Saturday, August 12, 2017

MIFF- Something Quite Peculiar, Westwind and Mountain

MIFF
On Wednesday night I attended two more MIFF documentaries. The first was Something Quite Peculiar: The Life and Times of Steve Kilbey. The film focuses on Steve's 40+ years in the music industry, mainly as the lead singer of The Church. While the film covers the history of the band, it focuses more on the present day and doesn't use much archival footage. It also uses their greatest known song "Under The Milky Way" as a character throughout the film. It's an interesting device which I don't think quite works. Steve Kilbey himself is quite honest about his past and present and needing to continue to tour in The Church for money. One of the funniest lines in the film is when he admits that in the 1980s he autographed a bunch of albums as Neil Finn. After the screening we had a Q&A with both Director Mike Brook and Steve Kilbey. A few members of the audience voiced their concern that Steve was a bit harsh on the Gold Afternoon Fix album (which I really like), but Steve feels it was The Church paint-by numbers. It's not your typical documentary, but was still interesting to watch.

MIFF
My second film on Wednesday night was the world premiere of the film Westwind: Djalu's Legacy. We had a Welcome to Country by Aunty Joy and short musical performance by some of the key people in the film before it started. Filmed over eight years it tells the story of Yolngu elder and master Yidaki (didgeridoo) player Djalu Gurruwiwi. As the keeper of his people's Songlines and culture, he is desperate to pass them on to his son Larry, who is not quite ready to take on the responsibility. As Djalu allows outsiders to come and learn about culture and the Yidaki from him, he develops an unlikely friendship with Wally De Backer (aka Gotye), who manages to help bridge the musical gap between Djalu and his son. The film culminates with their performance together at WOMADelaide. After the screening we got to hear from Producer Kate Pappas, Director Ben Strunin and Djalu and Larry Gurruwiwi in the Q&A session.

MIFF
Today I got to see the breathtaking film Mountain, which was a collaborative project between Director Jennifer Peedom, Artistic Director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra Richard Tognetti, and author Robert Macfarlane. Exploring the increasing human fascination with mountains, footage was primarily sourced from that shot by Jennifer Peedom and cinematographer Renan Ozturk, along with other Go-Pro and drone material from high adventure athletes. The score by Tognetti includes original pieces as well as ones from classical composers, and the film is narrated by actor Willem Dafoe. Being able to see this film on a massive screen was fantastic, and some of the shots of people climbing up sheer wall faces or skiing down from the tops of mountains is nerve wracking. There was a Q&A after the screening with Director Jennifer Peedom where she described the process of putting this film together and collaborating with the others.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

MIFF- The Song Keepers and Ingrid Goes West

MIFF
I began this evening of MIFF films with the documentary The Song Keepers about the Central Australian Aboriginal Women's Choir. These women (and two men) from remote towns in the Northern Territory come together to sing 14th-century Lutheran hymns that were brought over by German missionaries. The really special thing is that they sing them in language. The film focuses on their 2015 tour of Germany with their choirmaster Morris Stuart. It's a lovely film that tells the story of the choir members and how they have kept their culture alive. After the screening we were incredibly lucky to have the choir there to sing a few songs and then do a Q&A.

MIFF
My next film was the American dark comedy Ingrid Goes West. It stars Aubrey Plaza as Ingrid Thorburn, a troubled social media addict who becomes infatuated with Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), an Insta-star and social media influencer. Ingrid moves to Los Angeles and manages to insinuate herself into Taylor's life. This movie is like the Instagram version of Single White Female, and is a biting commentary on the truth behind those living a #blessed life on social media.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

MIFF- Faces Places and The Go-Betweens: Right Here

MIFF
Today's Melbourne International Film Festival films were both documentaries. I began my afternoon with the French film Faces Places, which featured the pairing of French New Wave artist Agnes Varda with the much younger street artist JR. The film follows them as they drive around rural France in a mobile photo lab van photographing people and doing large scale paste ups of images both past and present. They meet some interesting people along the way and hear about their personal stories and the history of the villages they visit. The pair also develops a sweet relationship and rapport with each other, and bring together their artistic talents to create some amazing large scale pieces. I absolutely loved this film and cannot recommended it highly enough.

MIFF
Next I saw The Go-Betweens: Right Here, a film that chronicles the life and times of the Brisbane band and the relationship between its founders Robert Forster and Grant McLennan. The film is organised chronologically from the mid-1970s to mid-2000s, and intersperses archival photos, audio and video footage with present day interviews with each band member as well as the people around them in the scene at the time. I really liked the device used by Director Kriv Stenders of having a rural Queensland property as the base where each band member came and went from the house to document their time in the band as they experienced it. There were many turbulent times, including line-up changes, their break-up in 1989 and Grant's untimely passing of a heart attack in 2006, which is where the film ends. We were fortunate to have both Kriv Stenders and Robert Forster do a Q&A after the screening, in which Robert joked that he felt he came across too serious and would be more funny in a future film. It's a very well done documentary done by someone who intimately knew the band and its importance to Australian musical history.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

MIFF- The House Of Z, Pecking Order and Patti Cake$

MIFF
It's that time of year again with the start of the Melbourne International Film Festival this week. On Friday night I went to see my first MIFF film, the documentary The House Of Z on the American fashion designer Zac Posen. It covered his childhood growing up in an artistic family in NYC, and the rise of his fashion label with his mother and sister working by his side. As his popularity grew he got funding support from Sean Combs ("the hip-hop years"), but his celebrity and the GFC ultimately led to the downfall of the label and his relationships with family members. Zac then started over from scratch, assembling a new team and going back to his atelier roots to re-energise his creativity. With interviews from all the key players in Zac's life and fashion label, it's an interesting insight into what can happen when you gain success at such an early age.

MIFF
Tonight I started my evening with the New Zealand documentary Pecking Order about the members of the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club. It covered not only the internal (and generational) politics of the club, but also everyone's preparations for the annual National Show, which was like the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for chickens. There were some amazing characters in the film, and we were fortunate enough to have Director Slavko Martinov introduce the film and do a Q&A after the screening, where he spilled some of the secrets of the bird show circuit.

MIFF
My other film for the night was the drama/comedy Patti Cake$, which featured Aussie actress Danielle Macdonald as Patricia Dombrowski, an aspiring rapper from New Jersey. With her friend Hareesh by her side, they strive to make their dreams come true while facing down the doubters both within the community and her own family (her mother is brilliantly played by comedian Bridget Everett). Once Patti and Hareesh encounter the African-American anarchist Basterd they form an unlikely musical union under the name PBNJ and record a demo in the hopes of breaking into the music business. It's a great film about not giving up on your dreams and being resilient in the face of adversity.
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