Tag Archives: film festival

Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF) 2015

20 Jun

miaf 2015

So this may be the coldest couple of weeks of the year for us Melbournians, but one place you are guaranteed to be kept warm is within the weather-proof walls of the cosy ACMI cinemas. While you snuggle up in these seats I recommend keeping yours eyes open because then you will be blessed with this year’s MIAF which runs from June 21-28.

And it is a rather special one this year because I was lucky enough to join the big leagues with an early-bird trial screening of some sample films of the festival before the actual festival begins. Turns out being an obsessive volunteer has its perks. I can personally confirm, before the festival even starts, that it is going to be a memorable occasion for any one who listens to that playful voice in their head that says “go along, what have you got to lose?”

There are a couple of aspects separating this festival from the last few festivals. This year MIAF is screening quite a few sessions in ACMI’s Studio 1 which is a gorgeously informal yet intimate 70-seater space for some of the less popular, less majority-friendly showcases. More importantly this year commemorates the centenary of Australian animation. For those who love animation, for those who love film, and for those who love this amazing country should get along and support this momentous occasion with 6 dedicated sessions highlighting Australia’s history with the art form.

MIAF has reverted back to the 8-day-long festival but has not skipped on the content. Like all years there are the new films making up the competition sessions and all the festival favourites like Late Night Bizarre and the Kids Program; and the curated sessions with special focuses on a country, an animation technique, an animation college, or a particular filmmaker/production company.

This year’s new films submissions came to around the 3500 mark from every corner of the globe. With an International Competition session playing every day (except Monday 22) be sure to catch up with the most recent additions to this ever-changing world of artistic, auteurist animation. The curated sessions this year are intriguing to say the least. The main nation focus is on Slovakia. Personally I have never seen any Slovakian films, and I’m sure many of us in Melbourne can say the same, but after these two sessions; one on historic films and one on new films; we will instantly become more cultured and having something unique to talk about while hosting our next dinner party. My most anticipated curated session is on Japan’s Tama University. 2013 blew my mind with just how amazing auteurist animation in Japan really is with their session on Tokyo University of Arts. That’s right, Japan is not simply a hub for anime, they have a hell of a lot more to offer. Tama University specifically has already made its stamp on the world animation circuit by taking out the Ottawa International Animation Festival’s prize for the best student showcase on its first attempt. Furthermore there is a showcase on Ireland’s Brown Bag Films (responsible for recent Academy Award nominee The Secret of Kells), as well as several animation documentaries and Latvian-American, Signe Baumane’s independent hand-made feature film Rocks In My Pockets. Of course there is much more MIAF has to offer, the best way to see what’s on is to check the website here.


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

30 Jun

3 Days In Paris – Historical


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!


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?

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.

Heaven’s Gate Minute by Minute: 181 of 209

8 May

181 of 209

It’s subtly woven into the action, but I believe this minute to be an exposé of poor wagon driver safety in the nineteen hundreds. People fly out of them at the smallest bump in the road. Why isn’t anyone wearing a wagon seatbelt?

The answer, unfortunately, is due to a material shortage in Johnson County in the 1890s. There was only one seatbelt in the entire state and it had to be shared by every driver at once. The belt was enormous as it had to stretch and weave across many miles and many wagons. It made driving incredibly difficult and resulted in the strangulation of numerous drivers. Because it was too complicated to unstrap, the belt remained tied to you even if you weren’t operating your wagon and most citizens walked with a wagon attached to them at all times. As you can imagine, this made climbing stairs, playing bocce and trampolining an exhausting, laborious affair.

The Johnson County seatbelt was 990 miles long and its length probably contributed to the material shortage that made it necessary for the sharing of a giant 990 mile seatbelt.

MIAF Day 3 – International Program #8: Abstract Showcase

22 Jun

Word from event organiser, Malcolm Turner, is that MIAF is one of the very few major animation festivals to promote abstract animation, and I tip my hat to him. I have been lucky enough to witness the abstract session three years in a row and it never fails to amaze me. Walking into this session is tantalising because you never know what to expect. There are no rules or criteria to these films; they exist to be out of the ordinary, and those willing to have their mind expanded will thank themselves.

20 Hz (Ruth Jarman, Joe Gerhardt, 2011) – Hypnotising waves and patterns of static. Looks much more appealing than it sounds.

One Second Per Day/ Une Seconde Par Jour (Richard Negre, 2011) – The challenge was set: 1 second of footage, 25 frames per second, for every day of the year. Entertaining from an audience point of view and intriguing from a wannabe-creative point of view in terms of what can be achieved in a set period of time, and how simple and complex one second of film can be.

Strings (Benjamin Ducroz, 2011) – This Australian film has a brilliant flow of colourful vectors to fast-paced music. Miniature film with lasting impact.

Sensology (Michael Gagne, 2010) – This is the kind of film I come to a festival hoping to see. An animated representation of three avant-garde pieces of music. May not be the most original idea but the beauty and pacing of this film is utterly incredible.

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.


MIFF – The Solitude of Prime Numbers

5 Aug

The beauty of character defined stories, lie usually within the portrayal of one personal journey.  As viewers or readers we find identification to their uncertainties, fears, melancholies and achievements, playing their choices against ours and perceiving, perhaps, chances lost or possibilities gained.  ‘The Solitude of Prime Numbers’ (directed by Saverio Costanzo) gives us more, let’s us look at the other side, the unknown perception of the person other, both sides of love and loss, both sides of opportunity and chance.  Layered through delightful imagery so cleverly appropriate to the time and feeling of the place the character is currently journeying through.

This is the story of Alice (Alba Rohrwacher) and Mattia (Luca Marinelli), two lost souls that should have been destined to reign their lives alone.  But who meet by chance when young, and through her persistence remain seemingly distant friends.  Both suffer disillusionment from their families, through guilt and neglect, presenting scars that haunt them throughout their lives.  Mattia (young: Vittorio Lomartire) presents himself an isolated being, filled with guilt for the loss of his sister, he scars his body in punishment; perhaps for the lack of association from his over protective, yet distant parents.  Alice (young: Arianna Nastro) suffers a similar fate, a lone child, her father pushes her to grow to fast, using her as trophy display for his uninterested friends.  While his wife fills her body with alcohol and silence, leaving Alice with no true affection or guidance.  Alice is scared also, physically by an accident caused through neglect, and in her heart by a lack of acknowledgement and affection.  She craves these, and seeks out Mattia, almost through an instant identification of their pains.

It is through their friendship and quiet understanding that they begin to accept that forgiveness is possible.  That there is a chance of belonging and happiness, no matter how distant it may seem, as long as you allow another into your past.

‘Prime Numbers can Only be Divided by Themselves and One’

Based on a book by Paolo Giordano

Score:  9/10

MIFF 2011: Fruits Of Paradise

27 Jul

By Christopher Mildren

Czech director Vera Chytilova is renowned and revered outside of her homeland largely because of the wonderful freewheeling swipe at good behaviour for girls Daisies from 1966. Thank MIFF for resurrecting one of her other too-rarely screened films, the Eden story phantasmagoria Fruits of Paradise.

A retelling rich in obscure symbolism, it has more of a direct narrative thrust than its more familiar ancestor, but it’s hardly an unambiguous affair. It begins with one of the most intoxicating montages I’ve seen, a five minute strobing of flora close-ups and psychedelically imposed Adam and Eve figures. The hallucinatory mood is retained through out the main body of the film, a stylised tale of Eva, her husband Josefa and the charismatic serpent like figure of Robert, who may or may not be a murderer of young women. It is almost entirely shot outdoors in those overgrown fields and forests, quarries and swamps that seem to afford such dark menace to films east of the curtain.

The plot, such as it is, is told in typically clever Chytilova fashion, in stylised dramatic sequences, often with jarring in-camera effects, giving the film a dreamlike mood. Despite the overriding concern with dangerous desire and a cavalcade of beautiful nudes, it is not a heated film, instead more childlike with a sinister undercurrent. The visual invention sags a bit towards the end, but a climactic chase through a twilit forest involving a long piece of blood red material is astounding.

Chytilova’s way of exploring murky psychological complexity through arresting imagery is a treasure, and I hope this screening opens the way to more of her unique work seeing the light of day.



25 Jul


Detroit Wild City opens with footage of a politician talking about the grass in the car parks of the city. The image that is created in this speech is seen throughout the rest of Florent Tillon’s documentary on the forgotten city. What Tillon sets out to find is unclear, though what he does find he captures well.

Starting with interviewing locals who have lived in Detroit all of their lives and then watching the demolition of a full-size stadium, Tillon moves on to a factory where hundreds of books have been burnt. Interestingly, it is all the same book; ‘The Voice’ which appears to liken modern Detroit to post-war Berlin. Fitting indeed. Shots of abandoned factories that run entire blocks, the poor pushing their belongings in trolleys, wild fields forever encroaching on what was once an industrial hub follow.

For a short time Detroit Animal Rescue is followed and we learn that there are roughly 100,000 stray dogs in the city. The majority of these are pit-bulls because they are the current status symbol for youths. Many are used in dog fighting, the dead losers later being set-alight. A glimmer of hope is seen in the Renaissance Centre- built by Food Jr.- but this too is quickly dashed.

Tillon then takes this footage and presents a possible future. Cutting through this wasteland is the new generation. These groups of young teens tend to veggie-patches to help people with malnutrition. Others demolish abandoned houses and reclaim the land for art.
Whilst I did not particularly enjoy the set out of Detroit Wild City, nor its lack of information on who interviewees were, it successfully showed a city that many know of but hardly know anything about.

This documentary entwines the past and the present to create a collage of the future, as people are appearing to go back to settler ways, of neighbourhood events on Sundays and community-minded projects. One can only hope this continues.

MIFF 2011: Three

23 Jul

German film Three presents the viewer with Hanna and Simon; middle aged, middle class, bored, and in for a whole lot of changes. Independently to each other they each start an affair with the same man- Adam. Hanna knows him through work (both are scientists though Hanna also has an art program on television, why? Who knows) and art engineer Simon meets him at a pool and later installs a sculpture at his work.

After Simon’s mother dies of pancreatic cancer and he himself goes through chemotherapy for testicular cancer, he and Hanna decide to marry on their 20th anniversary and in the midst of each of their affairs. Naturally things get complicated, very complicated, and as their lives become more and more intertwined all learn that some things cannot be reversed.

Honestly, I was expecting a little more. Tykwer’s previous films (Run Lola Run, Perfume and The International) all seem to have more to them which is odd because Three has a lot of unnecessary sub-plots and general ‘stuff’. It also passes into moments of mental fantasy that is never fully explored or evaluated, disappointing for this is done well in Run Lola Run.

The directing is fine, so is the acting and the music. The use of a split screen throughout works, though it does introduce more clutter into the film. Essentially; whilst the premise is good the execution is lacking.