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MIAF 2014 DAY 10: 3 Days In Paris – Historical, Best Of The Fest

30 Jun

3 Days In Paris – Historical

clinic

As the last Paris experience didn’t go as well as expected, I thought I would give the French another chance. As I explained in my last Paris post, French animation is generally very well done. France is a nation that is not only passionate about the art form, but they have a widespread understanding of its purpose and relevance, which is why we are going to continue being blessed with its presence. So imagine my disappointment from once again being let down by sub-par French animation. I probably shouldn’t have got my hopes up about this session being “historic” seeing as the earliest film was from 1990, but in the past the historic session have been among my favourites and since this year’s festival didn’t have much in the way of history I was hoping that this session would fill the void. It did not. It’s bewildering, really. I don’t know whether it was a poor selection of films, or maybe the top studios in Paris were missed, or maybe Paris isn’t where France’s decent animation comes from (it is a very big country after all), but these films were soulless and lacked substance. The animation itself wasn’t bad, but it was pretty standard when compared to the rest of France and the rest of the festival. My biggest issue was that most of these films seemed utterly pointless. Too often when a film ended I asked the question “why would you bother going to all that effort for this?” I’m hoping there is something cultural that I am missing; that maybe you have to be from Paris to understand these films because right now I am lost. There were only two films from this session that even remotely tickled my fancy and they happened to be the two oldest films (now I really need my history fix). They were:

Le Balayeur

Clinic – Alexander Bubnov. Totally psychotic animation about medical fears. There’s the GP whose immunisation needle snaps off in the posterior of a patient, an optometrist who plucks eyes out patients and pins new ones in, and a whole lot of medical horror we can only wish will never happen to anyone. The animation is cartoony while being darkly humorous.

Le Balayeur – Serge Elissalde. Well drawn pencil animation about one freaky ape-looking street sweeper who attacks everything that comes near his sweeping area. He smashes things with his broom then shoves them down the drain. A young girl’s ball goes down the drain and the freaky man tries to fish it out, taking out everything he had shoved down there in the first place. He then goes to jail. The morel of the story is: assault and vandalism with a broom is not the best way to avoid prison.

 

Best Of The Fest

elephnats garden

All good things must come to an end. Best of the Fest is a joyous time where the greatest films of the festival are honoured. It is also a sad time because as the final credits of the final film reach the bottom, the festival disappears like a mirage. Attempts to organise an official after party ceased years ago, presumably because it took energy away from the more important event – the festival. Anyway, the festival is what we came for and the festival is what we get. This year’s MIAF brought some intense mixed feelings. Where there is normally a lot of variety within the session creating an overall feeling of “very good” or “not so good,” this year’s festival had more of an extreme feel to it where some sessions were “amazing” while others “sucked.” Those Paris showcases were nowhere near as good as anticipated and were the major disappointments of the festival. Late Night Macabre and Quickdraw’s 30th Anniversary (even with its positive back story and purpose) suffered from too many sub-par films. But on the other hand, the quality of the South American showcases was a very pleasant surprise. This year also had the best Australian Showcase, Kids Program, and Late Night Bizarre that I have witnessed in my 5 years of attending the festival. And let’s not forget the International Competition Programs that were packed with fantastic films, and International Program #2 being arguably the best single session of anything I have seen during my time at MIAF.

I am very proud (and a little bit smug) to announce that this year the judges got nearly everything right, many of the honoured films being those that I either predicted or mentioned as standout films. I don’t mean to toot my own horn or anything, but come on; you got to admit it’s a whole lotta fun predicting the winners at award ceremonies. Pity no one was taking bets here.

The Best of the Fest session begins with festival director, Malcolm Turner, announcing the best films and honourable mentions of each competition category, and then an assortment of the films are screened. After we view a handful of the top films there is a break where the judges announce the best Australian student film, the best Australian film, the best international student film, and then the grand prize of “Best of the Festival.” As I mentioned above, every film that won I have already written on, so feel free to Ctrl+F the film’s title to see my earlier review of them. The list of the festival winners can be found at the MIAF website.

It made me exceptionally happy to see the films To This Day, Land, and Ex Animo win their international programs as they truly were in the top tier of films for the whole festival. I was incredibly excited about The Elephant’s Garden being hailed as the best Australian film as part of me didn’t think it would win. That film winning best Australian film is like a David Lynch film winning the Academy Award for best feature – it’s that strange and different film that has a strong cult following, but deep down you know the award is going to go to the obvious biopic or drama that wins every year. Well done The Elephant’s Garden!

MarilynMyller

Marilyn Myller winning the Best of the Festival gave me some initial mixed thoughts. “Best of the Festival” means that this one film was of a higher quality than any other competition film. I have a history of allowing the Best of the Festival to go straight over my head; as in, I remember being in the session while the film played but the film did not leave an instant impression on me. This does not mean that I feel the top pick was inferior, just that many of these animated films don’t instantly slap you in the face with their awesomeness; they take a bit more understanding.

Thankfully MIAF does something that every award ceremony should do – explain why the winning film deserved to win. The judging for MIAF comprises of real industry professionals who are not part of a secret organisation and who are not afraid to reveal their identity. These are people are animators themselves who live animation. They travel around the world visiting many animation festivals and hence are given the opportunity to witness a lot of the competition films on multiple occasions. It also gives them the chance to dig deeper with certain standout films. To simply sum up the case of Marilyn Myller, the film was basically technical mastery on a level that is difficult to comprehend. Firstly, director Mikey Please used a type of foam as his animation medium; something that is insanely complex as it involves carving new sculptures for pretty much every movement. But the interesting lighting that I mentioned in my review of the film is ever more complex. Please’s lightning setup to create his amazing shadows and scattered patterns over a completely white landscape was so advanced that pretty much every frame has its own unique setup.

This explanation would divide the audience right down the middle for two reasons. Reason 1) The bonus knowledge of this film may give it an unfair advantage and for a film to be truly deserving of winning then it should have widespread appeal and not need to rely on all the behind-the-scenes extras that only then make you understand its worthiness. Reason 2) Here is an animation festival created by and attended by true animation enthusiasts and therefore the most unique and complex animation (with the explanation to help those less familiar to understand) should be more than deserving of the top prize. Admittedly I was initially in the first category. I felt that it was an interesting film but not my favourite of the festival. I have since come to change my mind on the matter; not that I now believe it is the best film of the festival (I still stand by my To This Day pick) but I respect the decision to name Marilyn Myller the best of the festival because if festivals like MIAF don’t publicly honour the tireless efforts and technical genius that some true artists of capable of, then who will?

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MQFF- Break My Fall

18 Mar

Break My Fall (2011) documents the last four days of a couple in their mid-twenties as they try to navigate through the indie-scene of East London where people wake up at night and taking drugs every few hours to get through the day is par for the course. As Liza’s (Kat Redstone) 25th birthday approaches her 4-year relationship with girlfriend Sally (Sophie Anderson) seems to unravel before the viewers eyes. The characters themselves, however, seem to be completely unaware that not only is their relationship crumbling around them but, really, the relationship ended long ago and they are really just clinging to memories of the past and a misguided hope for the future.
The insecure Liza and disaffected Sally are also in a band together, yet can barely manage a rehearsal due to their chaotic home life. This band opens up the introduction of their two closest friends; Vin (Kai Brandon Ly)-a hustler trying to woo Sally away from Liza-, and Jamie (Collin Clay Chace) -a barman who is trying to find the perfect man- with the two men being as oblivious about the dark undercurrent as the two girls.

Written, produced, and directed by first timer Kanchi Wichmann the film has a very ‘this is my first film’ feel to it. Edgy youths with asymmetric haircuts and cool clothes, music (Wichmann also has a history in music, and film-clip style montages are abound), un-focused images, relationship angst, hand-held camera work… you name it, this film has it. But it appears to work, largely due to the strong casting of Redstone and Anderson.
The film does lag in places, especially when dealing with elements outside of the central relationship, possibly due to the fact that the film was originally conceived to be a short. But Wichmann is able to pull your attention back to the lives of the protagonists, most notably with the scenes where she appears to interweave what feels to be memories with current events taking place in the lives of the two girls, leaving the viewer recognising that this bleak and doomed relationship was once something fertile and beautiful, and not something to be taken lightly.

Another screening of Break My Fall is on Thursday 22nd, 5.30pm at Greater Union.

MIFF 2011 Film Review: SUBMARINE

24 Jul

Judging by the packed crowd for Richard Ayoade’s directorial debut Submarine, I don’t really need to write a review. As I left the cinema about fifty people were lined up on Russell Street, switching on their phones. Everyone of the people I passed was saying ‘Yeah, just got out of Submarine, it was great!’ Needless to say, if someone suggests you see Submarine and you’re concerned it won’t live up to the hype so you jump online and read a review: stop being a chump and go see the damn movie.

Oliver Tate is a precocious fifteen year old with a self-obsession to rival Narcissus. His social ineptitude is not total however, given his ability to achieve certain primary goals for young teenage boys in the arse-end of Wales: getting a girlfriend, and convincing her to have sex with him. He is sort of like (Peep Show‘s) Mark Corrigan as a teen, but thanks to Ayoade’s skillful direction, it doesn’t come off as Old Hat when Oliver starts doing very carefully thought-out but incredibly stupid things in the name of familial harmony.

Richard Ayoade doesn’t just do a great job with cartoonish nerds. His writing gloriously portrays all the stilted freaks, his understanding of awkward people is total. Character humour is sadly lacking in so much gross physical comedy these days, and Submarine manages to skirt the line and have both: Paddy Considine’s be-mulleted psychic ninja being a standout example.

But don’t take my word for it: take everyone else’s.

9/10

by Lizzie Lamb (www.thechopbuster.com)

Film review (2nd take): ORANGES AND SUNSHINE (2010)

4 Jun

by Anna Sutton

Oranges and Sunshines  is an understated and intimate film about the tragic legacy of the “forgotten Australians”, child migrants who were the product of a forced resettlement scheme conducted by the British welfare state until 1973. The scheme, in which children were removed from state care and shipped off to Commonwealth countries, was Britain’s answer to a post-WWII welfare state, at a time when the White Australia Policy still blighted this country.

Director Jim Loach (son of Ken) tackles the issue with the compassion and complexity that it requires.

We meet Margaret Humphreys (played with great humanity by Emily Watson), a Nottingham social worker who in the 1980s blew the whistle on a saga that the Australian and British governments had conspired to veil for decades. Inspired by one of her clients, Humphreys embarks on a 2-year investigation that results in her attempts to reunite hundreds of adults with their estranged families, and the establishment of the Child Migrants Trust. Continue reading

Film Review (1st take): ORANGES AND SUNSHINE (2011)

3 Jun

By Chris Harrigan from ChirspandAllen

I’m not sure who thought up the scheme at the centre of Oranges & Sunshine but they must have been one of those rare Cruella de Vil-esque evil geniuses.

Britain’s welfare system was busting at the seams; meanwhile its colony on the other side of the world was desperate for white immigrants. A lesser villain wouldn’t have a drawn a link between the two problems, but the British Empire was no lesser villain. In a two-for-one special they decided to shift tens of thousands of kids under the care of the state off to Australia, where they enjoyed all the fruits of a regular childhood such as building churches, working farms, and fending off sexual assault. As an added corker, many of them were told (falsely) that their parents were dead. (You just got punk’d, kids!).

It is this miscarriage of justice – made all the worse by the denial by both British and Australian governments that it ever occurred – that Oranges & Sunshine sets out to tell. Or at least purports to. In actuality the film centres foremost on Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson), the social worker whose tireless efforts to uncover the truth reunited thousands of ‘lost children’ with their parents and siblings back in Britain, and brought about an official apology in 2009.

But while Orange’s intentions are good, in focusing so exclusively on Humphreys something of the enormity of the story seems lost. Hugo Weaving is terrific as a recovering lost child searching for his family, and this is where the heart of film should lie. But it’s Humphreys who gets the spotlight, and to the film’s detriment. Her story almost feels like the sub-plot to another film whose main arc has been accidently left on the cutting room floor.

Oranges scatters moments of catharsis amongst the otherwise banal scenes of Humphreys’ bureaucratic work, but the effect is uneven, and many character’s epiphanies are too easily drawn, too lacking in context and delivery; their stories almost told in shorthand. And it’s a shame, because it’s their stories that are not only so compelling, but which need to be told.

Thanks to Nic Scott and the rest of Chirsp’s friends for their eagle eyed editing of this piece. You know who you are.