Search
3D 5th Wave 80s Cinema A Night of Horror Action Activism Adaptation Adelaide Film Festival Adventure Advocacy African American Age of Adaline AI albanian Alien Abduction alien covenant aliens altzheimers amazon Amitabh Bachchan Animation anime Ari Gold Art Asian Cinema Australian film AV Industry Bad Robot BDSM Beach Boys Berlinale BFG Bianca Biasi Big Hero 6 Biography Biopic Blake Lively B-Movies Bollywood Breast Cancer Brian Wilson Brisbane Camille Keenan Cancer candyman Cannes cannibalism Cannon Films Cesars CGI Chapman To Character Actors Charlie Hunnam Charlize Theron Chemsex China Lion Chloe Grace Moretz Chris Hemsworth Chris Pratt Christchurch christian cinema christmas Christopher Nolan Classic Cinema Close Encounters Cloverfield Comedy Coming-of-Age Conspiracy Controversy Crowd-sourced Cult Cure Dakota Johnson Dance Academy Dardennes Brothers darth vader Debut Deepika Padukone Depression Disaster Movies Disney Diversity Documentary doomsday Dr Moreau drama Dustin Clare Dystopic EL James eli roth Elizabeth Banks Entourage Environmental Epic Erotic Cinema Extra-terrestrial Extreme Sports faith-based Family Film Fantasy Father Daughter Feminism Fifty Shades of Grey Film Film Festival Foreign found footage French Cinema Friendship Fusion Technology Gareth Edwards Gay Cinema Ghostbusters Ghosts Golan Globus Gothic green inferno Guardians of the Galaxy Guillermo del Toro Gun Control Hacker Hailee Steinfeld Han Solo Happiness Harrison Ford Harry Dean Stanton Hasbro Haunted house Hhorror Himalaya Hitchcock Hollywood Holocaust horror Horror Film Housebound Hunger Games Idris Elba IFC Midnight IMAX In Your Eyes Independence Day Independent Indian Film Indigenous Infini International Film Internet Interstellar
Wednesday
Dec142016

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS: TWELVE VIRGIN VIEWINGS.

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS
A traditional festive countdown, reflecting upon my 2016 movie-watching moments...

TWELVE VIRGIN VIEWINGS
Contrary to the big-mouth know-it-all image I project, I’ve not seen every film ever made. But some day, I will have. To that end, in 2016 I caught up on some olde time flicks that had forever eluded my gaze…

LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR (Dir: Richard Brooks, 1977)
A dismal, dirty dive into a young woman’s sexual awakening, Diane Keaton’s headline-grabbing drama is a nasty piece of shock-value cinema disguised as social commentary; tinged with mid-70s gender and homophobic undercurrents, it’s a time-capsule relic that doesn’t play well today. Still as hot as ever, though, is the chemistry twixt Keaton and a smokin' Richard Gere (pictured, top). Rating: 3/5 When: July 13, on YouTube.

PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (Dir: Mario Bava, 1965)
60s Euro-kitsch has finally attained the status of high cinematic art, if you are to believe Nicholas Winding Refn, who oversaw the 4K restoration Mario Bava’s outer-space horror odyssey. Hard to argue once you glimpse the rich tones and deep shadows of the Italian giallo auteur’s long-neglected B-movie masterwork. Rating: 3.5/5. When: May 17, at the Cannes Film Festival; fully restored print introduced by director Nicholas Winding Refn. Read Cannes Classics Bows Refn’s Restoration of Bava Brilliance here.

EYES WITHOUT A FACE (Dir: Georges Franju, 1960)
Few films can match the evocative, nightmarish compositions that pepper Georges Franju’s timeless tale of tragic regret and homicidal devotion. Borrowing from German film expressionism and pulsating with the early energy of a French industry on the cusp of its ‘New Wave’, this tale of a doctor who kills to find the perfect face for a daughter his own negligence has left maimed is still shocking, 50-odd years later. Rating: 4/5. When: January 29, on the Criterion Collection channel on Hulu.

A NEW LEAF (Dir: Elaine May, 1971)
There are more laughs in the first hour of Elaine May’s A New Leaf than in every hour of every film comedy made this year. As the ailing millionaire who’ll kill to inherit the fortune of any dowager who’ll marry him, Walter Matthau is at his acerbic best (“Who do I know who’s pregnant and a good sport?”). Why May’s debut film isn’t spoken of in the company of The Great American Comedies is a mystery… Rating: 4/5. When: August 6, at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

TOKYO STORY (Dir: Yasujiro Ozu, 1953)
Restrained elegance and an emotional resonance in every frame are two of the defining elements in every Yasujiro Ozu film, none more so than what many consider his masterpiece, Tokyo Story. A powerful analogy for a moment in history when the post-war society was forging ahead with scant regard for tradition, Ozu has also crafted a deeply human tale that transcends time and setting. Rating: 4/5. When: July 8, on DVD.

A PLACE IN THE SUN (Dir: George Stevens, 1951)
There’s brooding intensity and then there’s Montgomery Clift, caught here in all his tortured anguish by Hollywood’s ‘Master of Melodrama’, George Stevens. The director’s muse Elizabeth Taylor, all of a very photogenic 19, is the perfect foil for Monty’s gloomy Gus in a tale of the true cost of good ol’ American ambition. Rating: 3.5/5. When: June 19, on Australian cable.

WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER? (Dir: Frank Tashlin, 1957)
The oddball pairing of reedy do-gooder Tony Randall and majestic hedonist Jayne Mansfield is just one of the inspired touches in Frank Tashlin’s Faustian tale of an ad exec selling himself out for his firm’s biggest client. The comedy is uneven, but when it zings it reaches some dizzy heights. Rating: 3.5/5. When: June 18, on DVD.

CAST A DEADLY SPELL (Dir: Martin Campbell, 1991)
Before he launched a Hollywood career as the go-to guy for mainstream blockbusters (GoldenEye, The Mask of Zorro, Casino Royale), Martin Campbell directed Fred Ward as gumshoe dick Harry Phillip Lovecraft (geddit?) in this flouro-noir monster mash-up of detective genre and creature feature. Future Oscar-winner Julianne Moore seems bemused. Rating: 3/5. When: June 4, on YouTube.

VALMONT (Dir: Milos Forman, 1989)
Milos Forman’s expensive and very adult adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses disappeared in the wake of Stephen Frears’ Oscar-winning version when the two squared off in the late 80s. Which is a shame, because Forman, a superior filmmaker in every regard, captured Annette Bening, Colin Firth and Meg Tilly at their most cinematically sublime. Rating: 4/5. When: May 12, at the Cannes Film Festival.

DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (Dir: Blake Edwards, 1962)
As the boozy loser who introduces his sweet wife to the insidious grip of alcoholism, Jack Lemmon is about as tragic a protagonist as American cinema has ever offered up. Lee Remick’s transformation from prim and proper to soused and insane is heartbreaking; arguably the late Blake Edward’s best film. Rating: 4.5/5. When: May 3, on Australian cable.

THE ROOM (Dir: Tommy Wiseau, 2003)
When one finds oneself amongst the spoon-tossing insanity of the late-night cult crowd who worship Wiseau’s film, you’d think it easy to forget all critical faculties and just love the film for the good time vibes it inspires. But no; it’s a grotesque spectacle, utterly shite in every way. Rating: 0.5/5. When: September 17, at the Sydney Underground Film Festival.

THE LAST BATTLE (Dir: Luc Besson, 1983)
A monochromatic, largely dialogue-free, two-hander that pits Pierre Jolivet (‘The Man’) against Jean Reno (‘The Brute’) in an apocalyptic future-scape. Besson’s thrilling psychological/action pic announced the Frenchman as a unique storyteller, an instinctual storyteller with highbrow tastes yet commercial sensibilities. Rating: 4/5. When: April 17, on DVD.

Next on the Twelve Days of Cine-Mas...ELEVEN BRIGHT YOUNG TALENTS

Monday
Nov282016

CANNIBALS, CADAVERS AND CHRISTMAS KILLERS IN MONSTER FEST WINNERS

The latest ‘New Wave’ of international genre talent was singled out for 2016 honours at the Melbourne horror celebration, Monster Fest, held at the Lido Cinema in upscale suburban Hawthorn last night. Attended by fans and filmmakers alike, the tone for the occasionally raucous event was set by evening sessions of Paul Schrader’s unhinged crime melodrama Dog Eat Dog and the highly anticipated Closing Night feature, Jim Hosking’s stomach-churner The Greasy Strangler.

                             Pictured, above; Olivia DeJonge and Levi Miller in Safe Neighborhood

The festival’s coveted ‘Golden Monster’ Award went to Raw, Julia Ducournau’s teen cannibal drama that wowed critics and audiences at Cannes, where it won the FIPRESCI Critics Prize, before earning similar kudos at festivals across the globe. A guest of Monster Fest since her film opened the event last Thursday, Ducournau was present to accept the award, along with the Best Effects nod, a hotly-contested category that saw Ben Wheatley’s squib-epic Free Fire and Dain Said’s Malaysian vampire folk-lore tale, Interchange, challenge for the prize.

Best International Feature was awarded to Andre Overdahl’s terrifying morgue-set nightmare, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, starring Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch (pictured, right). The Norwegian filmmaker’s follow-up to his cult hit Troll Hunter was shortlisted in several categories, but a particularly competitive field kept the trophy tally to one.

It was a unanimous jury decision to award the Best Australian Feature to Chris Peckover’s Christmas season splatterfest, Safe Neighbourhood. The Australian-shot, US-set black comedy also earned budding teen star Levi Miller (Pan; Red Dog True Blue) the Best Actor nod, for his wildly inventive, against-type portrayal of a good kid turned horribly bad, opposite Ed Oxenbould and the equally impressive Olivia DeJonge. The Best Actress honour was awarded to Mackenzie Davis for her spin on the sociopathic ‘single white female’-type in Sophia Takal’s Always Shine.

Polish director Bartosz M Kowalski earned Best Director for his scorching portrait of alienated teen psychopathology, Playground; the spiritually-infused ‘black magic’ thriller A Dark Song, from Irish feature debutant Liam Gavin, earned dual mentions for Cinematography (Cathal Watters) and Score (Ray Harman). At the behest of the festival jurors, a Best Documentary slot was created to honour Sympathy For The Devil: The True Story of the Process Church of The Final Judgement, director Neil Edwards’ study of the British occult movement f the 1960’s. A humble and truly surprised Edwards was on hand to acknowledge the honour.

Jury members also singled out for ‘Special Mention’ the cast and crew of Rohit Mittal’s Autohead, an Indian found-footage film that follows a repressed rickshaw driver’s descent into homicidal madness. The Monster Innovation Award went to Alice Lowe (pictured, right), the star and director of Prevenge, a ‘pregnant femme-fatale’ satire that the British actress conceived and shot while in the late stages of her own pregnancy. Festival director Kier-la Janisse had the honour of bestowing the Audience Award upon local-lad Addison Heath’s grindhouse shocker, Mondo Yakuza. 

Sunday
Oct092016

DOC CRUSADER TARGETS PARENTAL ALIENATION EPIDEMIC

“[Parental Alienation is] the deliberate attempt by one parent to distance his/her children from the other parent and in doing so, the parent engages the children in the process of destroying the affectional ties and familial bonds that once existed." - Reena Sommer, Ph.D. M.Sc. (Family Studies), Ph.D. (Psychology & Family Studies); author of "Children's Adjustment to Divorce: The Case of Parental Alienation Syndrome"; 2004.

As soaring divorce rates in the 1970s left a previously uncharted emotional impact on a generation of children, studies began to identify a new form of abuse that would come to be known as ‘parental alienation’. Yet it has only been in the last decade that mental health advocates, child protection officials and, slowly, progressive family court judges are acknowledging the detrimental effects of the deliberate manipulation of a child’s emotional and mental state. One of the most vocal and determined advocates in the battle to have parental alienation unreservedly accepted by the legal and medical communities is filmmaker Ginger Gentile. Her 2014 documentary Erasing Dad (Borrando a Papá), an examination of gender bias and self-serving officialdom in the Argentinian family court system, was initially denied a release when said officials objected to their portrayal as perpetuators of a broken system that ignored family suffering in favour of hugely profitable court congestion. For her follow-up film Erasing Family, she will examine the global scale of the parental alienation problem and the effort to reunite those families torn apart by the insidious practice.

“As I was making Erasing Dad, I realized that I had suffered alienation when my parents divorced, and was still suffering, even as I made the film,” Gentile told SCREEN-SPACE from the US, having returned to her homeland after 12 years in Buenos Aires, where she co-founded San Telmo Productions with producer Gabriel Balanovsky (pictured, right; with Gentile). A father denied access to his daughter for five years despite having a visitation agreement in place, Balanovsky would become the inspiration for the documentary. “As filmmakers, we used his experience as the jumping off point for our investigation,” says Gentile, who shared directing duties on Erasing Dad with Sandra Fernández Ferreira (pictured, below). “We discovered many other fathers just like him, who were suffering from what we call ‘Family Bond Obstruction’ and that the courts were not doing anything about it.”

Gentile revealed the backward attitudes and shocking actions of child and family therapists, perpetrated in the name of the deeply prejudicial court system they serve. She recalls, “interviewing professionals who did court ordered reunification therapy who did everything possible to not reunite dads with their kids.” So systemic was this practice, says Gentile, “they admitted to it, with pride, on camera. One psychologist even said, ‘the most dangerous place for a child is her own home, due to the presence of a man, her father.’ It was shocking to here this spoken so openly, and this is what shocked our audience.”

The findings of the documentary point to outdated ideologies being propagated by those with professional self-interest. As Gentile puts it, “[The notion that] one parent is better, or gender biases that can work against moms and dads, combine with the personal interest of the professionals involved who make more money the longer the case goes on.” Other factors include the availability of government subsidies that encourage sole custody and the over-reporting of alleged abuse, be it entirely false or the elevation of small incidents to imply violence. In one case, recalls the director, “one father is accused of violence because he speaks Russian to his child.”

When Erasing Dad premiered in August 2014, the inflammatory nature of the film’s conclusions brought extensive media coverage, as well as a wave of litigation – from the very individuals in the film. “These professionals got a civil court to censor the film in Argentina, saying that it made them look bad,” recalls Gentile. “We still have problems showing the film, because once people see it they cannot look at the family court system in the same way.” Undaunted, Gentile turned the legal actions against the litigators, promoting the film via social media sites and Parental Alienation advocates both in Argentina (the Spanish language Facebook page has more than 38,000 followers) and across the world.

“We changed the debate,” says Gentile. “Family bond obstruction is not about parents fighting, it is about a system that profits from prolonging family conflict, and a society that stands by and does nothing to stop it. Parents who cannot see their children aren't the bad guys; they and their children are victims of institutional violence.” In the wake of the film, Gentile points out, “Argentina enacted joint custody legislation, and some judges began to reunite families. Some kids even saw the film and found their erased parents. The big lesson is that before the powerful take notice, first society must take notice.“

Erasing Dad engendered such passionate support, a sequel-of-sorts that further explored the parental alienation epidemic and the potential for the reunification of erased families was always likely. “Erasing Dad focused on fathers because in Argentina custody automatically went to the mother, until our film was released,” says Gentile, “ so our first idea was to make (a follow-up film) international and include stories of mothers as well.” Extended family members, including erased sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins, will also be featured in Erasing Family. (Pictured, right; Gentile with actor Jason Patric, founder of the parental rights advocacy cause, Stand Up for Gus.)

Most importantly, the film will be about the journey faced by children, young or old, of erased parents. “Erasing Family will have the children themselves as the protagonists,” states Gentile. “They will discover that they were not abandoned, but were loved. The worse part is often when they reunite with their erased parent and extended erased family, the parent who did the erasing rejects them, often cutting off contact with siblings as well. So Erasing Family will follow the adult children as they reunite with their erased siblings.”

From one man’s story set against the archaic Argentinian family court system, Ginger Gentile and the San Telmo Productions team are coalescing a global movement that is on the verge of true social change. “Millions of children are obstructed from loving parents by the family court system,” she states. “Moms and dads alienated from their kids after divorce dream that their children will learn the truth about how hard they fought against forces that were intent on ruining the parent-child bond. The Erasing Family project will reunite families by creating a feature documentary film, interactive content and an awareness campaign that will show adult children of divorce how a perverse system stole a loving parent from them.”

Donations to help fund the production of Erasing Family can be made at at www.erasingfamily.org. Follow the project at www.facebook.com/ErasingFamily or via twitter and instragram @erasingfamily

Parental Alienation Awareness Day Australia will take place on Wednesday October 12. For more information and to register your support, visit https://www.emmm.org.au/ and http://www.parentalalienationaustralia.org.au/

Saturday
Jul232016

FITZROY'S EPHEMERA FAIR A FILM FAN'S FEVER DREAM

Diarised months ago by any serious collector of cinema ephemera was midday, August 6. That is when the latest incarnation of the Fitzroy Film Fair opens for business and pleasure. The movie-themed bazaar that springs to life periodically in Melbourne’s inner–city mecca for all things cool is nestled into the confines of The LuWow, the South’s most swingin’ Tiki-themed enclave. The traditionally vibrant get-together promises to be the celebration of movie pop-culture fandom that founder Stuart Simpson (pictured, below; far left, at a recent FFF) had always hoped it would be. “It’s a relaxed social event where you can come and pray at the alter of movie madness,” he tells SCREEN-SPACE…

“I loved going to flea markets but always ended up at the film/tv/comic sections,” says Simpson, one of Australia’s leading underground auteurs who, as principal at Lost Art Films, directed the cult hits The Demons Among Us (2006), El Monstro Del Mar (2010) and Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla (2014). “I've always thought about how amazing it would be if the whole place was dedicated to the love of movies.” When approached by The LuWow founder Josh Collins with a concept for a film-themed event, Simpson envisioned a marketplace where true film buffs could indulge their passions with like-minded fans.

“I know there are giant conventions and all that, but (I wanted) something that was more about the old and forgotten stuff, the gems of yesteryear, those hard-to-find rarities,” he says. “The Luwow is such a perfect place for it, too; it even looks like a movie set. It seemed like a no-brainer to me.” The first event was held in September 2015 and proved so successful, Simpson moved quickly to ensure collectors and buffs never had to wait long for the party atmosphere to return; the second coming of the Fair was in December of last year, then again in April 2016. (Picture, right; actor Glenn Maynard manning his VHS-themed table).

The Fitzroy Film Fair ‘selling floor’ is a literal dream-come-true for the movie nerd, where the army of stallholders offer a myriad of collectible delights. The current craze for classic VHS packaging, aka ‘slicks’, and hard-to-find titles on the antiquated format is well catered for, as are those offloading newer libraries that have outstayed their welcome. “Variety is the key,” Simpson says, “I like to keep it open to all kinds of vendors of all sorts of quality. So you will find the old, dusty VHS right next to brand new Blu-ray.” Some of the most in-demand items are the vintage pop culture items, such as toys, promotional material and literature. “We've got something for everyone. One thing I do request is that prices are kept fairly low, (as) I want punters to feel like they are getting a bargain.

The celebratory mood extends beyond the buying and selling of silver screen artefacts. The December event hosted legendary B-movie goddess Kitten Natividad, star of the Russ Meyer classic Up!; in April, the Fair headlined a 16mm screening of the anarchic 80s nuclear-punk shocker, Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em.

Scheduled for the August Fair are three sidebar events that speak directly to the B-movie thrillseeker - live special effects makeup demonstrations from the students of the Australian Academy Cinemagraphic Makeup (pictured, right; work from the AACM student body); the launch of a new horror-themed T-shirt label called Squirm, the latest venture from The Search for Weng Weng director Andrew Leavold; and, a gallery of works from Brisbane artist, Jesse Breckon-Thomas. “He paints reproductions of Italian Giallo horror/pulp film poster art with his own unique stamp,” says Simpson, who promises the artist’s originals will become must-owns for lovers of Euro horror.

Adding to the unique ambience afforded by The LuWow’s vibrant décor will be soundscape and soundtrack selections piped into the two rooms that host the Fitzroy Film Fair plus an eclectic series of 16mm film projections, courtesy of Perth’s Revelation Film Festival director, Richard Sowada. For Stuart Simpson, the end result is enticingly simple. “To (create the) perfect place to meet, buy, swap, and sell with other collectors and film makers,” he says, “and have a drink or two as well.”

Saturday
Jun182016

11 UNFORGETTABLE MOMENTS (10 GREAT; 1 TERRIBLE) FROM THE SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL

SCREEN-SPACE got the jump on some of the Sydney Film Festival’s big drawcards at Cannes, so no Julietta, Aquarius or Personal Shopper amongst this lot, however deserving. The vastness of the 2016 programme nonetheless ensures there were many special cinematic moments worth celebrating. Oh, and one that had us cringing. With the Festival winding down to Sunday's Closing Night screening of Whit Stillman’s Love and Friendship, we line up (in no order) the frames of film that lingered longest in the memory (SPOILER WARNING)…

‘The Not-So-Nice Guys’ in WAR ON EVERYONE
Writer-director John Michael McDonagh aced it with The Guard and Calvary, thoroughly earning this shot at the all-American ‘buddy cop’ genre pic. He winningly transplants his brand of rhythmic Brit banter and whip-smart in-jokes to the dusty New Mexican setting; Michael Pena and an unhinged Alexander Skarsgård (pictured, above) are the riotous, R-rated double act that we all hoped Crowe and Gosling were going to be in that other buddy pic. So many memorable moments; we’ll go with the African-American snitch that decides that Iceland, the whitest country on Earth, is a good place to hide.

‘Janis’ School Reunion’ in JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUES
Janis Joplin had fled her smalltown life, the victim of callous bullying by her school peers. When she guests on the Dick Cavett show, she flippantly tells an enormous television audience she is heading home for her high school reunion. A media frenzy, 70’s style, ensues, capturing both her defiance and discomfort with vivid acuity. Amy Berg’s best film ever is full of extraordinary moments culled from the songstress’ life, none more insightful than her return to the high school hellhole that drove her away.

‘Weiner Does it Again’ in WEINER
Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s fly-on-the-wall account of the New York politician’s professional self-immolation moves at cracking pace from the first frame, capturing the momentum of a career public servant fast-tracking himself to the upper echelons of New York society. Then, with one dick-pic scandal behind him, another breaks and the house-of-cards resurrection he and his team had accomplished comes crashing down. It is train-wreck documentary gold, and plays out as such in this teeth-gnawingly entertaining film.

 

That Song’ in TONI ERDMANN
Maren Ade’s 162-minute black comedy masterpiece (that we missed in Cannes, despite it being the festival’s best reviewed film) skates by on an emotional razor’s edge of anxiety and embarrassment. How to release crucial audience pressure as the narrative veers towards excruciating humiliation? Have your incognito anti-hero, ‘Toni Erdmann’ (the wonderful Peter Simonischek) accompany his put-upon daughter (a near-perfect Sandra Huller) in an impromptu rendition of a classic 80’s power ballad. The sequence is as hilarious and empowering as any on-screen moment this year.

That Line’ in GREETINGS FROM FUKUSHIMA
The great German auteur Doris Dorrie took her two leads – stunning countrywoman Rosalie Thomass and enigmatic Japanese actress Kaori Momoi – deep into the devastated Fukushima landscape for this moving story of grief, friendship and forgiveness. The impact of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown is beyond horrific, as was captured in the line, “The ghosts still can’t believe they’re dead.” The words, spoken nonchalantly by Momoi’s grieving Satomi when she learns of the spirits that materialise while she sleeps, echoed silently in the cavernous State Theatre; they convey both the terrifying suddenness and immense scale of one of the worst tragedies in human history.

‘Mermaid Vagina’ in THE LURE
Frankly, there are about 50 remarkable moments we could have selected from Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Smoczynska’s insane vampire-mermaid-musical, a sort of Rocky Horror Show-meets-Showgirls-meets-Splash concoction that is unlike anything Australian audiences have seen….well, ever. When sultry siren Silver (Marta Mazurek) wants to seduce bass player Mietek (Jakub Giierszal), she reveals to him exactly where on her huge tail he needs to concentrate. Yeah, that’s right…

‘Ragin’ Mel’ in BLOOD FATHER
Young moviegoers view Mel Gibson as an old Hollywood ‘boogeyman’, his real life anger issues far more defining than the two decades he spent as one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. Those of us who prefer to recall his edge-of-insanity onscreen moments in Mad Max, Lethal Weapon, Hamlet, Ransom, Braveheart and Payback were thrilled to see ‘Meltdown Mel’ back in full-force in Jean-François Richet’s dad-and-daughter road movie. As he unloads a verbal tirade on a double-crossing Michael Parks, Gibson taps into the true nature of madness and desperation; stare into the actor’s eyes at these moments, I dare you.

‘The Old Man at the Bedroom Door’ in UNDER THE SHADOW
Iran’s first foray in the horror genre is a claustrophobic haunted-apartment yarn that works ancient Djinn demonology into the modern life of a young Tehran family. With her medico husband is called into active duty, young mum Shideh (Narges Rashidi) must care for her increasingly anxious daughter, Dorsa (Avin Manshadi), who has formed an unhealthy, perhaps unholy alliance with a presence in their apartment. The extent of their troubles is revealed in one particularly bone-chilling moment, when the deceased old man from upstairs appears in their bedroom doorway at night. In a display of precise unity, the audience at the sold-out ‘Freak Me Out’ session lifted off their seats as one.

‘The Old Man at the Film Archives’ in A FLICKERING TRUTH
New Zealand documentarian Pietra Brettkelly embedded herself in Kabul to capture the film archival efforts of Ibrahim Arify and his team, who endeavour to save the remaining spools of Afghanistan film history. In addition to a powerful story of determination in the face of a regime’s destructive cultural redefinition, Brettkelly discovered Isaaq Yousif, the self-appointed keeper of the Archives who had lived in the building for 30 years. Ageing and frail, Yousif lead a shut-in’s life through the worst years of the Taliban’s rule, determined to preserve what he could of the region’s cinematic heritage. The old man’s narrative may be the greatest heroic arc of any at this year’s festival.

‘A Little Girl’s Tears’ in UNDER THE SUN
Russian director Vitaly Mansky gained unprecedented access into the life of a seemingly normal Pyongyang family. What is revealed is how meticulously staged all the ‘normal’ moments really were. At the centre of the film is 8 year-old Zin-mi, whose transformation from spirited, smiling sweetie into a confused, indoctrinated cog in the DPRK ideology is heart-breaking. Mansky’s devastating final frames capture a little girl consumed by the pressures of adhering to Kim Jong-un’s dictatorial rule. Zin-mi weeps despite herself; when an off-screen voice demands she finds happy thoughts to quell her tears, she can find none. Instead, she summons politicised rhetoric, like the good citizen into which she has been moulded.

HONOURABLE MENTION: Two incredible shorts that left indelible impressions – Axel Danielsen and Maximilien van Aertryck’s high-dive tummy-tightener, Ten Meter Tower; and, the nightmarish Id-on-the-rampage vision, Manoman, from Simon Cartwright.

And the worst moment of 63rd Sydney Film Festival…

‘Dead Deer Ukulele Eulogy’ from COCONUT HERO
The Sydney Film Festival programmers love the ‘Sundance Film,’ the feel-good, sentimental yarn wrapped in an indie aesthetic made popular at the Redford’s Utah love-in. At best, they look like Little Miss Sunshine (SFF, 2006), but in recent years they have found a just-ok middle ground (The Way Way Back, SFF 2013; Liberal Arts, SFF 2012). In 2016, the ‘Sundance Film’ parodied itself with Florian Cossen’s insufferable millennial navel-gazer Coconut Hero, in which outsider dullard Mike (Alex Ozerov) mumbles through a worthless existential non-crisis. A road trip with man-saviour caricature Miranda (Bea Santos) turns bad when they hit a deer; things get worse (for the deer and the audience) when the pair take out a ukulele and giggle their way through an improvised musical farewell – over the dying animal. Hipster disconnect from real-world emotion in favour of indulging one’s own unique (read: self-centred) perspective has never been so clearly articulated, though one doubts that was the filmmaker’s intention.