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Entries in Melbourne (14)

Monday
Jul162018

MELBOURNE DOC FEST HONOUREES CAPTURE THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE

Wrapping its nine-day celebration of factual film last night, the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival announced works that run the gamut from tragic loss to inspirational triumph amongst the winners of its 2018 award roster.

Director Stefan Bugryn’s short film War Mothers (Матері Війні), a harrowing account of how three women have dealt with the deaths of their sons in the Ukrainian warzone, was afforded the prestigious Special Jury Prize. Burgryn (pictured, above; with war mothers Svetlana and Galina) embedded himself with the grieving mothers in high-conflict combat zones along the Eastern Front, crafting a deeply empathetic account of loss and sorrow; that dedication to truth and his craft also earned the young Melbourne-based filmmaker the Best Director (Short Film) trophy.

The Best International Short Award was bestowed upon Ex Nihilo (pictured, right), director Timo Wright’s multi-national co-production that examines via a non-linear, three-tiered narrative scientific advancements in the fields of cryonics, robotics and our own mortality. The Best Australian Short Award went to Wolfe, director Claire Randall’s examination into the psychology of a young man whose imaginary friend revealed deep secrets about his existence. A graduate of Queensland’s Griffith University, Randall has found universal acclaim for her remarkably assured debut, having already secured a Crystal Bear trophy at the Berlinale earlier this year.

The Supreme Jury Prize for Feature Documentary went to Jack Yabsley’s Kings of Baxter, a rousing account of two Shakespearean-trained actors who set out to create a version of Macbeth using teenage detainees being held at the Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centre near Gosford on the New South Wales central coast. The director also secured the Best Director gong for his work, made in conjunction with the revered Bell Shakespeare Company and his production company shingle, Grumpy Sailor.

The Best International Documentary prize was awarded to Susanna Styron’s Out of My Head, an in-depth study of the truths, lies and latest revelations about migraine headaches. Afforded a personal perspective via the struggle faced by her daughter and featuring interviews with high-profile migraine sufferers such as writer Joan Didion, Styron’s documentary presents a modern medical emergency that science is only now beginning to comprehend.

The recent Australian theatrical release Kangaroo, from husband-&-wife co-directors Michael Mcintyre and Kate McIntyre-Clere, earned the Best Australian Documentary nod. The controversial examination of the nation’s love/hate/abusive relationship with the beloved marsupial has itself experienced polar opposite responses from for-and-against advocates for its often shocking exposé approach. The hometown award for Best Melbourne Documentary went to Fish Out of Water (pictured, right), filmmaker Israel Cannan’s profile of two upwardly mobile types who forego their career paths to row a wooden boat the length of the North Atlantic Ocean. 

Monday
Jul022018

FIVE MUST-SEE AUSTRALIAN SHORTS AT THE MELBOURNE DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL

The best film festival programs should prove daunting at first glance, be that in terms of the sheer number of films or the challenging themes and narratives they offer. The subset of Australian documentary short films on offer at the 2018 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is itself breathtaking in scale, so we thought it best to drill down on a relatively random five that you should try to see out of the many great local efforts on offer…

BUT HONEY, YOU LOOK FINE
Strand: Sports Docs / Aussie Shorts
Screening: Tuesday, July 10 from 7.00pm at LOOP
Synopsis: A young filmmaker documents her closest friend Gabby's struggle with bulimia, from the earliest signs of the disease through to its life-threatening nadir, using footage they recorded together over the course of their friendship (pictured, above; Gabby Bennett).
From the filmmaker: “Unfortunately, this story is more common than it is rare. And it turns out the forces against us had been at work since before we even realised it. So we figured, in order to get better, we need to unpack what’s going on inside already, and figure out where it all came from. Was it innate within us or thrust upon us?” – Jennifer Leonforte, Director (official website)

DRUMMER GIRL
Strand: Short Sessions 1
Screening: Sunday July 8 from 12.00 at Howler
Synopsis: Renee Kelly is a prodigious rock drummer, who's also completely blind. Moving between past reflections and future dreams, Renee's story reveals a passionate and determined artist, set to a bold musical score.
From the filmmaker: “We first came across Renee a few years ago, and we knew instantly we wanted to tell her story in a short-film format. An exceptionally gifted, humble and determined musician who’s been playing the drums since age three, Renee is also profoundly blind, with no access to image or light. We wanted the audience to feel a real intimacy with Renee and for her music to be heard. We wanted her story to be told and to convey a feeling of her experience of the world and her place within it.” – Poppy Walker, Producer (read the full interview at Screen NSW)

 

WOLFE
Strand: Short Sessions 2
Screening: Tuesday, July 8 from 3.00pm at Howler
Synopsis: Unlike most kids, Nick had an imaginary friend he could really hear. His voice sounded gruff and old, and no one else could hear him. Mister Wolfe became Nick's constant companion, but before long a darker side emerged. Featuring animated scenes and a candid interview with the now 24-year-old Nick, the film portrays a collage of his psyche. Winner of the Berlinale Crystal Bear award for Best Short Film in the Generation14plus category
From the filmmakers: “My goal was to present a film about mental illness from the perception of the person experiencing it. I used a very personal story, so for it to resonate with audiences around the world is amazing.” – Claire Randall, Director (courtesy, Griffith University)

ACT OF TRANSLATION
Strand: Sports Docs / Aussie Shorts
Screening: Tuesday, July 10 from 7.00pm at LOOP
Synopsis: "Which story do you want to hear? The one I tell my parents…or the one I tell my friends?” Twenty international students are propelled out of their comfort zones through theatre workshops and performances. By learning to tell their real stories they challenge and transform the narrative about Melbourne’s international student community (pictured, right; students featured in Act of Translation)
From the filmmaker: “We were unsure what the outcome would be, or if students would even show up. I knew I was in for a shooting ratio that would be a killer in the edit, filming conditions that would be in less-than-desirable neon-lit humming air conditioned spaces...but also some golden and transformative moments.” – Irene Metter, Director (read the full interview at We Are Moving Stories)

TURN IT UP! FINDING SYDNEY’S SOUND
Strand: Closing Night Rock Docs
Screening: Saturday July 14 from 7.00pm at Backlot Cinemas
Synopsis: The live music scene in Sydney has seen some amazing artists get their break and establish successful careers. Sadly, venues have been closing across the city, and the culture has been irrevocably altered. So what does the live music scene in Sydney look like today, where do artists go to perform, or is the Sydney scene dead?
From the filmmaker: “We want to break the narrative that Sydney is a dead town. The more noise we can make about it, and the more people we can get supporting live music and going to gigs, the better.” Samantha Holder, Co-director (read the full interview at We Are Moving Stories)

The 2018 MELBOURNE DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL runs July 6-14 at various venues around Melbourne. Check the official website for ticketing and session information.

 

Tuesday
Jun262018

THE RATS THAT ATE LOUISIANA (AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEM)

Taking its title from the mythical swamp beasts that stalk the heroes of Rob Reiner’s beloved fairy-tale The Princess Bride, the documentary Rodents of Unusual Size is the latest in the ‘eco-statement factual filmmaking’ genre. It is the story of the ‘nutria’, an introduced species of South American swamp rat that has decimated the Louisiana wetlands and must be controlled via humane methods. But for co-directors Quinn Costello, Jeff Springer and Chris Metzler, what presented itself was a grander story; one of resilience, determination to overcome adversity and learning to co-exist in harmony with non-indigenous settlers, albeit the four-legged, buck-toothed variety.

“We kept kicking around ideas about how best to approach the story and at one point we just decided that we needed to jump on an airplane and head to Louisiana,” says Metzler, talking to SCREEN-SPACE ahead of the films screening at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival in July. The documentary playfully establishes how the nutria came to the U.S. mainland, crafting animation sequences that depict their importation for pelt and meat marketing. Once unconfined, however, the animals bred rampantly as feral vermin with no natural predator to keep numbers in check. Australian audiences will be able to draw clear parallels, a connection not lost on Metzler. “Of course, we have always been a big fan of Mark Lewis' Cane Toads: An Unnatural History,” says the filmmaker.

Once in ‘The Bayou State’, the production was inspired by the uniqueness of the setting. Recalls Metzler, “You get taken in by the beauty of the area, the sheer number of nutria that were destroying it and the dedication and joy of the people who were tackling the issue.” The young directors recognized that to tell the story of the nutria is to also tell the story of the locals with whom it shares the swamp lands and increasingly, the population centres. “Despite [us] being outsiders, we were trusted right off the bat,” says Metzler. “It is unique to that part of the country, their inherent hospitality, pride in their culture and good humor.” (Pictured, right; directors Quinn Costello, Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer)

Central to the narrative was local identity Thomas Gonzales (pictured, left), a hardened fisherman who has turned his skills towards hunting nutria for the bounty offered by local government. “When we met him for the first time, we were on his boat checking out the area within the first 10 minutes,” says Metzler. Having survived hurricanes and oil spills, Gonzales knows a threat when he sees one. “Nutria like to breed and have lots of babies. As Thomas says, ‘As long as there are two left, there's going to be millions more,’” cites Metzler, whose camera captures how Gonzales and his family maximizes each kill as a source of income and sustenance.

Rodents of Unusual Size is frank in its depiction of the culling and re-use of the nutria, an experience that challenged the three lads, each born-and–bred city folk. “Looking through the lens creates a barrier, so you feel a bit detached. But any given hunt can yield as many as 300 nutrias, so you look up from the camera [and] you are quickly brought back to reality,” admits Metzler. Over time, however, the clear necessity of the eradication program outweighed personal reactions. “Witnessing the destruction they cause and considering the animals [that] are going to suffer, we started to understand and accept the hunting. Over time, nutria numbers have dropped from 20 million down to about 5 million,” says Metzler, who points out that plague proportions mean animal welfare groups have accepted that culling is unavoidable. “P.E.T.A. has been silent on the issue as many see it as the lesser or two evils,” he says.

After the journey undertaken to tell the story of the nutria and the land and people who share their existence, the three filmmakers remain divided into ‘for-and-against’ nutria camps. “I think they are fuzzy and cute and want one as a pet,” beams Metzler, “[but] Jeff and Quinn want to barbecue them up.”

RODENTS OF UNUSUAL SIZE will screen Wednesday July 11 as part of the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. Ticket and session details can be found at the official website.

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 rehearse, 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.