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Now in its 16th year, Revelation Perth International Film Festival proved once again that its film selections and panel chats are often not for the faint-hearted.

Distinguishing itself from the festival roster of the eastern capitals with a fearless adherence to edgier fare, the programming division, led by Festival Director Jack Sargeant, demonstrated that it is well and truly in touch with the cutting-edge of international independent film-making and avant-garde creativity.

As the heady celebration winds down, SCREEN-SPACE looks back at the key moments from the last week and a half, hoping that you may draw some sense of what it’s like to experience challenging, often disturbing, but always entertaining film culture in Australia’s most remote capital city.   

Multi-media artist Lawrence English (pictured, right) brought his acclaimed vision of an apocalyptic dreamscape to the Buratti Fine Art Gallery in North Fremantle for the final weekend of Revelations. It is an extraordinary blend of sound and light, combining with abstract film content to create a non-linear narrative that draws the viewer hypnotically. Afforded a public space, the collective experience of those that viewed it was spellbinding, confusing and challenging.

Already a sensation in the UK, the prolific Ben Wheatley (Kill List; Sightseers) passionately divided audiences with his monochromatic, psychedelic, old-English horror head-scratcher, A Field in England. Filled with sly humour and graphic violence, this brazen and bold (or indulgent and incoherent, if you prefer) low-budget work was England’s first multi-platform day-&-date release, ensuring lots of publicity that a film so determinedly un-commercial may not have otherwise garnered. The Luna Cinema bar was buzzing with debate after this screened.

The organising committee secured some stellar guests for the 2013 event. Brenna Sanchez and Tom Putnam accompanied their film Burn, which opened the festival; Surkhaab star Barkha Madan, recently ordained as a Buddhist monk; and, Perth-based, Canadian-born filmmaker Lee Chambers. None were more gracious of their time and talent than British actress Alice Krige (Chariots of Fire; Star Trek Nemesis), star of the stunning Jail Caesar!, who accompanied the film’s director Paul Schoolman and spoke at length with local film journalist Travis Johnson in one of the Festival’s most enlightening and enjoyable Q&A sessions.

From the 11 day screening schedule, it is near impossible to settle on a film that most impacted festival audiences. The Fifth Season and The Deep were stunning visions that played well; Pictures of Superheroes announced Don Swaynos as a talent to watch; titles that had premiered in Australia prior to Perth (The Act of Killing; I Am Divine; Cheap Thrills; A Monster In Paris; The Human Scale) continued their passage of good will. But our ‘Best of the Fest’ was festival attendee Zach Clark’s White Reindeer (pictured, left), a stunning Christmas-themed journey through grief and redemption that proved mesmerising (and, Oz distributors, thoroughly deserving of a wider art-house season).

Revelations introduced this two-day industry panel event, held at the Rydges Hotel in the Perth city centre. Festival guests and leading national and international academics discussed and debated the latest trends in distribution and exhibition, genre depiction, gender representation, new international cinema voices and many other aspects of screen culture. The cosy environment ensured discussion was intimate and frank; expect the seating capacity to be revised up in 2014.

Jack Sargeant and Richard Wolstencroft are two peas in an alternative universe pod, with a long history as two of Australia’s most vociferous film identities. It is no surprise that Wolstonecroft’s frank porn-industry doco should have its World Premiere at Revelations. A cold, wet Monday night slot kept audience numbers down, but all attendees were riveted by the story of Michael Tierney, aka porn icon Joe Blow; the reception suggests a long life for the film, which was three years in the making. Never a festival to ignore depictions of frank sexuality, also on Revelations roster was the James Franco/Travis Maxwell oddity Interior Leather Bar and Beth B.'s Burlesque documentary Exposed.
(Note - some trailer content NSFW)

At the height of their shared celebrity, Italian electro-pop outfit Goblin and giallo maestro Dario Argento combined their talents to craft what has become a landmark score for the 1977 horror classic, Suspiria. Revelations scored a major coup when it was announced the band would provide a live soundtrack for screenings of the film. The result? With the film projected in HD in its full aspect ratio, the ageing rockers, under the guidance of keyboardist Claudio Simonetti, proved to be as vital and captivating as they were 36 years ago. (pictured, right: the band visiting Perth Zoo)

Of the 18 short films officially selected, eight were world premieres and seven screened for the first time on Australian soil. Amongst them, exciting new works from local directors Julietta Boscolo (Sam’s Gold), Shaun Burke (Weathered), Markus Hermansen (The Mailman) and Kyle Hedrick (The Boat). The festival’s standing as a global event was evident in the countries represented across the shorts strand – in addition to the local content, productions were selected from USA, UK, China, Denmark, Canada, France and The Russian Federation. The Animation and Experimental short film strands were also sold-out events.

Traditionally one of the most popular nights at past Revelations, the Revel8 Competition asks filmmakers to craft a 3½ minute in-camera work; composers are given the task of scoring the film without meeting the director; and, audience members vote by cheering the loudest. With the theme this year being ‘Phobia’, there was barely a silent moment during the closing night event. Which is exactly how it should be.

Screen-Space was a guest of the Revelations Perth International Film Festival from July 8 to July 11.

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