Free Fire – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Ben Wheatley tries his hand at aping Reservoir Dogs to riotous effect.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

One of the most dexterous and consistently interesting directors to emerge from Britain in the last decade, Ben Wheatley’s latest film Free Fire sees the filmmaker transition into old fashioned shoot ‘em up territory for a gleeful celebration of gunplay.

Set in Boston in 1978, Free Fire sees a duo of Irish terrorists, Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley), employ the help of local fixers Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer) in organising a secretive docklands exchange with wildly unpredictable kingpin Vernon (Sharlto Copley).

Naturally, the deal soon goes south as hired goons on both sides decide to settle a standing grudge in the midst of an illegal arms deal. What follows is a protracted melee of ricochets, expletives and blood-soaked shoulder pads. Wheatley and his charismatic cast wholeheartedly embrace the zaniness of the premise as they fling dust, shrapnel and sly barbs across the screen. Copley is the star of the show, his larger-than-life character an absolute hoot as he tries (and fails) to hit on Justine and weasel his way out of getting a slug to the head.

Larson, Murphy and Hammer are also excellent; the irreverence with which they approach the chaos never undercuts the serious moments and everything knits together for an effective character-driven 90-minute actioner, even when the bare bones plot is scarcely enough to keep the thing anchored during the second half.

Unquestionably light on plot, Free Fire instead chooses to focus on genuinely enthralling action. The editing, cinematography and sound mixing all work in tandem to create something rather special. Wheatley displays an unrivalled aptitude for staging that makes Free Fire easy to follow and enormously engaging to boot.

Free Fire is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July)

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures & Revelation Film Festival

Wiener-Dog – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

An impressive cast doesn’t save Todd Solondz from drowning along with his wiener-dog.


Zachary Cruz-Tan

I don’t know Todd Solondz nor am I acquainted with his body of work, but after seeing Wiener-Dog, his latest black comedy about a wandering dachshund, I believe a successful career is still far ahead of him. This is an awkward, at times frustrating film in which no one utters a single line of credible dialogue and every performance – except Danny DeVito’s – is tuned to the frequency of a shock therapy patient.

DeVito plays Dave Schmerz, a failed screenwriter working for a prestigious film school. His story is one of numerous, vaguely interconnected tales about different bunches of people and, of course, a wiener-dog that somehow finds its way into their care. “A dachshund passes from oddball owner to oddball owner, whose radically dysfunctional lives are all impacted by the pooch”, states the film’s IMDb synopsis, and yet I don’t recall the dog doing a single thing of value except providing the film with an excruciatingly overdrawn shot of faeces. Its owners could’ve been lugging around an old toilet and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Sad, then, that the movie is called Wiener-Dog. Solondz, who wrote and directed, must feel affection for canines, but it is lost in his screenplay, which frowns upon them ambivalently with a truly disturbing conclusion, and Julie Delpy having to constantly remind her son that “Dogs are not humans!”. Everyone’s so stunted by the strange dialogue and bizarre staging that the entire picture becomes a distraction of itself. It might also be the only movie under 90 minutes to have an intermission. Gives us the perfect opportunity to walk out, I suppose.

Wiener-Dog is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July) 

Image courtesy of Transmission Films & Revelation Film Festival

Top Knot Detective – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Riotously funny, Top Knot Detective is what happens when you watch too much late-night SBS.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Michael Philp 

It’s hard to describe Top Knot Detective to the uninitiated. Its list of influences includes Power Rangers, midnight SBS insanity and legendarily bad films like The Room. Imagine a mockumentary retrospective on Kung Fury, and you’ll have some grasp of what you’re in for. If those things don’t float your boat, the exit is to your right. For everyone else, Top Knot Detective is brilliant and it deserves to be on your must-see list.

Top Knot details the rise and fall of fictional 90’s Japanese TV show Ronin Suiri Tentai (Deductive Reasoning Ronin), zeroing in on the show’s creator/director/star/writer Takashi Tawagoto (Toshi Okuzaki), who is described as “Errol Flynn without the STD’s or the talent”. Through interviews with his co-stars and the show’s crew, the film builds a fascinating and hilarious portrait of a young man swept up in the creative process.

There are so many things to love about Top Knot. The number of jokes per minute is phenomenal, and just about each one lands perfectly. On top of that, the level of care on display is remarkable. From the acting to the background details, everything around the show is on-point. Even the tie-in advertisements and archive photos feel beautifully real, and you’ll often forget that everything you’re seeing has come directly from the minds of directors Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce. Top Knot Detective isn’t just a send-up of cheap, over the top Japanese cinema, it’s McCann and Pearce’s love letter to the genre. Theirs is a world of giant penis monsters, talk shows with cats, and gloriously ridiculous (and ridiculously gory) action scenes. If that sentence interests you, Top Knot Detective cannot be recommended enough.

Top Knot Detective is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July)

Image courtesy of Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) and Revelation Film Festival 

Descent into the Maelstrom – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Descent into the Malestrom is a high energy journey into the success, and failings, of 70’s Aussie rock’n’roll band Radio Birdman.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill 

In 1974 in Sydney, a young American man named Deniz Tek formed the band Radio Birdman with Rob Younger. Following the recruitment of four other members, Radio Birdman went on to cause a stir in the Australian music scene, with their unconventional take on rock’n’roll and their determination to stay true to their original brand of music. Whilst the band had a short run of success, with the members of the band choosing to part ways in 1978, they became the influence for many mainstream Australian bands.

The genius of Descent into the Maelstrom lies in director Jonathan Sequeira’s complete understanding of the band. There are so many elements at play that are carefully hidden behind the guise of a historical documentary as Sequeira explores the band’s rise to fame. But this documentary offers so much more, and much like the music of Radio Birdman, it refuses to stick to traditional documentary conventions.

The first half of the documentary is littered with wild tales as retold by the band members, now well into their 60’s, and discusses their struggle to be taken seriously in the music scene. There is an incredible archive of footage and photos from Radio Birdman’s performances, which makes up the majority of the visual content for the documentary, but it’s the clever use of storyboard animations that help to fill the gaps in the footage that adds a little extra something, and makes the documentary slightly unusual.

The second half of the documentary takes on a quiet, reflective state as the band are picked up by a label and begin touring internationally in 1977. The more they tour, the more the cracks in the group become irreparable, and this is supported with a definite change in mood in the present-day interviews as the band members become more solemn and disgruntled about how Radio Birdman ended.

Descent into the Maelstrom does well in immersing the audience into this world of rock’n’roll, but there’s also a certain amount of assumed knowledge that is expected of the audience. Knowledge of the state of the Australian music scene at this time is helpful, as well as knowing a bit about the punk scene, both on an international scale, and on a more local, Australian scale. There’s a lot of reminiscing about forgotten bands and pubs that no longer exist, which can leave you missing the significance of these details if you’re just that bit too young.

Descent into the Maelstrom, much like Radio Birdman’s music and band ethos, is raw, gritty and unorthodox, but it’s the honest portrayal of the highs and lows of Radio Birdman’s short rise to fame, and subsequent conflict within the band, that makes this documentary so interesting.

Descent into the Maelstrom is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July)

Image courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment & Revelation Film Festival

Watch The Sunset – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Watch the Sunset is a remarkable achievement that maintains a gripping momentum… almost until the end.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Michael Philp

The one-take genre of drama is small; its most oft-cited works being Victoria and Russian Ark. It’s a format that lends itself to intense realism, but is also hampered by logistical constraints. Watch the Sunset, filmed over the course of an afternoon in Kerang, Victoria, delivers the former in spades, but fails to overcome the trappings of its genre.

The film opens with a brief montage of documentary footage on the drug ice, giving context to the film’s first scene: a man, Danny (Tristan Barr), driving a devastated young woman, Charis (Zia Zantis-Vinycomb) to a motel and locking her in a room. From here, Danny abandons her to attempt to reconnect with his ex-wife and daughter. For good reasons, the former doesn’t want a bar of him, and her reservations are proven legitimate when things take a turn for the worst.

For the vast majority of the film, the camera sticks to Danny like a small child, allowing the audience a stomach-churning view of the proceedings. There is a remarkable level of authenticity on display: every actor nails the realism and depth necessary to breathe life into the single take, and the camera is there at every step to unflinchingly capture their performances. Better still, it manages to pull off the impressionistic angle just as well, with several clever uses of reflection elevating Damien E. Lipp’s cinematography.

Sadly, the film goes off the rails near the end. A brief monologue on “what separates us from the animals” comes off as egregiously empty philosophising, and the film never recovers enough to deliver the rousing finale you want. If this were a normal film, the editing bay might have caught that and cut the scene down, but the single-take genre allows no such leeway.

Watch the Sunset is a powerful film: its performances are devastatingly real, and its achievements are awe-inspiring. Every member of the crew deserves commendation; they have pulled off one of cinema’s most daring feats with aplomb, producing a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat almost until the very end.

Watch the Sunset is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July) 

Image courtesy of BarrLipp Productions and Revelation Film Festival 

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!

 

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 

Revelation Perth International Film Festival – Part 1

It’s that time of year again! Get ready for the weird and the wonderful at this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival. Here’s a snippet of what’s on offer!

High-Rise

Come for a naked Tom Hiddleston, stay for the heavy-handed commentary on capitalism.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

07 July - Revelation FF High-Rise

High-Rise stars Tom Hiddleston as Robert Laing, a dapper middle-class doctor who moves onto the 25th floor of a cutting-edge apartment block located on the outskirts of London. Laing soon finds himself trapped between a rock and a hard place; you see, the building is a rather blunt allegory for society, with the wealthy upper class sitting on top and the poorer have-nots struggling to escape the rigid social hierarchy. Like chickens trapped inside a coop, the shit travels downward and resentment soon begins to bloom amongst those unfortunate enough to be caught in its path.

Sitting somewhere between Snowpiercer and that episode of Community where the whole campus devolves into a parody of a futuristic dystopia, Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise is a complex mixture of both shocking violence and menacing satire.

The cinematography from Laurie Ross is gorgeous; he perfectly captures the unsettling contrast of filth and glamour through some fantastically dark and macabre compositions. Along with Wheatley’s direction and Amy Jump’s devilish screenplay, the sick, twisted tone of JG Ballard’s 1975 novel is surprisingly well replicated on the big screen. The lavish production design from Mark Tildesley ensures that High-Rise is one of those rare films where the physical setting is its story; each floor and room has a distinctive texture that informs the audience of its wicked occupants.

The film does fall into some unfavourable trappings at times, such as the use of ‘sexposition’ to hold our attention during prolonged periods of set-up. Except, it isn’t really warranted – with a central concept as compelling as this, the only purpose it serves is to luridly flash Hiddleston’s perfectly sculpted bum at the camera.

Hiddleston tackles the mayhem with the same sincerity one would usually reserve for Shakespeare, whether he’s making small talk over cocktails or spit roasting a dog on his balcony. Sienna Miller and Elisabeth Moss are great as two of Laing’s neighbours, whilst Luke Evans’ violent upriser Wilder is suitably unhinged and unpredictable.

It’s hard to define the appeal of High-Rise; the metaphor is a little blunt and the acting often strays into goofiness, but much like the aforementioned Snowpiercer, its technical prowess is too rich and gorgeous to ignore. Not everyone will derive enjoyment from Wheatley’s potent mixture of skin-crawling violence and writhing sex orgies, but the confident lead performance from Hiddleston and the sheer volume of colour and atmosphere that the production exudes will enchant art-house audiences if nothing else.

High-Rise screens at Luna On SX Wednesday 13 July & Luna Leederville 16 July 


Demolition

OK, seriously, has anyone else noticed how hard Jake Gyllenhaal has been trying for an Oscar nomination lately?

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Josip Knezevic 

07 July - Revelation FF Demolition

Demolition is yet another great example of the subtleties Gyllenhaal can bring to any performance. While his latest film might not be on the same level as Nightcrawler or Prisoners, it still provides a very worthy character study.

Following the life of Davis Mitchell (Gyllenhall), the story takes an introspective look into how an extraordinarily successful business man deals with grief. Director Jean-Marc Vallee, who brought us the great Dallas Buyers Club, sets Davis up with a romantic counterpart in a mysterious young woman (Naomi Watts) and together things begin to unfold. One of the strangest films I’ve seen of late, Demolition is an interesting blend of drama, comedy and romance, but I’m not sure it works as well as it potentially could.

If it weren’t for the powerhouse performances of Gyllenhaal and Watts, with the welcome addition of Chris Cooper in a supporting role, then I doubt I would have been able to stomach the abrupt shifts in tone throughout. These shifts are so frequent that it feels like watching the longest ever game of ping pong personified as a movie. One moment there’s a hilarious and uplifting scene, then the next spirals into a downfall of dramas. I was left unsure of what to think, and more importantly how to feel.

Vallee does a good job of highlighting the instability of Davis, synonymous with the title, as he becomes fixated on destroying objects around in him in attempt to learn how they were made. It’s a clear metaphor of how wherever he goes, he is tearing relationships apart due to his inability to connect with his emotions but it feels like that message isn’t reinforced enough.

It’s quite the puzzle but at least it’s a puzzle that’s still enjoyable to watch. There are some great moments of humour in this film even if they feel inappropriately placed. My best summary of trying to encompass what this movie represents is that of a famous stadium being purposefully demolished to make way for something else. It’s meant to be melancholic but at the same time you can’t help but smile in its destruction and in the end that’s what the film’s title is trying to allure towards. If you like Gyllenhall or a quirky character study, go see Demolition.

Demolition screens at Luna Leederville Wednesday 13 July 


Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival 

Get Your Shorts On! – Top 3

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

By Courtney Loney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


1. Dark Whispers
Director: Ngaire Pigram
Starring
: Naomi Pigram

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


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

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

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


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

 

Quick Picks – Revelation Perth International Film Festival – Documentaries

Parkerville Amphitheatre: Sets, Bugs and Rock N Roll

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

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Tom Munday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Being Evel

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

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Rhys Graeme-Drury

Still from Being Evel

Still from Being Evel

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

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

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

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

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

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


Best of Enemies

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

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Corey Hogan

Still from Best of Enemies

Still from Best of Enemies

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

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

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


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