Palestinian Film Festival – Double Short Review – ‘Ambience’ and ‘In Vitro’

Ambience

Wisam Aljafari‘s short film ‘Ambience‘ tells the story of two young Palestinians trying to record a demo for a music competition inside a noisy and crowded refugee camp. When their recording fails because of the chaos around them, they discover an innovative way to meet the competition deadline.

The stellar short is Cannes Film Festival 3rd Prize Cinéfondation winner, and it became clear very early on that its simple gritty black and white aesthetic was more of a back ground noise than the actual back ground noise they end up recording. The music by Saed Masanat is terrific. The dialogue is very minimalistic and I must say, both actors (Salah Abu Nea’ma and Mohammad Alkhmour) do a decent job at showing their dissatisfaction with what seem like just clatter and tumult at first. Once they embrace the melodic harmonies of shouting and clangour on the streets, everything falls into place.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Larissa Sansour/Søren Lind, In Vitro, 2019, film, 2 channels, production still. Courtesy of the artist. Photographer: Lenka Rayn H

In Vitro

We were all raised on someone else’s nostalgia.” – Dunia

Larisa Sansour‘s short film, titled ‘In Vitro’, is staged in the town of Bethlehem decades after an eco-disaster. The dying founder of a subterranean orchard is engaged in a dialogue with her young successor, who is born underground and has never seen the town she’s destined to replant and repopulate. Inherited trauma, exile and collective memory are central themes.

The streets of Bethlehem getting filled with a black oily substance, make for a great opening shot, what follows then is a split-screen conversation between two scientists, reminiscing on what used to be. Terrific cinematography go hand in hand with the well written screenplay, which discusses religion, science and natural disasters. Definitely worth checking out if you like post-apocalyptic content with a pinch of existential crisis.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ambience‘ and ‘In Vitro‘ are both screening as part of Palestinian Film Festival.

Ambience‘ will be shown in the following cities:

  • Sydney, Dendy Opera Quays, Oct. 24 at 7pm – before feature ‘It Must Be Heaven
  • Canberra, Capitol Cinemas Manuka, Oct. 25 at 6:30pm – before feature ‘It Must Be Heaven
  • Sydney, Dendy Newtown, Oct. 28 at 6:30pm – before feature ‘It Must Be Heaven
  • Melbourne, Cinema Nova, Oct. 31 at 7pm – before feature ‘Screwdriver
  • Hobart, State Cinema, Nov. 2 at 3:30pm – before feature ‘It Must Be Heaven
  • Sydney, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Nov. 2 at 7pm – before feature ‘It Must Be Heaven
  • Perth, Event Cinemas Innaloo, Nov. 8 at 6:30pm – before feature ‘It Must Be Heaven
  • Brisbane, Event Cinemas Myer Centre, Nov. 8 at 6:30pm – before feature ‘It Must Be Heaven

Tickets are available now: https://www.palestinianfilmfestival.com.au/tickets/ambience/

In Vitro‘ will be shown in the following cities:

  • Sydney, Dendy Opera Quays, Oct. 27 at 4:30pm – before feature ‘Ibrahim: a Fate to Define’
  • Melbourne, Cinema Nova, Nov. 3 at 4:30pm – before feature ‘Ibrahim: a Fate to Define’

Tickets are available now: https://www.palestinianfilmfestival.com.au/tickets/in-vitro/

Palestinian Film Festival – Short Review – ‘Ambience’

Reviewed from screener provided by Palestinian Film Festival’s publicity team, Sydney, Oct. 17, 2019. CBA-Rating: Unclassified 15+. Running time: 15 min.

CREW: Director: Wisam Aljafari. Camera (black and white, widescreen): Ibrahim Handal. Editor: Belal Abu Alia. Music: Saed Masanat.

WITH: Salah Abu Nea’ma, Mohammah Alkhmour, Jameel Hilmi, Nelly Salman, Mutaz Shafout.

Palestinian Film Festival – Short Review – ‘In Vitro’

Reviewed from screener provided by Palestinian Film Festival’s publicity team, Sydney, Oct. 22, 2019. CBA-rating: Unclassified 15+. Running time: 28 min.

PRODUCTION: (Denmark, UK, Palestine) A Spike Island Production. Producer: Ali Roche. Line producer: May Odeh.

CREW: Director: Søren Lind, Larissa Sansour. Screenplay: Larissa Sansour. Camera (black and white, split-screen): Anna Valdez-Hanks. Editor: Sue Giovanni. Music: Niklas Schak.

WITH: Hiam Abbass, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Marah Abu Srour. (Arabic dialogue)      

Review – ‘Tayamangajirri’

We are the eyes during the day and they are the eyes for the night time.” – Nilus

Tayamangajirri means “we look after each other”. Set in Wurrumiyanga on the Tiwi Islands, this half hour documentary made for NITV takes a glimpse into the world of a dedicated team of Tiwi Islanders who work around the clock to keep the local kids safe. Narrated by Australian television and stage actor and singer Rob Collins (Cleverman), we follow patrollers Janey and Camilla as they work through the night to ensure that the local kids are off the streets by 9pm and ready for school the next day.

We also see Nilus at work – he’s from the school attendance strategy team – also known as the “yellow shirt mob”. Even in this small community there are a lot of distractions, such as phone use and social media, but also card games. When teenage girl Sylvia noticeably starts missing classes, our team of patrollers takes it upon themselves to find out why her attendance isn’t what it used to be. Janey, Camilla and Nilus are proud to teach the next generation culture, history and the traditions of their people, and encourage them to get an education so these young people will never have to live in anyone’s shadow and show everyone how talented and ambitious they are.

Set against the vibrant culture of island life, this small community takes pride in their achievements and unity. Once a catholic mission, Wurrumiyanga still shares its traditional culture with catholicism. We see the entire island unite for the Tiwi Football Grand Final, and even then our team of patrollers helps out. Police forces call them a “godsend”. Stories get shared from generation to generation at the waterhole, and when ANZAC day arrives, we find out Janey’s grandfather fought in World War II – a war that was never even theirs to start with.

They are one big family, who cares for each other. The people trust this team, who put their blood, sweat and tears in caring for these children, even if that means they have to miss out on precious time with their own families. They are dedicated to their profession and do it with love.

Director Charmaine Ingram is a Yidinji woman, and started as a journalist working all major Australian broadcasters. Her ABC iView web series Trans Black, was a good example of what she does best: tell stories about the underdog and those who are often overlooked in mainstream media. She says of the documentary: “It was important to me to show how Aboriginal leaders and families care about their kids and their kids’ education”.

Producer Sally Ingleton, who’s currently directing the feature documentary ‘Wild Things‘ about environmental activism in Australia, says, “Most Australians will never have the chance to visit the Tiwi Islands or a remote community. But thanks to NITV audiences will get the chance to see a really insightful and surprising story about how the Tiwi Islanders are grappling with similar issues to many parents when it comes to education and managing their kids use of mobile phones and social media.”

Tayamangajirri gives us an exclusive look inside a traditional community, dealing with issues around social media and phone use by teenagers. It’s engaging and inspiring to witness the next generation of Tiwi Islanders capable of achieving great things, passing on life lessons and not just waiting for change. This proud united community knows the goals they’re aiming for and make changes for the better, while staying true to their beliefs.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The film was shot on lands belonging to the Tiwi people and post produced on lands belonging to the Larrakia nation.

TAYAMANGAJIRRI will screen on NITV, 8.30pm 28 October.

Review – ‘Tayamangajirri’

Reviewed from online screener provided by publicity team, Sydney, Oct. 21, 2019. Running time: 26 min.

PRODUCTION: A 360 Degree Films Production in association with Native Bird Media for NITV, with assistance from Screen Territory. Production investment: Screen Australia, NITV. Producer: Sally Ingleton.

CREW: Director: Charmaine Ingram. Camera (color, widescreen): Gary Russell, Tom Lawrence. Editor: Sam Frederick.

Review – ‘Ready or Not’

The rich really are different.” – Daniel Le Domas

From the creators of horror phenomenon V/H/S, comes a classic new horror tale that you won’t forget so easily. In ‘Ready or Not‘, we meet Grace (Samara Weaving), who just joined the Le Domas-dominion, by marrying the family’s youngest son Alex (Mark O’Brien). Excited as every newlywed should be on their wedding night, she gets ready for a “bone-a-thon” with her husband, until she notices grumpy aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) spying on them from a dark corner. Scared and confused, Grace heads down with her man, where she gets invited to participate in an old family-tradition.

Alex’s lovely mother (played by Southern Belle, Andie MacDowell) tries to figure out what Grace exactly sees in her son. When Grace explains how she grew up in foster families and always wanted a big family like theirs, mother-in-law Becky seems a lot more at ease, than when her older son Daniel (Adam Brody) married the gold digging Charity (Elyse Levesque). Late to the party, are sister-in-law Emilie (Melanie Scrofano), husband Fitch (Kristian Bruun) and their two sons. Now the family is complete, they can put their game faces on. With the little brats now tucked into bed, the adults gather around the family table and Grace gets a quick lesson in Le Domas-history and how they got into the whole board game business. Grace gets to pick a card, on which is written which deadly game they’ll be playing tonight. ‘Hide and Seek’ it is. While an innocent Grace, assumes she’ll be spending her wedding night in the dumbwaiter, dad puts on ‘The Hide and Seek’-song and the entire family gears up with crossbows and rifles, ready for a night of hunting.

The clever, witty and extremely hilarious screenplay comes from Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy (not that Ryan Murphy), who are pretty new to the writing game. These guys know how to set up a film, keep momentum going with batshit crazy violence and end it all with a bang of a finale. Directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett seem to know exactly what they’re doing, blending horror with top notch comedy. Combine this with Brett Jutkiewicz‘s gritty cinematography and Brian Tyler‘s orchestraic score, and you have a pretty darn good film right in front of you.

All the behind-the-scenes work would be for nothing, if we didn’t have a cast who’s having the time of their life. Samara Weaving (The Babysitter) is an absolute blast as the bride running for her life – still wearing her (now shredded) wedding dress and Converse, covered in blood most of the time. This scream queen is drop-dead-gorgeous and brings the most wicked whimsical energy to the screen. Her screams slice through bones. Her on screen lover, played by O’Brien (Arrival) knows how to counterbalance her energy and is there to back up a strong woman. Like they say “behind every strong woman…”, you know the drill.

Supporting cast has some true acting legends in their midst. Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day) and Henry Czerny (Mission: Impossible) as Mrs. and Mr. Le Domas are absolute dynamite. MacDowell plays a more calm and absolutely lovely mother, yet protective of her family when she has to be, while Czerny’s Mr. Le Domas knows what’s at stake and start to lose his patience while throwing F-bombs, getting on his wife’s nerves. Adam Brody (Shazam!), Melanie Scrofano (Wynonna Earp), Kristian Bruun (Orphan Black) and John Ralston (Bitten), each bring their A-game, but it’s Nicky Guadagni who steals every scene she’s in, as the ever-grumpy Aunt Helene.

Ready or Not‘ is a side-splitting massacre that’s delightful as the night is grim, with a brilliantly exuberant cast. You’ll want to show this to your friends and rewatch it, over and over again. “Do you think this is a fucking game?”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review – ‘Ready or Not’

Reviewed at Event Cinemas Gold Class, Sydney, Oct. 21, 2019. (20th Century Fox Early Media Screening) CBA-rating: MA15+. Running time: 95 min.

PRODUCTION: A 20th Century Fox release of a Fox Searchlight, Mythology Entertainment and Vinson Films production. Producers: Bradley J. Fischer, William Sherak, James Vanderbilt, Tripp Vinson. Executive producers: Daniel Bekerman, Chad Villella.

CREW: Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett. Screenplay: Guy Busick, Ryan Murphy. Camera (color, widescreen): Brett Jutkiewicz. Editor: Terel Gibson. Music: Brian Tyler.

WITH: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Nicky Guadagni, Elyse Levesque, John Ralston.     

Netflix Review – ‘Eli’

The devil always lies.” – Rose

Included in the 2015 Blacklist for top unproduced screenplays (written by the guys who wrote ‘The Autopsy of Jane Doe‘), this Paramount production was purchased last year by Netflix. When a boy with some sort of auto-immune disorder, arrives at a treatment facility with his parents, he hopes to get cured and finally live a normal life.

Eli (Charlie Shotwell), at first hopeful, meets Dr. Horn (Lili Taylor) at her lush yet minimalistic mansion – fully equiped to house patients with conditions such as the young boy’s. When getting the grand tour of the house, Eli notices shadows lurking in the corners. After his first of three treatments, where Dr. Horn and her loyal team of nurses take tissue samples, the teenager wakes up in his room haunted by seemingly malicious spirits, scaring him into his parents bedroom. When trying to explain this to the team of professional scientists, they quickly file this under hallucinations from the anaesthesia. But when things seem to get worse and worse with every day passing, and treatments getting more intense, Eli uncovers secrets that lie deep within the facility, that will turn his own and everyone else’s lives upside down with apocalyptic consequences.

Ciarán Foy (Sinister 2) isn’t new to the horror genre and directs this with much needed confidence. Some jump scares don’t land, but I have to admit when some heavily mutilated children run towards you out of nowhere, you’ll try and duck away. It also helps when your director of photography (Jeff Cutter10 Cloverfield Lane) knows how to put things in perspective and gives you angles others might not even think of. The score by Bear McCreary (Godzilla II: King of the Monsters) also gives you the much needed suspense as soon as the film starts.

Charlie Shotwell (Captain Fantastic), who plays our titular character, has to carry this entire film on his own, and he partially succeeds. His screaming and yelling gets quite tiring after a while, but he definitely lands the more serious and dramatic scenes. Kelly Reilly (Yellowstone) is the other standout, playing Eli’s mother with much needed intensity and depth to embody her character’s struggles as a caring parent.

Unfortunately, the always strong Lily Taylor, who has starred in scary movies such as ‘The Conjuring‘ and ‘The Haunting‘ is particularly weak as Dr. Horn. Not only does her character play a big part in the reveal around Eli’s disease, but it’s pivotal to the entire storyline. Emotionless and boring, Taylor didn’t seem to know what went on in this story. Max Martini (Fifty Shades Freed), also laughably overacts as Eli’s father.

Eli‘ is part ‘The Boy in the Plastic Bubble‘, part ‘The Others‘ and part ‘Rosemary’s Baby‘. Nonetheless entertaining for 98 minutes, with a twist ending you’ll never see coming and makes you wanting more.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Netflix Review – ‘Eli’

Reviewed on Netflix, Oct. 20, 2019. CBA Rating: MA15+. Running time: 98 min.

PRODUCTION: A Netflix release of an Intrepid Pictures, Bellevue Productions, Paramount Players production. Producers: Trevor Macy, John Zaozirny. Executive producers: Matt Alvarez, Jenny Hinkey, Melinda Nishioka. Co-executive producer: Mike O’Sullivan. Associate Producer: David O’Leary.

CREW: Director: Ciarán Foy. Screenplay: David Chirchirillo, Ian Goldberg, Richard Naing. Camera (color, widescreen): Jeff Cutter. Editor: Jason Hellmann. Music: Bear McCreary.

WITH: Charlie Shotwell, Kelly Reilly, Max Martini, Lili Taylor, Sadie Sink, Deneen Tyler, Katia Gomez.     

Japanese Film Festival Review – ‘Kakegurui’

Bring on the madness!” – Yumeko Jabami

Copyright 2019 Homura Kawamoto, Toru Naomura / SQUARE ENIX “Kakegurui Movie” Project

Japanese Film Festival is back to tour Australia from October through December 2019. Their line up is more diverse than ever and what a film to start things off with. ‘Kakegurui’ is the live action film, based on the similarly titled Square Enix manga-series, which was distributed in western countries by Netflix. Not familiar with the source material, I dove into the film and let me tell you, it stands completely on its own.

Kakegurui, shows us what happens behind closed doors at Hyakaou Academy – a private and elite institute that has been around for over a century. The academic ranking is based on how well the students gamble. Only the best of the best get rewarded, with riches and status. The ones who lose, become subhumans – or as they call them “kitties and doggies” – who most likely go in debt with the school and can only get back to normal by winning a game against the School Council President, Kirari Momobami (Elaiza Ikeda). Yumeko (Minami Hamabe) is new to the academy. Her pretty enchanting looks are only surpassed by her unquenchable appetite to gamble and win it all.

After the music video intro, we get to take a look at The Village, an on campus location free of debts and loans, where everyone runs off to after losing against the School President. Like Murasame (Hio Miyazawa), head of The Village, says “Gambling is meaningless and it won’t save anything“. But soon they’ll have to gamble for their lives, when Kirari forces a student rep election. If you don’t vote, you’ll be expelled. The council will even loan you 10 million Yen, which you can repay after the voting. Well knowing that The Village will refuse to act on the new situation, the council sends a group of their own to claim back the school building. Soon, every pupil will place bets on who they want to see become a part of the School Council. Nothing is what it seems and every move is a gamble.

You can definitely tell the movie is inspired by manga. Some visual effects include eyes popping out of skulls when in distress or tied up hair flying out of their scrunchies when angry. When a student leaps over a group of boys, she flies through the air to then get caught in a bag. It’s impressive to behold and funny at the same time. When the accompanying score elevates every gambling scene with a haunting choir, this really feels like raising the stakes. Everything is a bit over-the-top, from the smoky visuals to the acting, and for Kakegurui, it all feels right.

The acting isn’t bad though – actually it’s pretty darn good. The female lead, Minami Hamabe, is charming and definitely knows the character she’s playing. Her playfulness by not letting anyone see her cards, plays in her favour and surprises you a lot in the third act where she unveils some of her secret weapons. I must say, the entire female cast is just remarkably strong. Aoi Morikawa, who plays Meari Saotome, is great at more dramatic face acting. Sometimes so over-the-top dramatic that it caused me to laugh out loud. That’s without a doubt, a skill. Elaiza Ikeda looks menacing on her throne, but loses a lot of her external flair when being put in the spotlight. Still keeping her powerful stoic persona, she now looks more like the typical rich kid brat.

The male cast has a bit of a problem. Every girl in the film gets to team up with a boy, but they can’t compete with these powerful women on screen. Mahiro Takasugi‘s (who plays Ryota Suzui) over-the-top acting becomes exhausting very fast, and Yuma Yamoto‘s (playing Jun Kiwatari) mood-swings as a deranged gambler are so aggressive, it’s not pleasing to look at. The one actor who did more by being less is without a doubt Hio Miyazawa. His Amane Murasame is noticeably troubled (we later find out what made him this way), without having much dialogue and still connecting with the camera.

Kakegurui is an over-the-top high roller. Every game gets accompanied with on screen visuals used in a simple way that works with the film. Twists and turns make the story fly by with ease and even made me wish there was more. Dive into your bankroll and place all your chips on Kakegurui – there is no table limit and all bets are off.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Kakegurui screens at Japanese Film Festival in:

  • Brisbane (Event Cinemas Brisbane Myer Centre – Sunday 27th October, at 3pm)
  • Sydney (Event Cinemas George Street – Saturday 16th November, at 3:25pm)
  • Melbourne (Treasury Theatre – Sunday 1st December at 5pm).

Buy your tickets now at https://japanesefilmfestival.net/film/kakegurui/

Japanese Film Festival Review – ‘Kakegurui’

Reviewed from online screener (provided by GAGA Corporation), Oct. 1, 2019. (Also in Japanese Film Festival, Sydney) BCA-rating: Unclassified 15+. Running time: 119 min.

PRODUCTION: (Japan) A GAGA release of a Dub, Stardust Pictures production. Producers: Yûichi Shibahara, Yanghwe Yoon, Tatsuya Iwakura, Tsuyoshi Matsushita. Executive Producers: Ryûji Abe, Masahiro Kazumoto, Hiroo Maruyama, Satomi Odake, Yasushi Utagawa. Committee Producers: Naoshi Fujikura, Yoshirô Hosono, Hideo Katsumata, Jun Masuda, Katsuyoshi Matsuura, Shinji Nakano, Kazumi Satake, Akihito Watanabe, Tatsumi Yoda, Eisaku Yoshikawa. Line Producer: Tarô Mori.

CREW: Director: Tsutomu Hanabusa. Screenplay: Tsutomu Hanabusa, Minato Takano. From the manga by: Homura Kawamoto, Tôru Naomura. Camera (DCP colour): Takashi Komatsu. Editor: Naoichirô Sagara. Music: Michiru.

WITH: Minami Hamabe, Mahiro Takasugi, Aoi Morikawa, Elaiza Ikeda, Hio Miyazawa, Yûma Yamoto, Yurika Nakamura, Natsume Mito, Ruka Mutsuda, Haruka Fukuhara. (Japanese dialogue)

Antenna Documentary Film Festival Review – ‘No Time For Quiet’

This is my body, my beauty” – Sukhjit Khalsa

After its world premiere in Melbourne earlier this year – where ‘No Time For Quiet‘ got nominated for Melbourne Film Festival‘s “People’s Choice Award”, Sydney finally gets the chance to meet the powerful souls that make this documentary a “must watch”.

Samantha Dinning and Hylton Shaw‘s ‘No Time For Quiet‘ takes place in Melbourne, where 40 girls and non-binary youth aged 11 to 17 cross paths during the inaugural Girls Rock! Camp. The mentors, teachers, coaches and youth workers are all excited to empower these young participants through rock ‘n’ roll. The camera follows Phoebe, Zeiro, Lucy and Dakota as they bond, find a sense of belonging and identity, and discover their voices through music. In the end, we also get to witness the change in their lives, months after they finished camp.

These creatively diverse youngsters are unique in their own ways. Phoebe, 16, struggles with psychosis. It got so bad, she couldn’t even interact with other people anymore. When Sally, the program director, first jumps on stage to welcome this big group of talent, she’s full of energy that clearly shines like rays of sun over a nervous crowd. Somewhere in this crowd, we see Zeiro, a gender fluid 16-year old, who explains in a very simple way what gender fluidity exactly is. Jay, one of the camp volunteers, asks everyone to respect each other’s preferred pronouns. Lucy and Dakota, both 13, come from different backgrounds, but one love they have in common – music. Lucy tends to get anxious around other people, and gets shy, but tries not to let it get to her. Dakota, on the other hand, feels like she’d feel more at home in an online world – everything seems much safer when gaming and escaping to another realm. Over the next week, they’ll all write songs, form a band and learn how to play an instrument.

This Australian documentary is truly something special. These young members come out of their shell, which becomes not only inspiring for the people closest to them, but also the ones watching this documentary. I couldn’t help but feel with them, while watching them grow in such a short amount of time. Not only was it a challenge to overcome for themselves, but the guidance of their band coaches and several important spokes persons, such as indie rocker Courtney Barnett, Indigenous rapper Lady Lash and spoken word artist, Sukhjit Khalsa, joined this little community to guide them through this journey of self discovery.

No Time For Quiet doesn’t hold back and packs a punch. Social anxiety, gender inequality and gender fluidity get discussed on a deeper level. I have so much respect for everyone involved in this important piece of filmmaking. Everyone’s voice deserves to be heard, there’s no time for quiet.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

No Time For Quiet screens as part of Antenna Documentary Film Festival. Tickets are still available:

  • 21 October, 7pm at Palace Chauvel Cinema (in attendance of directors Samantha Dinning and Hylton Shaw)

Buy your tickets now: https://tix.antennafestival.org/Events/No-Time-for-Quiet-Q-A

Antenna Documentary Film Festival Review – ‘No Time For Quiet’

Reviewed online, Sydney, Oct. 18, 2019. (in Sydney, Antenna Documentary Film Festival) CBA rating: PG. Running time: 84 min.

PRODUCTION: A Film Camp production and release. Producers: Samantha Dinning, Hylton Shaw.

CREW: Directors: Samantha Dinning, Hylton Shaw. Camera (color, widescreen): Samantha Dinning. Editor: Alan Bennett.

WINDA Film Festival Announces its Full Program For 2019

From epic survival thrillers to inspiring true stories and innovative shorts, the WINDA Film Festival returns for its fourth year from 21-24 November 2019 to celebrate trailblazing Indigenous filmmakers and share the universal stories of Indigenous nations

The 2019 Festival will screen six brand new full length features, five thought-provoking documentaries, as well as a witty Australian TV series and a jam-packed line-up of stellar shorts from 16 countries across the globe.

Opening film this year is ‘The Sun Above Me Never Sets

The Festival kicks off with The Sun Above Me Never Sets, winner of the Audience Choice Award for Best Film at the 2019 Moscow Film Festival. Directed by Lyubov Borisova (who will also be attending the screening) and crewed entirely by Indigenous Sakhi people of Russia, the film is a moving exploration of isolation and chronicles the unlikely friendship between a young man and his suicidal elderly neighbour on a desolate island.

Other feature films to discover at this year’s WINDA Film Festival are:

  • Red Snow, from Canadian award winning filmmaker Marie Clements – who will also be in attendance of the festival.
  • Sgaawaay K’Luna: Edge of Knife – A historical drama chronicling a man’s descent into madness after he accidentally kills his best friend’s son.
  • Restless River – In northern Quebec, after World War 2, a young Inuk woman is raped by an American soldier from an army base near her village. Torn between two worlds by the birth of her blond-haired, blue-eyed son, she struggles to come to terms with the implications of his dual heritage. (Australian premiere)
Vai‘ is 2019’s WINDA Film Festival’s closing film.

Closing the Festival is 2019 Sydney Film Festival favourite Vai, an empowering portmanteau film connecting 8 seemingly disparate stories that thread together one woman’s cultural journey through time. Beautifully shot over 7 Pacific countries, and played by a different Indigenous actress in each location, Vai is a delicate exploration of the environment, culture, community and the meaning of home. The Festival’s closing night film Vai, will be attended by its New Zealand producers Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton, as well as several of the film’s talented international directors: Marina McCartney (Samoa), Matasila Freshwater (Solomon Islands), Becs Arahanga (Aotearoa) and Sharon Whippy (Fiji).

“We’re thrilled to bring WINDA back for a fourth year,” said Festival Artistic Director Pauline Clague. “From thought provoking documentaries to dazzling depictions of Indigenous culture, this year’s program showcases powerful perspectives from cutting-edge Indigenous filmmakers across the globe.”

Shirleen Campbell’s ‘Not Just Numbers

Additional program highlights include: Australian director Shirleen Campbell’s inspiring debut documentary Not Just Numbers, about a group of Indigenous women’s mission to stop family violence in their communities; and award-winning Russian producer Sardaana Savvina’s Kylyk Khomus: Cursed Harp, a surreal drama about a teacher whose world is turned upside down when her niece unexpectedly arrives on her doorstep after an accident. Sardaana Savvina will be there in person, to promote her second film.

There’s plenty of one-of-a-kind documentaries to explore this year:

  • Eating Up Easter – In a cinematic letter to his son, native Rapanui (Easter Island) filmmaker Sergio Mata’u Rapu explores the modern dilemma of their people, as they face the consequences of their rapidly developing home. (Australian premiere)
  • Iomramh an Chamino – The Camino Voyage – The inspiring 2500km journey of a writer, two musicians, an artist and a stonemason who embark on a modern day Celtic odyssey from Ireland to Spain, in a traditional boat of their own making.
  • Ushui, La Luna y El Trueno – A fascinating look into the spiritual practices of the Wiwa people of the Nevada Desert and how, through the use of cameras, the tribe aims to spread their ancient message of conservationism. (Australian premiere)
  • Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up – A powerful exploration of the shocking killing of Colton Bushie and his family’s pursuit of justice in the face of a legal system embedded in racial prejudice. (Australian premiere)
Shortfilm ‘Hinekura

The program also features a stellar selection of local and international shorts: from Australian director Michael Bonner’s What Do You See, the empowering story of a trans woman’s fight against constrictive stereotypes; to Ties That Bind (Sydney Film Festival: 2019), a powerful drama about a young Indigenous man’s experiences of police prejudice and turbulent family life; and Hinekuraa New Zealand coming of age story about a Maori girl’s transition from naïve child to protector of her people.

The Festival includes a series of scintillating special events: from a filmmaking masterclass with Vai producers Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton, about the impact of producing Vai across the Pacific to several immersive VR experiences traversing themes of language, country and Indigenous futurism; and a series of animated shorts

WINDA Film Festival is made possible in part by generous industry sponsors: UTS: Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, Create NSW, The NSW Government, NCIE TATU, Inner West Council, AFTRS, 33 Creative, UTS FASS and Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion, NITV and ICTV.

DETAILS

Date:   Friday 22 November – Tuesday 26 November, 2019
Location:  Event Cinemas George Street, 505/525 George Street, Sydney
VR: UTS Building 1, Foyer at Library Pod
Barangaroo Reserve, Towns Place, Barangaroo
Tickets: $40 Opening Night (incl. After Party); $15 Feature Films; $10 Shorts; $10 Documentaries
Location: Thursday 21 November – Sunday 24 November, 2019
Website: Further info available at: https://windafilmfest.com

NetflixANZ Sets Release Dates for Spring/Summer Films

Netflix Australia/New Zealand has announced the release dates for some of Netflix’s biggest spring/summer films. All four of them will show in cinemas across the country prior to being released on the streaming service.

The King

Hal (Timothée Chalamet), wayward prince and reluctant heir to the English throne, has turned his back on royal life and is living among the people. But when his tyrannical father dies, Hal is crowned King Henry V and is forced to embrace the life he had previously tried to escape. Now the young king must navigate the palace politics, chaos and war his father left behind, and the emotional strings of his past life — including his relationship with his closest friend and mentor, the aging alcoholic knight, John Falstaff (Joel Edgerton). Directed by David Michôd and co-written by Michôd and Edgerton, The King co-stars Sean Harris, Ben Mendelsohn, Robert Pattinson, and Lily-Rose Depp.

The King – October 11 (Australia theatrical); October 18 (New Zealand theatrical); November 1 (Netflix)

The Irishman

Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci star in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, an epic saga of organised crime in post-war America told through the eyes of World War II veteran Frank Sheeran, a hustler, and hitman who worked alongside some of the most notorious figures of the 20th century. Spanning decades, the film chronicles one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in American history, the disappearance of legendary union boss Jimmy Hoffa, and offers a monumental journey through the hidden corridors of organised crime: its inner workings, rivalries, and connections to mainstream politics.

The Irishman – November 7 (Australia theatrical); November 22 (New Zealand theatrical); November 27 (Netflix)

Marriage Story

Marriage Story is Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Noah Baumbach‘s incisive and compassionate portrait of a marriage breaking up and a family staying together. The film stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam DriverLaura Dern, Alan Alda, and Ray Liotta co-star.

Marriage Story – November 14 (Australia theatrical); November 29 (New Zealand theatrical); December 6 (Netflix)

The Two Popes

From Fernando Meirelles, the Academy Award-nominated director of “City of God,” and three-time Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten, comes an intimate story of one of the most dramatic transitions of power in the last 2,000 years. Frustrated with the direction of the church, Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) requests permission to retire in 2012 from Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins). Instead, facing scandal and self-doubt, the introspective Pope Benedict summons his harshest critic and future successor to Rome to reveal a secret that would shake the foundations of the Catholic Church. Behind Vatican walls, a struggle commences between both tradition and progress, guilt and forgiveness, as these two very different men confront elements from their pasts in order to find common ground and forge a future for a billion followers around the world.

*Inspired by true events

The Two Popes – December 5 (Australia theatrical); December 13 (New Zealand theatrical); December 20 (Netflix) 

All four films will be shown in participating cinemas:

Australia:

  • Brisbane: Dendy Cooparoo and Dendy Portside
  • Canberra: Dendy Canberra
  • Melbourne: Classic Cinema, Belgrave Cameo and Lido Cinema
  • Sydney: Dendy Opera Quays, Dendy Newtown, Hayden Orpheum and The Ritz
  • Perth: The Backlot

New Zealand:

  • Auckland: Monterey, Bridgeway, Capitol and Academy
  • Christchurch: Lumiere
  • Tauranga: Rialto
  • Wellington: Roxy and Monterey Cinemas

Review – Zombieland: Double Tap

It’s time to nut up or shut up.” – Tallahassee

Exactly ten years after Zombieland, its sequel has finally risen from what seemed to be dead. The zombie genre has been milked out, after numerous seasons of hit tv-show ‘The Walking Dead‘ and its spin-offs. Why wait a decade to make a sequel to a film that was well received by critics and moviegoers?

The entire gang is back. Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), Wichita (Emma Stone), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) have figured out the different kinds of zombies and have taken refuge in The White House. Many years have gone by and just like most families, they fight and bicker but know deep down they love each other. When Little Rock decides to run off with a guy she ran into on some deserted pathway, it’s up to her family to go looking for her. A new zombie species has risen from the grave – T-800’s are faster, smarter and harder to kill and will stop at nothing once they’ve set their eyes on a meaty meal.

Ruben Fleischer (Venom) is back to direct the sequel to his Zombieland, as are writers Rhett Reese (Deadpool) and Paul Wernick (Deadpool 2), joined by Dave Callaham (Godzilla). A decade has passed, which means a whole new generation has had the time to discover and love/loathe the original. Lucky for them, they’ve kept a similar formula to the first part and spiced it up with a ton of pop culture references and winks at the original, to please older and younger viewers. Although I think this film is purely made for the fans of Zombieland, I do think this is one is better written and thought through. The punny jokes land over and over again, while the action is more graphic, inventive and fun to watch. Combine that with some great make-up and unfortunately some really sketchy CGI and out of focus camera angles, and you’ve got a pretty decent zombie flick at your hands.

The original cast is back, which shows Emma Stone is a group player, coming fresh off an Oscar win for her role in La La Land – something many award winning actresses wouldn’t even think of doing. Stone is especially great at face acting and her and fellow comedy star Eisenberg have great comedic timing. Harrelson, who embodies more conservative America, does this in a funny and respectful way. His surrogate father relationship with Breslin is sweet and makes up for some hilarious reactions, when finding out she’s ran off with hippie Berkeley (Avan Jogia). The weakest link of the bunch is without a doubt Abigail Breslin. I do think this is the writers’ fault, since her character doesn’t have much to do and is more of a plot device than a fleshed out character.

As for new supporting characters, the women just simply rule! A strong Rosario Dawson (Luke Cage) pops up in the second half of the film as a motel owner in Graceland, which makes Tallahassee feel all sorts of “tender”. She gets joined by Tallahassee and Columbus lookalikes, Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch), which makes for a hilarious second act that keeps everything exciting with a well-choreographed-longtake-action-sequence. The scene stealer throughout the entire film is without a doubt Zoey Deutch (Netflix’s The Politician). The dressed in pink, platinum dumb blonde Madison is a joy as soon as she pops up in a candle store. Her acting is superb and I couldn’t help but think of her as Emma Stone in Easy A – for which she received a Golden Globe-nomination. This is her best work yet, can’t wait to see her in new and challenging project in the near future.

Zombieland: Double Tap is badass fun, which becomes one of those rare sequels that’s even better than the original. 2009-throwback-jokes and an action packed new world to explore, make this joy ride fly by.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review – Zombieland: Double Tap

Reviewed at Event Cinemas, Sydney, Oct. 16, 2019 (Sony Pictures Screening). CBA Rating: MA15. Running time: 99 MIN.

PRODUCTION: A Sony Pictures Releasing release of a Columbia Pictures, Pariah production. Producer: Gavin Polone. Executive producers: Doug Belgrad, David Bernad, Ruben Fleischer, Jack Heller, Rhett Reese, Rebecca Rivo, Paul Wernick.

CREW: Director: Ruben Fleischer. Screenplay: Dave Callaham, Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick. Camera (color, widescreen): Chung-hoon Chung. Editors: Chris Patterson, Dirk Westervelt. Music: David Sardy.

WITH: Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, Zoey Deutch, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Rosario Dawson, Avan Jogia, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch, Bill Murray.  

Antenna Documentary Film Festival Review – ‘Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project’

It’s difficult not to call her a visionary.” – Michael Metelits

Antenna Documentary Film Festival is back with a schedule full of cutting-edge and thought-provoking documentaries from around the globe. ‘Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project‘ is just what I needed, to get pulled into this doc-lovers paradise.

In ‘Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project‘ we get to meet Marion Stokes, a former TV producer and activist turned recluse. As a form of activism, to seek out the truth and check facts, she started recording everything that happened on television. This all started with her obsession with the Iranian hostage crisis back in 1979, which eventually became an event everyone was watching 24/7 and gave the idea to start a non-stop news channel – CNN. She noticed that important information started to change while the story developed and wanted to make sure the truth would never get erased from the public eye. For three decades – until her death in 2012 – she secretly recorded TV channels in America, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Over 70,000 VHS tapes hold footage on wars, catastrophes, talk shows, commercials and lies, shaping the world we live in today. This documentary gives us an in-depth look at who Marion Stokes was and bares the question many would ask: “Why did she do it?”. Director Matt Wolf interviews Stokes’ family, friends and colleagues, who emotionally look back at Marion’s behaviour and career. There’s also an aspect in the documentary that dissects how she became the old reclusive lady in that New York apartment. Not only collecting everything that happens on her many tv’s, but also identifying herself with Steve Jobs – adopted, hard on people and smarter than most of us – and buying ‘Apple’-shares. She loved technology, because it would unlock people’s potential.

What I really appreciate in this documentary, was the personal feelings brought forward in how Marion treated the people closest to her, not always putting her in a good light. As her own son Michael says: “She had unrealistic standards in how people should behave with each other.” Yes, she did great work on screen and behind closed doors to move herself forward. But in doing that, she was at times cruel to her son and loved ones, to the extent of pushing them out of her life. This made me connect to the interviewees and pulled me in even more. Every one of these people, helped her change the tapes on a daily basis. Marion knew exactly when a tape would stop.

The facts are all there – Marion was a very intelligent woman of colour and at the forefront of equal rights for everyone. Her mission was crazy, but ends up being a gift to the modern world, archiving footage that might otherwise have been lost throughout time and space. We can only thank this woman for what she has accomplished and be grateful, without judging her personal shortcomings in life. Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project is fascinating in many ways, flipping from interviews to important footage that define the modern world, not shying away from the hard truth and truly identifying what is right in front of us.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project screens as part of Antenna Documentary Film Festival in Sydney:

  • 20 Oct., 8pm – Dendy Newtown
  • 27 Oct., 8pm – Dendy Newtown

Get your tickets now: https://tix.antennafestival.org/Events/Recorder-The-Marion-Stokes-Project/Sun-Oct-20-2019-20-00

Antenna Documentary Film Festival Review – ‘Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project’

Reviewed at Antenna Documentary Film Festival (screener provided by publicity team), Sydney, Oct. 6, 2019. CBA-Rating: TBC. Running time: 87 min.

PRODUCTION: An End Cue and Electric Chinoland Production. Producers: Kyle Martin, Andrew Kortschak, Walter Kortschak.

CREW: Director: Matt Wolf. Camera (color, widescreen): Chris Dapkins, Matt Mitchell. Editor: Keiko Deguchi. Music: Owen Pallett.