Hooked On CinefestOZ

Elle Cahill

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

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

Madhattan
Documentary

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

CinefestOZ Madhattan September 2018

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

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

Dying To Live
Documentary

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

CinefestOZ Dying To Live September 2018

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

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

Reaching Distance
Feature Film

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

CinefestOZ Reaching Distance September 2018

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

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

Finke: There and Back
Documentary

CinefestOZ Finke There And Back September 2018

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

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

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

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

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Interview – Jordon Prince-Wright: The Decadent and Depraved

Rhys Pascoe

A five-year production from pen to paper to premiere, The Decadent and Depraved has been making waves with audiences across the state since its big unveiling last December. The first idea came about while director Jordon Prince-Wright was still at high school. Twelve months later, Prince-Wright pitched the idea to co-director Axel August, with whom he had recently completed a short film.

The rest, as they say, is history, and now the directorial duo are knee-deep in a winding regional tour that intends to showcase the film to as wide and as varied an audience as possible. Not just a hit here at home, The Decadent and Depraved has been garnering acclaim overseas as well, recently receiving five accolades from the Los Angeles Film Awards.

Taking a break from the regional tour, Prince-Wright – a self-described underdog from Morley Camerahouse – took some time to chat with Hooked On Film about the production of WA’s biggest independent film to date.

“We were filming while I was 19 and 20, and a lot of people were telling me it wasn’t possible,” Prince-Wright said. “I didn’t really know what was involved, but I did know what was involved, if you know what I mean. It was a real learning process on set.

“I initially envisaged The Decadent and Depraved as a showreel piece – that’s what I set out to make. It turned out to be one hell of a showreel piece and sort of snowballed from there. What started as a quirky Western turned into a full-blown feature film.

“It was halfway through shooting, while I was sat on the verandah of this big manor house in Yalgoo with the 200 cast and crew, that it actually hit me. It was a real ‘holy crap’ moment – what have I gotten myself into.”

The Decadent and Depraved Teaser Trailer from Prince-Wright Productions on Vimeo.

 

Hooked On Film: The traditional Western isn’t something we see much of nowadays, nothing like the volume of the classic studio era – what prompted you to dive into this genre?

Jordon Prince-Wright: I grew up watching classic westerns as a kid. The old black and white films of John Wayne were my childhood, as opposed to superheroes and cartoons. I grew into more spaghetti westerns and high content rating western films, as I grew older. So the western genre has always been a genre I’ve been fond of and adored. In saying this, I watch many other genres, but anything that is not set in today’s era and is a period piece is definitely my forte.

I mean I’ve been getting offers to direct and produce other films since high school, all of which are period pieces, so the reputation for what I am good at is out and the next film coming up is going to be even closer to my heart, not only because it’s a WWI film, but also because it’s based on a true story of Western Australians from regional WA who went to the Somme and the Western Front.

HOF: The Decadent and Depraved takes a distinctive genre – the Western – and supplants it into a local setting. Was it a challenge to take the rich American iconography – Stetsons, spurs, and bandoliers – and give them a distinctly Western Australian spin?

JPW: I had the upper hand with all the amazing locations up north. Once we were there and looking at the amazing wide shots with the red dirt it was distinctly Australian. When WA people see that on screen, they know right away that it’s WA. We’ve got a lot of the stereotypical stuff in there – the spurs, the hats – but it still looks like WA.

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HOF: A core theme of the film is “upholding morality in an immoral world”. Can you tell us about any classic Westerns that may have inspired The Decadent and Depraved? Or maybe something else entirely?

JPW: I love my old school films; The Magnificent Seven, Sergio Leone films, John Wayne. I would say names like Yul Brynner, John Wayne, Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen and my friends in school wouldn’t know who they were. I would even go to school dressed as a character from a western and they would ask if I was Woody from Toy Story!

The thing is, all those characters in those films were in a way ‘one layered’ and to the audience it was simple separating the protagonist from the antagonist. Yet when you really look into it, I always would question why both were committing murder and stealing while roaming the vast landscape. What made their choices any better than the other? Both were killing for what he believed was right. With The Decadent and Depraved, I really wanted to blur the lines between good and evil with my characters. Throwing them into a world of corruption just made that all the more real.

HOF: A key consideration during the shoot was minimising the need for ‘CGI tricks’ and preserving that gritty Western aesthetic. Why?

JPW: I have a real love for old school cinema. With this film, throwing in camera tricks and CGI would have ruined some of the classic storytelling I was looking for. They didn’t have them back in the old days, so we weren’t going to cheat.

Also, it’s a western. As an audience member going to see a western, or any period piece for that matter, I am going to see something ‘real’, to be transported into a whole new world, and I think CGI in a way ruins it as we are just creating a world in a computer as opposed to putting thought and energy into actually recreating in real life.

In The Decadent and Depraved, there were no replica firearms. All of them are original 1860s firearms, all of which fire black powder with no CGI tricks. The actors are riding horses and the stunts are real. When you combine this with shooting in -5°C and rain, it all creates an epic aesthetic, which is something the entire cast and crew endeavored to get right.

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HOF: How important was it to uphold historical accuracy and authenticity on this production?

JPW: Our job as filmmakers is to entertain. We can make people think, laugh, cry and jump in their seats, but it all comes back to being entertained. If you’re not entertained as an audience, the film most likely won’t stick with you. It probably sounds obvious when you state it, but sometimes I think filmmakers get so roped into making their film exactly how they envisioned it or how it must be exactly historically correct that they start to lose the audience. Therefore, yes the backbone of the story was to keep this historically correct, but when we felt we needed to, we pushed the boundaries. I think this has paid off extremely well in entertaining those who would not normally watch or be entertained by a genre like this.

HOF: There are some truly stunning WA landscapes featured in the film – what was the scouting process like when you’re such remote locations?

JPW: Long story short, at the premiere of my previous short films, the Shire of Yalgoo were present, as I had got them on board with Red Dirt a few years ago. At that premiere they asked what was next – of course I mentioned the western and what I was after. A few weeks later they flew Axel and I up, and away we went looking for locations. Before you knew it I had neighboring shires contacting me about their possible locations, sites, landmarks that we could use the film, and it all just flowed from there.

HOF: You’ve been touring the film around rural Western Australia over the last few months, from Cue and Leonora to Yalgoo. What has the response been like from the locals?

JPW: It was the scariest thing ever. We had WA’s largest premiere. Lots and lots of people. I can’t remember the premiere at all, actually. It’s just a blur. These were the guys who had a hand in making the film, whether that means helping us out in kind or shooting in their backyard – literally, because their backyard is this huge rural station.

In Yalgoo, 80% of the audience was indigenous and some of them were in tears at the end of the film. They were so overwhelmed and emotional. In Cue we had 200+ people all dressed as cowboys – that was one hell of a night. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, you get to Sandstone and they all bring a plate of food, real country-like. In Esperance, they were laughing at things that I didn’t think were funny. It’s really interesting seeing what different audiences respond to.

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The Decadent and Depraved will screen at Orana Cinemas in Kalgoorlie, Busselton, Albany and Geraldton on Wednesday August 29 as part of its ongoing regional tour. Visit www.princewrightproductions.com/screenings for more information and to book.

Revelations Film Festival: You Were Never Really Here

Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here takes the foundations of an action thriller and uses them to build something altogether stranger.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Pascoe

An army veteran, a former FBI operative and a survivor of childhood abuses, Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a man for whom violence is akin to a second language. While others speak with words, Joe is a staggering, hooded goliath who communicates with his bunched fists and a ball peen hammer.

Living with his mother in their shabby New York home and working as an unlicensed private investigator with a penchant for rescue and retrieval of missing girls who have been sold into sex slavery, Joe is recruited by Senator Votto (Alex Mannette), whose daughter Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov) has disappeared. However, once he starts to pull at that thread, Joe uncovers a conspiracy that runs much deeper.

 At first glance, Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here sounds like umpteen other action thrillers that star a gruff macho man and a frail waif in need of rescue. That it reveals itself to be something vastly different is a testament to both Ramsay’s punchiness behind the camera and Phoenix’s mesmerizing performance. The latter lurches through each scene, veering from uncaring ferocity – that is rarely seen, with the camera lingering more on the crumpled bodies left in Joe’s wake – and crushing despair, with Joe’s work interspersed by vivid flashbacks of battlefield atrocities and dark formative years underscored by domestic violence.

Punchy editing hammers home this intensity, with each flash into the past crashing across the screen with blaring noise and arresting imagery. Phoenix, who is fighting with his own inner demons as much as he is the goons in his way, is a burning furnace of anger and sorrow. And while Ramsay’s film peels back the curtain to peer into the grim nature of Joe’s work, exposing the perpetrators is never the screenplay’s intention. There is no grand conspiracy to unearth.

Instead, this is a slow, inward character study that recounts the cyclical and inescapable nature of violence; that shows how moments of pain can echo throughout our lives. This pain the characters feel is relayed onto the audience; even in its final moments, You Were Never Really Here is a bruising, punishing film that is hard to understand and even harder to watch. At the same time, it’s one of the most intense and meticulous films of the year. Every aspect of this taut and meditative thriller has been expertly crafted to hit hard and resonate long after the credits have finished rolling.

 What it lacks in narrative coherence it more than makes up for in sheer artistry. This is an action thriller that has been removed of its rigid genre constraints, and now moves in stranger, eerier territory and is punctuated by moments of bone-shattering horror. Phoenix is unrecognizable while Ramsay’s cruel, poetic take on a vigilante noir lacks catharsis and defies convention. This is more Taxi Driver than Taken, and it operates on an unspoken ‘less is more’ modus operandi. Strap in for a feverish, dizzying experience.

You Were Never Really Here has one more screening on Sunday 15th July at Luna, Leederville. 8:50pm

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

Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2018

 

Part 2: Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2018

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

Get revved up!

Beast
Drama 
UK

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

Elle Cahill

BEAST 1.jpg

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

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

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

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


RocKabul
Documentary 
AUS

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

Elle Cahill

RocKabul 3 .jpg

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

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

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


Five Finger Marseilles
Drama
South Africa

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

Zachary Cruz-Tan

Five-Fingers-For-Marseilles_6.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

 

Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2018

Movie Review – The Gateway

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

⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gateway is available in selected Australian cinemas from May 3

Image courtesy of Rialto Distribution

Movie Review – Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok is by no means the finest Marvel movie, but it does a fine job of keeping up with the pack.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 
Zachary Cruz-Tan

If there is one thing true about the Marvel Cinematic Universe it’s that Thor is about as interesting a movie hero as the dried up skin flaking on my heel. It’s the failing of any mythological figure – they are bound by the limitations of their respective traits. Medusa cannot do anything other than turn infidels to stone. Ares knows only how to wage war. No matter how many family squabbles you throw at him, Thor can still only command lightning. So what do you do? Run with it and make it as much fun as possible, I guess.

Thor: Ragnarok is a delightful step up from the first two movies because it proves Marvel is capable of running self-diagnostics. Thor and Thor: The Dark World were horrendous. You don’t take a boring mythical juggernaut and dump him in New Mexico. That’s like trying to treat depression with Schindler’s List. As a result, Ragnarok is damage control. Its director, Taika Waititi, whose What We Do in the Shadows had me guffawing like a buffoon, is the emergency physician. His remedy is simple: Thor is a hulking lug without brains or a character to develop, so I shall construct around him a world that is infinitely more exciting. And it is.

This is the kind of movie that knows precisely what it is and what it isn’t, what it can and cannot do. For example, it can deliver amazing action set pieces and some truly beautiful imagery, but cannot be as deep or insightful as Batman Begins or Captain America: Civil War. Waititi’s approach is fundamentally helpful. He doesn’t try to beef up the lousy characters or outdo more successful superhero films but simply lets the chemistry of his cast flow with the outrageous dialogue.

Thor is once again played by Chris Hemsworth. This time, his home of Asgard is under threat of destruction by Hela (Cate Blanchett), another mythic figure bound to her eternal moniker of “goddess of death”, which is unfortunate because no matter how hard she may try, she cannot play anyone else but the villain. Thor, meanwhile, is stranded on a faraway garbage planet, ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum in Goldblum overdrive), who enjoys pitting superheroes against each other as some kind of intergalactic blood sport. So you can imagine Thor’s consternation and beastly grunting when the Grandmaster forbids him from saving his home.

Let’s face it, this isn’t a compelling plot, least of all because Asgard as a fantastical ethereal paradise looks more like the blown up internal mechanisms of a wristwatch. Hela’s dialogue is all exposition and snark and very little intelligence. The scenes on the garbage planet are colourful and alive, but after you’ve seen one fight-to-the-death arena presided over by a psychotic dictator, you’ve seen them all, especially if the movie’s trailers have already given away all the best bits.

So the plot is merely serviceable. We know the characters are thin soup. And yet I had a really good time with this. I appreciate an action movie that can make me laugh earnestly, that doesn’t betray the idiosyncrasies of its quirky director, that adopts an approach and sticks with it for better or worse. I can’t recall a single memorable quote (except perhaps “the devil’s anus”) but I remember laughing a lot, being impressed by the quality of the entire production, and thanking the Norse gods for finally giving Darcy the day off.

Thor: Ragnarok is available in Australian cinemas from October 26 

Image courtesy of Marvel Studios 2017

Interview: Rob Livings – Two People

Thomas Munday 

Two People has, in every sense of the term, something for everyone. A twenty-something girl (Liberty Hills) takes some time out from domesticity to wander bars and comedy stores in Northbridge alone. She strikes up a conversation with a comedian (Nick Pages-Oliver) and after missing the last train home, the two begin an elongated conversation throughout the middle of the night.

Director, editor and co-writer Rob Livings peaks into the average twenty-something’s mind in this low-budget, walking-and-talking feature that was shot over four nights in the Perth CBD and Northbridge. Filmed in black and white, Livings and co’s latest utilises the budget, gear and location at their disposal to a desired effect.

Livings chatted with Hooked on Film about his cast, production challenges and how one night can change our lives.

TM: How did you conceive of the idea for the film?

RL: With Two People, I don’t think it was ever intended to be what it became, we were just like ‘let’s try and make a feature for nothing and we’ll just do it overnight, a couple of nights a week and figure it out as we go and do it in an improvised fashion’. We just held a little meeting about it, everyone was keen and then it just went from there. So, it was very much – ‘Let’s get together, shoot it chronologically and see what happens’.

It’s a very simple idea but it was a matter of whether we could pull it off the way we wanted to, we were like: ‘Let’s shoot it multi-cam, let’s treat it so when we’re editing it’s just dumping in a timeline’. There’s so many ways to move quickly in production, but there is not many ways to make a film quickly in post-production, so let’s try and find a way to find an answer for both of those.

TM: How was it to go from shorter-form projects to feature filmmaking?

RL: Switching to feature film was good, but it was just more targeting a new way of making a movie, so fully improvising the dialogue, going against what you learn in film school – basically, taking what you’ve learned from a technical aspect and throwing away everything else and building over. It was really fun and exciting to do something different, – shooting at night when no one is around. It was like Northbridge became this canvas we could do whatever we wanted with.

TM: A lot of the movie feels realistic, how much was scripted before filming and how much was improvised on set?

RL: Every bit of dialogue is improvised, we knew we had a start and we had an ending. We knew where we were going to be shooting because we had access to certain places. The film was set around who we knew and what we had and that’s kind of the point when you’re working for no money, you’ve just got to make the most of what you’ve got.

This film was very much a ‘make it up as you go’, but just let’s get to that ending and let’s get to the finish line however we need to. If things were steering in one direction we’d make sure they went back the other way. I’d say 90% of it happened whilst we were filming and the 10% was planned so it was very, very loose and I was just happy to see where it took us.

TM: How does Perth stand out as a good movie setting?

RL: I love Perth and like everyone in Perth. People have complained about the quiet nature of Perth many times. I think Perth works really well, I would encourage people to shoot at night here because there is literally no one around so you can kind of just create this world if you go to the right spots. For me, in this film they seem like they are alone and on their own, even within the bar there is a couple of people there. That whole quiet nature of Perth really works to people’s benefit, so you don’t have to deal with sound issues or the issues that you might have in a busy city like Sydney or Melbourne.

TM: This movie relies entirely on interaction, why is human behaviour so pertinent to drama, comedy and cinema in general?

RL: I think you can be your own character, anyone can reference with it. The characters in this film are so realistic and so down to Earth. I know that’s something that might push some people away, they might not want to relate to real life; they might want to go in there and watch something that takes them out of what is going on, but it is interesting to see people in this vulnerable state where they are willing to kind of open up. Well, at least, Liberty’s character was vulnerable whereas Nick’s was a bit more guarded. That’s just two different types of people and when you put them together it’s an interesting situation.

Image courtesy of Rob Livings 

Movie Review – Hotel Coolgardie

Between Perth and Kalgoorlie lurks a remote location that appears devoid of humanity; the outskirts of civilisation in Western Australia may be more formidable than we think.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

Every three months, the Denver City Hotel in Coolgardie – a stopover country town frequented by miners and industrial workers to and from Kalgoorlie – hires new barmaids (or “fresh meat”) to serve the patrons of its bar. Two Finnish backpackers in their mid-twenties, Lina and Stephie, are the Hotel’s latest additions. Having been robbed on a vacation in Bali, they need jobs fast, and are sent by a Perth recruitment agency to this town far from civilisation. Little do they know that the next few months will become hell for these girls, as they find themselves the subject of farcical levels of abuse, objectification and harassment from their employers, the locals and the pub’s many visitors.

Every now and then, a documentary comes along that makes you truly wonder whether or not everyone involved was actually in on it and if it was all staged. Surely anyone would want to make themselves look better if they knew their words and actions were being caught on camera, right? Raw & Cooked Media’s Hotel Coolgardie is one of those rare films that manages to perfectly create a fly-on-the-wall feeling, almost as if there is no film crew present and we’re simply watching reality unfold before our eyes. In a volatile situation like this in particular, it must have taken a great deal of restraint for director Pete Gleeson and his team to not interfere and get involved with the (often traumatic) conflict going on at this hotel.

‘Responsible drinking’ seems to be a naff concept in this place; from their very first night on the job, Lina and Stephie are barked orders from their boss Pete as he drowns himself in alcohol alongside the rest of the bar’s patrons. The girls, given essentially no training, struggle to keep up with the constant orders, counting cash and pouring drinks while they are sworn at, insulted and humiliated by the drunken crowd surrounding them.

It only gets worse from here. They’re frequently advanced upon in shockingly crass ways by countless men, given misguided gifts from older blokes whose fancy they’ve taken, urged into arguments by drunks who are a little too open about their life problems, and even find themselves forcing people out of their rooms who have wandered in without invitation. They’re made to endure a camping trip that results in serious health ramifications and professional embarrassment. The girls remain good natured and deal with their situation well, despite how increasingly uncomfortable things become throughout their stay.

It’d be too streamlined to take this all as a deconstruction of “fragile masculinity”, especially considering that some of the residents that belittle and criticise the girls for their looks, physique and demeanour are women. This is more of a look at the way of life in these desolate places far from what we would perceive as a normal, sophisticated way of life. These people live their lonely lives on the road, only ever interacting with a small circle of other human beings and doing what they need to just to get by. Despite how unpleasant they can be, it’s difficult to not feel a little sorry for some of them, clearly so desperate for human interaction they’ll go about it the only way they know how (despite how awful that may seem to us).

Most amazing is how natural everyone seems to be, seemingly uncaring (or unaware) of what image they’ve made of themselves to appear on screen. It’s an incredible feat Raw & Cooked have accomplished in giving us an organic and exposed observation of everyday life just a few hundred kilometres away; it’s an incredible, if somewhat sinister, experience.

Hotel Coolgardie is available in Australian cinemas from June 15

Image courtesy of Raw & Cooked Media

Interview: Fin Edquist – Bad Girl

Rhys Graeme-Drury 

Filmed in Perth’s lush green backyard of the Swan Valley and its surrounds, Bad Girl is a low-budget thriller garnering widespread critical acclaim. After premiering at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August last year, the film scored a WA Screen Award for Best Long Form Drama.

However, the process of bringing the project from page to screen wasn’t a smooth one. Built on a confronting cornerstone of destructive family units and domestic in-fighting, Bad Girl suffered through a long and tricky gestation before finding its true voice, as Hooked on Film found out when it sat down to chat with writer/director Fin Edquist. After working on a range of popular Aussie TV staples (House Husbands, The Secret Daughter, Home and Away) and animated children’s films (Blinky Bill the Movie), Edquist put together a wildly different beast in Bad Girl.

RGD: Bad Girl is a project that took several years to truly come to fruition – what is the story behind this lengthy development process?

FE: I was approached by Stephen Kearney (one of the producers for Bad Girl) about 10 years ago to write a generic revenge-based thriller. That isn’t usually how I set about a new project; usually I get inspired by one aspect and work from the inside out.

But this one went the other way. We spent a couple of years writing around the idea of a father whose family is brought under siege by a girl who may or may not be his long-lost biological daughter. The script read okay but we couldn’t get much interest in it, so we thought we’d make a brief teaser, take it to Cannes and try and get some interest over there.

We had a couple of actors lined up for the father, but they weren’t going to do a teaser for nothing and said, “forget it”. But we realised we could get a couple of up-and-coming teenage girls for the peripheral supporting roles and I wrote a couple of scenes with these two girls specifically for the purpose of being a teaser.

After we filmed it, we realised that this was the story – this was the really interesting angle. The story of two girls fighting over a family is great. They have all their mistakes in front of them and they’re at a crossroads, like a lot of people are at 17. The decisions you make can largely affect how your life turns out.

RGD: So that’s the hook that got you interested again?

FE: Absolutely. I rewrote the screenplay with them at the centre and from that point onwards, everyone got interested.

RGD: Were Sara West and Samara Weaving (who play lead characters Amy and Chloe respectively) attached at this point?

FE: Sara featured in the teaser; we auditioned for the role of Chloe and it was a long process. We really needed someone who could match and counterpoint Sara, who is a really strong actor. Eventually, on the second last day of auditions, Samara rocked up and immediately it was one of those moments where it all came together.

RGD: How did you as a filmmaker alter your approach towards the movie and its characters once you had made that decision to change direction?

FE: It was quite a large shift. It was liberating too. Prior to that, the story was pretty straight-up with clearly defined characters, both good and bad people. I actually drew a lot on my experience of having two warring sisters as teenagers and enjoyed deepening the characters from there. I brought a lot of relatable domestic experience to the new angle. It’s called Bad Girl but both girls are bad and both have positive qualities.

RGD: So that’s where the central idea of family and the notion of belonging stemmed from?

FE: I think so; at that age, everyone goes through those questions of identity and where you fit in. My marriage had also recently broken down so I was channelling a lot of what was going on in my life at the time through the characters.

RGD: Sounds like a very deeply personal vein of inspiration.

FE: Definitely. Having these two girls articulate that in a different way was maybe cathartic to an extent, for sure.

RGD: Tell us a little bit about working with frequent Nick Cave collaborator Warren Ellis (Band member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds; composer on Hell or High Water, Lawless, The Road) on the soundtrack. How did that come about?

FE: One of my producers, Bruno [Charlesworth], lives in France and has a lot to do with the entertainment and music industry. He knew Warren through that and approached him with the film at the script stage, and Warren really responded to it.

Warren is unlike other composers in that he doesn’t work off the picture or traditional cue points; he’ll get a feel for the sequence and will riff on that and develop a number of different themes that he feels speak to the sequence. The music he composed for Bad Girl works as both ambient noise and then it will swell and rise and catch you out. It increases and crescendos towards the end of the film until it’s hammering you at 100 per cent.

I really enjoyed working with him; he’d just pump out hundreds of samples and send them too me at all hours of the night. He composed everything on his bass guitar, a keyboard and a laptop – very lo-fi, but it suited the film. I didn’t want a lush orchestral score but something stripped back and menacing. The soundtrack is actually being released soon through his label.

RGD: What was it about the Swan Valley region, Kalamunda and Serpentine that suited the story you wanted to tell?

FE: The film was originally set in the Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne but the funding came through from ScreenWest. I had no idea what Perth was like, I thought it was going to be dry and hot…

RGD: Well, you’re not too far off – most of the time it is! What time of year did you shoot?

FE: September. We got very lucky, as it was suitably cold, grey and sombre. The Swan Valley really suited the film because of the house – we were looking for a house that could sustain the drama. It was perfect; I wanted a really austere and architecturally severe house, but the art department actually had to dress elements into the house to make it look like people who lived there! It was like a display home, not an item out of place.

WA was a really fantastic place to work in. ScreenWest were very enthusiastic and were keen to cultivate the industry. Everyone was keen to be involved.

RGD: Yeah we’ve got really cool industry chugging away over here!

FE: Hopefully I can make the next one over there too (laughs).

RGD: What is the next one – anything concrete lined up?

FE: I’m developing a project that is set off the northwest cape of WA. It’s a two-hander and a thriller also.

RGD: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today Fin.

FE: My pleasure.

Bad Girl is available in Australian cinemas from April 27

Image courtesy of Curious Films 

Movie Review – Bad Girl

A duo of impressive young performances elevates Bad Girl above your usual humdrum psychological thriller.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Filmed right here in Perth, and winner of a 2016 WA Screen Award, Bad Girl is the feature length debut for filmmaker Fin Edquist: one of the creative minds and writers behind some of Australia’s best-loved TV series’ such as The Secret Daughter, House Husbands and McLeod’s Daughters as well as the recent Blinky Bill Movie.

The film follows tearaway teen Amy (Sara West), a sulky drug-addicted 17-year-old living with her adoptive parents, whose life is turned around after meeting new neighbour and all-round darling Chloe (Samara Weaving). The two strike up a dynamite friendship that at first seems wholly harmless – but secrets and lies start to etch away at their relationship and before long it’s clear that nothing is as innocent as it first appeared.

Having been moulded and fine-tuned by Edquist over a period of about a decade, Bad Girl offers raw and unrelenting insight into female friendship and sexuality, as well as commenting on the idea of belonging and family. The purposely-vague title should be your first clue as Edquist succeeds in penning and shooting a project that plays both sides and shapes a bold new twist on the classic cinematic femme fatale.

A lot this success stems from West and Weaving’s respective performances, which grow and develop naturally across the tight 87-minute runtime. West deftly traverses the tricky tightrope that is the sulky teen, both frustratingly self-destructive and sullen but also sympathetic. The film hinges on her performance navigating both extremes, and the actress successfully explores both with ease. Weaving shines too as the almost too-perfect girl-next-door with watery blue eyes that conceal her true intentions.

The cinematography (Gavin Head) and moody score (Warren Ellis) round off an impressive debut for Edquist, who is able to root himself in the minds of two girls and deliver a film that is honest, raw and often shocking. The third act feels a little protracted and the twists and turns a little convoluted at times, but on the whole this is an notable Australian production that offers a notch or two more than your average psychological thriller.

Bad Girl is available in Australian cinemas from April 27 

Image courtesy of Curious Films