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Entries in International Cinema (12)



There is a heightened sense of expectation surrounding the line-up of the 2019 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival (MDFF). Having been one of the underdog capital city festivals for much of its existence, the event came of age in 2018 – it was named Best Documentary Film Festival by the respected Film Daily site; the Best Documentary Festival in the Southern hemisphere by Guide Doc; and, for the third year running, a Top 100 film festival as voted by the industry’s leading submission portal, Film Freeway.

Drawing upon a year during which documentarians were energised by global socio-political upheaval, the 2019 MDFF will be screening works sourced from 44 local and international festivals, including Sundance, Venice, Tribeca, Hot Docs and SXSW. The programme statistics are impressive, indicating founder and festival director Lyndon Stone takes his newfound global status seriously; on offer are 112 works, comprising 50 features and 62 short-form films, amongst them 6 World premieres and 59 Australian premieres.      

As in 2018, when the festival launched with Tony Zierra’s Kubrick-themed Filmworker, this year’s two-pronged Opening Night sessions will also examine mad geniuses and their impact on cinema. Veteran filmmaker Peter Medak recounts the summer of 1973 and the insanity-inducing experience of filming with Britain’s most eccentric and volatile comic in The Ghost of Peter Sellers (pictured, above). And the fiery, complex reputation of one of Europe’s most reviled directors is addressed in the first-person when Uwe Boll (pictured, right) fronts up for F*ck You All: The Uwe Boll Story.

Four Australian docs will have their global debut at MDFF - Fiona Cochrane’s Strange Tenants: Ska’d For Life, a profile of Australia’s most influential ska band; Aidan Prewitt’s Woodstock at 50: A Venue for the End of the World, a special anniversary screening of the award winning film with new and improved footage from the iconic music festival; Art of Incarceration, director Alex Siddons’ profile of The Torch, a not-for-profit arts initiative that supports creative endeavours for indigenous prisoners; and, Helen Gaynor’s The Candidate, a fly-on-the-wall insight into Green’s senate hopeful Alex Bhathal’s run for parliament.

The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival will draw on some legitimate star power in 2019. Amongst the celebrities in front of and behind the lens are Werner Herzog (subject of Herbert Golder’s Ballad of a Righteous Merchant); Alicia Vikander (pictured, right; narrating Jennifer Baichwal’s and Edward Burtynsky’s Anthropocene The Human Epoch); Oscar winning director Barbara Kopple (director of New Homeland); Bill-&-Ted star-turned-filmmaking agitant Alex Winter (director of Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain); and, legendary musos Tommy Emmanuel (star of Jeremy Dylan’s The Endless Road) and Rolling Stones’ guitarist Ronnie Wood (in conversation with director Stuart Douglas for his short There’s a Hell of a Racket Coming From Your House, Mrs Wood).

Certain to be an emotion-charged highlight of the festival will be a screening of Forged from Fire, a chronicle of the building of The Blacksmith’s Tree. A monument to the victims of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires that swept through rural Victoria, director Andrew Garton’s camera follows a local movement launched by traditional blacksmiths to build a tree of steel, a declaration of remembrance that garnered an international following. Proceeds from the screening, timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the disaster, will go to the Victorian Volunteer Firefighters.

The MDFF’s reputation as one of the premiere outlets for the documentary short format strengthens further in 2019. The always-popular Music strand will feature Felix Bechtolsheimer’s Somewhere in Their Heads (pictured, right), a study of the creative process behind the recording of Curse Of Lono’s second album ‘As I Fell,’ and J.P. Olsen’s Big Paradise, a profile of cult combo, The Numbers Band; the LGTBIQ sidebar will play The Gender Line, T.J. Parsell’s biography of transgender rock star Cidny Bullens, and Nicky Larkin’s Becoming Cherrie, a peek inside the life of Belfast’s most famous drag queen; and, Indigenous narratives will be examined in films such as Running 62, Torres Strait Islander Zibeon Fielding self-directed account of his long-distance marathon charity efforts, and Goh Iromoto’s African odyssey, The Wonder. 

2018 MELBOURNE DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL runs July 19-30 at the Cinema Nova and Backlot Studios venues. 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.




The announcement this week that Atlantique, the feature film directorial debut of 36 year-old Mati Diop, will play In Competition at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival poses the question - who is this Paris-born Senegalese filmmaker and how has she arrived at the centre of this landmark moment in film history…?

SHE IS THE NIECE OF THE LEGENDARY SENEGALESE FILMMAKER DJIBRIL DIOP MAMBETY: Alongside contemporaries Ousmane Sembene and Malian filmmaker Soulemayne Cisse, Djibril Diop Mambéty (pictured, right) was a pioneer of early African cinema, daring to challenge the impact of colonialism and the social struggles of his people in films that are now seen as artistically and narratively groundbreaking. He directed five shorts (including his final film, 1999’s global festival hit The Little Girl Who Sold The Sun) and only two features, but they remain films that define Senagelese cinema on the world stage – Touki Bouki (1973), a fateful, funny, endearing teenage love story; and, Hyenas (1992), a biting satire of wealth and status that earned Mambéty a Palme d’Or nomination. In 2013, Mati Diop directed the documentary short A Thousand Suns, which examines the impact her uncle’s landmark film Touki Bouki had on Senegalese culture. The family is rich in talent – her father is renowned jazz musician Wasis Diop.

SHE IS ONE OF HER NATION’S MOST RECOGNISABLE ACTRESSES: Mati Diop began directing short films at the age of 22, supplementing those early years with acting work. She was directed in her first feature by no less than the legendary Claire Denis, who cast the then 25 year-old actress as ‘Josephine’ in her 2008 drama, 35 Shots of Rum. She would do much of her on-screen work in Europe, working for such directors as Sébastien Betbeder (Yoshido, 2010); Thierry de Peretti (Sleepwalkers, 2011); Antonio Campos (Sundance Grand Jury PrIze nominee, Simon Killer, 2012, which she co-wrote); avant garde visionary Benjamin Crotty (Fort Buchanan, 2014); and, Argentinian Matías Piñeiro (the US-shot Hermia & Helena, 2016).

SHE ADAPTED HER 2009 DOCUMENTARY SHORT ‘ATLANTIQUES’ INTO HER FIRST FEATURE FILM: At a point in Senegal’s history when the poor and exploited were taking to the sea in crowded, poorly-maintained boats, Diop embedded herself with a group of young refugees (including her own cousin, Alpha) as they prepared for the perilous journey (pictured, right). The group were among the tens-of-thousands ofSenegalese who fled for Spain in the mid-2000s; in 2006, it was reported 15,000 Senegalese were apprehended by Spanish authorities, while as many as 1000 died at sea. The short, the first of five she has directed, became a film festival favourite, winning prestige honours at Cinema du Reel and the Rotterdam International Film Festival. The plight of Senegal’s displaced was also addressed in La Pirogue (2012) by a fellow first-time feature director, Moussa Toure.

HER FILM IS IN WOLOF, HER NATION'S MAIN DIALECT: Her feature retelling, co-written with Olivier Demangel (Moussem les morts, 2010; Rattrapage, 2017), was shot in Wolof, the predominant language of the Senegalese people. A co-production between funding bodies from Senegal, France and Belgium, Diop undertook a seven-week shoot with DOP Claire Mathon (Stranger by The Lake, 2013) on the Atlantic coast of the capital, Dakar. Website Cineuropa provides the following plot summary: “(The landscape is) dominated by a futuristic-looking tower that is about to be officially opened. The construction workers have not been paid for months, so they leave the country via the ocean, in search of a brighter future. Among them is Souleiman, the lover of Ada, who is betrothed to another. Several days later, a blaze ruins the young woman’s wedding and mysterious fevers start to take hold of the local inhabitants. Little does Ada know that Souleiman has returned…”

HER EARLY WORK WAS FEATURED IN THE BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE’S EXPERIMENTA STRAND IN 2016: Alongside Atlantiques, the BFI programmed Diop’s early shorts Big in Vietnam (2011) and Snow Canon (2011) in their renowned festival’s Experimenta line-up, featuring works that challenge conventional narrative and aesthetic filmmaking; the BFI website described her films as “a revelation”. When asked about her interpretation of the refugee experience in Atlantiques, she said, “I chose not to treat immigration as a subject but as an individual and sensitive experience, as a kind of time travel.” Her delicate drama Snow Canon (featured, above), an examination of an innocent liaison between a teenage girl and her babysitter, evoked her response, “I just hope people leave the film with a special feeling or mood, one that you remember like a melody for days, weeks or forever, rather than just remembering the story itself.” In January 2018, the London Institute of Contemporary Arts screened four of her shorts (including 2015s Liberian Boy; pictured, right), describing the collection as "...phantasms of the mind...nakedly human, peopled by characters who are fearful yet resolute, consumed by desire." 

READ the Screen-Space WORLD CINEMA/SENEGAL Feature here.



Matthew Victor Pastor has been at Melbourne’s Cinema Nova complex since mid-morning, exhibiting levels of nervous energy entirely reasonable for a young director on the day he launches his latest feature. That said, with eleven hours until the World Premiere of MAGANDA! Pinoy Boy vs Milk Man, isn’t Matthew Victor Pastor likely to fade well before the post-screening Q&A, scheduled for midnight?

As it turns out, ‘energy levels’ aren’t a problem for the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) graduate. Pastor is out of his seat and fronting the sold-out Monster Fest session as soon as the end credits roll. Despite the early hour (closer to 12.30am, as it transpires), almost the entire audience has stayed. Having experienced MAGANDA! Pinoy Boy vs Milk Man, hearing what its creator has to say about its journey to the screen suddenly holds a deep fascination.

“I see myself as a boy from the 3174 Noble Park, who is very lucky to be making movies, happens to be of Asian heritage, of mixed nationalities, who grew up in this great country,” says Pastor, who co-wrote (with Kiefer Findlow), directed and stars in what might best be described as a social satire/B-movie homage/personal drama hybrid born of Melbourne’s underground movie scene and pulsing with in-your-face observations on race, gender, sex, family and the nature of filmmaking. “Making films is a really hard thing to do and when they come from a place that is a bit crazy and feature characters that are marginalised and the kind that you are not supposed to make films about…well, that makes it all very exciting.”

Self-effacing, polite and unwaveringly upbeat in person Pastor transforms into the tortured, insecure, struggling director ‘Angelo’ onscreen. Between desperate encounters with his ex-girlfriend Jupiter (regular collaborator Celine Yuen; pictured, above), sexual failings with a patient prostitute (Kristen Condon) and anguished sessions with his family (played by the director’s real-life mother and sister), Pastor’s protagonist contemplates with increasing frustration his Filipino/Australian heritage and the social perception of his culture.

“It can be very hard to both create and live with that kind of character and then to ask an audience to sit with him for two hours,” admits Pastor, refreshingly frank in his assessment of his lead character. “When Angelo says, ‘I wonder what it would be like to wake up in a white man’s skin, with a white man’s cock,’ he reveals a character that is so self-deprecating and hates himself so much. The challenge was to bring some empathy for a character that can outwardly be so unlikable.” (Pictured, left; Anthony Lawang as 'Pinoy Boy')

Pastor pitches his performance in the upper range, but assures his audience that the character’s anxiety and increasingly unhinged persona comes from research and experience. “I spend a lot of times in online forums, reading a lot of people’s comments about identity politics. ‘Angelo’ is the combination of different ideals in that sphere,” he says. “He’s actually a lot more common than you think; a lot of what he says and who he is comes directly from discussions on Asian identity in those discussions.”

It is the third of Pastor’s films to explore the Asian experience in Australia, specifically from the Filipino point-of-view. Dubbed the ‘Aus-Filo Trilogy’, it began with his VCA Masters project, I am JUPITER I am the BIGGEST PLANET (2016), followed by the music video-influenced docu-drama Melodrama! Random! Melbourne!, which premiered at the Adelaide Film Festival in October.  Says Pastor, “I am making films from a different perspective, in the context of the diaspora of Asian cinema, and that’s the space that I am happy and proud to occupy.”

If MAGANDA! Pinoy Boy vs Milk Man is sounding a lot more serious than its title might suggest, the laughs come in the form of Pastor’s film-within-a-film. Recalling the scratched-negative aesthetics of VHS-era Filipino actioners, the subplot stars Koki Kaneko as a racist dairy farmer/serial killer, clad entirely in a white bodystocking, targeting Asian women on his murderous spree; on his trail is Pinoy Boy (Anthony Lawang, aka Lamaroc), a Filipino super-cop, and two local scumbag detectives, Shannon (the great Glenn Maynard) and Noll (fellow Melbourne underground auteur Stuart Simpson).            

There are moments in Pastor’s film where the improv comedy stylings (“We improvised a lot,” he laughs) and lo-fi stunt work inspires eye-rolls and giggles, but the director assured his audience that the themes and issues that he set out to address were always paramount. “It is about two worlds coming together,” says Pastor. “I don’t necessarily offer any resolution, but instead create an entry point for those worlds for the audience. There are multiple layers to achieve that - it could be the A-film, the more arthouse aspects, or the B-film genre stuff, but they both represent the same story told via different cinematic language. Is that not what coming from ‘two worlds’ means? This film is about what its like to fall between the cracks of those two worlds.”

MAGANDA! Pinoy Boy vs Milk Man will screen throughout Australia in 2019. It is currently seeking representation in overseas markets.



And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. 
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” - The Book of Revelations, Chapter 6: Verse 7-8.

Elem Klimov was a young man when the German military seized Stalingrad, forcing what was left of his family to flee; with his mother and younger brother, the teenage Klimov crossed the Volga River in freezing temperatures on a makeshift raft.

With co-writer and fellow World War II survivor Ales Adamovisch, Klimov drew upon the horrors he witnessed under Nazi rule for his 1985 film Come and See (Idi I smotri), now widely considered one of the most harrowing depictions of wartime suffering ever filmed. Australian audiences have a rare opportunity to see the film courtesy of the Russian Resurrection Film Festival, who will be screening a digitally remastered print this Sunday, July 29 in Sydney and Brisbane.

Come and See depicts the journey of a young man named Florya, played by 14 year-old non-actor Aleksei Kravchenko (pictured, top) in one of international cinema’s most remarkable film debuts. Klimov (pictured, right) and Adamovich present Florya as an idealistic freedom fighter, determined to rid his Eastern European homeland of Byelorussia (modern Belarus) of the German occupiers. As the young man’s narrative unfolds, the audience endures through his naïve experiences horrific acts of genocide, destruction and cruelty. Almost every moment in the film is based upon documented fact; Adamovich hailed from the region during the period and Klimov shot much of his film on the very soil that the atrocities took place.

Prior to his wartime masterpiece, Elem Klimov had forged a respected career for himself within the Russian sector with films such as the popular satires Welcome, or No Trespassing (1964) and Adventures of a Dentist (1965); the docu-drama Sport, Sport, Sport (1970); and, the troubled historical epic Agony The Rise and Fall of Rasputin, which debuted in 1981, despite principal photography having wrapped in 1976. In 1979, Klimov lost his wife, fellow filmmaker Larisa Shepitko in a car accident; he dedicated the early 80s to producing a short feature in her honour, named Larisa (1980) and finishing her own dream project, a social drama called Proshchanie (1983).

Many critics and film scholars have surmised that it was the grip of this dark period of grief that inspired Klimov’s use of language, sound and visual motifs in Come and See. Florya, young innocent Glasha (Olga Mironova; pictured, below) and much of the support cast spend their roles directly staring into the camera as their world and loved ones disintegrate before them; Klimov’s audience is party to the nightmarish escalation of violence and brutality via the first-person technique, resulting in a world of horribly-skewed disorientation yet rendered in vivid, stark honesty. The director’s soundscape has been lauded as revolutionary; the use of impressionistic surrealism to interpret torture and murder on a vast scale proves inescapably confronting for both Florya and the viewer.

The film was released to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Russia’s WWII victory and drew some criticism from quarters who thought it was propagandistic. The portrayal of the German officers (based upon the infamous 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS) is unforgiving, yet Klimov stated vehemently many times that the film is anti-war and anti-fascism but not anti-German. Come and See became a box office sensation in its homeland, was submitted as Russia’s Foreign Film Oscar entrant (although was not selected) and would earn two major trophies at the 1985 Moscow International Film Festival.

Klimov was named the First Secretary of the Russian Filmmakers' Union, a newly-established, progressively-minded industry body that, in the then prevailing spirit of ‘glasnost’, opened the film industry to fresh new ideologies. His masterwork would grow in stature in the prevailing years, with industry luminaries such as Oscar winning screenwriter Frank Pierson (Cool Hand Luke, 1967; Dog Day Afternoon, 1975) and two-time WGA award recipient Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, 1994; The People vs Larry Flynt, 1996) calling it the greatest war film ever made. Cinematographer Roger Deakins, Oscar winning cinematographer of Blade Runner 2019, includes Come and See as one his ‘10 Greatest Films of All Time’; Empire magazine named Come and See one of the 100 Best Films of World Cinema, stating “No film – not Apocalypse Now, not Full Metal Jacket – spells out the dehumanising impact of conflict more vividly, or ferociously.” As voted by a prestigious body of film directors, it ranked 30th on Sight and Sound’s poll of The Greatest Films Ever Made.

In an interview in 1986, Klimov (pictured, left; on-set, directing Kravchenko) addressed the responsibility of the role he had undertaken within the Union and when his next project would be announced. “I would much rather not have my present job. I didn't want this job in the first place,” he said with a laugh. “But this is a special moment right now. A lot of changes have to be made quickly. I am completely absorbed in this new job. But I hope that perhaps next year I will be able to start a new film.”

A fitting legacy, Come and See proved to be Elem Klimov’s final work. He remained committed to his work within the bureaucracy of the Russian film industry until his passing in October 2003, aged 70.

The Russian Resurrection Film Festival with present COME AND SEE at the Event Cinemas George Street Sydney and Event Cinemas Myer Centre Brisbane this Sunday, July 29. Ticketing information is via the venue's official website.




The 2018 Hivos Tiger trophy for Best Film at the 47th International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) has been awarded to Cai Chengjie’s The Widowed Witch. In a statement issued by the official Jury, Chengjie’s remarkably assured debut feature, “is a film of epic dimensions with a narrative that is greater than one person or moment. Its bold vision, created by a lyrical layering of cinematographic elements, makes [the] film stand out.”

Also singled out from the eight films in contention for the Tiger honour was Muayad Alayan’s The Reports on Sarah and Saleem. Screenwriter Rami Alayan earned a Special Jury Award for the personal and politically charged drama, the Jury declaring, “The screenplay intertwines the personal and the political and it manages to balance a complex plot with convincing characters.” An international co-production between Palestine, The Netherlands, Germany and Mexico, the film also won the coveted Hubert Bals Fund Audience Award, a €10,000 cash prize named after the late festival founder. (Pictured, below: IFFR 2018 winners include, from clockwise, The Widowed Witch, The Reports on Sarah and Saleem, Nina, Azougue Nazaré)

The Bright Future Award, a €10,000 endowment to a first time feature director, went to Tiago Melo’s mystical Brazilian drama Azougue Nazare, a work that employed a non-pro cast from the film's remote location. Malene Choi Jensen’s The Return was also singled out by the Jury for Special Mention for its depiction of, “a personal quest [that] gradually transforms into a reflection on loneliness, belonging, and existential homecoming.”

The most popular film of IFFR 2018 was Gustav Möller’s The Guilty (pictured, right), which took out two honours – the highly-prized Audience Award and the Youth Jury Award. The tense police procedural subverted plot and genre conventions to deliver a thriller which delivered, in the words of the Youth Jury members, “a master class in suspense.” From a program of 20 short films from 18 countries, Oscar Hudson’s Joy in People took out Voices Short Audience Award.

The other audience honour is the VPRO Big Screen Award, chosen by a jury of five audience members that ensures the winning film plays in Dutch theatres and is broadcast on national television. In 2018, that film was Nina, from Polish filmmaker Olga Chajdas.

The local filmmaker chosen by the Circle of Dutch Film Journalists as the festival’s Best Dutch, or Dutch co-produced work was Lucrecia Martel’s Zama. The body of international critics deciding upon this year’s Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique (FIPRESCI) honour chose Ere Gowda’s charming Kanarees language Balekempa. 


The NETPAC Award for Best Asian film having its World Premiere at IFFR 2018 was Shireen Seno’s Nervous Translation. The NETPAC Jury stated, “its singularly original representation of childhood beautifully captures a unique view full of contradictory interactions, introspection, social and political dissonance, and disquietude. With this film, the director has succeeded in creating an unforgettable cinematic universe.”

The Found Footage Award, an inaugural category introduced to honour those filmmakers employing archive or recycled footage to create fresh narratives, was awarded Slovenian Nika Autor’s mid-length feature, Newsreel 63: The Train of Shadows. 

Festival director Bero Beyer (pictured, right) thanked, “The crazy, daring, outspoken and warm people” of both IFFR and Rotterdam for ensuring the event reached new heights. Several aspects of past festivals were reworked and relaunched in 2018, most notably the Cinemart professional marketplace. The festival has one full day of screenings left before Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin closes out the 2018 program.