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Entries in International Cinema (2)

Tuesday
Feb282017

DARCY GLADWIN AND THE MUSINGS OF A WEB PROPHET 

At any time in film history, the emergence of a truly free and independent cinematic vision has been cause for celebration. With his film Godplex, a surreal journey that follows a poet/prophet spruiking ‘internet religion’ across the vastness of New Zealand, Darcy Gladwin embodies such a visionary. A much younger man when filming began nearly a decade ago, Gladwin started shooting guided only by a draft script and the vital personality and intellect of his leading man and friend, beat poet Shane Hollands. Ahead of an intimate screening of his film in Sydney’s inner-west, Gladwin spoke to SCREEN-SPACE from his London home…  

“The story was inspired by our lives travelling as musicians throughout New Zealand, realising the messianic qualities of what we were doing and that the poet that I was travelling with could be a great screen persona,” says Gladwin, a self-described ‘inter-media artist’, whose experience across music, photography, film and design led to him writing, directing and editing his debut feature. A non-pro actor, Shane Hollands is a highly respected alternative culture figure in his homeland for his ‘Beat Generation’ poetry stylings; his low-key charisma and live-reading experience made him a natural before the camera. “Shane also has an encyclopaedic mind,” Gladwin says of his friend (pictured, above: the director, left, with his star), who has conquered dyslexia and deals with a degenerative bone condition to perform his unique oratories, “so he brought a huge amount of knowledge (regarding) religion, history, popular and alternative culture. There was continual research and discussion (and) the result is a gut-feel composite.”

Hollands plays Clark Duke, an insurance consultant reborn as a new-age spiritual guru when he launches an e-religion concept called Virtology. After his home is destroyed by fire, he hits the road in an effort to define his own inner enlightenment and talk up his philosophy, undertaking a journey that soon attracts an eclectic mix of followers and doubters. Portraying Gladwin’s fascinating cast of characters are such personalities as Melbourne-based painter Marko Maglaic, Maori performance artist Mika, veteran Aussie character actor Gil Tucker, actress Alison Walls and feature debutant Katie Bierwirth. (Pictured, right: Shane Hollands as Clark)

At the core of Clark’s musings is the notion of ‘Elephant Consciousness’, an invention of Hollands that the director part-explains as, “They're big, beautiful, oppressed beings, (yet are) the smartest animals on the planet. Shane was toying with creating a religion in his backyard and struck up the Elephant metaphor. Godplex was a lovely home for the idea to root and sprout.” A narrative that examines the exploration of faith and spirituality fronted by a poetic preacher will be labelled as an allegory of modern religion, but Gladwin is circumspect regarding any didactic intent. “(That is) a reading I would ally with,” he concedes, “but I do hope that any lines found inside be wavy and that preaching is quite far from the mode of cinema that I aspire to.”

The ethereal nature of Duke’s journey allowed Gladwin to create a visual storytelling style that is distinctly dense and complex. Recalling the avant-garde cinema of the 1980s and the free-spiritedness of 1960s counter-culture art, Godplex looks contemporary while evoking bohemian aesthetics and a Jack Kerouac/Timothy Leary-type personality all its own. “It has been a great struggle for me to identify where I sit in film culture, as I feel like an endless explorer and nothing satisfies,” admits Gladwin. “As a low budget filmmaker, I'm looking to create a cohesive visual style with resources at my grasp. So finding environments and objects that don't suck is a really important first consideration.” He points out that the staging of key moments embraces a vibrant use of composition. “I think that the Godplex cinematic frame is conservative, which allows the content to speak clearly. Overall the style is gut-feel, ‘Do-it-Yourself’, and I've enjoyed that a lot.” (Pictured, above: Gladwin, on location in Auckland, with AD Rina Patel). 

Given his debut feature took years to complete, Darcy Gladwin admits he might do a couple of things differently on his next shoot. “I've heard that producer-type people can be valuable additions to a team,” he says with a laugh. He refused to let the long passages between production on the film slow him down, stating proudly, “I continued to make and perform music, shoot documentaries and music videos, and have a baby.” He regrets nothing of the process that has resulted in a bracingly unique film experience bound for cult status in years to come. “I loved the process of shooting over many years,” he says, “because there was space for a lot of thought, learning and reflection.” 

GODPLEX will screen at The Record Crate, 34 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe on Thursday, March 2 at 7.00pm. Full details can be found here.

Wednesday
Jul152015

SOUTHLAND TALES: THE NIMA JAVIDI INTERVIEW

Two upwardly mobile Iranian students are hours away from departing their Tehran apartment for a new life in the titular Australian city when, asked to briefly care for a sleeping infant, their destinies take a harrowing turn. Debutant writer/director Nima Javidi’s complex, harrowing morality tale, one of the most anticipated films at the 2015 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), plays out as both a tragic drama and riveting psychological thriller in its dissection of two lives altered in an instant. Despite a fine grasp of English, Javidi spoke to SCREEN-SPACE via a translator ("I want to concentrate on the answers, I don’t want to worry about my translation.”), only hours before being awarded the Best Screenplay honour at the 2014 Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) last November…

“It took me about 11 months to write the script,” says the 35 year-old filmmaker (pictured, above), eager to chat despite feeling the effects of jetlag, having only arrived in Brisbane for the APSA ceremony the morning of the interview.  “But before I even sat down to write, I spent a great deal of time on the structure of the story and how to create my characters. There any many layers to this film, both narratively and in the lead characters.” He cites a personal experience as the inspiration for the premise; six years ago, while staying at a mountain retreat with friends, he was left alone with a newborn and found himself gripped with anxiety while the child slept motionless.

As Amir and Sara, the couple whose lives are irrevocably altered by both fateful circumstance and desperate rationalization, Javidi sought two of Iranian’s most talented and bankable stars, Peyman Moaadi (About Elly, 2009; A Separation, 2011; Camp X-Ray, 2014) and Negar Javaherian (Tala va mes, 2011; Howze Naghashi, 2013; Tales, 2014). Each bought nuance and detail to the protagonist roles, working with the first-time feature director to flesh out the dark but very human dramatics of the story. “The characters undergo experiences that are universal – fear, doubt and the responsibility of being an adult,” notes Javidi.

Leading man Moaadi’s experience working with Iranian filmmaking great Asghar Farhadi on the international hit A Separation was particularly useful; critics have noted the similarities between Farhadi’s everyman protagonists and Javidi’s single-setting character study. Says Javidi of his actor, “He liked the script from the early stages and collaborated with me from very early on. (He was) especially aware of how best he could help a first time filmmaker. He is particularly strong when you need a very realistic presence in your film; he brings a grounded, very human quality to his characters.”

The presence of Moaadi and Javaherian was also a commercial coup, their profiles helping the film find a domestic and international prominence that a first-time director may not usually find forthcoming. “When you have a star name, the doors do swing a little more easily with regard to financing. But I never considered casting (them) as a means to get the film financed,” reassures the filmmaker. “I needed (actors) who could serve the characters and tell the story I wanted to tell.” On the back of universal acclaim (Variety praised the “gripping premise, craftily orchestrated”), Javidi has travelled with his film to Venice, where it opened the prestigious International Critics Week strand, as well as festival slots in Stockholm, Tokyo, Cairo, Lisbon and Zurich ahead of it’s MIFF showing. (Pictured, right; the director with his 2014 Best Screenplay APSA)

One key aspect in creating the intense drama is the rhythmic soundscape conjured by Javidi and his masterful sound designers, Vahid Maghadasi and Iraj Shahzadi. As the clock ticks towards the character’s departure time, ambient sounds begin to clip the actor’s dialogue and seep into the real world tension with shattering effect. “Most of those sounds – the mobile phone noise, the sound buzzer, the sirens – were written into the script, specifically complementing my intentions with the scenes,” says the director. “There was no music soundtrack in the film so it was crucial to use the detailed sound effects to convey the story in the best possible way.”

Finally, driven by the fiercely parochial Sydney-based mindset of the Screen-Space office, we had to ask Nima Javidi why he settled on the admittedly cosmopolitan but decidedly chilly climes of Melbourne as the dream destination for his young Iranians. The director laughed, finally explaining, “Two reasons. First, some surveys came out over the last ten years that nominated Melbourne as one of the best cities in the world, a title that I think it maybe earned a couple of years ago.* And then, I just like the way you guys pronounce it! The way you drop the ‘r’ and make it ‘Melbun’. That’s funny to me. Why waste all that ink!”

*"Melbourne named world's most livable city..." - ABC News, August 2014

Ticketing and venue information for all 2015 Melbourne International Film Festival sessions can be found at the official website here.

Read more about Melbourne in 'The SCREEN-SPACE Ten: Our Favourite Films of 2014'.