Movie Review – 2:22

Fun fact: 2:22 was released in the US the same day that Jay-Z dropped his album 4:44. Like the film’s many coincidences though, that probably doesn’t mean a great deal.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan 

Dylan Branson’s (Michiel Huisman) ability to calculate and visualise patterns comes in handy for his job as an air traffic controller guiding planes as they land. That is, until he experiences a strange space and time-defying vision at precisely 2:22pm that stuns him and nearly causes a mid-air collision. Suspended from work, Dylan begins to notice that his now free days consist of numerous bizarrely specific events repeating up until 2:22pm, and that these – and the beautiful Sarah (Teresa Palmer), a survivor of the near-crash who he meets and falls in love with – are all premeditating an ominous approaching event.

As if Before I Fall and Happy Death Day weren’t enough; the Groundhog Day variation trend continues this year with 2:22, though Paul Currie’s film isn’t quite so sure of what genre it’s inserting the now tired trope into. It’s a sort-of romantic, sort-of sci-fi, sort-of action-thriller, though it doesn’t ever deliver fully on any of these, settling instead on being an adequate but incredibly flat example of each.

As the romantic leads, Michiel Huisman and Teresa Palmer – attractive as they are – simply can’t coax us into investing emotionally in their bland characters. Both do their best, but they look a little bored rattling off each contrived coincidence the script has to offer them, including the shock of learning she was on the plane he nearly crashed(!), and the shock of learning they were born on the exact same day(!). Try as they might, neither actor can make these humdrum flukes seem exciting, especially when they bear little-to-no effect on the plot as a whole.

The astral projection and mystery of why certain events of Dylan’s day are repeating themselves fail to get the blood pumping too, since Currie neglects making the dot-connecting interesting or fascinating in any way, and never offers up a satisfying explanation – or really, much of an explanation at all – for what is going on.

In fact, the flubbing of all genres lazily present can be traced back to Nathan Parker and Todd Stein’s messy scriptwriting. There’s shades of a good idea here, and to their credit, there is that mild incentive of sticking it out in the hopes of an explanation for everything. It feels like most of the idea was lost in endless drafts and rewrites in trying to make it something more appealing to mainstream audiences, but in doing so it loses sight of what it actually wanted to be. Ultimately, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense.

In all honestly, you could do worse than this on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Strange though, that a film produced by Screen Australia, with a number of Australians in its cast and crew, went for a New York setting. Maybe if they had made it back home it would have wound up less like a sub-par Hollywood sterility and been something more creative.

2:22 is available on online streaming services and video on demand 

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution and IMDb 

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Interview: Ruth Borgobello – Italian Film Festival

Josip Knezevic 

Although born in Australia, an Italian heart beats within filmmaker Ruth Borgobello. Her groundbreaking debut feature The Space Between is the first Italian-Australian collaboration since a treaty was established between the countries 20 years ago.

The film follows the journey of former chef Marco (Flavio Parenti), who has long stopped searching for his place in the world. Looking to numb the pain from a sudden loss in his life, he returns to his hometown in Northern Italy. He soon meets young Australian woman Olivia (Maeve Dermody) who slowly begins to spark life back into Marco. They find themselves drifting through the voids between death and rebirth to allow themselves to bridge reality and realise their dreams.

As the headline feature for the Italian Film Festival this September, I got the chance to chat with Borgobello to talk all things Italian-Australian and hopes for the future of women working in the film and television industry.

JK: You’ve invested a lot of time into producing Italian/Australian stories. Can you tell me what made you so interested in establishing these connections and why you wanted your debut feature to be the first Italian-Australia co-production?

RB: Sure, I’m half Italian, half Australian. I was born and raised in Australia, but I guess growing up and discovering Italian films – largely through the Italian Film Festival – I felt a strong connection to that sort of style of filmmaking. Travelling to Italy a lot, I was very inspired by the locations and this kind of energy and emotion that exists in Italy, which was harder to tune into in Australia – it’s a bit more hidden. I think also life in Italy – which doesn’t seem like it from Australia – is much harder. There’s more of a struggle inherent in stories that I’ve been attracted to.

JK: The co-production treaty between Italy and Australia has been signed for quite some time, why do you think it took so long for a feature film to be made between the two countries?

RB: I knew about the treaty, but I didn’t realise it hadn’t been used before. That was something I discovered, and when I first went to Italy to meet with producers to talk to them about doing it, I was quite naïve thinking, “Oh yeah, we’ve got this co-production and it will be fantastic”. They were interested in it, but also because it hadn’t been done, it was a bit of a psychological block. For Australian producers as well, I think there’s a suspiciousness that if it’s never been done before then maybe it doesn’t work or it’s too difficult and filmmaking is hard enough as is. Then we found a producer that was really willing to make it work and there was this growing interest and willingness from Italy and our people that supported the film in Australia. We had philanthropists and private investors that were connected to the Italian community and they really wanted to make it work because it hadn’t worked before, so I think this was the key. So for us it was really about building relationships and forging trust.

JK: You mentioned that life in Italy is harder than it looks. The film looks into the idea that despite being surrounded by immense historical and natural beauty, the characters have become blind to the potential within. Where did these ideas come from and what are you alluding it to in terms of dreams of the past for the Italian people?

RB: I guess like in the 60s, 70s and even 80s, there was so much promise in Italy. My grandparents left in the 50s after the war and it was a very depressed time. Now they actually say it’s worse than it was then. There were all these hopes and dreams created from our parent’s generation. They fought for their rights and created a great standard of living and amazing tourism. But then I think maybe when Europe came to be and the Euro came in, everything began to shift in Italy. I know from my husband who’s Italian and our mutual friends that all studied and are highly professional that they found themselves trapped in jobs where they were getting paid very minimal wages. At some point everything just stopped and when the Euro came in, prices doubled, but the wages stayed the same. I think they’ve just come to learn to live within these limitations and not fight for more, which was what their parents had done. It’s this strange thing in which maybe they’ve had it easy and then had it difficult and just clung to security instead of actually trying to push through and make things better.

JK: Wow, I didn’t even know that.

RB: Yeah, not many people in Australia do because we’re sort of sold this tourism. But the reality of life in Italy is very tough. There’s so many young Italians that have this dream to have the freedom and opportunity and most of them are shocked about how much they get paid here and how much they’re valued here as well.

JK: I love the quote before the film starts “Strange not to go on wishing one’s wishes. Strange to see all that was once in place, floating so loosely in space” How did you come across this and was it a source of inspiration for the film?

RB: Yes, that’s a really good question. The quote is from Rainer Maria Rilke poetry from the Duino Elegies. Every time I go to Italy, I visit this one place called Duino – which actually features in the film – and I always loved this place and felt like it was my favourite place in the whole world, even though it’s this tiny little town that nobody knows about. When I writing the script, I came across the poetry and realised there was a connection there. I’ve never known about the poet, but when I read it I just felt like it really captured what I wanted to say with the film. There was this kind of emotion and sense of loss in the poetry, trying to search for meaning within – that was what I wanted to say with the film.

JK: That’s amazing that you found it while you were writing the script. Seems almost like it was fate.

RB: Yeah I had a very strong reaction to it when I read it. There was something in it that really struck a chord with me. And obviously poetry is something that’s very hard to bring into film so we tried to do it in a subtle way.

JK: The film ends on a bittersweet note and I was curious to see if you thought of writing an epilogue on that happens to our main characters. Would you be interested in revisiting these characters in sequels?

RB: That’s so funny, I was just having this discussion with my editor. I was saying to him that when we finished shooting, I felt like I really wanted to start writing the next part. I really wanted to know what happened to them myself. I talked to the actors just after we shot that ending scene and asked them about what would happen and they both had different interpretations. I wanted to leave it open and I wanted to give it that sense of maybe they stay together, but everyone takes away a different interpretation. Flavio was very strong that they weren’t going to stay together, but Maeve was very strong that they were. My sense is that they would come back. Either way Flavio said he was desperate to do another one.

JK: Was this a personal film to make in terms of the context you’ve had growing up as a filmmaker in Australia and in terms of its subject matter of love and loss?

RB: Yeah, it was inspired by when I did meet my husband. We met in very similar circumstances in terms of him losing someone very important. We spent time together even though that had happened. And we had this strong connection that ended up developing into a relationship down the track. So it was sort of inspired by that, but then I made the characters very fictional.

JK: Being so involved with developing Italian-Australian relations, could you talk about some of your favourite Italian and Australian films that may have influenced you down this path?

RB: Federico Fellini is definitely one of my favourite directors. 8 ½ is my favourite all time film because I just feel like its perfection in cinema. In terms of Australian films, I recently watched and loved Looking for Grace that Katie our DOP shot. I think that’s one of the best Australian films I’ve seen in a while even though it’s kind of been under the radar.

JK: There aren’t many women working in the film and television industry in Australia, is there any reason why that number is low and do you sense we will be seeing more of a female presence in the future?

RB: Yes, it definitely will be. When I finished the film, my partner and I kept saying, “Yes you’re in the 16%”, but I never took notice of just how few women there are in the film industry. There’s very few in Italy. I think it’s well under the 16% in Australia, but I really don’t know why it is like that. I know with Palace Films, they’ve been extremely encouraging with this project because I am female. They really want to support women in film and their audience is mostly women, so it’s really important for them to have a strong female voice in more female films. So I think hearing things like that from a big distributor chain is a good sign definitely for the future.

The Italian Film Festival screens at Cinema Paradiso in Perth from September 22 to October 12

Image courtesy of Palace Films

Revelation Film Festival -Get Your Shorts On!

Revelation Film Festival crowd-pleaser Get Your Shorts On! came to town last week. Here’s the lowdown on the best of the best in short filmmaking in WA right now.

Josip Knezevic

Get Your Shorts On! encompasses the very best of what Perth has to offer in short films, and this year eight spectacular productions screened at Luna Leederville to showcase the creativity and skill of our local filmmakers. Of these, there were three standouts that I’d like to single out for Perth’s most promising talent.

3. Normal People
Producer:
Jenna Dimitrijevic
Director:
James Pontifex

Contrary to its title, this RAW Nerve funded short is anything but normal. An unfortunate party goer misreads an invitation and rocks up dressed as a panda only to discovers she is the only one in a costume. That is until she meets a man in a penguin suit…

Normal People is certainly an original piece of filmmaking, with some nice moments of quirky humour. My only disappointment is that it only runs for 7 minutes. Given more time on screen, I think these two loveable characters could have been fleshed out even more. Additionally, the concept is loaded with comedic opportunity that could have been further explored in a longer version… So the only question is, when do we get to see the feature film, guys?

2. Outline
Producer: Jess Parker
Director: Cody Cameron-Brown

Successfully funded by Pozible, Outline tells the story of a grieving young artist who seeks redemption in an unlikely place. She uses her craft to recreate her fallen friend in remembrance of her spirit and by the end of the film, you truly get the sense that this was an incredibly personal film for its creators. A simple idea that works marvelously on screen, I thoroughly enjoyed this 6-minute short with its beautiful artistry and emotional touches. Clearly others are being won over as well; the short was selected to appear in the Short Film Corner at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

1. The Shapes: Cool Rock Video and I’m A Genius
Producer: Lauren Elliott
Director: Matt Lovkis & Henry Inglis

Hot damn, this was awesome! The Shapes: Cool Rock Video and I’m A Genius is my favourite from this year’s Get Your Shorts On! selection. Yes, on a technical level, this 3-minute animation is fantastically well crafted, but what puts this project in first place is it’s success as a musical. Its catchy beats are filled with ridiculously self-aware, funny lyrics; on my way out of the screening I could still hear the addictive songs in my head. With a joyous colour palette and eye-catching transitions, this short and sweet animation is a must watch!

 

Tropfest: The End of an Era?

Cherie Wheeler

Almost anyone who was alive in 1977 can tell you exactly where they were, and what they were doing when they learned of the death of Elvis Presley. Younger generations can probably liken the experience to hearing of Michael Jackson’s passing back in 2009. But for me – and anyone else with even the slightest connection to the Australian film industry – the moment in time that will be forever etched into our minds is from November 2015, when social media exploded with the announcement of the cancellation of Tropfest.

OK, so maybe I’m being a little bit overdramatic, but as Tropfest founder John Polson told Triple J, the news came to all of us as, “an incredible shock and a devastating blow,” because, let’s face it; we’ve all taken Australia’s largest short film festival for granted.

For almost my entire lifetime, Tropfest has been a platform for some of the country’s greatest short films, and every year we’ve come to expect this showcase of amateur filmmaking to go on without a hitch; never once questioning its future existence. So when the news came that “somehow” roughly half a million dollars slipped out of the festival’s kitty – making it impossible for the show to go on – I think we were all left feeling like we’d been slapped clean across the face with a cold, wet fish.

Fast-forward to mid-February, and everything is hunky dory – well, at least it is for the 16 finalists. After CGU Insurance swooped in to save the day, providing Tropfest with some much needed sponsorship, Polson managed to miraculously scrape together an event on Valentine’s Day, with the 7-minute shorts appearing on screens across the nation; though most inconveniently for us Perthians, you could only catch it in bloody Midland of all places, but I digress…

In his original, official statement, Polson said, “my heart goes out to this year’s 16 filmmaking finalists, to our incredible list of sponsors and partners, and of course to our loyal and beloved audience”. With the 16 films available to view on iTunes and Presto, I think we can safely say that all of the creative teams have been sufficiently compensated for the whole debacle, but as for the sponsors and partners, recompense has barely begun.

CGU Insurance claims its rationale for rescuing the film festival was on account of its desire to support the “many small businesses (that) were set to lose one of their biggest jobs of the year”. While certainly a much appreciated gesture, it’s done very little for these many small businesses (caterers, designers, marketers etc.) who are now collectively $170,000 out of pocket from the event, and are in the process of taking legal action against Laverton’s Tropfest Festival Productions.

Wait – who? I hear you ask. Named after and headed by Michael Laverton, a long-term colleague and friend of Polson (well, probably not anymore), Laverton’s Tropfest Festival Productions is the company that’s been managing – or rather mismanaging – the festival and its funds, while Polson says he has mainly been dealing with the creative side of things; shortlisting films, selecting judges etc. Now that the shit has hit the fan, Laverton is nowhere to be seen – much like the hundreds of thousands of dollars – and everyone is looking to poor old Polson for an explanation. His response? “I don’t know”.

Polson has been hung out to dry by the media, who have hounded him for answers that he either does not have, or is unable to disclose while legal proceedings are underway (he too is suing Laverton). Whether an intern left a zero off an Excel spreadsheet, or someone on the inside cashed a cheque and fled the country, we won’t know the full story until the dust settles and the court has made its ruling.

Throughout it all, though, I think we’ve forgotten what an extraordinary project Polson has built from the ground up. Over the past 23 years, Tropfest has developed into a much loved staple of the Australian film industry, so the rush of support that came raining in over the end of last year to keep the Tropfest dream alive was far from surprising. However, when the $100,000 crowdfunding campaign was initiated in late January to allow Tropfest to conduct a business review, the reaction was, uh… less than enthusiastic.

Falling approximately $84,000 short of its target, the pozible campaign was doomed from the start. You would expect that the parties responsible for the financial fiasco are no longer involved, but still, why would anyone want to give money to a festival that’s proven it can’t keep track of its pennies?

So, what does it all mean for the future of Tropfest? Polson’s festival was able to bounce back from its sudden cancellation, but will it be able to soldier on for the long term? My question is; does it need to? Has the time of Tropfest come and gone?

Polson told Triple J, “When I got that terrible news that there was a massive deficit in the budget exactly one month before the event, it happened to coincide with the same weekend where I was meant to watch the shortlisted films… so I decided, well look, I’m going to watch the films this weekend; let the films decide… and if at the end of the weekend I go – these films are all right – they’re not as good as they used to be… maybe I should just go; it’s been a great 23 years, and let it slide, which trust me, that would have been a lot easier. And I sat down and watched those movies – about 70 on the shortlist – by the end of it I was like… these young, unknown filmmakers are just as strong and as exciting and as inspiring as they’ve ever been… over my dead body was this thing going to go away.”

While Polson’s passion for the project is highly commendable, I think we need to acknowledge that the talent out there doesn’t exist because of Tropfest; it exists, and Tropfest allows it to be seen. Tropfest has held a monopoly over the Australian short film festival circuit for over two decades, so if it goes down, so does a massive chunk of our filmmaking sector… but it doesn’t have to be this way. We need to diversify. We need to stop putting all of our eggs in one basket. There is now opportunity for fresh blood to rise up and enter the short film festival market, or for existing, lower-profile ones such as Flickerfest to grow, and I’m genuinely excited by what this could bring.

I wish Tropfest the best of luck in its recovery, and I hope it continues to be one of the country’s most loved and successful festivals, but I think recent events have well and truly proven the need to build additional platforms to support our rising filmmakers.

Image courtesy of Tropfest
Source: http://tropfest.com/au/news/24th-tropfest-a-huge-success/ 

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