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Entries in Richard Sowada (1)

Wednesday
Jun182014

REFLECTIONS ON REVELATIONS: AN ORAL HISTORY

They are the men whose shared visions create the most eclectic and challenging collection of cinema on the Australian film festival calendar. Chairman Richard Sowada who, fuelled by the spirit of the now defunct Revelations magazine and its founder Peter Collins, launched a series of 16mm film screenings at Perth’s iconic jazz venue, The Greenwich, in 1997; program director Jack Sargeant, author and academic on all matters counter-culture and underground, has acted as in-house agitant and revolutionary spirit since 2008. So who better to answer the question, “What have been the defining moments in the 17 year history of Revelation Perth International Film Festival?”, than the men behind the madness...?

“Each year is new and each choice is filled with experimentation and a roll of the dice.” - Richard Sowada, Founder and Chairman (pictured, right).

The Banning of Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist: This appeared in Rev '98. It was passed for screening by the Office of Film and Literature Classification, but the ruling was overturned by the local West Australian office. It made print and TV news around the country and taught us how some arms of government and the media work. A challenging experience, for us and the community. We learnt that as far as politics goes, the issue is never about the issue and that our 'editorial stand' was a strong one, which is something that's never really changed. Aside from that, it was lots of fun. It got unbanned, by the way.

Viola Dana playing The General: In 2009, local outfit Viola Dana played the score to Buster Keaton's silent classic The General. I cried...it was so beautiful and received a standing ovation. The real thing. It was a true moment where the power of cinema crossed generations. It was one of those things you hope has a real impact on people who may not ever expect that kind of tenderness from a silent film.

 

Going on Tour: In the first two years of the event, we went touring to Sydney and Adelaide. While a great thing to do, it made us realise that that the idea behind the event can't be transferred. It reinforced that the event is not about films necessarily but the ideal behind what we were trying to do. To manage something like this, you need to have the right state of mind - and in a very conservative film exhibition environment, very few people have that. So we keep it in WA. 

The First International Guest: In our second year, a young Japanese experimental filmmaker named Hideo Oshima came over. He flew himself over for his first time ever in Australia. He'd never seen a beach and he spent his whole time with his shoes off walking on Cottesloe Beach, feeling the sand between his toes. It had a real impact on him. When he came over, I thought we were on our way and now we have over 60 guests.

Every Year…: Rev is such an enormous challenge. In all ways we do things like no other event. It's more than a festival - it's a Union for artists and audiences. The event is a point of advocacy for both, that challenges the difficulties in having a community voice. (We address) funding, distribution and exhibition difficulties and the mentoring (of) new practitioners in every sector of the industry.


“(All) the filmmakers who enter seek to push the medium and I think that it is indicative of the limitless potentials of cinema to stimulate imagination.” - Jack Sargeant, Program Director (pictured, right).

Joe Davis Dancing in the Bar: Davis is an incredible thinker, philosopher, scientist and prankster, who was over to introduce a screening of the film Heaven and Earth and Joe Davis which documented part of his life. This is a fascinating movie about a genuinely unique figure, and having him in town was great. Joe hit it off with everyone and opened people's eyes to many things. We have been blessed with many enjoyable guests, and to me that is still a really special part of the festival.

Crispin Glover screening What Is It? and It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine: These are powerful, visionary movies and to watch them was an incredible experience. Not only did he screen his films, he also performed both parts of his Big Slide Show (one part each night, prior to the films) which was a magical and unique dramatic narration of his beautiful books. An incredibly dedicated individual, he answered questions from the audience and then met audience members individually to sign books and talk to people. 

 

Lawrence English performing a live soundtrack to Harry Smith's Early Abstractions: This was at my first Revelation, and I had commissioned Lawrence to write a new soundtrack to this series of experimental animated films. Of course, his soundtrack was as beautiful and visionary as you would imagine, and people loved seeing the films and listening to the music.  

Revel8: Our annual screening of super 8 movies. Anyone can enter; there have been submissions from experimental filmmakers, students, friends, artists, and jokers over the years. There's a real pleasure in the possibilities inherent in this event. The films may be experimental, visionary, irreverent, entertaining or infuriating, but they are always unique and made with a kind of wild enthusiastic passion. I'd like to think that the potentialities of Revel 8 movies reflect something of the potentialities of all the films we screen at the festival.  

The Revelation Bar: There's a lot of hanging out at Revelation after movies, and one of the key aspects is that everyone is welcome. The bar becomes the de facto centre of the festival with filmmakers, guests, artists, musicians, audience members and academics just talking and discussing ideas. You can see fruitful exchanges taking place, friendships being forged and a real air of enjoyment, which makes the whole thing very special. (pictured, right; Sowada, left, and Sargeant flank revellers at a recent Revelation social event)

The Revelation Perth International Film Festival will run July 3-13 in several venues in and around Perth, Western Australia. For full program details and tickets, visit the official website here.