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Entries in Documentary (3)

Wednesday
May102017

PREVIEW: 64th SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL

A picturesque seaside backdrop is just one of the key assets that the 2017 Sydney Film Festival will share with the 70th edition of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Ten films will jet in directly from their French screenings to bolster the 64th Harbour City cinematic celebration, which launches June 7 with 2009 Camera d’Or winner Warwick Thornton’s documentary, We Don’t Need a Map.

Four films having their Australian premieres at Sydney are in contention for the coveted Palme d’Or. They are Sofia Coppola’s highly anticipated southern gothic thriller, The Beguiled; Fatih Akin’s revenge-themed terrorist drama, In The Fade, starring Diane Kruger; the latest from Austrian master Michael Haneke, Happy End, with international superstar Isabelle Huppert; and, from South Korean genre maestro Bong Joon-ho, the drama Okja (pictured, above), boasting international stars Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and An Seo-hyun. The director will be in attendance to introduce the film, which has been selected to close the festival on June 18.

Four more films heading to Oz from The Croisette are directorial debuts. Wind River is a rural thriller starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen and directed by Taylor Sheridan, the acclaimed screenwriter of 2016 Oscar nominee Hell or High Water; the New Jersey set black comedy Patti Cake$, starring Australian Danielle McDonald, from first-time helmer Geremy Jasper; SNL star Kyle Mooney plays the bear-suited outsider in Dave McCary’s offbeat character comedy, Brigsby Bear; and 80 year-old acting great Vanessa Redgrave will attend in support of her directing debut, the refugee crisis doco Sea Sorrow.

The other Cannes titles are Napalm, a personal glimpse inside North Korean society from legendary documentarian, 91 year-old Claude Lanzmann (Shoah, 1985; The Last of The Unjust, 2013); and an immaculate new print of Belle de Jour, Luis Bunuel’s 1967 masterpiece starring Catherine Deneuve which is headlining the Cannes Classic restoration program.

Twelve films will vie for the Official Competition top spot, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2017. In addition to The Beguiled, We Don’t Need a Map and Happy End, the competition line-up includes the Alain Gomis’ Felicitie, Silver Bear Grand Jury winner at the Berlinale; Raoul Peck’s searing documentary I Am Not Your Negro, narrated by Samuel Jackson (read the Screen-Space review here); the Georgian-set empowerment tale Happy Family, from filmmakers Nana & Simon; Berlinale Golden Bear winner On Body and Soul, from Hungarian auteur Ildiko Enyedi; Aki Kaurismaki’s latest, the warm and insightful friendship story The Other Side of Hope; Kirsten Tan’s one-man-and-his-elephant heartwarmer Pop Aye, a Sundance screenwriting honouree; Australian theatre heavyweight Benedict Andrews controversial battle-of-the sexes thriller Una, with Ben Mendelsohn and Rooney Mara; the fearlessly challenging erotic sci-fi drama The Untamed, from Mexican director Amat Escalante; the debut feature by Afghani filmmaker Shahrbanoo Sadat, Wolf and Sheep, a work that earned her the 2016 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight prize.

Sydney programmers have snared 18 World Premiere feature film screenings for the 2017 line-up. These include two works from director Kriv Stenders – Australia Day, his incendiary drama that probes the racial tensions and multicultural stereotypes that have come to define our society; and, the rock band documentary The Go-Betweens: Right Here. Other global firsts include actor David Wenham’s directorial debut, Ellipsis; Rhiannon Bannenberg’s teenage beachside drama, Rip Tide; sci-fi thriller Otherlife from Ben C Lucas; renowned documentary filmmaker Tom Zubrycki’s latest, the Sudanese refugee story Hope Road; and Amanda Sthers’ French production Madame, starring Toni Collette and Harvey Keitel.

Across a vast programme that boasts 288 films (long- and short-form) from 59 countries, visions that arrive with considerable critical and commercial cache include David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, Matt Spicer’s Ingrid Goes West, Cedric Klapisch’s Back to Burgundy, Stanley Tucci’s Final Portrait, Christian Mungiu’s Graduation, Eduardo Roy Jnr’s Ordinary People, Eleanor Coppola’s Paris Can Wait (pictured, right), Doug Liman’s The Wall and Lav Diaz’s The Woman Who Left. The feature documentary selection includes such lauded works as Pascal Lamche’s Winnie, Amanda Lipitz’s Step, Maite Alberdi’s The Grown-Ups, David Borenstein’s Dream Empire and Alexandre O Philippe’s 78/52 (read the Screen-Space review here).

The 2017 sidebar strands are particularly rich, with programming that reflects the festival’s ongoing commitment to diversity, both social and artistic:

  • Europe! Voices of Women in Film: A collaboration with trade paper Screen International and the European Film Promotion initiative, ten new films from the continent’s female director will play SFF 2017. They include works from Ireland (Neasa Ni Chianain’s School Life), Switzerland (Petra Volpe’s The Divine Order), Portugal (Claudia Varejao’s Ama-San) and Macedonia (Teona Strugar Mitevska’s When The Day Had No Name);
  • Feminism & Film: Sydney Women Filmmakers 1970s and ‘80s: Nine films (five features, four shorts) will recall the strong female voice of Australian feminist cinema from decades past. The works include We Aim to Please (1976), Behind Closed Doors (1980) and This Woman is Not a Car (1982);
  • Sounds on Screen: Sold-out sessions are assured in this hugely populat music-themed strand, which this year boasts Nick Broomfield’s revelatory Whitney Houston doco, I Can Be Me (pictured, right) and Michael Winterbottom’s On The Road, which provides unprecedented access to Wolf Alice’s tour of the U.K.
  • Smash It Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Punk Rock 1977-2017: Six features acknowledging the anti-establishment voice include John Waters’ Desperate Living, Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of western Civilization and the Julien Temple/Sex Pistols classics, The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle and The Filth and The Fury;
  • Restorations: In addition to Belle de Jour, the Restorations line-up celebrates the career of late Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami, with a restored print of his 1997 film A Taste of Cherry and a screening of the 2016 documentary, 76 Minutes and 15 Seconds with Abbas Kiarostami. Also, three reinvigorated Australian classics will screen – Pat Fiske’s Rocking the Foundations (1985), John Duigans’ The Year My Voice Broke (1987) and Samantha Lang’s The Well (1997);
  • Focus on Canada: In conjunction with the Canadian Government and as part of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, seven Canadian films will screen, including those of visiting directors Ann Marie Fleming (Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming); Simon Lavoie (Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves), Kirsten Carthew (The Sun at Midnight; pictured, right) and producer Christina Fon (Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World);
  • First Nations: A celebration of indigenous film culture, both local and international, the 13-strong line-up boasts works from New Zealand (Florian Habicht’s Brown Lips); Canada (Alethea Arnaquq-Barils’ Angry Inuk; Zacharias Kunuk’s Maliglutit); and, ten films from Australia, including a special event screening of two Season 2 episodes of Wayne Blair’s small-screen hit, Cleverman;
  • Freak Me Out: The always popular genre selection, curated by Richard Kuipers, that this year includes Chris Peckovers’ Better Watch Out (read the Screen-Space review here, under it’s original title Safe Neighbourhood); Joe Lynch’s Mayhem, with Australian actress Samara Weaving; and Portuguese shocker The Forest of Lost Souls, from Jose Pedro Lopes;
  • Essential Kurosawa: Legendary critic and past SFF Director David Stratton presents ten timeless works from the Japanese master, including Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Red Beard, Kagemusha and Ran;
  • Family Films: All ages entertainment features the Oscar nominated My Life as a Zucchini from director Claude Barras and Dash Shaw’s animated feature My Entire High School Sinking into The Sea, voiced by Jason Schwartzman.

A new platform in 2017 is the Screenability initiative. Launched in conjunction with Screen NSW and the Department of Family and Community Services, it provides an outlet for international filmmakers with disabilities to have their work seen by the broad festival audience. Programmed by Sofya Gollan, the strand includes New Zealander Alyx Duncan’s Drumming is Like Thunder, Irish auteur Simon Fitzmaurice’s My Name is Emily, Swiss filmmaker Manuel von Sturler’s Lust for Sight and local talents Stevie Cruz-Martin (Pulse) and Johanna Garvin (Milky Pop Kid).

The 64th Sydney Film Festival will be held June 7-18 at nine venues across Sydney. For full ticketing and session details, visit the official website.

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/

Thursday
May082014

SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL: 'WOW MOMENTS' IN THE 2014 PROGRAM

The SOR crowd at the launch of the 2014 Sydney Film Festival (SFF) program were suitably impressed this years statistics – 183 titles from 47 countries, 15 world premieres and 122 Australian premieres amongst them. There was almost a sense of relief when the announcement came that high-profile titles such as David Michod’s The Rover, Dreamworks Animation’s How To Train Your Dragon 2, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood and The Dardennes Brother’s Two Days One Night would screen, many direct from The Croisette. But what were the real gems, some hidden deep within the program, that suggests the 61st edition of SFF is every true cinephile’s dream…?

BIGSCREEN SOCCER

With the greatest event on the international sports calendar, The World Cup, only weeks away, it should come as no surprise that SFF 2014 catches a little football fever. French sporty splatter-pic Goal of the Dead mashes zombie-apocalypse tropes with Euro-soccer action; Romanian director Corneliu Porumboui commentates uncut footage of a snowbound 1988 game in the bracingly unique The Second Game; two football-mad nations, Italy and Argentina, co-produce Paolo Zucca’s monochromatic farce, The Referee; and, the documentary Next Goal Wins (pictured, above), which charts the resurrection of the Samoan national side after their record-breaking 31-0 loss to Australia in 2001.

THE FILMS OF ISAO TAKAHATA
The animation veteran never achieved the mainstream profile of his Ghibli Studios contemporary, Hiyao Miyazaki, but Isao Takahata (pictured, right) is just as revered in his homeland and amongst aficionados of Japanese cell-art. Arguably his greatest achievement, the heartbreaking survival story Grave of the Fireflies, will screen in the Salute to Studio Ghibli retrospective; his most recent work, the moving, majestic fable The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, will be a Special Presentation screening at the appropriately grand State Theatre.

JAMES BENNING: THE VISIONARY OUTSIDER
Existing in a rarefied cinematic ether full of visions that dance between mainstream film language and avant garde experimentalism, Milwaukee-born Benning is an enigma in international cinema. Nick Bradshaw in Sight and Sound magazine observed, “James Benning’s movies pose an idealistic challenge, a spur to unattainably pure observation.” For four decades, his works have explored the American geo-political landscape through the lens of a patriot, albeit one that questions the murky ethics and humanist impact of his society. “All my films,” he has said, “are an attempt to ask, how liberated am I? Where did I come from? How am I progressing?” Benning will attend, along with director Gabe Kinger, who will introduce his documentary Double Play, a ‘Dinner with Andre’-style pairing of Benning and Richard Linklater.

SNOWPIERCER
No great shock that Bong Joon-Ho’s action epic will play in competition; the director’s long history with SFF dates back to 2004’s Memories of Murder, and the critically-acclaimed film has been a smash-hit in his home market, South Korea. The surprise, and a very pleasant one, is that local distributor Roadshow Films (notorious for sending hard-to-market niche product straight to DVD) will screen the director’s cut ahead of a planned Australian theatrical season. Starring Chris Evans, the film has only just set a US release date of June 27 after a protracted edit-suite war with distributor Harvey ‘Scissorhands’ Weinstein.

THE iMOM
Imagine Spike Jonze Her by way of Chris Columbus’ Bicentennial Man and you have Ariel Martin’s The iMom, just one of the stand-out finalists of this years Dendy Short Film awards. Fresh off its feting at Flickerfest, Martin’s imaginative take on hi-tech parenting will compete with new works from such talents as Warwick Young (Stuffed), Dave Wade (Welcome to Iron Knob) and Jessica Harris (Crochet Noir).

EXHIBITION: ROSEBUD
Thanks largely to the boundless enthusiasm of organiser Mathieu Ravier, the Festival meeting spot The Hub has become a vibrant space in which patrons can unwind and engage in buff banter. In 2014, it welcomes photo-art exhibition Rosebud, from famed lensman Hugh Carpenter, so named after the (spoiler alert) sled in Welles’ Citizen Kane. His work captures celebrities with the one item in their possession that they believe helps define them or holds some significant meaning.

WILLOW CREEK
It runs a lean 78 minutes, utilises the increasingly tiresome ‘found footage’ device, stars no-name actors Alexie Gilmore (pictured right) and Bryce Johnson and riffs on the hoary old ‘Bigfoot’ legend; not to mention it is directed by that comic from Police Academy 2 with the shrill, barking voice, Bobcat Goldthwait. So why is Willow Creek shaping up as the giddy thrill-ride of the always popular Freak Me Out program strand? It has some competition, though – Jerome Sable’s blackly-funny musical theatre/slasher effort, Stage Fright; Japan/Indonesia co-production, Killers, from the twisted minds of The Mo Brothers; and, the long overdue snowbound-zombie sequel, Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead.

Full details of the Sydney Film Festival 2014 program and ticket sales can be found here.