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Josh Johnson directed Rewind This!, a documentary that traces the impact of the VHS tape and Home Video Industry boom period of the 1980s. The words ‘Home Video Industry’ are capitalized for a simple reason – I worked in the Australian video sector from 1986 to 2005 and hold that little black plastic box and all it represents in the highest regard. Clearly, talking of the industry’s impact with Johnson, a loud and proud video-phile, was an indulgent thrill; from his New York City base, he discusses his earliest home video memories, the impact of the new distribution model and the legacy left by VHS. Rewind This! is currently finding extensive film festival exposure internationally.

There is an element of smugness or hipster-cool superiority when some artists or commentators look back at the 1980s. You admirably refuse to do that in Rewind This!

I’ve tried to be very sincere, as much as that might not be the most popular attitude to have right now. I feel very emotionally attached to this period and these people and I wanted to make something that a lot of people can identify with and can make them feel good.

The very first movies I watched on home video were Apocalypse Now and Stripes, two films that I shouldn’t have watched at my tender age but, it being the pre-certificate, non-ratings days…well, my parents didn’t know any better.

My parents were actually very restrictive and by the time that I became aware of VHS tapes and began renting, there certainly were ratings on all of the films and I was not able to access all of the films I wanted to see. Discovering nudity or extreme violence, for me came about because of cable. My earliest memory of VHS was entirely based upon whatever my parents would bring home for me from the video store, like The Neverending Story or all those animated films. It wasn’t until I was able to start my own collection that I was able broaden my perspective on films. The films that really marked my obsession with the totality of cinema and how different films relate and connect to one another were the Gremlins film (pictured, right). They had so many references to other films, they helped me understanding that there was a whole other world of films out there and that the video store was a great way to find them.

They were both crucial to my love of cinema, as well. I was fortunate to have interviewed Joe Dante a couple of years back…

I actually contacted him about doing an interview for Rewind This! but the scheduling didn’t work out. He would have been a great interview to have because he really hates VHS, carries no affection for the format at all (laughs).

I don’t believe ‘The Home Video Boom” is ever given enough credit for the careers of people like Schwarzennegger, Van Damme (pictured, below) or Bruce Willis. Suddenly every village had a VCR and the only way to tap those developing world dollars was to remove the English language barrier and blow things up.

Absolutely. There was that time in film history where historians argue that film became globalised and what they are talking about is when major metropolitan cities across the world were playing imported films. When, if you were living in a big city anywhere in the world you could see a Bergman or a Kurosawa film. But I would argue that when film really became globalised was when home video took hold and every corner store had shelves flooded with content. Suddenly, populations were watching films from other countries without even realising it. There was no longer any demarcation between what was foreign and domestic.

That ‘Boom’ happened so quickly, accelerated so exponentially. Has there been a time, or will there ever be a time again, when the consumer experiences something like the VCR/VHS penetration period?

I can’t think of any entertainment technology quite as transformative as home video. Home video was the probably the most significant development in cinema history since the birth of the artform itself. Things like sound and the birth of the talkies were all significant but those were all changes to how film was created. Home video changed how films were consumed and absorbed. The accepted method of distribution, of the studio controlling the distribution of theatrical titles, was subverted. Home video allowed the consumer to take true ownership of the medium, of the films that you wanted to see. That is something that completely changed the film industry in a way that had never happened before. Everything since – DVD, downloading, whatever – are just new versions of the home video concept. I don’t think there will ever be something that shakes up the whole system quite so dramatically ever again.

What has been the lasting sociological impact stemming from that unique sensation we all experienced of being the first generation of moviegoers that were able to bring the movie we wanted home with us?

What it did was create a sense of entitlement. I don’t really want to get into whether I think that is necessarily a good thing, but…well, it’s definitely true. Now, we feel entitled to have control over how we view certain media. Our parents were beholden to local broadcast schedules or local revival houses if they ever wanted to see a movie that they knew they might never be able to see again. Our generation, thanks to home video, feels we have a God-given right to watch what we want to watch when we want to watch it. That has changed how the entire film industry has worked, changing it irreversibly.



His works have defined the dark heart of America’s upper-middle class for four decades. From the coke-fuelled hedonism of the 80’s (Less Than Zero, 1987) to the ambition-riddled avarice on the 90’s (American Psycho, 2000), novelist Bret Easton Ellis has exposed the shallow, soulless expansion of greed, indulgence and entitlement. The Canyons, directed by Paul Schrader, is his latest screenplay, a dissection of lust and jealousy set against the dense immorality of present-day Hollywood. Courtesy of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, where the film has its Australian premiere this weekend, SCREEN-SPACE presents highlights from an extensive Skype interview, during which Ellis discussed his latest controversial work, the lingering legacy of his observations and misconceptions surrounding his latest leading lady, Lindsay Lohan… 

On the processes that lead to The Canyons: The movie we wanted to make and that Schrader and the producer Braxton Pope signed off on was kind of an adult noir thriller about young people in LA. We realized we didn’t have the money to finance the film ourselves so we went to Kickstarter and we needed about $160,000 for shooting the film and about $90,000 to complete it, which was supplied by me, Schrader and the producer. So, with about a week or two of rehearsals, we shot it in about 3 weeks in July and August (2012). This was a very simple ‘cat and mouse’ (story) where each scene flowed directly into the next, kind of like a puzzle, and once it was completed there was nothing to do. It was what it was. I went to the set a couple of times. It was finished on time, on budget.

On working with Lindsay Lohan (pictured, right): The first time I met Lindsey was at a dinner that was just for Paul, Lindsay, James, our producer and I. It was all just to meet each other; James hadn’t met Lindsey yet. I actually met Lindsey before in LA at various parties. I just never really sat down and talked to her. I met her again at the reading and she was great and then she got fired from the movie because she was late for rehearsal and Schrader is just a Drill Sargent on the set and a lot of crazy as well - but all in a good way. I think in terms of getting the movie done and getting Lindsey to do the things she had promised to do. Schrader will tell you that it was a very easy shoot compared to something like Blue Collar where he wanted to kill Richard Pryor and Richard Pryor wanted to kill him and he sleep with a gun under his pillow every night because he was afraid that he was going to do something to him. So - this was nothing like that, this was a comfortable shoot. Despite what people might have read in the New York Times and magazines, yes that took about 20% of the drama, the other 80% was drama free.

On deciding on the leading man, hardcore porn actor James Deen (pictured, right; with co-star Lohan): I read a couple articles about him that had been forwarded to me by a producer. I had never heard about him before and I started to look at his work and read more about him and there was something about him that just began to drive this character I was thinking about in The Canyons. One night I was working on the treatment and I tweeted out to James Deen or I tweeted to myself and it got out into the twitter sphere that I wanted James to star in this movie. I’m about to write the script for it and he got back to me and we developed an online relationship. When we had dinner the first time I was even more convinced that James has to play the lead role. That was my one chip that I used, that I pushed for very hard and I am extremely happy with the results. I knew I was right.

On the mindset that lead to Patrick Bateman, the anti-hero of his 90’s satire and its subsequent film, American Psycho (pictured, left): I was very sympathetic to that world and there was a part of me that was sympathetic to Patrick Bateman, disregarding the episodes of extreme violence. There was something about him that I related to and, yes he was me. Every book stems from a autobiographical base and American Psycho is no different. It is where I was at the moment in my life, someone who realized [they were] entering the world of men and adults and its society sucks crap. I did not want to be a part of it, but I really wanted to be a part of it in some ways. That point in time was culture becoming so pervasive and it sparked something in me. It sparked a lot of anger in me and also a lot of shame, because I thought ‘Why am I feeling this way?’, ‘Why do I want to be part of a culture that I find loathsome?’ But I still wanted to be accepted into that culture!

On rumours regarding a remake of Less Than Zero (pictured, right), his novel-turned-movie that defined the 80’s culture of excess: People have been trying for years and years and years and 20th Century Fox is just not interested. People with very powerful lawyers, directors with powerful lawyers…nothing is budging 20th Century Fox to do it. I would assume that the material for a studio is not acceptable in this day and age. It’s not acceptable to make Less Than Zero the movie with teenagers. There was a little bit of talk about turning it into a TV series, [that] idea of updating Less than Zero to turn it into a edgier Melrose Place or Gossip Girl. That never happened either. This pipe dream a lot of people have about a new Less Than Zero movie is dead in the water. It’s not going to happen.

Follow the links for The Canyons screening details at both the Melbourne Underground Film Festival and the Sydney Underground Film Festival



If women have no rights, if they are completely powerless, then they're the ones that you're going to want to make films about. If there was a place where men were being kicked around and women were locking them in cages, then you'd focus on [the men]." – Kim Longinotto, February 2010.

Arguably the most potent cinematic voice in the ongoing struggle for women’s rights, British documentarian Kim Longinotto (Pink Saris, 2010; Rough Aunties, 2008) has amassed an extraordinary body of work that has challenged gender bias and the social restraint of women the world over. The 2013 edition of Australia’s Antenna Documentary Festival will present a five film retrospective that broadly encapsulates the last 20 years of her groundbreaking projects.

SHINJUKU BOYS (UK, Japan; 1995)
In the New Marilyn Club, gender roles and their mainstream definitions do not apply. This Tokyo nightclub is the domain of the ‘Onnabes’ – women who dress as men to entertain a clientele of upmarket women. With co-director Jano Williams, Longinotto presents a wildly entertaining, deeply insightful take on female archetypes in modern Japan, exploring transvestitism, lesbianism, sexuality and romance with a candid and forthright lens.
Critics said…: “Shinjuku Boys gets just about everything right, providing a window into a world we might otherwise never have realised even existed, but through an approach that promotes genuine understanding and admiration for its subjects and their refusal to be hammered down by the conventions of society.” – Slarek, Cine Outsider

With Iranian anthropologist Ziba Mir-Hosseini providing context at crucial points, Longinotto’s observational eye chronicles the personal bitterness and cultural constraints on display in Tehran’s divorce court. The vociferous pleas of women determined to be heard from beneath the veil of Islamic doctrine makes for a highly-charged, complex study of women battling history, law and society for individual freedom.  
Critics said…: "Divorce Iranian Style, which was runner-up for the audience award at this year's San Francisco International Film Festival, chafes with outrage over the sexism rampant in Iranian society… a document of vexing (and vexed) immediacy.” – Wesley Morris, San Francisco Chronicle.

GAEA GIRLS (UK, Japan; 2000)
Reteaming with her Shinjuku Boys collaborator, Longinotto displays a lightness of touch in telling the story of four rookie female wrestlers undergoing a gruelling training regime at the famous Gaea facility in rural Japan. Women’s pro-wrestling, or ‘joshi puroresu’, is a big-ticket item in the sports-mad big cities of modern Japan; the filmmakers capture the pressure of fulfilling one’s dream to be the pinnacle of a sport that, from day one of training camp, tolerates nothing less than perfection.
Critics said…: “The documentary's rawness—its handheld cameras, lack of snappy editing or music, and lengthy, realistically wandering scenes—conveys the rawness of the fighting itself, particularly its lack of form, grace, style, or mercy… emotionally wracking, exhausting, and real in ways that a more polished and packaged documentary couldn't [be]” – Tasha Robinson, The AV Club.

SISTERS IN LAW (UK, Cameroon; 2005)
One of Longinotto’s most lauded works (including the prestigious Peabody award and the CICAE honour at the Cannes Film Festival), this expansive study in personal determination and faith in the word of law follows two high-ranking women court officials in the southwest township of Kumba in Cameroon.  State Prosecutor Vera Ngassa and Court President Beatrice Ntuba are faced with the worst instances of abuse against women of all ages in their courtroom and have taken a stand against systemic patriarchal dominance.
Critics said…: A compelling study of a small-town lawyer's determination to challenge Cameroon's institutionalised chauvinism, which judiciously combines small triumphs with a daunting sense of the task that lies ahead.” – David Parkinson, Empire.

SALMA (UK, India; 2013)
In her most current work, Longinotto recounts the story of a Muslim child from a South Indian village who has only recently emerged from 25 years of being held against her will. In that time, Salma would sneak out poetic observations of her life to be distributed to her growing legion of supporters. Today, Salma is the most famous Tamil poet of her generation and an iconoclastic advocate for change in her home state. 
Critics said…: “Kim Longinotto's Salma feels like a dispatch from the social-justice front, a profile that in many way symbolizes the resistance of women to a developing world that hasn't caught up with developments in gender equality.” – John Anderson, Variety.

The Antenna Documentary Film Festival's Kim Longinotto Retrospective launches at the Chauvel Cinema on Friday October 4 then continues at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until Monday October 7. Further details and booking information can be found here.



The 2013 Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF) will screen four films that define the career and persona of one of Hollywood’s most fearsome leading men, the late Lawrence Tierney (pictured, below; in 1987’s Tough Guys Don’t Dance). Many will only know him as Joe Cabot in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs or for his one-off guest spot as Elaine's terrifying father, Alton in the sitcom 'Seinfeld', but it was his roles in America's dark, post-war noir cinema that would reflect the volatile, dangerous archetype he personified, both on- and off-screen. With the MUFF programme as our guide, SCREEN-SPACE examines the legacy of one of American cinema’s last great real-life hard men…

The handsome Brooklyn native had quit college, worked a series of blue collar jobs and did some catalogue modelling before trying his hand at acting. Walk-ons in minor works such as Government Girl (1943), The Ghost Ship (1943) and Youth Runs Wild (1944) led to his career-defining part – the title role in Max Nosseck’s gritty biopic of the infamous lawbreaker, John Dillinger. Nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar, the film was a box-office smash and delivered audiences an anti-hero shaded in dark greys and a leading man that refused to conform to the stereotypical middle-American heart-throb.
Incredible but true…: Dillinger had its Chicago premiere at the Biograph Theatre – the same theatre he was attending when gunned down by FBI agents on July 22,1934.  


As killer-on-the-run Steve Morgan, Tierney gives what many believe to be his greatest performance in a film that has risen above its status as one-half of a B-movie double bill. Bumming a ride when hapless drunk Jimmy Ferguson (Ted North) rolls up to stop-sign, then picking up two clueless gals before holing up in a beach house as the cops close in, Tierney is chillingly real as the titular evil force.
Incredible but true…: These years were dark ones for Lawrence Tierney, who saw the inside of a jail cell on no less than twelve occasion on drunk and disorderly charges, including several violent clashes with police officials.


Director Robert Wise kicked off a remarkable series of film noir thrillers with Born to Kill and afforded Lawrence Tierney his darkest characterisation yet. As multiple-murderer Sam Wilde, the actor proved all too effective for some. The New York Times said the film was, “not only morally disgusting but an offense to a normal intellect.” The film’s backers, RKO, ultimately trimmed scenes of brutality and added dialogue that defined Tierney’s actions as those of someone criminally insane.
Incredible but true…: The dark nature of the roles that made him famous weighed heavily on Tierney. Later in his career, he reflected, “I never thought of myself as that kind of guy. I thought of myself as a nice guy who wouldn't do rotten things. I hated that character so much but I had to do it for the picture.”

Reteaming with his friend and Dillinger director Max Nosseck, Tierney threw himself into a role that captured both the man and the actor in a violent downward spiral. Drawing comparisons to the silver-screen gangsters of yesteryear, Tierney proves a fierce, merciless on-screen presence as career criminal Vincent Lubeck, whose immoral actions in defiance of his family’s trust have profound and awful consequences.
Incredible but true…: Tierney’s younger brother, actor Scott Brady, was originally cast but was mired in legal issues with the production company Eagle Lion, opening the path for Lawrence to step in. Their other sibling, Edward Tierney, gave a career-best performance in the co-lead role of the exploited, troubled and ultimately doomed Johnny.

The Melbourne Underground Film Festival's season of Lawrence Tierney films will be introduced by the actor's nephew, Michael Tierney, and begin with a screening of Dillinger on Saturday, September 7. Tickets are available at the venue; further details of all MUFF events can be found here.



Sydney Underground Film Festival (SUFF) co-director Katherine Berger had just launched the 7th edition of the East Coast's most provocative film event when she spoke to SCREEN-SPACE. With the 2013 programme in every storefront along the Harbour City's ultra-arty inner-west district, Berger reveals just how difficult it is to stage a niche film event and how much it means to secure the latest works from such agent provocateurs as Paul Schrader and Alejandro Jodorowsky.

“It’s not that we are a huge festival that gets to travel the world to select films,” says Berger, who has shared duities with co-director Stefan Popescu since SUFF launched in 2007. “So a lot of our time is spent researching and determining which of the current films our patrons are going to be interested in. And Stefan and I certainly pick films that appeal to us, that we find interesting and challenging.”

In 2013, their choices reveal a broadening of what is considered ‘underground’. As the arthouse venues of yesteryear all but disappear and the major chains steer clear of darker, hard-to-market fare, the SUFF schedule fills a void that allows them to program name titles that still have left-field credibility. This year, that includes Rob Zombie’s cult shocker The Lords of Salem, Don Coscarelli’s John Dies at The End with Paul Giamatti and Chase Williamson (pictured, right); and, Sebastian Silva’s Magic Magic, a Sundance hit starring Michael Cera and Juno Temple.

“This year, we probably have more of a cross-section,” acknowledges Berger, pointing out that perhaps SUFF’s biggest coup, the Closing Night Australian premiere of Schrader’s The Canyons, starring Lindsay Lohan and porn-star James Deen, came about through the global network the team has worked hard to establish. “We are friends with the Boston Underground Film festival and we heard about it through them. We had to beat an email path to the film’s producer (Braxton Pope) and plead with him,” she recalls. “We made it clear that if they passed us by then they loose the opportunity for a Sydney festival slot entirely. So I got the producer on side who then helped us get the distributor on side. We have to work really hard to get the bigger titles.”

Berger sings a similar tune about the Opening Night event, which will be the national premiere of Chilean surrealist legend Alejandro Jodorowsky’s first feature in 23 years, the autobiographical study The Dance of Reality. “It was required that I go through the producers in France to get the ok to screen this important work at SUFF,” she says. “We really wanted to focus on our festival as being type of an adventure, of being able to take viewers on a sort of cinematic ride and it was important that we opened with a film that embodied that.”

This year sees a surge in the factual filmmaking component, reflecting a global filmmaking community seeking truth through the medium. “Documentaries have become such a big part of festival programming over the last few years and, as lovers of the format, we think that is a very exciting development,” says Berger. This year, her team has chosen such acclaimed works as Stephen Vittoria’s lengthy account of social activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, Long Distance Revolutionary (pictured, left); Stephen Graves’ heartbreaking physical-horror chronicle, A Body Without Organs; Sophie Huber's atmospheric insight into an iconic man's career, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction; and, two films that focus on the torturous lives of those obsessed with the male sex organ (ie; men), Brian Spitz’s Unhung Hero and Jonah Bekhor and Zac Math’s The Final Member.

Perhaps most confronting will be a very rare screening of UK director Keith Allen’s Unlawful Killing, the 2011 expose of the final hours of Princess Diana that has been all but shunned by the global film festival community. “We saw it, aware of all the controversy, and were just struck by how sad it would be that this film, because of its content matter, would just go by unseen,” reveals Berger. “And we’d had a lot of interest from people who wanted to see it. It’s probably one of our more ballsy decisions, showing that film. The film offers so much more than just stating over and over that, ‘They killed Diana!’”

If much of this year’s programme sounds a little heavy going, Berger assure us that there will, in fact, be a great deal of fun to be had, especially during the late-night Bad Movie Bingo event, featuring three classic Bad Movies – Troll 2, The Room and Birdemic: Shock and Terror. “Yeah, Stefan thought that would be a good idea,” Berger says with a laugh. “It has always been really important to us that we not only screen films but also encourage the community aspect of watching films and being together. The B-Movie Bingo concept has proved hugely popular overseas and you couldn’t have three movies that are more suited to the concept.”

The Sydney Underground Film Festival runs Thursday September 5 to Sunday September 8 at The Factory Theatre in Marrickville. Further programme and film information as well as ticket sales are available here.