Flickerfest 2017

Josip Knezevic

60 Shorts. 1 Academy Accredited Award for Best Australian Short Film. Yes, it’s the 26th Flickerfest Short Film Festival: a showcase from Australian filmmakers to Australian audiences. Compared to Australia’s most popular short film festival Tropfest, which displays 16 films each year, Flickerfest has the ability to boast a larger catalogue, which will be sure to please anyone’s genre tastes.

But with a larger array of films, it can be more challenging to decipher which ones are worth your time. Never fear: Hooked On Film is here to help. If you do get a chance to see the festival, be on the lookout for these four, which are bound to impress you with what Australia has to offer. While there may be a series of international films also available in the festival, we’re only looking at the Australian entries today.

4. I’m Raymond (17 mins)
Produced by Lib Kelly, Catherine Williams
Written and Directed by Eddy Bell

03 March - Flickerfest Im Raymond
Distorting the lines between fiction and reality, I’m Raymond takes a trivial idea and extorts it to the highest of consequences. 8-year-old Raymond Banks starts a name and shame campaign against his family’s company on the sole basis that they are responsible for jeopardising his future by contributing to global warming. Soon a drug-addicted model becomes involved, an official case is lodged and Karl Stefanovic reports it on the news – see what I mean by the highest of consequences?

Whilst the ludicrousness of the situation escalates on screen, a deeper meaning subsides the visual conflicts. Ultimately this is what elevates Bell’s short film to be in top 4 of this list. It becomes a message not about global warming or climate change but one that deals with the relationships between children and adults.

3. Face (13 mins)
Produced by Luke Tierney, Michelle Hardy
Written by Luke Tierney, Henry Nixon
Directed by Luke Tierney

03 March - Flickerfest Face
Speaking of distorting lines, Luke Tierney’s Face takes it to another level. The pitch: James urgently needs to get to the pharmacy by midnight to receive his “mysterious” pills otherwise his face will literally fall off. Unfortunately it’s 11:30pm and the only one who can drive him is his weird neighbour Steve. OK, let’s go.

What I enjoyed the most about Tierney’s experiment was the way the film was shot and presented. There’s a real lucid like feel to the whole drive and it works incredibly well with the overall tone of the short. It’s strange, but that’s what makes it great. The humour is unique and unsuspecting and you can’t help but be completely induced by its trippy presentation. It’s a stoner’s idea for a movie but thankfully it’s one that holds up to its absurdity and is enjoyable to watch.

2. Fish With Legs (10 Mins)
Produced by Nikos Andronicos, Tania Frampton
Written by Nikos Andronicos
Directed by Dave Carter

03 March - Flickerfest Fish with Legs
Short but bittersweet. Fish with Legs effortlessly brushes through the conflicts of science and religion with humour, emotion and beautiful animation to leave a lasting impression long after the credits roll. The story follows a school of fish who awake to discover that everyone in their society has now grown legs. A young enthusiastic preacher of science takes this as the proof he’s been waiting for and declares that evolution is occurring and it is now time for them to take action and move forward out of the seas. What lies ahead is short film that is smarter that what it appears to be.

Andronicos’ script carefully weaves logic with faith to present an array of meanings to take away. This is not a short film bashing those of religious faith over those in the scientific community; it’s a presentation of how these ideas would have manifested in earlier times and how they still reflect the reality of today. Steadied with the careful eye of Dave Carter at the helm, Fish With Legs represents a rare but well overdue gem of Australian animation.

1. The Eleven O’Clock
Produced by Derin Seale, Karen Bryson, Josh Lawson
Written by Josh Lawson
Directed by Derin Seale

03 March - Flickerfest Eleven Oclock

It’s hard to argue against the winner of the Flickerfest festival, Josh Lawson’s The Eleven O’Clock. A cleverly written, sharp and fast paced film that packs memorable lines of dialogue – I can’t wait to watch this short film again. Following the footsteps of iconic comedy routines by Abbott and Costello, the setup involves a delusional patient of who believes he is actually a psychiatrist up against his “real” psychiatrist. As they attempt to treat each other, a battle of wits begins with all glory going to the winner and a tragic end to the loser.

The best part about Lawson’s script is how actively it includes the audience in its story. You become the detective trying to solve the very puzzle itself of who’s who and this is what makes it so much fun. Up until the very last minute, you have no clue on what the outcome is going to, be but looking back, the subtle foreshadowing will make you kick yourself. Truly an equally funny film as it is smartly written.

Images courtesy of Flickerfest

2017 Alliance Francaise French Film Festival

Bonjour Perth! The 28th annual French Film Festival is in town for the next few weeks screening at Cinema Paradiso, Luna on SX and The Windsor. We sampled a few of the films on offer.

Tomorrow

Riding on a crest of environmental documentaries comes Tomorrow: a passionate, yet humble look at the positivity global contamination can bring.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

03 March - AFF Tomorrow
You know how the Western genre has become so saturated that, to stand out, it has to come with unique selling points? Like, look – it’s cowboys and aliens! The Environmental Documentary has more or less reached a similar crisis, with each new film threatening to re-tread what the other has said. It’s no longer enough to complain about fossil fuel emissions and global warming – a new angle is required.

Tomorrow provides that angle. Helmed by Mélanie Laurent and her filmmaking comrades, this immensely informative documentary shifts our attention from a dying Earth to a world that can be rightfully repaired and re-energised through solidarity, networking, and positive thinking. It’s great that more households are converting to solar power, but is that enough? Tomorrow posits broader change, change that is already happening in towns and cities throughout the globe. Urban families are micro-farming. Counties have introduced self-contained currencies to benefit small businesses. Schools in Finland place education ahead of status, and their children are better for it.

All this is meant to be encouraging instead of disheartening, and it is. Tomorrow makes me want to convert my backyard into a vegetable garden. It makes the microcosm I live in seem unclean and harmful, and that I should do something to purify it. Leo DiCaprio’s Before the Flood told us what the billionaires are doing. Tomorrow is a bit different – it’s about you and me, and the good we can do from the ground up.


Planetarium

Rebecca Zlotowski’s supernatural period drama offers a wonderful respite for insomniacs.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

03 March - AFF Planetarium
Planetarium follows two American sisters who are believed to possess the supernatural ability to communicate with ghosts. Laura (Natalie Portman) and Kate (Lily-Rose Depp) Barlow, cross paths with André Korben (Emmanuel Salinger), an eccentric French filmmaker, while performing their travelling séance roadshow in pre-WWII Paris. Captivated by their ethereal connections, Korben invites the girls to live with him while they produce a movie centred on their show, but his interest soon transforms into something a little stranger and disconcerting.

Much like the séances it depicts, Planetarium is a vague and obscure dreamlike ritual that disentangles itself from the anchor of time, stretching two hours into what feels like a bottomless eternity. Maybe this elongated, formless structure is intentional; it could mirror Laura and Kate’s ambling and directionless lives or – at a stretch – the lingering limbo of European geopolitics on the eve of war.

Whatever director Rebecca Zlotowski was aiming for with Planetarium, I don’t feel like much of it congealed into a cohesive whole. There is a collection of interesting ideas here; the middle act transforms into a strange pseudo-sexual experience with Korben supposedly navigating beyond the veil to meet with his deceased wife while using Kate as a vessel.

But a lot of these ideas hang in isolation, disconnected from other ideas that waft gently in and out of the film. It certainly doesn’t help that both Portman and Depp are so reserved in their performances; distanced from genuine warmth or deep emotion. We could have had something special on our hands, if only the rest of the film was as captivating as the production and costume design.


In Bed with Victoria

A quirky concept tackled in a completely mundane way.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Cody Fullbrook

03 March - AFF Victoria
Struggling to raise two daughters while being embroiled in two court cases, one of which involves exposing her own personal life, Victoria Spick (Virginie Efira) is attempting to juggle her personal and professional life.

What could have been a humorous and completely original film about an attempted murder case with the only witnesses being a dog and monkey – which actually does happen – In Bed With Victoria wastes too much time on romantic storylines, tarot readings and other things I’ve now instantly forgotten.

Like all films focusing on lawyers, the most interesting and intense moments are the court scenes, and although rarer than I would have liked, they show the same clinical function and form that I’ve come to appreciate.  Even when it’s just a friend of Victoria’s defending her in court against allegations of colluding with a witness, the delivery is passionate yet sensible. An appropriately slow scene with Victoria enduring the end of her case after overdosing on drugs shows exactly what In Bed With Victoria should have simply been about. A stressed woman handling a peculiar court case.  Nothing more.

Though tolerable with a few funny lines, In Bed With Victoria’s characters and storylines are far too basic and plodding for me to think about recommending it to anyone.


Images courtesy of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival 

In Perth from March 15 to April 5: https://www.affrenchfilmfestival.org 

Top 4 – Tropfest 25

Cherie Wheeler 

Around this time last year, we were all left shell-shocked by the threat of Tropfest becoming extinct, but 12 months later, against all expectations the festival has endured. Sensitive topics of lawsuits and the mysterious disappearance of millions of dollars have all be swept under the rug… and maybe that’s a good thing. With the behind-the-scenes controversies shoved firmly into the shadows, this year the spotlight has been rightfully turned to shine on the competing filmmakers for the 25th anniversary of Australia’s largest short film festival.

Tropfest celebrated its quarter of a century in style, with a televised event held at Parramatta Park where the 16 finalists were screened. This year’s short films had to incorporate a pineapple as part of Tropfest’s tradition of the signature item, and as always, there were varied interpretations of this; from subtle inclusions, to cringe-worthily obvious plugs.

Overall, this year’s top short films were a bit hit and miss; some of the weaker productions made me question whether many filmmakers even entered the competition, given the ambiguity surrounding the festival’s continued existence. On the bright side, however, there was a notable number of female filmmakers among the top crop, with roughly half of the finalists directed or produced by women.

Despite being a bit of a mixed bag, of those short films that did hit the mark, there were some truly outstanding displays of storytelling. So without any further ado, here’s my top 4 from this year’s finalists.

4. THE WALL
Story by Nick Baker
Animation by Tristan Klein

02-february-tropfest-the-wall
It always blows me away when amateur film festivals produce high quality animations. With absolutely stunning 2D visuals that bring to mind the early films of Georges Méliès, The Wall is like a children’s picture book for adults. Inspired by the plight of today’s refugees and Trump’s absurd proposal for a Game of Thrones-esque Mexican wall, Nick Baker’s short animation tells the tale of an elderly grandmother trying to survive in a tough reality. Narrated with a mystical quality by David Wenham, and supported by an emotive score from Helen Jane Long, The Wall does fall into slightly preachy territory in its final third, but its bittersweet ending more than makes up for this.

Going Vego was another animated finalist that at first appeared to be for children, but had very strong adult themes. Although boasting some amusing dialogue and excellent comedic timing from the voice talent, The Wall just pipped this one at the post in my humble opinion.


3. TALC
Directed and shot by Jefferson Grainger

02-february-tropfest-talc
In the short runtime required by Tropfest, this mini documentary only just gets to scratch the surface of what could potentially expand into a much broader narrative. Living alone in the outback, Talc is a deeply intriguing artist with a very strong worldview. At times, it’s difficult to tell whether he’s completely insane or a total genius… perhaps he’s both, but Jefferson Grainger’s exploration of this real-life character does not judge or manipulate opinion. It simply presents this incredible man through a beautifully shot and edited journey that will leave you deep in thought as you consider Talc’s fascinating theories and way of life.


2. SERVICE UPDATE
Produced & Directed by Olly Sindle

02-february-2017-tropfest-service-update
“I smile, you smile, the whole world smile”.

These are the words of Carl Downer – a Jamaican man who has carved an unexpected career out of bringing joy to any who cross his path in the London Underground. Service Update, like Talc, is another gorgeously shot documentary that’s based around a compelling character. While Talc intrigues, Service Update is imbued with the glorious feeling of pure, unadulterated happiness. It’s a viewing experience that will leave you grinning from ear to ear, as if you’ll actually float away out of your chair from the sheer elation. Carl Downer is a beautiful soul brimming with love for his job, other people and life in general. His story is a definite mood booster if there ever was one.


1. THE MOTHER SITUATION
Written & directed by Matt Day

02-february-2017-tropfest-the-mother-situation

The winner of Tropfest 25, and also my top pick, The Mother Situation is easily the most cinematic of all the finalists. Starring experienced Australian actors Sacha Horler (Offspring), Harriet Dyer (Love Child) and also writer/director Matt Day (Rake) – this short film is really in a class of its own. It’s a little unfair, really. Tropfest has always been a showcase of amateur filmmaking by emerging storytellers, and these three are well-seasoned in comparison to some of the other entrants. But Matt Day’s script is so fucking fantastic that it’s hard to sit here and complain too much. Channelling similar vibes to 2014 winner Granny Smith, The Mother Situation is a black comedy that’s best watched with as little knowledge of its concept as possible. Find it. Watch it. Enjoy it. That is all.

Another dark comedy to reach the finals was Meat & Potatoes, but while it featured some great banter between its leads, and some wonderfully absurd situations that bring Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet to mind, it just falls short of my top 4, despite being the runner up of the whole competition.

Images courtesy of tropfest.com.au 

Interview: Michael Caton-Jones – British Film Festival

Rhys Graeme-Drury

They say variety is the spice of life – an oft-repeated adage that Scottish filmmaker Michael Caton-Jones has found to be self-evident over a directorial career stretching nearly three decades.

Having worked with the likes of Bruce Willis, Michael J Fox, Robert De Niro and even a young Leonardo DiCaprio, Caton-Jones knows how to handle larger than life personalities on set, but his more recent work sees him finding pleasure in the finer details of indie filmmaking.

His latest project is Urban Hymn, an uplifting story about a young offender who finds a way out of her less than privileged upbringing through song. With the help of a dedicated and inspirational social worker, it’s a stirring film that is contrasted against the bleak backdrop of the 2011 London riots.

Ahead of its Australian premiere at the BBC First British Film Festival this month, I got the chance to sit down and chat with Caton-Jones about the differences between the Hollywood high life and roughing it on the streets of London for his latest micro budget project.

RGD: How did you first become involved with Urban Hymn? What was it about Nick Moorcroft’s original screenplay that perked your interest?

MCJ: Over the years I’ve come to realise that it’s not subject matter, but specific elements of filmmaking that jump out at you when reading through a script. I’d been looking to shoot something low budget in Britain for a while, as well as something that had strong female characters at the forefront. I grew up in Scotland surrounded by strong female characters and I’ve always viewed women that way.

I was also interested in something that used a lot of music, which I felt presented this great technical challenge that ultimately was an opportunity to show the transcendental power of music. If you have a favourite song or a song that reminds you of a time and a place, it’s has a kind of power. I was interested in making a film that explored that.

And, of course, the social side of it was important. We used to make social realist films in Britain all the time. It’s a style of film that I used to like watching and I see no reason why you can’t be entertained and take in a serious subject at the same time. It was a whole bunch of reasons that came together when I read the script, making it a fairly easy choice for me.

RGD: How does the filmmaking process on a smaller film like Urban Hymn compare with something on the other end of the spectrum, like The Jackal for example?

MCJ: They’re just different beasts. It’s essentially the same job; you have a story and a camera and some actors. The difference is the amount of money you have to achieve something. The more money you have, the more concern there is about the film being commercially acceptable. The film might be easy to sell but it might not be very good, if you know what I mean.

When you’ve got no money, the pressures are different. They’re things like not getting the actor you want or the set how you’d like. It just means you have to think you’re way out of trouble rather than buy you’re way out of trouble.

RGD: Do you have a preference? It sounds like one affords you a greater sense of freedom…

MCJ: Absolutely. As a director, I prefer having the freedom to discover what the film is, rather than being concerned about how it’ll make the money back. You don’t get paid as much and you can’t do as much – but it’s more satisfying in many ways. You can either sprint it or go for the marathon – they’re just different.

RGD: Urban Hymn uses the 2011 London riots as both a catalyst and a backdrop for its uplifting story – why do you think this is an event that is only now being tackled in TV and film?

MCJ: I suspect it takes time to process. To come to terms with what happened and what it means. Britain is still very classist. It’s a class-based society. The simple fact is that it’s much easier to find money to make something like Downton Abbey than it is to make something set on the street where everyone wears hoodies. Only one of those is an acceptable commercial reality to the rest of the world. Sorry for being so cynical! But there isn’t any money in riots.

RGD: Integral to the success of the film is Letitia Wright’s performance as Jaime – was the process of casting Jaime a challenge on Urban Hymn?

MCJ: Casting is 80% of the film. You have to work very hard if you get it wrong; you’re always papering over the cracks.

In the case of Letitia, she originally read for the role of Leanne. I thought to myself at the time “Wow, you’re pretty good” and put her in my back pocket for later. We kept auditioning for Jaime until we met Isabella Laughland and felt she worked well as Leanne. So we flipped the two and it worked out. They got on extremely well. Letitia actually started staying with Isabella during the shoot so they were like best mates by the end, much like the film.

Their dynamic really comes across in the movie. Casting the right people does half the work for you. There are a hundred different ways of standing opposite someone that you’re very friendly with that we, as human beings, can see but not necessarily articulate. It wouldn’t communicate as well had we gotten the casting wrong.

RGD: What does the future hold for you as a filmmaker – what can we expect coming over the horizon?

MCJ: I’m in New York at the moment. I’m just about to start on this low-budget thing that hasn’t been announced yet – so I can’t tell you very much about it! We’re still in the casting process.

Looking ahead, I’m just going to continue to look for projects that interest me. Something with character and emotion. If I can keep making things that are interesting, I’ll be happy.

Urban Hymn is screening throughout Luna’s cinemas at the BBC First British Film Festival in Perth 

Image courtesy of Vendetta Films

It’s almost time for CinefestOZ!

Chantall Victor

It’s almost that time of year when film fanatics, Australian filmmakers and industry experts collide at CinefestOZ Film Festival in Australia’s Southwest to view short films, attend workshops and walk the red carpet at feature film premieres. Add in food, wine and great company, and you have the perfect combination for like-minded people to come together. Located in some of the most beautiful wine regions of Western Australia, Cinefest offers a five-day getaway to explore Bunbury, Busselton, Dunsborough and Margaret River.

Here’s some of the highlights to look forward to:

On the opening night, Bunbury will host the Australian premiere of French film Up For Love and will also feature the WA premiere of the Mel Gibson led Blood Father. There will also be a free community screening that focusses on Australia’s female filmmakers and also the premiere of TV series Upstart Crow.

Up For Love
5:30pm, Wednesday 24 August
Grand Cinemas, Bunbury
Get Tickets

08 August - Cinefest 1

CinefestOZ: When successful lawyer, Diane (Virginie Efira) gets a call from the man who found her mobile phone, she is immediately intrigued and charmed. As she and Alexandre (Jean Dujardin) chat and make plans to meet, it becomes evident that the chemistry between them is great. However, when they meet the next day it turns out there may be one small problem. A perfect match in every way but one, will this new couple be up for the challenge?

Blood Father
5:30pm, Thursday 25 August
Grand Cinemas, Bunbury
Get Tickets

08 August - Cinefest 2

CinefestOZ: Action and attitude meets humour and humility as Gibson stars as John Link – an ex-con trying to embrace life on the straight and narrow. When his estranged daughter Lydia is caught up in a drug deal gone wrong, she reaches out to the last man she ever thought she’d need – her father.

Upstart Crow
6:30pm, Friday 26 August
Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre
Get Tickets


CinefestOZ: This BBC TV series is the latest from comic genius, Ben Elton, which humorously chronicles the life of William Shakespeare before he became famous.

In Conversation: Girl Asleep
8:30am, Saturday 27 August
Deck Marina Bar & Restaurant
Get Tickets

08 August - Cinefest 4
Chat to the filmmakers behind Girl Asleep. CinefestOZ: Navigating puberty in 1970’s suburbia, Greta doesn’t want to grow up. Her mum is embarrassing and her sister disinterested. Geeky Elliott is her only ally. Greta’s surprise 15th birthday party is on track to be the worst night of her life – until she’s flung into an odd fairy-tale universe with a warrior princess. 

Hotel Coolgardie with Q&A
12:00pm, Saturday 27 August
Orana Cinemas, Busselton
Get Tickets

08 August - Cinefest 5

CinefestOZ: Attracted by the idea of saving much-needed travel funds whilst enjoying an authentic outback experience, two Finnish backpackers find themselves the latest batch of “fresh meat” en route to live and work as barmaids at the only pub in a remote Australian mining town. Confronted by a culture of insularity, insults and impunity, and relentlessly harassed and harangued, their working holiday rapidly deteriorates into a test of endurance – as they discover that to meet expectations they’ll need to do more than just pour drinks! Amusing, shocking, and unexpectedly moving, Hotel Coolgardie is a wryly-observed warts-and-all journey into an outback Australia rarely depicted on screen.

There are many other great events to attend from Busselton to Margaret River, with a little bit of everything for everyone. I will be attending from the Friday until Sunday evening so stay up to date with my whereabouts via the Hooked On Film twitter account and come and say hi!

Images and film synopses courtesy of CinefestOZ 2016 & Icon Film Distribution

Interview: Lincoln Younes – Down Under

Corey Hogan

Aficionados of Australian television no doubt already know his name – Lincoln Younes. Only 24 years old, he’s already made a claim to fame through regular starring roles in Tangle, Home & Away, Hiding and the recently-wrapped season of Love Child. Now he’s set to explode on the big screen, leading the twisted ensemble cast of the brilliantly berserk black comedy Down Under; a spot-on, satirical skewering of the violent, intolerant underbelly of Aussie culture.

I sat down to discuss the film with Lincoln, its production, the controversial issues surrounding it and what’s next for the young actor.

CH: Congratulations on Down Under, it’s an excellent film, very funny and thought provoking. How did you first become involved in the project?

LY: Thank you! I got involved through the normal means; an audition came up for it, I read the script. I had heard that Abe had written it and was directing it and I’d always wanted to work with him, so I auditioned for it and got the part. We started filming in January this year.

CH: The film is a very raw, brutally honest portrayal of the darker, racially charged underbelly of Australian culture. Did the film’s touchy subject matter present any challenges throughout production?

LY: I think the themes are quite difficult to balance and to execute correctly; for it work as a film and to affect people the way we wanted it to affect them, it had to be balanced. There couldn’t be any judgement. It had to be an exposition to allow the audience to make up their own minds about the whole issue. So that was quite difficult, but I think our biggest fear wasn’t so much the subject matter, it was that we wouldn’t bring to life Abe’s script; we basically thought that the script was flawless and we wanted to do it justice on screen – which I think we did.

CH: You play Hassim, who is probably the closest thing we have to a moral compass in the film. How did you go about preparing for this role, and how did you find bouncing off your co-stars, whose characters were a little more hate-fuelled and motivated by anger?

LY: I did a lot of research, and I suppose I used stuff from my heritage – I’m half Lebanese, so I spoke with family members and I drew on knowledge I already had from that side of things. I suppose for me it was really important that Hassim knows why he’s there, and almost represents or acts as the audience in a way; he asks a lot of the questions that the audience would be feeling – why are these people doing this? What are you doing… and will it all be okay? I suppose the thing that really interested me about him was that he shows no matter how moral you are, if you stay within that conflicted environment long enough… it changes you. Those events become irreversible; if you surround yourself with ignorance and anger-filled hate, the only outcome can be a negative one.

CH: There’s some pretty extreme violence in the film, and you’re involved in a number of fight scenes and a car accident. How did you find staging these, and what was the most challenging scene to capture?

LY: Good question. I really enjoyed every part of the film to be honest, whether it was trying to figure out how to capture something on film in the most efficient and most effective way, or… I suppose the best example is the end fight scene. It was really important to not make it staged, not to perfectly choreograph it – it had to be scrappy; it’s that scrappiness that gives a realistic edge to it and actually makes it more disturbing and more horrifying. They’re just boys, they don’t know how to fight, and that’s what happens in real life; it’s not always perfectly choreographed punches or people recovering really quickly. I suppose it was talking about those kinds of things, none of the cast members were acquainted with conflict in that way, so it was about discussing with the stunt coordinators the best way to give it that realistic edge.

CH: According to interviews, Abe was apparently expecting a number of outraged walk-outs from audience members, which the film didn’t experience much of in the end. Were you expecting a similar reaction?

LY: Yeah, I think all of us were… We weren’t afraid of it to be honest, whether people hate it or love it; it provokes a reaction, and it’s that reaction that we wanted out of it, we wanted people to think about it. If they were indifferent it would be quite worrying. But the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive – which is above and beyond what we could have hoped for – I think we had in our heads the worst case scenario, but what we’ve been left with is a great response which is very reassuring. And it drives home that this is an issue that needs to be talked about, and that people are hopefully finally ready to acknowledge it.

CH: A lot of your work has been regular roles on some of the most well-known Australian shows – Tangled, Home & Away, Hiding and now Love Child – have you found there is much of a transition or difference between TV and film?

LY: Yeah, I did find it very different. I found we had a lot more time, you know – TV production, especially for Home & Away is incredibly fast, so I really appreciated the time we were given with the film; the more time you have the more you can explore creative options.I suppose because of that time we had more opportunities to use really amazing cinematic equipment and stage the visuals. Learning to choreograph your acting around the technical side of film has been an incredible learning experience for me. Of course, at the end of the day if it’s a good story it will end up being the same quality whether it’s film or TV.

CH: You’re fast on your way to becoming very prolific in the Australian film industry. What’s next on your plate?

LY: To be honest, I feel like a lot in this industry is always thinking and talking about the next thing… I mean there are a couple of things coming up for me, but right now I’m actually just really enjoying the festival run with the film. With television you film it, and then it just airs on TV, so I guess there’s a bit of a disconnection – you don’t get to see people’s reactions. Whereas with this I’m sitting in a theatre, in the audience and seeing their reactions first hand; I’ve been enjoying that side of things, there’s stuff coming up, but for now I’m just enjoying that festival vibe. I was at the Sydney Film Festival and saw quite a lot of films; we had our world premiere there and it’s showing at the Melbourne Film Festival soon. I’m from Melbourne originally, so I get to take my mum there and she hasn’t seen it yet – I’m excited!

Down Under is available in Australian cinemas from August 11

Image courtesy of StudioCanal 

Alfred Hitchcock Film Festival – Vertigo

Doused in lust and obsession, Vertigo remains one of cinema’s defining mystery films by revealing Hitchcock’s darkest fantasies.

Zachary Cruz-Tan

Vertigo is possibly the greatest of Alfred Hitchcock’s films because it succeeds at being an effective psychological thriller as well as a careful study of his filmmaking approach. In the movie, Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) becomes obsessed with the woman of his dreams and shapes her into an object of his desires. Hitchcock was notorious for choosing blondes as his leading ladies; fetishizing them in objectifying costumes and ultimately humiliating them at the hands of controlling men. You could almost use Scottie as a reflection of Hitchcock’s fixation.

This dichotomy is perhaps the reason Vertigo remains so disturbing. In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked it as the best mystery movie, and in 2012, Sight & Sound magazine named it the best film of all time, just ahead of Citizen Kane. Why not Notorious? Or Rear Window? Or Psycho? Those were great films about horror and paranoia, but Vertigo is more in harmony with its director.

I won’t go over the plot. You either know it or you don’t, in which case its surprises are best left for you to discover. Vertigo, however, is less about plot and more about the imprisonment of its characters. Scottie’s obsession with Madeleine (Kim Novak) is an entrapment, and Madeleine’s subsequent love for Scottie binds her to a man who only thinks he shares the same feelings. Both characters tumble ever downward into loneliness and despair, and Scottie, who spends the entire film trying to overcome his irrational fear of heights, succeeds at the cost of his twisted fantasy.

If it sounds like a dour, unforgiving tragedy, it is, but Hitchcock is a master of his tools, and in Vertigo he manages to strike intrigue, while Stewart’s subversive, edgy performance makes Scottie a thoroughly captivating individual. Stewart was known for playing the implausible hero – like L.B. Jefferies in Rear Window – but in Vertigo he is transformed. He still retains much of his natural charisma, but it’s sullener, tuned down, toned up. He creeps into the picture as a man torn apart by himself, and he is absolutely fascinating to watch.

The female characters are, of course, victims of Hitchcock’s gaze. Both Madeleine and Midge (Scottie’s college friend, played by Barbara Bel Geddes) subject themselves to humiliation and demise, but by the time they realise it, the plot has twisted so tightly around itself that there is no escape for anybody. This magnificent play on lust, obsession and guilt is what gives Vertigo a backbone. A plot of games to last through the decades.

But the movie is also a technical marvel. It is perhaps most remembered for pioneering the “dolly zoom”, a camera technique in which the lens zooms in while the physical camera tracks back, creating the illusion of compressed space around an unchanging subject. It was a visual phenomenon popularised by Spielberg’s Jaws in 1976, used to highlight acute fear. In Vertigo, its use is more fundamental but no less effective; as Scottie stares down from great heights, the ground rushes up to greet him.

One of the great joys about Hitchcock’s oeuvre is that you’re never short of a masterpiece. Here is a director who made more than fifty films; around half of them observe humanity from behind a door of fear and mistaken identities. They’re always about more than what they’re about. Spellbound was more than just proving a man’s innocence. Notorious was more than just uncovering Nazi secrets. And Vertigo is certainly about more than a fear of heights. By uniting so many strands of his life into 120 minutes of personal agony, Hitchcock has crafted one of the most enduring films of all time.

You can catch Vertigo on the big screen at Windsor Cinema Monday 1 August & Sunday 7 August

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Revelation Perth International Film Festival – Part 2

If we could bend time and space by driving around in a DeLorean, then we would go back and see everything that Revelation has to offer! But sadly, as we can’t be in multiple places at once, we can only bring you a couple more of the freaky and fantastical films screening around Perth. It all wraps up this weekend, so get in before it’s all over, red rover!

Der Bunker

Nikias Chryssos invites us into his madhouse, which is little more than a bunker in the German woods, filled with his nightmares.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

07 July - Revelation FF Der Bunker

I am fairly certain – no, I am certain that this is the first movie I’ve seen in which two grown men breastfeed from a woman who claims to have an evil alien living inside her leg. You can’t make this stuff up. The alien speaks to the woman (Oona von Maydell) like The Exorcist‘s Regan MacNeil through a vocoder and instructs that her son, Klaus (Daniel Fripan), be taught the ways of manhood. Meanwhile, her husband (David Scheller) sports a lively moustache, and their guest, a visiting student (Pit Bukowski), has to watch as his three maniacal hosts turn their home into the devil’s playground.

Der Bunker, directed by first-timer Nikias Chryssos, is an absurd extrapolation of a very serious topic. Parents want the best for their kids. But what happens when they want their German son to become president of the United States? Is that something Klaus can achieve in his lifetime, or in any German’s lifetime? Do they not see that he’s an eight-year-old boy who looks thirty-five, and that the alien leg of his mother will probably follow him to America and become its own reality TV show? These questions whizzed through my mind as I sat through Der Bunker, but I realise they shouldn’t be asked, because this is a movie that is completely unhinged from notions of reality. It exists purely within the inexplicable confines of the titular bunker, and in such a place, rules are boundless.

But movies need rules, don’t they? We need rules, or else we lose track of vision. Even The Lobster (2015), which ran away with its crazy ideas about love and the future, established for itself rules to live by, and it worked. Der Bunker is too wild for its own good. It lacks control, and has an ending that’s too tame for the abstract madness it introduces in the first two acts. I won’t spoil anything, but I wanted more madness. I wanted to be taken apart and put back together wrongly, so that nothing truly made sense anymore.

Der Bunker screens at Cinema Paradiso Sunday 17 July


Patrick’s Day

Perhaps Patrick’s Day has something challenging to say about mental illness – shame it’s an unpleasant experience you’ll want to put out of your mind immediately afterwards.

⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

07 July - Revelation FF Patricks Day

On his twenty-sixth birthday, which happens to fall on St. Patrick’s Day, a schizophrenic young man named Patrick (Moe Dunford) escapes the clutches of his overbearing and obsessive mother Maura (Kerry Fox) during a festival in Dublin. Patrick crosses paths with Karen (Catherine Walker), a suicidal air-hostess, who – on her last planned night of being alive – invites Patrick up to her hotel room to take his virginity. Patrick falls in love, and Karen begins to reconsider her decision, until Maura conspires with an eccentric local cop (Philip Jackson) to convince Patrick that Karen was simply a figment of his deluded mind.

It’s easy to see what writer/director Terry McMahon (Charlie Casanova) thinks he has created; a fresh, unflinching honest portrayal of mental illness that evades the usual trappings associated with the genre. There are hints of these at times, but in reality Patrick’s Day is a mostly hackneyed and unremarkable disability drama. A potentially ripe and well-intentioned idea drowned in its unconvincing execution, McMahon’s film has an unshakable sense poignancy that is often tempting to believe, but there are just too many rough edges and disharmonic parts to create a valuable whole.

The film’s most alienating aspect is its colossal and frequent shifts in mood and tone, which come across (perhaps intentionally, but ineffectively) as schizophrenic in themselves. Matching this is an equally inconsistent soundtrack, skipping from raucously loud Irish shanties to an obnoxiously pounding score.

The cast at least do their best with the wholly unlikable characters they’re given, especially Dunford, who remains believable even as McMahon is increasingly cruel and borderline distasteful to his lead. The cynicism and contempt really sets in when Patrick’s Day crescendos in a harrowing electro-shock sequence copied and pasted directly from Requiem for a Dream, then does a complete 180 degree turn in favour of an outlandishly optimistic outcome. If you don’t feel cheated, you’ll at least be disoriented enough to wonder if you’ve contracted schizophrenia yourself.

Patrick’s Day screens at Luna On SX on Saturday July 16


Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival 

Behind The Scenes: PINCH

Tom Munday

Australian filmmaker Jeffory Asselin now has an extensive list of achievements to his name. The part-time filmmaker and Murdoch University media production manager has fuelled his career with several renowned short films including Three to One and Strike. His production expertise, extending from directing to screenwriting, producing and editing, makes him one of the industry’s most resourceful and cunning individuals.

In November 2012, the opportunity for a locally driven feature project came to fruition, and Asselin brought the industry and Murdoch’s brightest minds together for his first feature film, PINCH. The idea for the coming-of-age crime-drama came from his own unenviable life experiences. Growing up in a regional state-housing project, his imagination gave him enough inspiration to pursue his passion.

This Year’s WA Screen Awards placed a swath of high and low profile artistic endeavours in the spotlight. In the Best Feature – Drama category, PINCH  took on Kill Me Three Times, Paper Planes and The Reckoning, and in a historic, upset victory, Asselin’s production snatched the top prize. Placing local, salt-of-the-Earth cinema back on the map, the micro-wonder is set to trample through WA’s film festival circuit later this year. Hot off the presses from its world premiere at CinefestOz, the independent film will be coming to Perth at an event held on September 7 at Luna Cinemas, Leederville. Chatting with me on a Saturday morning, Asselin was eager to share his love and enthusiasm for cinema, his career and home state.

Get tickets to the PINCH Perth Premiere Screening here

PINCH won the WA Screen Award for Best Feature – Drama this year, how has the win influenced your idea of success in the industry?

I regard myself as an artist, and I never really went into filmmaking with stars in my eyes; I never really bought into the celebrity side of things. For me, success would be having my next project financed because of the competency of this project. That’s why we made the film because we all said right from the beginning – look, we can’t compete with the big boys. What we can do is make the best fricken film we can make, and prove to funding bodies and investors that next time we can make an even more cracking film if you give us a chance. Until that happens, it’s nice to be acknowledged and respected among your colleagues as a decent filmmaker. For us, it was really about proving ourselves as filmmakers, more so than going in with any view of winning prizes.

You beat major productions like Kill Me Three Times and Paper Planes; do you think the industry will gravitate towards story and character rather than scale?

The irony here is that we have a real crowd pleaser on our hands, but we’re struggling to get distributors on board who understand that. It’s a funny, fickle business, let’s put it that way. We’ve toppled three huge, flagship projects that have all got distribution – some are doing well, some aren’t, and here we are struggling to get someone to take it on in Australia.

You have to question the distributor’s mould. They were all screaming murder last year because all of these films failed, including Son of a Gun, I mean – look at the people they had on that! Son of a Gun was lucky to pull $100,000.00 at the box office. I’m just looking at it from a logical point of view that perhaps that mould isn’t working. We’re always being told you need an A-lister attached to sell your film, but I disagree with that. I actually think if you make a bloody good film, and you know who your audience is, I think you can make a film just as good, and make a profit out of it. We know from history that a lot of critically acclaimed films that come out of nowhere haven’t always had big actors in them. Or the other strategy is that you pull an actor out of retirement, dust him off, and put him back in the game.

I’d like to see Australia make more of these lower budget films, and not have to rely on the government funding, and create more of a business model, not a charity system. The Australian film industry at the moment is under pressure to go and compete with Hollywood, but we just can’t do it, and we have to be honest with ourselves; we just can’t do it with our budget.

The WA film industry has gone through several major changes, how do you see it developing over the next few years?

I think we’re going to see more of these low budget films because of the way technology is at the moment. I imagine there are going to be more films targeting video on demand, as opposed to theatrical release, and I think there’s more money in that.

You worked to bring Western Australia’s film industry and Murdoch University together with PINCH, how did they collaborate throughout the production?

Most of my other director colleagues work freelance, and do ads to make their bread and butter. I made a decision a long time ago that I didn’t like the ad industry; it wasn’t really my thing. I wanted to be within the educational realm, so I got a job early in the piece working in a studio with a university, and I still make educational media products. I actually come from a very strong multimedia background as well, so I was fortunate that I got the job there, and then I eventually took over the studio and built it up, and chipped away at my short films on the side. Murdoch has always supported me in doing that because when you work for a university most of the staff are generally doing PhDs or some form of staff development. It worked out for me because I would utilise the resources there, and then if we picked up a couple of wins it would put some attention on the university, so it was kind of a nice little marriage. Especially with the PINCH project, it’s really put a lot of positive energy into our university, and I don’t think you can pay for that sort of publicity.

You filmed around Perth and regional WA, how did these locations accentuate the film’s tone and atmosphere?

One of the tips I always give to students is – don’t slouch on your location. I treat my locations like another character in the story. People tend to take the easy route when it comes to locations, and go, “hey – let’s just shoot there because it’s convenient”. I’m always looking for visually aesthetic backdrops, and I treat it like a paint palette.

Some of the places where we shot, you can’t go there by car. We went hiking up there because I would see these hills and think – hang on, I know you can’t get up there by car, but I bet there’s a nice shot up there. It’s little things like that, looking for places around Perth that people haven’t shot. All the big budget movies play the same tune – they go up to Broome, or they go down to Margaret River, but I find your dingier areas are more interesting that your clichéd, tourist attractions.

Lead actors Craig Hyde Smith and Alla Hand stand out immediately, how did their dynamic develop on and off screen?

I’ve worked with Craig before, and because I had no money, I had to try and find the best option. I always had Craig in mind, and I knew that he was capable of pulling off a feature, and I knew that his parents would allow me to take him for 7 weeks and take time off school because he was 16 at the time. For his age and his experience, he was just a treat to work with.

We ended up auditioning probably 50 girls for the other lead, and then I met Alla by pure accident. I was auditioning the Rhonda character at the studio, and I went out to grab my next talent, and screen test them when I saw her sitting in line with all of the older actors. She was obviously in the wrong line and I said to her, “you must be auditioning for another film because I’m casting for older characters here,” and she said, “yeah, I’m here for a student film”. So I walked her down to where she had to go, and I looked at her and thought – oh my god, she looks like my girl. Anyway, I told her I was screen testing for this role, and it turned out that she really captured me through the camera, and straight away I was like, “yep, she’s the one”. She hadn’t done a lot as well, and I kind of took a risk on everyone on the film because they all didn’t have a great deal of experience. I guess it’s one of those things; it’s a director’s intuition. I just had a hunch that these guys could do it.

I have to say it was one of those projects where I felt like with all the momentum I had behind me that it was meant to happen. Some projects you do – you’re just hitting walls constantly, and although we had our fair share of challenges with the project, I had this feeling… that we were doing this film for a reason, which you don’t often get.

All media courtesy of PINCH & Jeffory Asselin

Quick Picks – AICE Israeli Film Festival 2015

Yona

The eerie and rather bleak mind of a poet is entered in this beautifully sombre biopic of sorts. Due to appear in the Israeli Film Festival, one master of his craft tributes another in this grim but rewarding artist exposé.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan


Director Nir Bergman (Broken Wings, HBO’s In Treatment), an ace of capturing the healing process of “broken” people, delivers us another vivid portrait of a fragmented soul. Yona tells the life story of famous Israeli poet Yona Wallach (Naomi Levov) who was transformed by her father’s tragic death as a young girl into a sexually charged lyrical genius. Beginning with her early struggles to explode onto the poetry scene, the film leaves no dirty detail or harrowing happening unexplored; we ricochet from her mother’s shame in her work and deteriorating health, to frequent and graphic sex scenes with either gender (or cross-gender, or a group…), to quirky encounters with fellow eccentric poet Tom Hagi (playing himself in a rather inspired touch). It all serves as the muse for Yona’s poems, but eventually leads her into a dark world of psychotherapy and mental breakdown…

Bergman’s visual flair stands out here; Yona’s luscious red lips, and outfits of her lovers illuminated against the washed out grey and brown tones make the film well deserving of its Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design awards from the Israeli Film Academy. Naomi Levov commits fully to a traumatic role, truly highlighting Yona’s despair as her poetry is plagiarised, and breast cancer tightens its grip on her mortality. Perhaps a little too grief-heavy at times, Yona is difficult viewing, but worth braving for an unrelenting performance, delicious scenery and, of course, alluring and haunting poetry.

Screening: 8:30pm, Saturday 22nd August. Cinema Paradiso.


Marzipan Flowers

Cheap design tricks fail to breathe life into a concept ripe with potential in Adam Kalderon’s feature film directorial debut.


Rhys Graeme-Drury


Marzipan Flowers
tells the story of Hadas (Nuli Omer), a 48-year-old woman who begins an unlikely friendship with Petel (Tal Kallai), a transgender woman, after she leaves her kibbutz life behind, and decides to start life anew in the big city.

Whilst it isn’t totally bereft of interesting narrative ideas, Marzipan Flowers is sorely lacking in terms of production value, and sheer filmmaking technique. The entire set design is comprised of vast black and white backgrounds painted to look like a room or exterior setting; from a flat Tel Aviv storefront, to a wall of motionless washing machines in a Laundromat, everything is just wallpapered across a sound stage they’re using to shoot on.

After pondering whether this was a stylistic decision, or a financial one, I came to the conclusion I’d been duped into watching a really crude high school drama production. The colour contrast – bright orange and lurid yellow costuming against the dull backdrop – might be striking to look at, but when you can only move the camera along one horizontal set, and never set foot on location, your film is going to feel stilted, drab and uninteresting.

It doesn’t help that the acting is of the same standard, with Omer and Kallai striding across the ‘stage’ like overzealous undergraduates. Plus, most of the jokes are crude sight gags that revolve around Petel’s transgender figure, and abrasive personality. Even at a meagre 70 minutes, this brief insight into the Israeli transgender experience felt like a drag.

Screening: 8:30pm, Tuesday 25th August. Cinema Paradiso


Princess

Whilst a fine piece of cinema on a technical level, the subject matter of Princess is certainly not for everyone.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Cherie Wheeler

Tali Shalom-Ezer’s feature film directorial debut explores the awakening of sexual desires through 12 year old girl Adar (Shira Haas), and her dark and twisted relationships with her mother (Keren Mor), her mother’s boyfriend (Ori Pfeffer), and a homeless boy who bears an uncanny physical resemblance to herself (Adar Zohar-Hanetz).

Princess is not the type of film I would generally choose to watch; in fact, it represents all that I loathe in regards to independent filmmaking. I found the film to be highly irritating, and entirely self-indulgent, and this coupled with its slow pace, as well as the lack of driving force in its narrative, made for a most unpleasant viewing experience.

That’s not to say the film is not well made; warm hues and naturalistic lighting fill the beautiful shots that have been carefully framed and angled to express the film’s unsettling tone. Alongside the performances of the core four actors, the cinematography predominantly serves to build the mood of each scene, rather than relying on music or sound design, which is mostly minimal throughout.

Although the main quartet of characters are presented in a most authentic and credible way, all of them are incredibly unlikable, and seek to exploit one another for sexual gain. Adar is nothing more than a sullen and apathetic girl on the cusp of adolescence who enjoys rebelling for the sake of it. Her intimate relationship with her mother’s boyfriend, which dances between fantasy and reality, is both disturbing and sickening to witness, and yet somehow through all of this, Haas still manages to bring forth an intriguing, multifaceted performance.

In the end, if you imagine Blue Is The Warmest Colour focussing on four people instead of two, with far less sex scenes, and a lot more sexual tension, then you essentially have the same film.

Screening: 8:30pm, Friday 21st August. Cinema Paradiso.


Images courtesy of AICE Israeli Film Festival 20-26 August, Palace Films & Vendetta Films