pulp and viscera. Told from its lead’s perspective, it’s tough, sexy atmosphere sparks a thrilling pace. Glasson’s latest venture harkens back to some of Hollywood’s biggest middle-finger thrillers like Natural Born Killers and Badlands.

Glasson’s hyperkinetic, frivolous visuals bolster What Lola Wants’ simple-yet-effective narrative. Its lurid cinematography flaunts the American Heartland’s glorious scenic vistas. In addition, its scintillating score pays tribute to the dark, disturbing heart of the western genre. Indeed, touches including an animated credits sequences and comic-book-esque scene transitions deliver multiple surprises. Most importantly, the performances take charge from the outset – with Lowe and Knapp’s chemistry establishing their significant talents.

Bolstered by style and substance, What Lola Wants has more brains, brawn, and heart than anything 2015’s big-budget slate has offered thus far.

Sat 11th July, 6:45pm, Luna Leederville

Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites

 Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites, though not for the faint-hearted, is a unique and mind-altering experimental-drama/black-comedy.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Tom Munday 

Teik Kim Pok in Alvin’s Harmonious World Of Opposites

The plot of Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites is, inexplicably, more intricate and perplexing than its title. Alvin (Teik Kim Pok) has not left the confines of his one-bedroom apartment for over 18 months. The agoraphobic nobody lives only with bizarre collections of toy pandas, Prince Charles and Princess Diana memorabilia, and vintage flour containers. Human interactions include obnoxious neighbour Virginia (Vashti Hughes) and video chats with his boss Angela (Allis Logan). With work and home-life difficulties building up, Alvin becomes paranoid after brown ooze begins dripping through the ceiling.

Writer/director Platon Theodoris’ feature debut is a unique and nightmarish examination of the Average Joe. His project meddles with several genres, concepts, and themes, with the first-two thirds highlighting the long-standing tedium of Alvin’s decaying existence. Sticking with Alvin inside his claustrophobic abode, the narrative’s repetitiveness and peculiarity illicit a unique physical, mental, and spiritual response. Similarly to David Lynch and David Cronenberg, Theodoris’ writing and directorial ticks put the audience on edge throughout its steady 73-minute run-time.

Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites’ final third becomes a Rubik’s cube-level obstacle course through awe-inspiring visuals and intricate ideas. Delving into Alvin’s baffling subconscious, Theodoris’ project switches valiantly from black comedy to existential angst. Scenic vistas and a stirring score establish the dramedy’s discussion of introspection, loneliness, and voyeurism. Pok, carrying every scene, conveys a bevvy of complex emotions with several key facial expressions.

This drama-thriller/black-comedy is a bizarre yet rewarding trip through Alvin’s dreamscape. Theodoris’ feature debut is set to be the “Did you get it?” flick of this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival.

Thurs 9th July 8:30pm – Cinema Paradiso
Sat 11th July 3:30pm – Luna Leederville


Here we go again…Plague is yet another exploration of the decisions we may be faced with if the world was to end in a zombie apocalypse.

⭐ ⭐
Review by Chantall Victor

Scene from Plague

Scene from Plague

Directed by Nick Kozakis and Kosta Ouzas, Australian film Plague aims to present itself as a horror film, but comes off as more of a psychological thriller – at least for the first 20 minutes. From then on it’s all downhill as sadly, the film meets its own death, and decays on the screen before the audience’s eyes for the remainder of its runtime.

Evie (Tegan Crowely) is stuck with a group of survivors in an Australian barn when she is confronted with the difficult decision of whether to stay and wait for her husband (Scott Marcus) – who may have been turned into a zombie – or go with the group in search of safety. Of course, true love abides, and she stays behind, only to encounter an unexpected guest.

I always look forward to an Australian made film because I believe the Australian industry has such potential, but unfortunately, this film will have to be an exception to my rule. Although visually pleasing — thanks to the make-up department, and cinematographer Tim Metherall — the film suffers from a lack of character development, and endless plot holes. At times the story becomes so unconvincing that it’s laughable — think the Australian version of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room – and so many elements are left unexplained. Overall, the aesthetics are just not enough to save this vague zombie flick.

Sat 11th, 8:45pm – Luna Leederville

Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival, Rupert Glasson, Big Name Studios & Burning Ships Productions


Quick Picks – Spanish Film Festival Part 2

They Are All Dead

Rock music may not have died after all – a little Día de Muertos ritual could prove it lives on in all of us in this excellent addition to the Spanish Film Festival.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Corey Hogan

Elena Anaya in They Are All Dead

Lupe (Elena Anaya) was once living the dream as an 80’s rock star, leading the hit band Groenlandia with her brother Diego (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) until it all came screaming to a halt in a catastrophic car accident, causing his untimely death. Years later, Lupe lives a music-free agoraphobic life with her mother Paquita (Angélica Aragón), baking pies and neglecting her son Pancho (Christian Bernal), who hates what his mother has become, but aspires to be a great musician like she was once. Things are soon shaken when Paquita participates in a Day of the Dead ritual, one that causes Lupe to start seeing the ghost of her departed luminary brother around the house. Generations of musical talent soon collide marvellously in Beatriz Sanchis’ impressive debut feature They Are All Dead.

Though not always terribly original, and occasionally lacking in reason, particularly where the supernatural are concerned, They Are All Dead must be commended for squeezing so much juicy emotion, character and content out of a tiny premise and intimate setting. The simplicity works delightfully well in the film’s favour, allowing so much time and space for its characters to develop at a comfortable pace. Elena Anaya, so good in The Skin I Live In, here proves herself a hugely capable lead actress of a broad range; Hollywood will no doubt be calling soon. Equally outstanding is Christian Bernal in his acting debut, timid but eager and playing off dynamically with his mother figure. Themes of death, depression, incest, homosexuality and oedipal urges all appear, but do not overwhelm in a small film that feels big; this is an emotional, thought-provoking and above all hugely enjoyable family affair.

Tango Glories

Tango Glories, one of this year’s biggest foreign cinema hits, puts its best foot forward as a touching and profound sports drama.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Tom Munday

Sequence from Tango Glories

Tango Glories chronicles the rise and fall of an Argentine superhero; a master of the seductive art of tango. Fermin (Hector Alterio & Luciano Caceres), once the owner of Argentina’s more successful dance clubs, is an old man wilting away in a Buenos Aires hospital, when his new doctor Ezequiel (Gaston Pauls) becomes obsessed with the wonderous tango world after learning of Fermin’s past.

This scintillating drama follows two particular storylines; Ezequiel’s life turning from bland to blistering in the present, and Fermin’s rollercoaster ride in the past. “This Tango thing is like a drug”, Ezequiel says to Fermin’s granddaughter Eva (Antonella Costa) during one of many saucy club sequences. The lead’s ascension from lonely average Joe to charismatic go-getter is handled with style and modesty. Though clichéd, his plot-line illuminates the sport’s fun and frivolous nature. The extensive dancing sequences make for the standout moments, and the balance of sport, emotion, and thrills help the movie glide through its routine.

However, co-directors Hernan Findling and Oliver Kolker, handle the material with Forrest Gump levels of sugary sweet conservatism. Every so often, the flashbacks seek to give us small tastes of Fermin’s heart-breaking story. Objectively, his tale delivers plenty of intriguing strands worth clinging onto, but sadly, the present-day story-line and flashbacks clash awkwardly. The wavering tone gives key details away without impact or consequence. Thankfully, the performances from some of Argentina’s biggest acting talents elevate the derivative material.

Tango Glories, like the sport itself, is an invigorating test of the heart, senses, and mind. This drama receives high scores for style and substance throughout.

Blue Lips

Six up-and-coming directors bring us six intertwining tales of overcoming grief sprouting from six of the world’s most diverse nations. Multiculturalism is united with six degrees of separation in one of this year’s Spanish Film Festival’s most heartfelt entry.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Corey Hogan

Dudu Azevedo in Blue Lips

From directors Daniela De Carlo, Julieta Lima, Gustavo Lipzstein, Antonello Novellino, Nacho Ruiperez and Nobu Shima comes the ambitious feel-good drama Blue Lips, an insightful meditation on human connection breaking through the barriers of ethnicity and language. Each filmmaker, stemming from a different cultural background, directs a different character (played by Simone Cástano, Dudu Azevedo, Mariana Cordero, Keona Cross, Avi Rothman and Malena Sánchez) from around the globe who are each facing a personal conflict or trauma, and cross paths at the annual San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain; an event most renowned for the famous “encierro”, otherwise known as the running of the bulls. Uniting, each of these conflicted strangers form bonds that will help them overcome the inner struggles that have rendered them unable to cope.

As an experimental project, Blue Lips works surprisingly well to form a coherent and sentimental narrative. Each actor brings a unique and believable emotional weight in fleshing out their individual lost souls, making for entertaining interactions with one another; Avi Rothman’s womanizing journalist sharing an apartment with Mariana Cordero’s anti-social and quick-to-anger widow is among the most amusing here. As is the case with most feel-good fiction, things are wrapped up a little too neatly despite a couple of emotional gut-punches before the credits roll, but this remains an impressive culmination of diverse directors, most here making their feature debut, presenting an intriguing study of cross-culture blues, topped off with some exquisite imagery.

Instructions Not Included

Instructions Not Included: aka the latest charming Spaniard making it big in Hollywood.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Tom Munday

Eugenio Derbez and Loreto Peralta in Instructions Not Included

Uplifting dramedy Instructions Not Included chronicles serial womanizer Valentin Bravo (Eugenio Derbez) after a former flame, Julie (Jessica Lindsey), leaves his child on his doorstep, and he heads to Los Angeles to seek a better existence.

Instructions Not Included became the highest grossing Spanish language film in the USA. Crossing over between Spanish and American audiences, this dramedy throws everything into a weird and wacky concoction. Derbez, serving also as director and co-writer, constructs his bizarre idea of Hollywood over the unnecessary 2-hour run-time. Despite picking up and dropping its commentary on Mexico-US border security, Instructions Not Included develops a unique and thought-provoking takes on same sex partnerships and parenthood.

Valentin, aiming to impress his daughter Maggie (Loreto Peralta), pushes himself as tinseltown’s latest big-name stuntman. Along the way, sights including a terrible Johnny Depp impersonator, slow-mo amplified stunts, and cocky, caricaturish directors add touches of self-parody to this sugar-coated fantasy. The animated sequences, depicting Julie’s fantastical journeys, provide blissful reprieves from the bright colours and awkward gross-out gags.

Instructions Not Included’’s biggest flaws revolve around its lead character. Valentin, continually picturing his fears as hungry wolves, is an unlikable presence swallowing up each frame. He, initially unaware of what LA stands for, or how babies even function, is an unrealistically idiotic man-child, even beyond studio comedy or sitcom standards. Also, despite coming off like a foreign person’s perception of Hollywood, the movie inherently follows typical big-budget comedy clichés. Indeed, I could picture the US remake starring Will Ferrell or John C. Reilly in the lead.

Instructions Not Included, despite the flaws, is a fun, frivolous, and touching father-daughter dramedy with several clever moments.

Images courtesy of the 2015 Spanish Film Festival & Palace Films
The Spanish Film Festival screens in Perth, Western Australia from April 23 – May 6

Quick Picks: Spanish Film Festival – Part 1

The 2015 Spanish Film Festival has landed in Perth at Cinema Paradiso! Over the next week we will be releasing reviews of some of the selected films.

Shrew’s Nest

Hailing from a rich heritage of Spanish horror, Shrew’s Nest is a haunting psychological thriller that follows Monste, an unhinged young woman who has spent the better part of her youth caring for her younger sister Nia. ;

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Rhys Graeme-Drury

Macarena Gomez in Shrew’s Nest

After her mother passed away, and her father fled, Monste (Macarena Gomez) shut herself away in their dusty Madrid apartment, and slowly cultivated an uncontrollable fear of the outside and the unknown. Unable to step outside her four walls, Monste’s grip on reality rapidly loosens once she starts seeing visions of her long-departed father (Luis Tosar) and a strange man, Carlos (Hugo Silva), arrives on her doorstep in need of aid.

Directors Juanfer Andres and Esteban Roel barely step outside Monste’s apartment for the entire runtime, an effective creative decision that forms a thick curtain of tension and claustrophobia in the process. Piercing this atmosphere of melancholia is a trifecta of brilliant performances from Gomez, Silva and Nadia de Santiago as Nia.

Most notably, Gomez delivers a performance that both astounds and terrifies. Twitchy like an exposed nerve, with sunken eyes that drill into the soul, we see glimpses on Monste’s kind heart and good intentions thinly masked by malice and blank stare.

It feels like a slow burn at first, but once the floodgates open, things start to liven up in the best way possible. All that pent up tension, past and present, suddenly bursts at the seams. From that point onward, Shrew’s Nest overflows with a constant stream of blood, sweat and emotion. It’s dark, twisted stuff that hardcore horror fans will relish. One or two particularly striking moments felt gratuitous, but mostly the climax was equals parts terrifying and satisfying.

Spanish Affair

Spanish Affair is a cute romantic comedy that follows Rafa, a cocksure man from Seville who falls head over heels for Amaia, a laidback Basque girl whom he spends the night with.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Rhys Graeme-Drury

Carmen Machi, Clara Lago and Dani Rovira in Sanish Affair

After Amaia (Clara Lago) leaves for her rural home region without saying goodbye, Rafa (Dani Rovira) decides to leave his Andalucía home behind and follow his heart. Upon reuniting with Amaia, Rafa discovers that she is desperately trying to hide her jilted marriage from her father, Koldo (Karra Elejalde), and the two soon become entangled in a rapidly escalating web of lies as they attempt to cover their tracks.

Cheeky and affable, Spanish Affair has enough goodwill and snarky humour to deliver a pleasant evening at the movies. Its two leads, Rovira and Lago, share an infectious chemistry that’ll crack a broad grin on even the most battle-hardened of rom-com sceptics.

A lot of the humour revolves around the cultural differences between Rafa, a Ralph Lauren wearing city boy with gelled hair and Amaia, a laidback country girl with blue highlights and an AC/DC shirt. It’s your typical fish-out-of-water scenario as Rafa bungles his way through a series of awkward encounters with Koldo.

However, that’s about as good as it gets. Spanish Affair is shockingly predictable and generic, with a premise torn straight from the book of 1001 worn out sitcom tropes. If we’ve seen it played out on The Big Bang Theory, it’s safe to say we’ve seen it played out a million times. Spanish Affair fails to bring anything new to the table, just a handful of tired clichés from mid-noughties films that star Ben Stiller or Sandra Bullock.

Spanish Affair may have a cast charismatic enough to charm the pants off a nun, but the stock characters and formulaic narrative are painfully obvious if you sit and think about it. It’s a fun, but ultimately forgettable film that almost feels incomplete without the canned laughter.

Images courtesy of the 2015 Spanish Film Festival & Palace Films
The Spanish Film Festival screens in Perth, Western Australia from April 23 – May 6