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Entries in Film Festival (21)



Independent: (adj) free from outside control; not subject to another's authority.

Australian filmgoers seeking to be challenged and energized will welcome a new cinema event called Essential Independents: American Cinema, Now. Featuring 32 films (including 11 Australian premieres), the 16-day program aims to contextualize the creative paths forged by American independent filmmakers, the current state of the sector and visions that suggest a vibrant future lies ahead. The rich schedule – presented under the strands Fiction, Intrigue, Experiments, Originals and New York - is the cumulative work of artistic director Richard Sowada, one of Australia’s leading film academics and event curators. His credits include the founding in 1997 of Perth’s iconic counter-culture film event, Revelation, and a nine-year posting as Head of Film Programs at the Australian Centre for The Moving Image. He spoke with SCREEN-SPACE ahead of the launch of the Sydney season on May 17 (other states to follow)…

SCREEN-SPACE: What is the current state of American independent cinema and how does your inaugural line-up capture that? 

SOWADA: It’s always been in a healthy state across experimental, documentary and feature film elements. I’m not sure why; it’s almost like that because the US walks such a precarious, perilous socio-political line with so many social and cultural divisions within itself, it engenders a kind of urgency amongst the creative community, like their world is about to implode and they have to act fast. Also, the sheer volume of work created forces the filmmakers to approach things in ambitious, inventive ways. The ambition isn’t always directed at scale of course, but perhaps something as small and simple as “I can do this”. The new works in the program grab hold of that actively. We throw weight behind quite experimental films, to high-quality political and socially oriented documentaries. The features also explore style, form, performance and technique. There are genuinely fresh ideas and exciting approaches, even in feature debuts.

SCREEN-SPACE: Given the dire 'superhero blockbuster' studio mentality, and funding/distribution struggle for truly indie cinema, might your byline 'American Cinema, Now' be courting disfavour?

SOWADA: What you’re talking about here are two different industries. One is based on selling popcorn, the other on working with ideas. The entire emphasis and tradition is different. Independent approaches always had to struggle against the massive amount of mediocre content; in publishing, art, fashion, music, business, everywhere, all the time. The whole independent approach is about finding a different way and they continue to do just that. This program is just one example. To see these films on commercial independent screens around Australia is a small miracle in itself. It’s opportunities like this that start to shift the funding and distribution possibilities for these kinds of films. If you can demonstrate an audience, you’re well on the way to breaking through and changing the status quo.

SCREEN-SPACE: Can we ever hope to regain the fever pitch state of indie film production that erupted in the wake of Pulp Fiction in the mid-90s?

SOWADA: The whole industry is a creative continuum. Pulp Fiction is used as a marker for the orgasmic explosion of independent cinema into (the) mainstream, but this revolution was going on before Pulp Fiction (and) has continued unabated since. Just because we don’t see a lot of it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Stranger Than Paradise and Blood Simple were on our screens 10 years earlier. Locally, Once Were Warriors came out in the same year as Pulp Fiction and changed the independent distribution and exhibition landscape in Australia. The brashness of something like Pulp Fiction didn’t create more independent works, it just bought audiences into the environment that was already there. The films also slowly morphed into a different kind of independent cinema which often has something softer, like what the the austere approach of the Dogme movement did for Danish cinema. Boyhood is a great and quite revolutionary example of that.

Above: Oren Moverman's Time Out of Mind, Opening Night film at Essential Independents

SCREEN-SPACE: 'Essential Intrigue’ profiles true cage-rattlers, like Robert Mapplethorpe (pictured, below; with singer Patti Smith) and Johnny Cash, as well as anti-establishment accounts of sectors like tech security and hip hop culture. Is independent cinema at its best when challenging the accepted norm?

SOWADA: I think that’s an accidental thing in many ways. Often these stories are personal and hidden. They’re buried deep in subculture(s) or forgotten corners of history. Those corners are hard to see by producers, funders, broadcasters and distributors who often feel they’re too ‘niche’ to explore. This word ‘niche’ is used by sectors of the industry to describe something they don’t understand. Therefore the misunderstood, specific or marginalised are deemed without audience. The independent sector, on the other hand, has a very different perspective; from lower down, they can get access into these corners and their inhabitants. I’m not sure if these filmmakers deliberately go out to challenge accepted norms but because they understand and respect their subjects and audiences so well, the works reflect their protagonists differently. The films are what they’re about, not simply a reflection of it. There’s a different, much more personal feel and approach where the magic overlay of style and content is very strong and individual.

SCREEN-SPACE: Does a correlation exist between the debut works featured in Essential Originals?

SOWADA: There’s a couple that play to genres like Near Dark and Blood Simple but I think the real binding element – and this cuts across all the titles throughout the program – is the respect they have for what’s gone before, just like Tarantino’s work. You can see Two Lane Blacktop in Kelly Riechardt’s River of Grass. You can see Cassavetes’ work in Stranger Than Paradise and Slacker. You can see Double Indemnity in Blood Simple. You can see Alien in Near Dark. What they do is take these inspirations, traditions, the special connections they have both with audiences and the sheer logistics of making a low-budget film and integrate them into their own signature. You can literally see the filmmakers taking the great moments and dissecting them to see how those moving parts work. It’s quite scientific study, experimentation and appreciation.

Above: Trailer for William Friedkin's Cruising, screening as part of Essential New York strand.

SCREEN-SPACE: One of the great coups of the festival will be a rare screening of William Friedkin's Cruising. How do you expect the millenial audience to react to such a confronting, non-PC work?

SOWADA: You simply couldn’t make a film like that for commercial release any more. It’s hardcore, with little left to the imagination. Not having been part of the NYC S&M club scene in the 70s, the depictions seem very authentic, which is fascinating and vibrant to watch. You don’t question the realism and there’s so much detail. It must have been a difficult film to make and Pacino does a great job. New audiences are going to lap it up, so to speak. It’s so surprising. It’s high quality in every way - widescreen, great sound, excellent soundtrack, brilliant costuming, a tense story and completely underground, subculture setting. I think new audiences will walk away asking what happened to these high risk/high reward films? Matching it up with Franco’s performance experiment Interior. Leather Bar is going to tip the whole experience over the edge. Now that’s what I call a double feature!

Essential Independents: American Cinema, Now screens at Palace Cinemas from May 17 in Sydney, May 18 in Melbourne, May 19 in Brisbane and Canberra and May 26 in Adelaide. Ticket and venue information via the event's official website. 



Under the stewardship of Jury President George Miller, the films competing for the 2016 Festival de Cannes Palme d’Or will be judged by a jury of eight – four men and four women – each with their own highly-regarded status in world cinema. 

Some will be known by many; others, only by the most fervent followers of international film. So who are the 8 and what have they done to deserve their place on the Croisette…?

Who? One of world cinema’s most respected actors, the 80 year-old Canadian’s career has encompassed star-making early roles (The Dirty Dozen; Kelly’s Heroes) iconic leading man turns (Klute; Don’t Look Now; Invasion of The Body Snatchers) and memorable support parts (Backdraft; JFK; The Hunger Games).
Cannes cred: Starred in Robert Altman’s 1970 Palme d’Or winner, MASH; in 2012, became a Commander of The Order of Arts and Letters, bestowed by French Minister of Culture for "significant contribution to the enrichment of the French cultural inheritance."

Who? A leading light in contemporary French cinema since his lauded 1991 debut, La vie des morts, the 55 year-old auteur has found unshakeable critical favour and commercial success both domestically (14 Cesar nominations, capped by a Best Director win in 2015 for his latest, My Golden Days) and abroad (official selection and trophy wins in Venice, Chicago, Munich, Lisbon and Avignon).
Cannes cred: Featured in the Official Competition line-up on five occasions - his debut feature, 1992’s The Sentinel; My Sex Life…or How I Got into an Apartment; Esther Kahn; A Christmas Tale (for which his leading lady, Catherine Deneuve, earned a Best Actress trophy); and, Jimmy P. In 2015, secured the Director’s Fortnight SACD Honour for My Golden Days.

Above: Arnaud Desplechin accepts his 2015 Best Director Cesar for My Golden Days.

Who? Mentored by the great Bela Tarr, the young Hungarian emerged triumphantly in 2015 with his debut feature, Son of Saul. The harrowing Holocaust drama scored 45 international film honours including the Best Foreign Film trophies at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit and National Board of Review (US) ceremonies, as well as festival prizes at Zagreb, Stockholm, Seattle, Sarajevo and Santa Barbara, to name just a few.
Cannes cred: Son of Saul earned five nominations at last years’ event, eventually winning the FIPRESCI Critics Award, the coveted Francois Chalais Prize (awarded to a work steeped in affirmative life value, named after the revered French journalist and film historian) and the Grand Jury prize.

Who? The headline-grabbing French multi-hyphenate parlayed early career success as a ‘supermodel’ into the fields of pop-music and acting; following a Cesar-winning debut in Claude de Brisseau’s Noce blanche in 1989, her presence enlivened such works as Patrice Leconte’s The Girl on The Bridge, Pascal Chaumeil’s Heartbreaker and Jean-Marc Vallee’s Café de Flore (for which she won a Best Actress Genie). In 2011, she also supplied her vocal talent to the French-language version of Bibo Bergeron’s animated hit, A Monster in Paris.
Cannes cred: French industry status and A-list, red-carpet glamour.

Who? Mikkelsen’s status as arguably Europe’s #1 star began soon after his breakout role in Nicholas Winding Refn’s Pusher trilogy. A decade of hits followed, including Anders Thomas Jensen’s Flickering Lights, Lone Scherfig’s Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, Susanne Bier’s Open Hearts and After the Wedding, Ole Christian Madsen’s Flame & Citroen and Nikolaj Arcel’s A Royal Affair. Off continent, Mikkelsen made his mark in commercial properties like King Arthur, Casino Royale, The Three Musketeers and Clash of the Titans; his biggest Stateside hit has been the title role in the hit TV series, Hannibal.
Cannes cred: Won the 2012 Best Actor award for Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt; his starring turn in Arnaud Des Pallières’s Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas premiered in the 2013 Official Competition.

Above: Trailer for The Hunt, with Mads Mikkelsen.

Who? Her breakthrough role at age 12 as a bloodsucking seductress opposite Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Neil Jordan’s 1994 hit Interview With a Vampire ensured Kirsten Dunst fame and notoriety in equal measure. Rarely out of the public spotlight, the New Jersey-native weathered the awkward teenage years with high-profile studio projects (Jumanji; Small Soldiers; Bring It On; Spiderman) and well-chosen indie projects (Wag the Dog; The Virgin Suicides; Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind). Recently, Dunst bounced back from critical duds (Wimbledown; Elizabethtown; an ill-advised third Spiderman film) with Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, Walter Salles' On The Road, Hossein Amini’s The Two Faces of January and Jeff Nichol’s Midnight Special, as well as an acclaimed guest stint on the TV series Fargo.  
Cannes cred: The Best Actress Award at the 2011 festival for her performance in Lars von Trier's Melancholia.

Who? The immeasurable contribution made by the 47 year-old Iranian to the international acceptance of her nation’s film output is remarkable. Having spent her formative years as a ‘film promoter’ with the industry support body Farabi Cinema Foundation, in 2001 she established Scheherazade Media International, an initiative to produce and distribute homegrown content that gave creative freedom to auteurs like Mohammad Rasoulof, Mania Akbari and Saman Salour. In 2012, launched Noori Pictures and found instant acclaim with Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s Tales and Vahid Jalilvand’s Wednesday May 9.
Cannes cred: In 2015, her production of Ida Panahandeh’s Nahid won the Un Certain Regard strand’s Avenir Prize honour.

Who? After a run of critically acclaimed films in her homeland (Little Flames; A Tale of Love; Three Sisters), the Italian model-turned-actress followed the ‘European ingenue’ route paved by the likes of Nastassja Kinski and Joanna Pacula and headed for LA. Following her debut in Randall Kleiser’s Big Top Pee Wee, she found high-profile work in Barry Levinson’s Rain Man, Sean Penn’s The Indian Runner, Jim Abraham’s Hot Shots! and Mike Figgis’ Leaving Las Vegas. Golina never forgot her continental roots, returning home frequently to star in such works as Giacomo Campiotti’s Like Two Crocodiles, Emanuele Crialese’s Respiro and Silvio Soldini’s The Acrobat.
Cannes cred: Her directorial debut, Miele, screened in the 2013 Un Certain Regard selection and received the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.

Above: Valeria Golino discusses her film Miele at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, 2013



To inspire her 2016 programming choices, Brisbane Underground Film Festival (BUFF) director Nina Riddel has drawn upon the wisdom of alternative culture icon John Waters. “I like the word ‘underground’,” the legendary film maker once said, “’independent’ carries a stigma of whininess. ‘Underground’ means a good time.” And the 6th edition of BUFF, launching February 5 at the New Farm Cinemas in Queensland's state capital, ensures all manner of ‘good times’, with films offering unique riffs on cannibalism, baby-making, white-trash auteur cinema, dismemberment and non-sequel sequels…

“You're likely to be challenged, be it viscerally or intellectually,” says Riddel, a Brisbane native who now calls New York City home. “Underground consists of both high-brow, (such as) experimental film and video art, and low-brow exploitation & amateur cinema, but avoids the palatable middle where most entertainment resides. I would say that most films (at BUFF) this year consist of a combination of both.”

Since the inaugural festival in 2010, the festival’s reputation has helped to secure such international counter-culture classics as Dogtooth, Hobo With a Shotgun, White Reindeer and You Are What You Eat. The line-up has most often reflected the modern definition of underground cinema as a decentralised force. “It's not just a scene in New York or Chicago, and digital technology has encouraged way more untrained, gung-ho people to make work which I find very exciting,” says Riddel. “I think the internet has changed which boundaries are still there to push, but people will always have something - often something truly odd - to say. BUFF is a place for that to be heard.” (Pictured, right; Nina Riddel)

Although her festival’s scope for admissions is borderless, Riddel is firm in her belief that the event reflects its origins. “BUFF's identity is defined by the film scene (of Brisbane),” she explains. Her programming ethos reflects, “what local filmmakers are doing, what features are missing from cinemas here that might be uniquely relevant to our political or artistic landscape, and my own personal taste.” She has established a strong network with the programmers of respected underground film events such as those in Boston, Sydney and Chicago (“We don't always play the same movies but we share the same interests”) and determinedly networks with key figures to ensure her sessions bring the latest in alternative film visions. “Underground film people are so approachable that you can see a legendary movie, idolize its creator, and very quickly be getting drunk with that person and seeing pictures of their baby on Facebook,” she points out.

The six features filling the bill over the 3-day 2016 edition represent the dark corners and individualistic artistry of independent cinema. Opening night honours go to Todd Rohal’s Uncle Kent 2, in which star Kent Osborne (as himself) desperately searches for someone to love his pitch for a sequel to Joe Swanberg’s little-seen 2011 film, while contemplating ‘The Singularity Apocalypse’. “It's silly, it’s fun,” enthuses Riddel, “the strangest, most exciting film I've seen in a long time, and you don't have to have seen Uncle Kent; I haven't!” Hollywood outcast Adam Rifkin (The Dark Backward; Detroit Rock City) directs the grimy, ‘Dogma’-esque trailer-park black comedy, Guiseppe Makes a Movie; Chilean auteur Sebastian Silva (The Maid; Magic Magic) helms an against-type Kristen Wiig in the NYC-set Nasty Baby; Onur Turkel’s Applesauce features Dylan Baker as the talkback jock being stalked by an unhinged fan (Says Riddel, “It feels like a smart New York comedy which happens to contain a lot of severed limbs.”)

Perhaps most confronting for Brisbane patrons will be writer/director Caroline Golum’s debut feature A Feast of Man, a searing social satire that asks ‘How far would you go to inherit a billionaire’s fortune?’ (hint: the answer is in the film’s title.) “It illustrates how utterly devious upper-class people can be,” says Riddel of the film, which has its Australian premiere at BUFF. Closing out the festival on Sunday 7th will be Gabriel Ripstein’s 600 Miles, a tough two-hander starring Tim Roth as a captured ATF officer and Krystan Ferrer as the small-scale drug runner delivering the agent to his drug lord boss.

Australian talent comes to the fore in the short-film selections, with works from Matthew Victor Pastor (Valentine’s Day, 6 mins); Sam Sexton (Drack, 7 mins); Riley Maher (Your Summer Dream, 4 mins); and, co-directors Sam Rogers and Nick Harrold (Prey for Rain, 7 mins). The other short slots are filled by New Zealand director Natasha Cantwell’s Lauren (2 mins) and the VFX showcase Double Blind No 1 (2 mins; pictured, top) from the LA-based collective of Zenon Kohler, Jasper St Aubyn West, Ian Anderson, Ricky Marks and Raoul Teague.

By definition, ‘underground films’ rarely come with marketing budgets or high profiles attached. But Riddel is adamant that is precisely why such films need the theatrical exposure that BUFF offers. “I like undiscovered gems, movies that need help getting seen,” she says. “It's tempting to believe that the movies with huge marketing budgets and national releases are the only ones worth paying attention to. But there's a whole world of other stuff out there that's better, (made by) people excited to get their movies seen. It makes their work purer.”

Full ticket and venue information for the 2016 Brisbane Underground Film Festival can be found at the official website.



When Davidson Cole announced his talent in 2002 with his feature debut Design, the film world took notice. The AV Club said his leading man turn had, “…Nicolas Cage-like volatility, (making) for a compelling, put-upon hero”; Variety called his direction, “…comparable to the David Lynch of Blue Velvet”. Thirteen years later, his multi-faceted talents utilised in fields such as video game design, short documentary and experimental filmmaking and fiction writing, the LA-based auteur brings audiences Hollywood, his slightly screwy, darkly-shaded, wildly engaging sophomore effort. Ahead of the international premiere of Hollywood at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival, Cole spoke at length with SCREEN-SPACE about the passion it takes to stay committed to your vision, the origins of his latest narrative and the dark, funny love letter to film lore his new work represents…

You’ve a very eclectic film resume, from the documentary The 95th to Design and now Hollywood. Who are the artists and filmmakers that have inspired your creativity?

The movie that inspired me to make films was Raiders of the Lost Ark. I have no desire to ever make a movie like it, but the summer it was released, I must have seen it 20 times. I even knew the inflections of the dialogue by heart. This past year, my favorite film was Godard's Goodbye To Language. His work has always been a touchstone for me. Love Lynch, Altman and Cronenberg. I try to watch American Movie at least once a year, my favorite film about making movies. Sam Shepard's dialogue, especially how he navigates a monolog. Dogs inspire me too. Big fan of dogs.

Hollywood represents the type of adventurous but assured work audiences rarely get to see in this era of ‘palatable product.’ Was the determination to film Hollywood on your terms part of the reason it has been over a decade since Design, which Variety called, “a most auspicious narrative debut,” citing your “fascinatingly complex screenplay and bold direction”?

Following the Sundance premiere of Design, I planned on shooting Angels, this twisted, low sci-fi take on the after life; an ambitious project, tried for years to put it together, with actors attaching then moving on when we couldn't wrangle all the financing. It was frustrating. It can be a time-sink to remain too hopeful on a project getting financed at the expense of creating. The last couple years I've become more focused on what is possible with the resources at my disposal, shooting shorts or micro-budget features. I'm much happier with the prospect of shooting 3 to 4 films for next to nothing, than running around for 3 to 4 years trying to finance something for millions. That being said, I never stop trying to develop big ideas. Before we decided to make Hollywood we were tossing around this psycho-sexual nightmare titled Bathyal; insanely ambitious at the micro-budget level, but doable. After script reads and discussions with my producers Sam (Zuckerman) and Tom (Bailey) (pictured, above; on-set, with the director) and my cinematographer Dominique Martinez, Hollywood emerged as the film within reach, the one with the fiercest hold on my imagination at the time.

How did you pitch the look and decidedly offbeat narrative of Hollywood to potential investors?

I always make it clear to investors that I don't plan on playing it safe as a director but the discussion starts with the script. The narrative flourishes and visual style are rarely apparent for me at that stage. That develops, throughout the process, so I let the script and my past work be the pitch.

The heightened reality of Hollywood is brought to vivid life by some extraordinary characters.  How much of ‘Dave’, ‘Champagne’, ‘Brad Pitt’ and ‘Mary Elizabeth’ was on the page, and how much came alive in rehearsal and on-set?

I don't rehearse with my actors. I enjoy the danger of discovery on-set. I convey my own impressions of a character beforehand with a meeting or two, then rely on the actor to bring their own inner life, make their own choices, adjusting quickly on-set if need be. It seems counter-intuitive, on a micro-budget project, where time is so precious, but it works for me and keeps the cast and crew vibrant and focused on set, and when a moment really hits, is genuine, everyone knows it and that is contagious. (pictured, right; Michael Serrato as 'Brad Pitt', left, and William Belli as 'Champagne').

As important as the eccentric, larger-than-life cast is, the need for two central perfs that ground the film is even more crucial. Tell us about the creating the chemistry with Dana Melanie…

The role was a challenge for Dana, very different from anything else she had ever done. We knew going in Farrah was the toughest role to cast, to execute. My initial vision for the role changed to encompass the innocence Dana naturally brings to the screen, but then there is this strange fire and mischievous flicker that pops into her eyes when least expected. That combo is why we cast her. I was very proud of Dana. (pictured, below; Melanie as Farrah).

You dabble in some well-worn genre clichés – the hooker with the heart of gold; the Las Vegas gambler, in deep with The Mob; the flamboyant homosexual archetype. Yet the story beats, stylisation and drama feel fresh. Is Hollywood your take on classic B-movie lore?

The film is loaded with tropes and references, some more obvious than others, but all of them woven into the narrative with satirical intent. The big film biz is morbidly obsessed with trotting out the same clichés, the same narrative structures. Whenever someone mentions the "Hero's Journey", I get hit with a slight wave of nausea. Audiences are tired of it. As a framing device for the real narrative, I introduced overused tropes then push them into unexpected directions. Familiar territory quickly becomes unfamiliar, unsettling. It was fun finding opportunities to morph a trope then chisel it into our narrative.

Hollywood explores reconciling with one’s heritage. It is inherent to some of your other projects, too – your grandfather’s life and legacy in both The 95th and There is No Car, for example. Why do the ‘sins of the father’ hold such a thematic fascination for you?

While there are certain aspects of my relationship with my own dad in Hollywood, fearing the inability to avoid the failures of your bloodline is more reflective of my dad's experience with his father. Ultimately, as much as he tried to be different, in many ways he wound up making some of the same self-destructive decisions with his own family. It haunts him a bit, I'm sure. I think we all secretly dread the prospect of becoming just like a parent, no matter how healthy or toxic the relationship. The demons of a bloodline are difficult to shake, though.

The tech aspects are very slick – the production design; the cinematography. What was your ‘directorial mantra’ to the key creative crew?

Dominique (pictured, right; on-set) and I spent a lot of time crafting the shots beforehand. She has an amazing eye for composition and many of the most striking shots in the film were the result of her taking our initial ideas and adapting them to the confined space. I wanted long takes, wide shots, subtle moves. Let the action unfold within a single shot as often as possible, which proved a challenge to G & E and production design, since an entire room was in play most shots with the camera moving through the space. Given our limited resources and time, the skill and creative energy of the crew was vital to the visual style of the film.

From here on in, is your career geared towards being before the camera or behind the lens?

Acting for me is the loosest, most chaotic part of the process. I enjoy the physicality of acting and the immediacy of it, but I don't have much interest in pursuing a career as an actor. First and foremost, I consider myself a writer. My ideas always begin with character, with an exchange of dialogue. The narrative and visuals evolve from there. As a director, I base the visual beats of my scene off the characters - who currently has the power, whose point of view matters most at a particular moment - and move the lens accordingly.  Traditional coverage doesn't interest me. I rarely shoot a master shot. I almost never use them in post-production. If the opening beat of a scene warrants an extreme close-up, then we shoot that. If the next beat needs an uber wide to establish the tension of distance, we shoot that. No need to waste time shooting anything else, acquiring coverage. I love Werner Herzog's quote on coverage..."When you do open heart surgery you don't go for the appendix or toenails, you go straight for the beating heart".

Hollywood has its International Premiere at Revelation Perth International Film Festival on Saturday July 4, with further screenings to follow. Ticket and venue information can be found at the official website here.



With East coast film buffs re-engaging with the real world in the wake of Sydney’s 2015 festival season, moviegoers of the Western capital are just getting revved up.

Revelation, Perth’s annual international film festival event, bows its 10-day screening schedule on July 2 at the city's arthouse mecca, The Luna, with director Jeremy Sims’ Last Cab to Darwin. Starring Aussie acting great Michael Caton (pictured, above; with co-star, Ningali Lawford), the wry comedy/drama follows a terminally-ill outback cabbie as he seeks a painless, dignified final few days in the care of Jacki Weaver’s right-to-die doctor.

The challenging, hot-topic pic may not seem to be the first choice for an opening night ‘party starter’, but program director Jack Sargeant (in conjunction with festival head Richard Sowada) saw a balance of light and dark in the work that was a good fit for Revelation. “It's a movie about life and what living means. I think that we open with films that feel right, that set a mood and inspire conversation,” says Sargeant (pictured, right). “Last Cab… does that, I think. It’s a very human story.

Revelation’s reputation as a key supporter of domestic film output is evident in the three world premieres of locally produced works. They are co-directors Jenny Crabb and Susie Conte’s retro-themed celebration of Perth’s iconic live music venue, Parkerville Amphitheatre: Sets, Bugs and Rock’n’Roll; feature debutant Platon Theodoris’ Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites (a co-production with Indonesia); and the third feature from Stefan Popescu (founder of Sydney’s Underground Film Festival), a melding of the porn and undead genres evocatively titled Vixen Velvet’s Zombie Massacre.

Sargeant was convinced that the three warranted the coveted ‘world premiere’ status, even if the ‘why?’ of Revelation programming remains elusive. “The qualities that we look for are shifting all the time,” he says, hinting at the free-spirited, enigmatic nature synonymous with the event. “A good movie has no set criteria but when you watch it, it works. Some films may not work one year but may another year. There's a sense that the process of curating is also about the relationships between movies as well as just the movies standing alone.

The program strand Get Your Shorts On! focuses on the talents of six locally-based short-form filmmakers (including Kelrick Martin's Karroyul; pictured, right), whose works have received funding from such local entities as ScreenWest, Lotterywest and the Film & Television Institute. International mini-movies feature alongside local works from Bryn Tilly (Umbra) and David Coyle (Enfilade) in the 13-strong Experimental Showcase line-up, which welcomes works from Russia (Andre Silva’s Cybergenesis; Alexei Dimitriev’s The Shadow of Your Smile); the United Kingdom (Point and Untitled014, both from Christopher Macfarlane); and, the USA (Irina Arnaut’s Working Title; Kelly Kirshtner’s A Nice Bowl of Soup).

International features bowing on our shores include expat Australian filmmaker Kane Senes’ moody western, Echoes of War (featuring It Follows star, Maika Monroe); Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia’s haunting sci-fi oddity, H.; Katherine Dohan and Alanna Stewarts’ left-of-centre coming-of-age feelgooder, What I Love About Concrete; the hauntingly beautiful The Creeping Garden, Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp’s study in the properties of plasmodial slime; Belinda Sallin’s melancholy biography Dark Star: HR Giger’s Welt; and, SXSW 2014 Audience Award winner, Yakona, from Paul Collins and Anlo Sepulveda. Festival hits making their Perth debut include The Tribe, Tehran Taxi, The Duke of Burgundy, Spring and The Forbidden Room.

Perhaps certain to mess with minds more than anything else at Revelations 2015 is the Australian premiere of Asphalt Watches, a Crumb-like work of animated surrealism from Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver. The story of Bucktooth Cloud and Skeleton Hat and their hitchhiked journey across Canada in 2000 rattled even the experienced eye of Jack Sargeant. “Asphalt Watches just made me think, 'what the hell?'” he recalls. “Its a glimpse inside some crazy nightmare/dream, a cross between something like South Park and classic underground comix. It has that sensibility that animation can be crazy and stupid and funny and do things nothing else can. I like that.

Sargeant’s encyclopaedic knowledge of and love for music is evident in his programming of Denny Tedesco’s The Wrecking Crew (pictured, right), a tribute to the largely unknown session players that created the LA sound of the 60’s; Theory of Obscurity, Don Hardy Jr’s profile of oddball San Francisco new-wavers, The Residents; Marc Eberle’s study in a country’s musical heritage and unique pop performers, Cambodian Space Project: Not Easy Rock and Roll; the genre deconstruction Industrial Music for the Urban Decay, from Travis Collins and Amelie Ravalec; Robert Nazar Arjoyan’s ethereal study of gender, race and electronic music, When My Sorrow Died: The Legend of Armen Ra and The Theremin; and, Wes Orshoski’s biopic-doco of punk trailblazers, The Damned: Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead.

The cinema of both Iran and Poland will be represented in sidebar events, as will a 10-strong shorts program suitable for family audiences. The RevCon Workshops and Panels feature Festival Patron, actor Steve Bisley (The Power of The Monologue), Last Cab to Darwin director Jeremy Sims (Building Director’s Skillsets; pictured, right) and digital pioneer Craig Deeker (Digital Filmmaking Masterclass). Launching in 2015 is the Film Festival Director’s Forum during which the likes of Sydney’s Nashen Moodley and Iranian Film Festival toppers Anne Demy-Geroe and Armin Milardi dissect festival curation. Returning will be the much-loved Revel 8 mini-fest, celebrating the 8mm film format, and Revelation Academic, the engaging gabfest that allows for voices from all corners of the industry to be heard on the most immediate issues.

I hope that with the academic strand they get the chance to think about new ideas, theoretical and cultural aspects of film, and I hope that with the workshops that they get inspired to pick up cameras and make their own works,” says Sargeant who, since he joined Sowada’s team in 2007, has helped form a unique film festival experience in Australia’s most remote capital city. “I hope that I've introduced audiences to things they'd otherwise not know about, and may otherwise never get to see on the big screen. If there's any legacy, I hope it is that people have the opportunity to see interesting work, meet filmmakers and become inspired. That would be a good legacy for Revelation.”

Full details of Revelation Perth International Film Festival can be found at the event’s official website.