Saturday, July 30, 2016

MIFF- Sonita and Janis: Little Girl Blue

I started today's MIFF sessions at the Forum Theatre with two films about refugees sponsored by Oxfam Australia. The first was the short film 1001 Nights In Fairfield by Zanny Begg, which told different stories of survival by members of Sydney's Iraqi community interspersed with dance and song. The main feature was Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami's documentary Sonita about a 14-year-old undocumented Afghan refugee living in Iran who aspires to be a famous rapper. Sonita raps about misogyny, oppression and forced marriage and nearly becomes a victim of the latter when her mother appears wanting to bring her back to Afghanistan to marry her off in order to pay for her brother's marriage. It is at this point that Ghaemmaghami breaks the rules of being a documentarian and gets involved by paying off Sonita's mother to buy her a bit more time. As a video of one of Sonita's songs "Brides For Sale" gets some notice her fortunes begin to change in unexpected ways.

Continuing the theme of female musicians my next film was a documentary on Janis Joplin by Amy Berg called Janis: Little Girl Blue at Hoyts Melbourne Central. With extensive access to Janis' family, friends and musical collaborators, Berg utilises these first person accounts along with Janis' letters home to her parents to tell the story of her life and rise to fame. I hadn't realised how much Janis struggled with being bullied growing up and trying to gain acceptance from her peers as she started out as a blues and folk singer in Texas. Archival footage of her interviews and performances show her immense talents as a singer and why she was such a powerhouse on stage. The film provides a great overview of the 1960s counterculture movement that started in San Francisco Bay Area and spread across the country, including a lot of drug use that ultimately led to Janis' demise from a heroin overdose in 1970 at the age of 27.

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