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MIAF 2015 DAY 3: Panorama – International #1; Tama University Showcase

25 Jun

Panorama – International #1


Here is a classic example of misconception. I have known about the Panoramas for 5 years and I have avoided them for 4 years. Why? Because these were international films that, for some reason, were not good enough to make it into the International Competition programs. Why would I want to spend my time watching inferior films? Well turns out I was too quick to judge (the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, I’m getting better I swear) and I will explain why.

Think about all of your favourite films. Can you honestly say that each one of them has the potential to open the Cannes Film Festival? Of course not, because some of your favourite films are great but are not exactly award-worthy. Think about the guilty pleasures you might have, or the films that hold a personal attachment, or the films you know to be stupid but make you soil yourself in laughter, or the films that did not work overall but brought light to some ideas and concepts that spoke to you in a way that other films couldn’t. These are the films that make up the Panoramas. Here are films that missed out on official competition selection but were, for some reason, worthy to be viewed on a large screen.

Can you say you have seen Iranian animation? How about Afghani animation? Well with the Panoramas this is a possibility. Sure these films may not win any awards, but the Panoramas give these little-known filmmakers from unlikely countries the chance to have their work on the big screen where it belongs. This session was made up of playful and thought-provoking films, and these were my top picks:

Crowded – Andrew Khosravani, Cristina Florit Gomila. Playful looking cut-out animation that has a very real point to it. Planet Earth has a finite amount of space, yet population is rising exponentially. How long will it take before space runs out?

Pidge – Renee Zhan. Dark satirical animation about a pigeon trying to commit suicide by jumping from a building. With a hilariously deep, monotonous voice the pigeon reflects on his life, decides he wants to live, but is swooped by an eagle. There is a lot of dry humour packed into this film; the type of humour that doesn’t necessarily make you laugh but is appreciated as if it was. The characters are animated brilliantly given the film’s barren tone.


Fantoons: Chasing Mr Big – David Calcano, Nacho Rodriguez. Why isn’t there more animation like this? I’m talking about the type of animation reminiscent of early Warner Bros. The animation with basic stories (in this case a fan boy wanting to see his favourite band, Mr Big, live in concert) but told in the playful, energetic, totally absurd manner that only animation can display. The animation where shoving a chilli pepper up a bulldog’s arse is the most logical mode of transportation.

Driving – Nate Theis. Another film taking a humorous look at a real issue – road rage. Seriously people, what is the point? There is something about being behind the wheel of a car that can turn innocent people into dicks, and for what? To get to your destination 7 seconds earlier? This film illustrates that not only do you look ridiculous but there is a likely chance you will hurt yourself and others.

Tama University Showcase

Tokyo Ondo

I’m just gonna put this straight – the Tama University Showcase may very well be the greatest single session I have ever witnessed in my six years of MIAF. That school has summoned all the power of Godzilla to stomp the shit out of any doubt you have that they are a force to be reckoned with.

Don’t you love having your high expectation not only matched but surpassed? Because I certainly do, and I have this ingenious college to thank for that. The high expectations were due to Tama University winning the student reel award at the Ottawa International Animation Festival on its first attempt. I tend to unfairly expect a lot when it comes to sessions dedicated to specific nations, as if every animator from that nation is on an identical diet of animation-genius supplements. Unfortunately these high expectation can fall very hard. Last year’s French showcases left a bitter taste in my mouth of blue cheese on a mouldy baguette. Japan’s showcase in 2013, however, left the delicious taste of warm sake with a side of takoyaki garnished with edible gold shavings. I am happy to announce that Japan has scored once again.

The students of Tama University spend the first three months of their animation course without drawing, sculpting, cutting, or digitally creating a single thing; instead they learn about music. They are taught that animation is all about rhythm and timing, and what better way to learn about these than having a thorough understanding of music. This principle plays a prominent role in every one of the films from this session. Watching this showcase is like consecutively watching every film from your favourite actor – although the films are slightly different they all share one vastly important element that pushes all the right buttons. In the case of the Tama films that element is the heavy reliance of music to provide the foundation for the animation. Every film in this showcase is fantastic in its own way, but these were my favourites:

Garden – Shungo Suzuki. Vibrant pastel colours of vegetation and animals on a black background with a cheerful score. Not a single frame skips on the detail. Suzuki has a masterful understanding of colours and knows when to mix and mould them together in a way that is challenging but never confusing. It’s one of those films that is so pleasant to watch that you can get lost in them.

Tokyo Ondo – Misaki Uwabo. Energetic and sporadic animation perfectly incorporating the crazy randomness that Japan is famous for to create a romanticisation of Tokyo. Can you see something 100 miles away that you want to get to? Then try riding a 10-billion yen coin as a unicycle on your stretched-out arm to get there.

airy me

Airy Me – Yoko Kuno. Music video to the song “Airy Me” by ambient pop artist Cuushe. A lesson that must have been taught extensively at Tama University is the importance of scale and space dimensions. Every student at some point demonstrates their understanding of space with fast-moving interior tracking shots; but no film does it better than Airy Me. Imagine seeing the point-of-view perspective of a fly as it is buzzing around hospital and you will have some idea of what this film looks like. It’s difficult to believe that the slightest angle or shift in a different perspective is an entirely new illustration. The fluidity is of such a high level that if it wasn’t for the yellow saturation or anime-looking characters you would forget that it was animated. Overall it is a sad tale of being drugged up in a hospital bed, but the animation and song connect perfectly on an emotional level and is my top pick for the session.

The Story That Might Be A Dream – Miryan Paku. Supposedly near-death experiences make your life flash before your eyes; but is your life really worth holding on to? In five minutes this animation teaches that life really is worth living, so you’re better off not arguing with your loved ones over petty issues like what channel the television is on.

Chu-Chu – Ryoko Tanaka. Continuing with the theme of vivacious colours with a dominant soundtrack, this film stood out for its heavy use of cut-out animation. I would say more about this film but I would just be repeating myself. These films had a lot of the same feel to them yet at the session’s conclusion I just wanted more.


Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF) 2014

20 Jun

Ahoy film fans! It’s that time of year again to celebrate the eclectic art form of animation. For the next 10 days animation will be filling ACMI cinemas in Melbourne’s Federation Square; and I’m talking REAL animation. The kind of animation you have not seen but absolutely should. This is a unique film festival in the way that the screening session are made up of a compilation of around 10-18 short films with a particular topic or theme. These topics can range from the competition films (which are in the running for the best of the festival), to national focuses (this year being France and South America), to studio focuses (this year being Canada’s Quickdraw Animation Society and France’s Sacrebleu Productions), to technique focuses, to a special screening for children (which I made an effort to see every year, being the big kid that I am).

Last night I attended the Opening Night gala screening, with complimentary sparkling wine. I felt so fancy. The purpose of the Opening Night is to get a taste of what the festival will be serving. The opening film was the incredibly beautiful Sonata directed by one of the festival’s special guests, Nadia Micault from France. Her film is a modern spin of the rotoscoping technique of animating popularised by Disney’s feature films. We then saw a couple of Australian films from the competition programme which are always so special to watch because contrary to what many may think, Australian animation is quite impressive and well worth a watch. Following these were some more foreign films, a film from the kid’s programme, the token abstract film, and some humorous CGI.

MIAF really is something special. It is supposedly the third largest animation festival in the world. Why not help it reach that number 1 spot? If it’s not as great as I’m making it sound, feel free to hurl abuse at me.

Check out the website for more info.

MIAF Day 2 – International Program #1; Focus on Belgium #1

22 Jun

REMINDER: The Australian Showcase is Saturday the 23rd at 4.00pm. Tickets will most likely sell out so make sure you get your ticket secured.

International Program #1

The first twelve assorted films in the running for Best of the Festival. Mostly consisting of European and Asian films, the first international program gave us viewers a good taste of what is to be expected from the films up for the grand prize. What is that expectation? Complete and utter randomness. CGI, scratch, cel, cut-out, stop-motion; it was all there!

Here are my top picks for this screening:

About Killing the Pig/ Dell’ammazare Il Maiale (Simone Massi, 2011) – Very dark charcoal-looking animation with little colour but plenty of style.

My… My (Lei Lei, 2011) Heavily inspired by video games, a man chases a moose-man through a glitch-ridden world.

Auntie Nettle (Svetlana Zueva, 2011) Russian cut-out animation with almost an expressionist look about it. A haunting little film; like the nightmare of The Secret Garden, complete with piercing string music and grotesque visuals. Arguably the best film of the session.

How to Eat Your Apple (Erick Oh, 2011) – Exactly as it sounds, but with a bizarre, humorous twist.

Focus on Belgium #1

Before this session I didn’t even know Belgian animation existed. I’m sure glad I gave it a go. The session consisted of a fine mixture of historic and contemporary Belgian animation. From this collection of films there seems to be a pattern or theme with Belgian animation – as cheerful as a film may seem, it will inevitably have a negative conclusion.

Un Voyage Imprevu (Albert Fromenteau, 1944) – Proof that Disney set the blueprints of animation to the entire world, this film from the 40s resembles the forest setting and singing animals of the American animation powerhouse. The key difference is this film is a little crazier than Disney and didn’t have much of a story to go with it.

Goldframe (Raoul Servais, 1969) – Hilarious tongue-in-cheek film about a filmmaker, Mr. Golframe, who must be the first to produce a film in 270mm. He attempts this by dancing off against his silhouette.

To Speak Or Not To Speak  (Raoul Servais, 1970) – What begins as a humorous piece of social commentary mohps into a straight-faced and blatantly political piece of propaganda.

Compartments Or “I Am Not A Monster” (Hannah Letaif, 2011) – Totally insane animation that grotesquely exaggerates everyday tasks. Will be repeated at the Late Night Bizarre session.

What’s on around Melbourne-town? CineCult!

14 Apr

Looking for a super camp martial arts film starring Jean-Claude van Damme and supposedly based on a true story to fill in your Tuesday night? Well, we have just the thing.

This month at CineCult we are screening BloodSport (1988) which follows the career of Frank Dux, an French-Canadian martial artist who infiltrates Asia’s underground martial ring –‘Kumite’- in order to win the championship. Meanwhile the American government are trying to hinder him because they need him to fight on their side.

Cinecult takes place at 303Bar (303 High St Northcote) with the film starting at 7.30pm and open from 7.
A gold-coin donation at the door is all you need to experience the greatness that is this film.

Check out CineCult303 on blogspot and CineCult303 on Facebook for more updates.

Cine Cult- Viva

19 Feb

It is February, which means it is time for the February edition of Cine Cult. This Tuesday the 21st at 7.30pm we will be screening Viva (2007) a film by Anna Biller. Viva follows the sexual awakening of Barbi, a 1970s housewife who thought she and her loving husband Rick were the perfect couple- until the sexual revolution happened. Now Barbi, along with her neighbour Sheila, is questioning her role as a woman and as a wife, experiencing bondage parties, swingers’ gatherings, lesbianism, and much more.
Biller’s owed to the sexploitation films of the 1960s and 1970s is truly amazing and c complete homage to the genre. The situations, characters, clothing, dialogue and overall detail is completely realistic.

The screening is, of course, at the 303 Bar (303 High St. Northcote, and starts at 7.30pm, though feel free to get there earlier for drinky-drinks and to grab a comfortable couch.

More can be found at the Cine Cult ( or on Facebook under CineCult303.
Cine Cult is a once a month, not for profit, film night. We ask for a gold coin donation so that we may be able to source something even more amazing, crazy, weird, gross, crass, hilarious and enjoyable the following month.
Hope to see you there!

Lavazza Italian Film Festival Review: A Quiet Life (2010)

26 Aug

By Michael De Martino

(Claudio Cupellini, 2010, Italy, in Italian and German, Drama, 105 minutes)

A Neapolitan man, Rosario (Toni Servillo), runs a restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany. Suddenly Diego (Marco D’Amore), a man from his past, arrives on his doorstep and opens old wounds from Rosario’s past. The hidden life of crime is exposed as Rosario’s secrets unfold.

While I generally like to see a film with no prior knowledge of its content, this film will no doubt suffer criticism from those who are unfamiliar with the Camorra (Neapolitan mafia) and their garbage scandals. This information, which is only briefly touched on at the beginning of A Quiet Life, is absolutely vital to the story. Without this knowledge the film risks being dismissed as just another on-the-run style family drama.

A Quiet Life loses points not for being bad or ineffective, but because it’s not all that interesting. Only a handful of characters are ever presented, leaving little chance for suspense. Most of the action is merely fast editing which is frequently unnecessary.

In saying this, the film is entirely carried by a fantastic performance from Servillo. The wide emotional spectrum displayed by Servillo is executed with such expression that we have no choice but to remain engaged by his acting. Effective supporting roles from D’Amore and others further enhance this film being centred on the acting.

Although I wouldn’t go as far as saying this is a “must-see,” it is worth the experience. Especially if you happen to be Neapolitan.


Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF) – Be There!

21 Jun

By Michael De Martino

From June 19-26 the Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF) will be running at ACMI in Federation Square. Over 400 films will be screened at this ever growing animation event. Come and witness animation from all over the world and experience an array of visual and aural styles you never thought possible.

MIAF is my number 1 pick of all the film festivals available to us Victorians. It is easily accessible, tickets are very reasonable (especially the season pass), you are able to meet the filmmakers, and it focuses purely on hand-made cinema: animation, where the possibilities are limitless. There is so much variety that everyone will be able to appreciate certain aspects of it.

Last night I was fortunate enough to attend the Gala Opening screening where we were given a taste of what to expect from the collection of themed sessions. These films ranged from the themed nation – Poland, other international films, some classic UPA films, films from the UK’s Royal College of the Arts, some cut-out films as a part of the themed style, and films from our own back door. If I could judge the rest of this metaphoric book by the cover I witnessed last night, then I’d be saying this is gonna be one damn good book.

With an eclectic assortment of screenings to attend, the one I am most anticipating is the Australia Showcase which will be screened at 4:15pm on Saturday the 25th. Last year’s Australian Showcase blew me away. I was truly astounded at this nation’s ability to create magnificent animation. If you have ever doubted Australia’s artistic abilities, prepare to have your faith regained because animation is where so much of Australia’s talent has been hiding, and I believe it is damn well time that more people realised this. At the end of the Australian session there is a meet & greet where the audience is introduced to the filmmakers. I’ve already got my spot booked!

If you get the chance at all this week you absolutely must make an effort to see at least one screening of this festival. It is one of the only festivals dedicated to animation in the country. You have my word that it will be a memorable experience. These Australian animators need your support and this is the way to show it.

For more information head to the MIAF official website or the ACMI website:

Melbourne Cinematheque 2011: John Hughes

20 Apr

We return to Cinematheque this week with a look at Australian film-maker John Hughes (no, not The Breakfast Club one). Hughes himself will be at ACMI this week to introduce his films; three of which have been selected from varying decades in his career. A ‘creative director’, Hughes’ work often centres on Australia, its history, its politics and its people, never shying away from the good or the bad.

Film-Work (1981) is an unveiling of the work of the Waterside Workers Federation Film Unit throughout the 1950s. The Unit is a vital part of Australian film history; it allowed film-makers a chance to express themselves during the years when the Menzies government believed that they were undermining government policy. Focusing on various scenes in four films from 1953 through 1958, Hughes examines how these films and film-makers influenced the politics and society of the time and the legacy these films have had.

One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin (1992) is a homage to Walter Benjamin, a German-Jewish intellectual who committed suicide whilst trying to escape Nazi’s in France in 1940. Benjamin’s writings, philosophies and essays focused on socio-political history with Marxist leanings, national idealism and on the study of works such as Kafka and Proust. Hughes’ film in turn takes a visual look at Benjamin’s ideas, his philosophies, his legacy, and his history from numerous places around the world. Through interviews, archival footage and recordings from Benjamin’s graveside Hughes tries to find out who this man was and what he has become.

To finish the night is The Archive Project (2006), a look at the Melbourne Realist Film Unit. This indeed is an Archive Project- culminating twenty years of research into this group of activist Melbournian film-makers of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Said activists were those who supported the labour movement, and peace and housing campaigns, whilst championing American and European avant-garde cinema of the time. Complete with ASIO footage!

Melbourne Cinematheque: Eisenstein (week 2)

5 Apr

By Eleanor Colla

And so continues our viewing of Eisenstein and his Revolutionary Aesthetics! This week features a look at Ivan the Terrible Part I (1944) and Part II (1947), an account of the rule of Tsar Ivan IV, more commonly known as Ivan the Terrible due to his attempt at military campaigning that resulted in 24 years of wartime and gained little land, people, trade or resources for Russia. As well as this, Ivan’s advisors pilfered a city for goods, killing thousands in the process, and Ivan killed his son and future heir in a fit of rage. Continue reading

Melbourne Cinematheque- Eisenstein’s Revolutionary Aesthetics

28 Mar

Eleanor Colla

If you’re anything like me then the word ‘Montage’ sends shivers down your spine and can only mean one thing: amazing Soviet cinema. Thankfully, the people running Cinematheque are like me and thus the next three Wednesdays (March 30- April 13) are dedicated to Sergei Eisenstein and his Revolutionary Aesthetics. Hailed not only for his films but also his film theories, Eisenstein has long been regarded as one of the world’s most driven and stylistic film-makers. Living and working in Communist Russia, Eisenstein was both highly regarded and under constant scrutiny by the Bolshevik State who controlled the film industry and completed only seven features and a few shorts across his 25 year career. Continue reading