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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.

Melbourne Cinematheque- Helen Levitt

3 Apr

Photographer Helen Levitt is the focus of this week’s Melbourne Cinematheque with two feature films and two shorts she worked on screening. Levitt, a staple of the New York arts scene from the 1940s to her death at 95 in 2009, has been noted for her ability to capture the everyday life and moments of joy and heartache in the working class lives of those in New York. She also transferred to colour prints quite early, experimenting with overexposure, saturation, and dyeing the image. After being introduced to Luis Bunuel she took an interest in film and worked for many years as a consultant and cinematographer on various low-budget and collective films.

The Quiet One (1948) is a semi-documentary directed by Sidney Meyers which follows the life of a ten-year-old African-America boy growing up in Harlem. Having never been shown kindness or compassion in his home or school life Donald Peters lashes out against society. Eventually he is sent to the Wiltwyck School for Boys which focuses on rehabilitation and reform where psychiatrists try to find out what is ‘wrong’ with him, never realising that it was societies neglect that meant that Donald never had a chance.
Following this feature is the short In the Street (1948) which Levitt worked on, showing life in Spanish Harlem.

The Savage Eye (1959) is an essayistic documentary, the product of a four-year long collaborative between various directors (Sidney Meyers, Ben Maddow, Joseph Strick) and cinematographers (Helen Levitt, Jack Couffer, Haskell Wexler). Barbara Baxley is recently divorced and looking for a fresh start in Los Angeles. The film takes the viewer to various instances in Barbara’s new life from car accidents, to religious fanatics, to burlesque shows- all beautifully shot.
Following is Emotions of Everyday Living: The Steps of Age (1950), a short directed by Ben Maddow and produced by Levitt that focuses on the retirement of a crane driver and the effect this has on the relationship he has with his wife.

Experimental Tribute

6 Mar

Three very personal directors are being screened at Cinematheque this week under the banner ‘Experimental Tribute’. George Kuchar, Jordan Belson and Robert Breer have all contributed greatly to the various and large experimental movements in America and the world at large. All are American, all passed away towards the end of 2011, and all left a great legacy to the film world.

George Kuchar, often with his brother Mike Kuchar, was a staple in the New York underground factory scene of the 1960s where they made no-budget 8mm films. many of these films payed homage to the Hollywood melodrama films they had seen growing up, coupled with the distinct visual style the two brothers developed. Kuchar was asked to move to San Francisco where he taught film at the San Francisco Art Institute where he continued to make short films until his death in September 2011. Cinematheque will be showing Hold Me While I’m Naked (1966), Pagan Rhapsody (1970), and Wild Night in El Reno (1977).

Jordan Belson is another San Francisco-based filmmaker. Belson’s work often revolves around the Spiritual in various representations and forms. Throughout the 1950s he collaborated with Henry Jacobs and the two, along with the Morrison Planetarium, showed a series of electronic music concerts played simultaneously with images and short films of space. Screening will be Allures (1961), Cosmos (1969), Meditation (1971), Chakra (1972), Cycles (1975).

The films of key avant-garde figure and animator Robert Breer finish the night. After early experimentation in animation, and working with avant-garde artists in Europe, Breer combined a vast collection of filmic techniques to his shorts, coupled with exact rhythm and form. Fist Fight (1964), Jamestown Baloos (1957), 69 (1968), and Fuji (1974) will be shown.

MIFF 2011: Melbourne on Film Program 1

23 Jul

Recommended for: The elderly, people from Melbourne, history teachers.

Score: N/A

Part one in a two part program of short historical films about Melbourne. Part 2 screens on Friday the 5th of August.

The American(1959)

Tongue in cheek film begins with an American standing on Princess bridge narrating what sounds like a postcard to his mother while ogling at a passing lady *wink wink nudge nudge*. Interesting predecessor to the Barry McKenzie films with the crude depictions of Australians as easy going, sports mad, beer swilling white supremacists blokes

Melbourne Wedding Belle (1954)

Twee short about a Englishman arriving in Australia for his daughters wedding at St James church. Father of the bride pops into the horse races on the way, only to bet his wedding present with hilarious, albeit predictable, consequences. Meanwhile the groom, an upstanding Doctor no less, stops in the pub, has a bit too much too drink and realises he’s forgotten the ring at the hospital. Serious film scholars are divided over whether or not he is shagging one of the nurses. All of this is narrated in limerick form, the writers going on to produce many successful commercials for Windscreen O’Brien.

Life in Australia(1966)

While worthy of inclusion and historically interesting I must admit I was starting to pray for an interval at this point in the program. FACT: people ate a lot of roast chicken.

The Cleaners (1969)

Ever wondered who cleans up the rubbish? The cleaners that’s who! Part moral hygiene, part Allen Ginsburg inspired buddhist chant this 1969 short is a flashback to a time when littering earned you a gentle tsk tsk rather than a $200 fine. Much like the Grateful Dead’s 20 minute guitar solos were replaced by the Knack in the 80s, we later learned the virtue of having a simple message.

The Melbourne Concert Hall(1982)

Well shot documentary of the Melbourne Concert Hall and Arts centres construction between 1973 and 1982. The only documentary on the program with interviews, it provided some cerebral relief as well as being a bit of porn for audiophiles.

Sunday in Melbourne (1958)

Odd little film, not least because of it’s socialist bent, Sunday in Melbourne was probably my favorite filmette of the bunch. Footage of men and women in hats going to the church and drinking by the yarra is juxtaposed with footage of catweazel-esque homeless men. “Is he winning or has he dropped out of the game?” muses the narrator over footage of one such lovable tramp; it’s a moment that seems surprisingly incongruous for the time and alarmingly more radical than anything shown on television these days.


SFF 2011: Susya (Short): Israel/Palestinian Territories

21 Jun


By Lukey Folkard, Sydney Film Festival Correspondent

Susya is an Israeli/Palestinian production shot on location in the archaeological site and ancient Jewish settlement of the same name, which until 25 years ago was a Palestinian cave village.

This rough, 15–minute short documents father and son, Mohammed and Nassir Nawaj‘ah, returning to see their home by way of purchasing tickets to the tourist site that now only remembers a Roman-era Jewish occupation. Documentary and activist filmmakers Dani Rosenberg & Yoav Gross spontaneously suggested and filmed this unfolding “Direct Cinema” piece in an afternoon and succeeded in capturing some powerful moments, revealing a story of loss and human rights violations.


SFF 2011: The Palace (Short): A Short Sad War Song

12 Jun

By Lukey Folkard, Sydney Film Festival Correspondent

One of the most impressive and ambitious Australian shorts I’ve seen at the SFF so far. Or ever.

Based on true events in Cyprus during the conflicts of 1974, a Greek-Cypriot family finds shelter in an abandoned Ottoman palace while a Turkish army sergeant, played by Kevork Malikyan (Midnight Express), leads two very different young soldiers from house to house.

The Palace is a strong 16-minute piece that looks big budget. It was filmed near the UN green-line that still divides the ancient city of Lefkosia, most of the props, uniforms and locations are the real thing, supplied by locals. Award-winning director Anthony Maras (Azadi, Spike Up) has had to be sensitive while filming in Cyprus as, even after almost forty years, memories of the events are still fresh and he treats both sides with human respect.

Great performances throughout – if you’re seeing any shorts this year make sure not to miss this one.


The Palace is also showing at 2:15 on the 18th of June at Sydney Film Festival 

SFF 2011: Bear (Short): Ouch!

11 Jun

By Lukey Folkard, Sydney Film Festival Correpondent

Local director Nash Edgerton proves with this little set-up that he can pull of another world-class shock.

Almost a sequel to his last short, Spider, Bear is an animal themed, bad boyfriend, comic strip that will wake you up like a macchiato, with a little blood infusion. I want to see what this guy does with an hour or two. The BIG moment was pulled off very convincingly and had me wondering how he could do it so cheaply. A very local short, from a very promising set of eyes.