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Entries in Documentary (24)

Friday
Jun152018

SWAGGER OF THIEVES: THE JULIAN BOSHIER INTERVIEW

As portrayed in Julian Boshier’s hard-rock doc Swagger of Thieves, life within New Zealand’s legendary metal band Head Like A Hole…well, it hasn’t been easy. One of the country’s most respected music video makers and documentary cameramen, Boshier has spent a fair share of the last 25 years close to band members Nigel ‘Booga’ Beazley and Nigel Regan. Their time in each other’s company has provided Boshier with unprecedented access to some of the most remarkable footage ever filmed of the wild rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle; Swagger of Thieves runs the gamut from ‘young, self-destructive artists in their prime’ to ‘dads and husbands determined to keep their dream alive’. Ahead of his films’ screening at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, Boshier spoke with SCREEN-SPACE about the men, the band and his destined-for-cult-status film…

SCREEN-SPACE: In presenting a personal portrait of the lads, what aspect of them as artists and as men had to be conveyed? What was the truth you wanted to tell?

BOSHIER: A documentary should take the audience to a place that they don’t usually have access to. A lot of people love the idea of getting close to a band, of experiencing a tour, or being backstage. So I wanted to get the audience into those normally restricted places, exposing the rehearsal space, the bickering, the tension and the feeling of what it is like being in or around Head Like a Hole. I didn’t really set out to expose the deep inner workings of these guys; how much they were going to reveal [of] themselves on camera was up to them. As time went on the layers revealed themselves and some semblance of them and their truth was laid out. My intention was to present a portrait of them, that they had presented to me. I do feel that they presented the truth, or at least their version of the truth.

SCREEN-SPACE: What is so unique about this band? Why does this documentary tell a different story to other heavy music rock docs?

BOSHIER (picture, right): My relationship with the band allowed me a level of access and intimacy that maybe other music documentary makers have not obtained. This band is not that unique in what they have achieved, but as characters or people, they do possess very unique attributes. This is a mix of dysfunction, unprofessionalism, fractious relationships, incredible humour, toughness, vulnerability. I wanted to approach this project in a different way to your average band profile documentary.  I wanted it to be about people and people living their lives; the backdrop was the band. This approach is why the end result is probably quite different to other rock documentaries.

SCREEN-SPACE: You’ve been around a lot of musicians whose careers have ebbed and flowed, but who push on. What are the character traits – good or bad - that are constant in all these music industry veterans?

BOSHIER: Actually quite a few of the bands I have made music videos for have split. The only two bands that have survived are Head Like a Hole and Shihad. Their paths have run a different course from one another, but both bands have lasted twenty-five odd years and both continue to this day. Head Like a Hole are certainly not the darlings of the New Zealand music industry and they do personally struggle at times to continue with their art, financially and otherwise. But their motivation seems to continue; their quest to produce a great new song, or a great performance continues. I guess that motivation comes from the music itself, the power of creating. All members of Head Like a Hole have flexible full-time jobs, and with that flexibility it allows them to take time out to reverse, record and tour. They operate in bite size chunks and that allows them to continue. (Pictured, above; from left, Nigel 'Booga' Beazley and Nigel Regan)

SCREEN-SPACE: Drug addiction all but destroyed the band; the scenes in which the much younger men shoot up are tough to watch. Was it ever considered a step-too-far including the footage? Why did it have to be in there?

BOSHIER: When I first suggested the idea of a film to Head Like a Hole, we all agreed immediately the approach had to be warts and all. Nigel Regan describes it as being ‘one big wart’. There was no other way to make this film; it couldn’t be dulled down or censored. It had to be a true representation or what was the point. Head Like a Hole have a reputation in New Zealand as a wild bunch, as ‘outlandish outlaws’. So it was important to the integrity of the story that needles were a part of it, as they have been a part of their lifestyle. The audience would have been expecting this type of footage, as their habits are common knowledge. The film would have had a glaring omission without the needle content. (Pictured, above; Boshier, centre, with band members)

SCREEN-SPACE: How did your feelings for these guys and your experience being part, however small, of their history influence how you told their story?

BOSHIER: Knowing these guys for a long time, I felt a huge responsibility undertaking this project. I had to be accountable to the band, to their music, their fans, their families, the movie-going public and to myself. New Zealand does not have many bands or musicians that are worthy or that can offer the myriad of ingredients that go into making a film, so this was something that I could not screw-up. But I have always trusted my own instincts, tastes and atheistic. I’ve always kept a professional distance from these guys and that continued during the filming; the band didn’t quite know what I was doing, and neither did I, but I backed myself. I suppose I took the cut to the edge, allowed no mercy. But this film is about a unique band; they deserved no mercy, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s true and real. (Pictured, above; Head Like a Hole frontman Nigel 'Booga' Beazley)

SCREEN-SPACE: How are the band’s fans reacting to the revelations in the film?

BOSHIER: The reaction in New Zealand has been quite incredible. Both the media and the public have been entertained, shocked and enlightened by this film that has come out of left field. It has drawn quite a broad audience, [which says] to me that I had not wasted many years and a huge amount of money making it. This film deals with friendship, addiction, personal demons, struggle but also the brighter side of life – love, music, fun and laughter. International audiences will have no preconceived notions about this band or film, so it could be a surprising discovery for them. This film is genuinely funny and entertaining; it [comes from] a darkness but also [has] a positivity that I hope international audiences can relate to.

SWAGGER OF THIEVES will screen at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival on July 14. Full ticketing and venue information can be found at the official event website.

Swagger of Thieves Trailer from Trench Film on Vimeo.

Thursday
Jun072018

PREVIEW: 2018 MELBOURNE DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL

The celebration of a passionate man dedicated to a life in the service of cinema seems entirely appropriate as the Opening Night offering at the 2018 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. The eclectic 9-day programme of long- and short-form factual films have been collated by a devoted curation team under founder and festival boss Lyndon Stone, whose time and energy in bringing the latest from the documentary field to Victorian audiences will be rewarded when the latest incarnation launches July 6.

First night honours go to Filmworker, director Tony Zierra’s profile of the enigmatic Leon Vitali, the bohemian Brit who chose to forego a career in front of the camera and dedicate his life to being right hand man and ultimately gaurdian for the great Stanley Kubrick. Offering profound insight into a man so drawn into the maddening genius of Kubrick’s vision that he altered his own destiny to serve the director, Filmworker has been embraced by critics (“A brisk, compelling movie that’s pure candy for Kubrick buffs,” said Variety) and promises to energise audiences.

Zierra’s crowdpleaser will screen under the banner ‘Film Buff’ with two films that also address that heady mix of destiny and talent – Anjelica Huston on James Joyce: A Shout on The Street, the actress’ recollections of the author’s career (Huston, pictured, right, starred for her father John in the Joyce adaptation, The Dead); and I am Famous, a melancholy look at the post-Back to The Future life of Thomas Wilson, aka trilogy bully Biff Tannen.

The 2018 program reflects the vast field of vision that documentaries afford the conscientious moviegoer. Over 60 films will screen, including two world premieres and ten Australian premieres, across six venues. In addition to ‘Film Buff’, there will be twelve themed strands (including two dedicated short-film and Melbourne-centric sessions). These include such banners as ‘Australian Art’ (which includes Black Anzac, director Tim Anastasi’s coverage of the creation of a mural by artist Hego depicting an Aboriginal WW1 soldier); ‘Geopolitics’ (featuring Timothy George Kelly’s EU-exit takedown, Brexitannia); ‘Social Justice’ (read our review for Dawn Mikkelson’s Risking Light here); ‘Animal/Environmental’ (with one for the musophobics from Chris Metzler called Rodents of Unusual Size); and, 'EDM Docs' (with Glen J. Scrymgour’s dance-party culture-clash study, Decks and The City).

Closing out the event will be the ‘Rock Docs’ strand, a collection of three films geared towards building momentum heading into the after-party. New Zealand filmmaker Julian Boshier will be in attendance to front the screening of his feature Swagger of Thieves, a behind-the-scenes account of struggling bandmates determined to overcome their own shortcomings and find a successful music sector niche. It will screen with Adam Farks’ The Music Stops Here, which addresses how gentrification and over-development can kill off musical culture; and, Samantha Holder and Nathan Richman’s Turn It Up!, a then-and-now study of the Sydney live music.

In addition to Boshier, several filmmakers will brave the chilly Southern capital in support of their works, with masterclasses and Q&A panels on the agenda. Those attending include Jackie Ochs, whose exposé Out of My Head reveals the shocking facts behind that crippling modern ailment, the migraine; Thor Neureiter, whose investigative piece Disaster Capitalism uncovers profiteering practices in the global aid network; and local lads David Elliott-Jones and Lachlan McLeod (pictured, right), the minds behind the wildly entertaining ‘viral fame’ experiment, Big in Japan.

Also scheduled is a presentation by people-powered exhibition outfit FanForce on the benefits and processes on self-distribution, an increasingly potent avenue by which documentarians can get their films seen by a broader audiences. 

2018 MELBOURNE DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL runs July 6-14 at verious venues across the city. For ticket sales and session details, visit the official website.

SCREEN-SPACE is a media partner of the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. Editor Simon Foster will be hosting Q&A events throughout the festival as a guest of the organisers.

Saturday
Apr282018

HEALTHY PLANET DOCS TO SCREEN AMONGST SERENE OZ SCENERY

The advocacy documentary movement thrives through the passion and determination of people like Kevin and Lowanna Doye. The planet-conscious proprietors of a wholefoods superstore in the picturesque northern New South Wales township of Bellingen will launch the Kombu Food Film Festival on May 12, a single-day presentation of four environmentally-themed factual films that the parents-of-four hope will inspire their audience to build a healthier, happier future for all our children.

“Watching films, particularly informative documentary films, in a collective environment is really powerful,” says Brit expat Kevin, who established Kombu Wholefoods in 2004, having relocated with his Australian wife from the U.K. to Sydney in 2002 before heading to the Bellingen hinterland. “It can be a trigger for generating real change and feeling reassured that there’s a community of people who feel the same way on some of these issues.”

Fighting the good fight on behalf of the planet is an ongoing commitment for the Doyes (pictured, right; at home, with their children). Their journey from Oxford to Sydney took the road less travelled, for example; over 18 months, Lowanna and Kevin peddled the Bike2Oz challenge, riding 12,000 kilometres across Europe and Asia to negate the carbon footprint that air travel would have rendered upon the Earth.

The key objective of the Kombu Food Film Festival is to spotlight like-minded people from around the world who are committed to positive change in the generation and responsible harvesting of our food supply. “We’ve selected films that offer solutions,” says Kevin. “They reveal what some of the problems are, but they’re also highlighting discussion points from which we can move forwards.”

The 2018 line-up of films includes:

Living The Change: Inspiring Stories for a Sustainable Future (Dirs: Antoinette Wilson and Jordan Osmond, pictured right; 85mins, Australia/New Zealand). The latest work from the film collective Happen Films, Living The Change explores solutions to contemporary global crises through the stories of people pioneering change towards a sustainable and regenerative way of life (official website).

Unbroken Ground (Dir: Chris Malloy; 26 mins, U.S.A.). Unbroken Ground examines how food can and should be a part of the solution to the environmental crisis – grown, harvested and produced in ways that restore our land, water and wildlife. Profiled are four groups pioneering such practices as regenerative agriculture and grazing, diversified crop development and restorative fishing (official website).

A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity (Dir: Jordan Osmond; 78 mins, Australia). Follows an Australian community who responded to the global crises through the implementation of simple living practices. Throughout the year, the group build tiny houses, plant community gardens, employ ‘simple living’ techniques and define and overcome the challenges of communal living (official website).

Seed: The Untold Story (Dirs: Jon Betz and Taggart Siegel; 94 mins, U.S.A.). In the last century, 94% of seed varieties have disappeared. From the activist film group Collective Eye Films and featuring such high profile voices as Jane Goddall and Vandana Shiva, Seed reveals the challenging and heartening story of passionate seed keepers as they wage a David and Goliath battle against chemical seed companies, defending a 12,000 year food legacy. Executive produced by Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (official website).

The Kombu Food Film Festival screens May 12 at the Bellingen Memorial Hall from 1.00pm. Entry is free; a gold coin donation is appreciated. All proceeds will be donated to the Kombu Community Garden, Bellingen. Event information can be found at the official website.

Tuesday
Mar272018

HEIMWEH: THE ERVIN TAHIROVIC INTERVIEW

In 1992, Ervin Tahirovic was 10 years old when his hometown of Foča was all but destroyed by invading forces during The Bosnian War. An idyllic rural existence, strong community ties and enriching family life was torn away from Tahirovic, who fled with his family, ultimately resettling in Vienna. Twenty-one years later, Ervin Tahirovic was overwhelmed with the need to reconnect with his roots and returned to Foča; his feature directorial debut Heimweh (Nostalgia) documents his quest to reconcile the fading memories of his past with the sadness of his present. As Heimweh continues its festival circuit rollout (it premiered in December at the Sarajevo International Film Festival and recently sold out two sessions at Austria’s prestigious Diagonale event), SCREEN-SPACE spoke with Ervin Tahirovic about his experience making the film, a work that is one of the most moving accounts of the complexities of a displaced person’s struggle ever filmed…

SCREEN-SPACE: Why did you need to make this journey at this point in your life? What compelled you, at an age when most young men are focused on career and adventure and romance, to re-engage with your past?

TAHIROVIC: I always had the feeling that something was holding me back and that I couldn't really progress in my life because of that. It took me 20 years to rebuild a ‘normal’ life, to have a steady job, a serious relationship with someone. I think that at this point, where I thought that everything was fixed and ‘like it should be’, I somehow realized that something was still painfully wrong. There was something deep inside me that made me so unhappy and unbalanced, so that after a while, the only thing I thought about anymore was the question "what the hell is wrong with me?". In my mind, there was no serious space for a career, girls, or anything else that ‘normal’ people do, I couldn't enjoy these things at all. There was just this pain in my soul and recurring nightmares about Foča, and I just had to find out if and how these two are connected to each other.

SCREEN-SPACE: What aspect of your journey back into your homeland proved most warmly familiar? 

TAHIROVIC: Everything there was familiar, and everything was still so deeply engraved in my heart and gave me this feeling of coming home, that I have forgotten so long ago. As soon as I saw my mountains, my river and as I heard that certain dialect the people speak in the region around Foča, I was blown away. So many emotions came back at once, that I simply wasn't able to process them cognitively, they just threw me back into being a child again, and for the first time in 20 years I felt that everything is going to be alright. I somehow felt a calm and knew that from this point on everything will change in my life. (Pictured, right; Tahirovic overlooking his hometown, Foča)

SCREEN-SPACE: And what, in hindsight, was the most surprising, even shocking?

TAHIROVIC: The most shocking thing was the realization that I'm really traumatized, and that that's the reason why I always felt so unhappy and wrong. It felt as if I'd awakened from a deep dream in which I lived for years, only to realize that in the meantime I have lost ‘my life’ and that I'm scarred for life. That was a hard thing to swallow. When I returned to Vienna, I got very sick because my thyroid completely broke down and I had to take some serious medicine for about three months; my heart was regularly skipping beats, which was a very scary feeling. My doctor said, “Whatever you did, you freaked out your body so much it's now trying to eat itself.”

SCREEN-SPACE: Without a horrible war to put the country in the headlines, western audiences know little about contemporary life in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Was it ever an aim of yours to convey a fresh perspective on your homeland? 

TAHIROVIC: Not really, I didn't know that much about contemporary Bosnia before I returned there. I wanted to return with the memory I had of it and let everything that has changed surprise me. The concept was to do no research but to be naive and to catch up with time by exploring the surroundings and meeting people. (Pictured, above; an emotional moment for Tahirovic, in Heimweh)

SCREEN-SPACE: While it is a deeply personal film - one man’s story, set in a specific region with specific history - it is also a narrative that embraces classic pilgrimage mythology; of returning home, rediscovering and defining oneself by seeking out a lost past. 

TAHIROVIC: I tried hard to make this film follow a classic ‘hero’s journey’ plot, It was obvious to me that it is the right format for this story, even though it is unusual to use this kind of plot in documentaries. And this kind of plot is indeed very old, because humans always used to lose their homes and had to keep telling these kinds of stories to save their identity from breaking apart. Not long ago, I read in a Bosnian newspaper that more than the half of Bosnian citizens are not in the country, but spread all around the world. They are foremost the audience I would like to reach with this film. I want every Bosnian to know about this movie, because there are so many out there who never returned to their homeland and probably never will and I would like to inform all of them how important and beautiful it can be to return home. (Pictured, above; Tahirovic rediscovering his hometown of Foča)

SCREEN-SPACE: What do you hope your film will convey about the experience of the many displaced persons in the world today?

TAHIROVIC: Of course, I would like to reach other refugees with the same problem, no matter where they are from. I think that's the realistic part of what I can hope for the film. And then there is this unrealistic part, where I hope that the people who hate refugees and blame them for everything, see this film and understand that refugees are not some kind of ‘bad tourists’, but people who have often suffered the unspeakable and now need love and all the help they can get. At this right-winged time in Europe, that would be my greatest wish.

Tuesday
Mar202018

KANGAROO A LOVE/HATE STORY: THE KATE MCINTYRE-CLERE INTERVIEW

The directing team of Kate McIntyre-Clere and her husband Michael have travelled the world with their searing expose Kangaroo A Love/Hate Story, a challenging documentary that examines Australia’s complex, often exploitative relationship with its national icon, the kangaroo. The film has drawn protests from culling industry advocates, who are determined to expand import markets and don’t need footage revealing a multi-million dollar industry steeped in misinformation and cruelty. With their film now in Australian cinemas, SCREEN-SPACE spoke to Kate McIntyre-Clere about some of the hotbed issues raised in her fearless film (WARNING: Some content is of a graphic nature)…

SCREEN-SPACE: When did you and Michael become aware of the breadth of issues faced by the kangaroo population?

McINTYRE-CLERE: We set out to explore the wonder of this magnificent and unique animal. We knew opinion was split and that would make an interesting story but once we started the research and interviews we were surprised to learn that millions of kangaroos are shot each year and sold for profit. It seemed incongruous to us that Australians, who are immensely proud to hold up the kangaroo as their beloved national symbol, would sanction their nightly killing, with so little interest in questioning what is going on.

SCREEN-SPACE: There would be a global outcry if your footage - killing of young animals, often still on the teat; killing of breeding females - impacted any other form of wildlife. Why are those in power largely turning a blind eye in the case of the kangaroo?

McINTYRE-CLERE: That is the question the Australian public need to be asking their government: to come clean about all the permitted killing of kangaroos that is happening across the country. We think Australians do not know that killing kangaroos is the largest terrestrial wildlife kill on the planet. Or that kangaroos are killed and eviscerated in the bush and carried on the back of open trucks through the dusty tracks for hours until refrigeration. Most Australians do not know how cruelly the baby joeys are treated, or how many kangaroos are mis-shot and left to die from horrific injuries. We believe Australians will be shocked to hear how their beloved national emblem is being sold for pet food, sausages and soccer boots. It’s time they did hear. We have found from making the film that the government and civil society has let the kangaroo down. (Pictured, above: Kate McIntyre-Clere)

SCREEN-SPACE: Was there ever a concern that some of the content might just be too much for your average viewer?

McINTYRE-CLERE: Every shot was discussed fully. We decided that the audience needed to witness what is happening to kangaroos. Much of the footage has been stylised, leaving the audience with an impression rather than the gruesome details. We left many more violent images out of the film.

SCREEN-SPACE: Have you been surprised by the coverage from some mainstream media? Several outlets have sided with the industry and sought to discredit the claims you present.

McINTYRE-CLERE: It is a much more balanced film than some press have stated, but it seems to have hit a sensitive nerve. We worked to get a cross section of voices, including politicians, scientists, farmers, shooters, kangaroo industry leaders and indigenous Australians. If the audience doubts the treatment of kangaroos or if people have strong opinions, we recommend they see the film to learn more and make up their own minds. There is very little open discussion in mainstream media of the population (levels), hygiene or cruelty surrounding our misuse of our wildlife.

SCREEN-SPACE: How are US audiences, who perhaps see the kangaroo as a more mythical, iconic creature, reacting to the film?

McINTYRE-CLERE: The film was very well received and got rave reviews from the press including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Variety. The US audiences were shocked to learn how Australians treat their national icon. They have no idea that kangaroos are killed, often treated as pests instead of the wildlife they are and exported for pet food, human consumption and leather goods. Some states have very strict laws about the importation of wildlife so there was concern about this at government levels.

SCREEN-SPACE: Disregard for our iconic wildlife is not without precedent – koalas only exist is pockets of population due to deforestation. What action needs to be taken to ensure the best outcome for the kangaroo population?

McINTYRE-CLERE: Interestingly, the kangaroo is similar to the koala in its low slow breeding capacity, and kangaroo’s woodland and shrub land habitat has also been cleared since colonisation. We want Australians to be interested in the treatment and future of the kangaroos. We want them to notice when kangaroos are no longer in areas and be more critical and knowledgeable. We hope to initiate a robust, transparent, national conversation that brings together all concerned scientists, indigenous people, land owners, politicians, animal activists, citizens and give the kangaroo the respect it deserves as our national icon that has lived on this continent for 25 million years. (Pictured, above: Kate and husband/co-director, Mike McIntyre, with their star) 

SCREEN-SPACE: What might be the worst outcome?

McINTYRE-CLERE: Australia already has the highest loss of biodiversity in the world after Indonesia, and the highest rate of terrestrial mammal extinctions in the last few hundred years. Kangaroos are slow-growing, have low fecundity and high juvenile mortality.  Their habitat continues to be cleared and environment damaged, and industrial-scale killing has only got more efficient and organised since colonisation. When people see a mob of kangaroos in a video or image and don’t notice the rest of the landscape is completely empty, then perhaps that is the disturbing answer to this question. As filmmakers, we think the worst possible outcome is we sit on our hands and don’t do anything.

KANGAROO A LOVE/HATE STORY is in Australian cinemas now.