Monthly Archives: August 2020

MIFF 2020: Documentary Shorts Program

Up at Night (2019)

Director: Nelson Makengo

Country: Congo

When the power cable is cut to a community the residents have to resort to expensive generators and finding every cheap torch they can scrounge to keep living their lives.

Is a gimmick having three screens and I am not sure if it is used that well as most of the time they are having the same image displayed. Why not just have the one image?

There is no real narrator here and the people tell their own stories. There is some repetition with the generator being filled up with diesel each night and the cycle of the night begins again.

People will find a way to survive no matter the circumstances. It also shows you no matter what your circumstances there are people living in worse conditions than you.


Umbilical (2019)

Director: Danski Tang

Countries: USA, China

A mother and daughter share their experiences as a survivor of domestic violence and growing up living in boarding school respectively.

A nice simple animation style with more representative animation than realistic and some touches of surrealism to suit the mood.

This was a very sweet short with some of the exchanges between the mother and daughter.


Sky Aelans (2020)

Director: Daniel Kakadi, Neil Nuia, Mannar Levo, Junior Patrick Kauha Makau, Zahiyd Namo, Regina Lepping, Jeremy Gwao, Georgianna Lepping, Edward Manuga

Country: Solomon Islands

In the Solomon Islands all areas about 400 metres have been declared a conservation area known as the “sky islands”. This short presents a poem and striking images of the flora and fauna of the region and the people who still live in it following traditional ways.

This is a bit different than just having the usual nature documentary with a commentary and there is clearly a lot of care that has gone into producing this. Hopefully it goes on to have a wide audience.



Playback (2019)

Director: Agustina Comedi

Country: Argentina

The narrator tells the story of a close friend who died of AIDS in the early 90s through video captured from the late 80s and early 90s of the drag scene in Córdoba, Argentina. As they say this is the way they would have wanted the story to turn out so there is a lot of “let’s say this is” and then the person is named.

While the old school video effect is popular these days, actually finding and watching old video is a lot harder as it was expensive to get the camera back in the day and a lot of tapes were recorded over multiple times. VHS tapes are also not usually stored the correct way as for proper archival storage they have to be stored with tension and having them rewound is not.

A great story and sad story but it does show the humanity of its subjects and gives you a view into a scene not many people would know about if you were not into this type of lifestyle.


Birds of Paradise (2019)

Director: Aline Suter, Céline Carridroit

Country: Switzerland

A woman tells her life story with the aid of a photo album and some video in how she married young and then found out she became HIV positive in the 80s when a lot of people did not live for very long. As she said with medication it is possible to live a normal life these days.

This is a great story and proves that you do not need to show much to tell a story. They didn’t even need to “Ken Burns effect” the photos to make them more animated. Nice cameo of her grown up daughter at the end.


All Cats Are Grey in the Dark (2019)

Director: Lasse Linder

Country: Switzerland

Christian lives with his two Russian Blue cats and does not seem to have much else in his life, but that seems to be working out for him and that’s the main thing.

This is an extraordinary amount of access the film maker has been granted to this person’s life and Christian does “let it all hang out” at times. At least put on some pants when you go out to get the mail.

I can confirm that this breed of cats are as dumb as but people seem to like them. Strangely they don’t show the cat giving birth given they were happy enough to show a middle aged man in tiny undies.

From what I heard this is an audience favourite wherever it screens. Maybe save this one to watch until the end of the program and not the one about the refugee camp if you are watching it in the MIFF program.


3 Logical Exits (2020)

Director: Mahdi Fleifel

Countries: Denmark, UK, Lebanon

The director has been filming the same person in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon since he was 10. The title comes from the only three ways people can exit the camp: going to jail, emigrating or dying.

It is mainly the interview subject talking to the camera and telling his story over the years and does not seem to be very promising.

I do not know why they need to show the incident at the end, it does not directly involve the subject as he was only in the funeral afterwards. Maybe don’t watch this as the final film for the documentary shorts session.

MIFF 2020: Mogul Mowgli (2020)

Director: Bassam Tariq

Writers: Riz Ahmed, Bassam Tariq

Stars: Riz Ahmed, Alyy Khan, Sudha Bhuchar, Aiysha Hart, Nabhaan Rizwan, Anjana Vasan


British rapper Zed (Riz Ahmed) is a hip hop artist around mid-tier in the US circuit after 15 years hard slog. He has finally gotten his break getting a support slot for a European tour with a much bigger act and decides to stop by in England and visit his parents who he hasn’t seen for several years. As things turn out he ends up having to stay a lot longer as he finds he has a genetic condition and he has to face some hard truths about himself and his past.

I got this film with the 3 film music bundle and was not really on board as it is not my preferred genre so it had to win me over. The music performance scenes and music is impressive as Riz Ahmed wrote it himself and there are a lot of other musicians on the cast. “Pussy Fried Chicken” was written by Nabhaan Rizwan who plays the younger rapper RPG as Riz Ahmed says “he is not that genius”.

It does feel very authentic as it is based on Riz’s own story and he met the director while working on a film and they wanted to work together. A lot of the things from the film are based on their actual experiences.

I liked his dad’s many cardigans and when he goes to their house and finds his parents still have not used the new washer “the old one still works”. The scene where they are talking about names is from the Riz Ahmed’s own journey where he has a name only his family and friends used and his now shortened name for his acting and music work.

He also said in the Q&A that they didn’t want to go down the usual route of this type of story by having either a social realist/anthropological or comedy type story. It is more based on Eastern style storytelling that involves dreams and things repeating in a cycle as you not meant to know what is real all the time.

Nabhaan Rizwan as RPG was also great as the next generation who idolises Zed, but knows that he can’t stand him. In real life Riz Ahmed has the opposite feeling towards this actor as he is a lot like him in many ways.

Alyy Khann who plays Zed’s father is great as he is very Indian but also very English. “I do tell you what I think but you don’t listen to me”. He is very conservative but does still love his son. His mother is more understanding and seems stuck in the middle of the two.

I would recommend this one if you are a fan of hip hop, rap and spoken word. Also if you are the kind of person who would record Eminem over the tape of their parents’ wedding VHS like Riz Ahmed did.


The Long Goodbye – short film

MIFF 2020: The Go-Go’s (2020)

Director: Alison Ellwood

The Go-Go’s: Charlotte Caffey, Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine, Jane Wiedlin

Featuring: Elissa Bello, Paula Jean Brown, Ginger Canzoneri, Chris Connelly, Miles A. Copeland III, Stewart Copeland, Lynval Golding, Lee Thompson, Kathleen Hanna, Madness, The Specials, The Police

While the English punk scene is well known and maybe overdone by now, not as much has been heard about US punk bands especially out of the Los Angeles punk scene. Given there are now elderly punks they need to get onto it quick before too many more people pass away.

I do like going to see women musicians even more than some all-male bands even though I do get made fun of for it. If I didn’t like the music I would not keep going to see the artist.

I had heard of this band’s hits but did not know that much about the band apart from the lead singer’s solo career. It was great to see everyone from the band is still with us even though it looked to be touch and go for a couple of them due to health and drug abuse issues for a time.

The band was very young when they started which would have been rough in such an aggressive and male dominated scene such as punk. We do get to see some great archival photos including Belinda Carlisle in a garbage bag

I did not know the band had toured with the Specials and Madness in the UK and that tour looked pretty rough with the National Front turning up at the shows. Always good to hear from both those bands as SKA has a lot of crossover with punk including people playing in various bands together.

The band’s first hit was a result of this tour as none of the local labels wanted to touch them as they thought they would not do well.

It is a well told story of the band’s rise and three albums and then eventual fall due to inter personal conflict in the band, management issues and health problems. The members did not talk to each other for several years even though some eventually started working with Belinda Carlisle on her work and of course the band got back together due to the reason these things always happen, money.

The animosity between band members is mentioned but not the fact there was a lawsuit only a few years back. What happens with a lot of bands is that people end up having to work together even if they are not really friends by the end of it due to the money involved.

I would recommend this documentary if you are fan of girl bands and it would make a great movie to screen along with the No Time for Quiet documentary that came out last year about the Girls Rock! Camp.


MIFF 2020: Dark City Beneath the Beat (2020)

Director: TT The Artist

Featuring: Uneek, Mighty Mark, Tsu Terry, TT The Artist

Baltimore is a city well known for its crime rate and featuring as the setting for the Wire but I have not heard the latter and did not know much about the city’s artistic scene before this film. Several of the participants of the documentary mention their city not being able to catch a break.

I admit I am not much into the style of music promoted in this film but it was good to see it for something different and it is well packaged.

This is not a straight documentary as people seem to be putting on a performance while they tell their story even people speaking directly to the camera. I would describe it as a music documentary with some social commentary thrown in.

The story explored is the music and club scene of Baltimore and some of the featured artists and major events such as the Queen of Baltimore and King of Baltimore events that are a major thing for the city. The King of Baltimore could have been a documentary all on its own.

It is a very well shot documentary and even the bad parts of the city look good including the Cherry Hill section where they describe it as being one of the worst parts of the city.

If anything it makes the city look too good, but you would think they would want to make the city look attractive for people wanting to work with the artists there. Strangely there do not seem to be any visual artists or anyone involved in non-music or dance works involved but hopefully they do get a boost from this documentary.

They do mention Club Queen Records set up by the director to promote people of colour and women in traditional male-dominated music genres.

While you will get more into this documentary if you are into what they are selling, there is still a lot here to enjoy and see into a scene you would not hear from otherwise.


MIFF 2020: Animation Shorts Program

Wood Child and Hidden Forest Mother (2020)

Director: Stephen Irwin

A hunter in the forest shoots a magical wood elf and then has his house destroyed by rainbows, then things start to get weird.

A very strange and funny short with interesting animation and a big hairy man breast feeding magic elves to grow their beards.

While the short starts out as black and white, it quickly becomes more colourful and strange. It does look like cut out paper animation in parts but it is more detailed from than that.

Interesting character designs and funny to watch even if you do not really know what is going on.


Wade (2020)

Directors: Upamanyu Bhattacharyya, Kalp Sanghvi

Writers: Upamanyu Bhattacharyya, Kalp Sanghvi

Set in 2042 after global warming has destroyed the city of Calcutta, the survivors look for food on the flooded streets only to be confronted by a pack of tigers. Who will survive?

Nice painted style for setting the scenes of the ruined city and the animation style is similar with detailed characters that suit the story.

There are some confronting images and situations in this short, but it does make for a more realistic story. From the first time I saw one of the characters with a mask on the back of their head I knew there would be a tiger attack as I have seen such a thing in stories about tiger attacks as they always attack the third person in a group of people (some people wear motorbike helmets instead).

This is meant to be speculative fiction but it does feel like the real world and they do not show you how many people have died from the result of climate change, only the survivors and what their lives have been reduced to.

Statement by director


Something to Remember (2019)

Director & Scriptwriter: Niki Lindroth von Bahr

Animals in human clothes sing a mournful tune and then the world ends, again.

A great little stop motion animated story with a fully realised world that has its own story.

We don’t find out if the animals took over this world from the humans or it is an alternate reality where humans never existed but CERN is involved somehow.



Mother Bunker (2020)

Director: George Metaxas

Producers: Pia Dulu, Jason N. Rodriguez, George Metaxas

In the robot bunker after the humans have been destroyed a robot puts on a show.

A great little stop motion animated short with an interesting setting and self-contained setting. Almost feels a shame it is over so quickly.

Even though killer robots have been done a lot in science fiction, this is original as why would robots want to see a drag show? They are 1s and 0s and would not have time for culture I thought?



Kapaemahu (2020)

Director: Directed by Joe Wilson, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, and Dean Hamer

The traditional lore of how the traditional healing knowledge of the native Hawaiians came to the islands is told through the story of the four healers who gave their spirits to the stones and how it has been forgotten.

While I know a bit about Hawaiian culture as does everyone due to the popularity of surfing and the shirts, I have not really heard much about the native culture in terms of their own stories. This was a great animated short and contained a lot of information in a short time.

I would recommend this one if you are interested in Hawaii at all and want to learn more about it.


Inès (2019)

Director: Élodie Dermange

A young woman has to make a momentous decision that will affect her life. While it is not directly discussed what that is, the film does heavily imply something in that direction.

An interesting short in that it looks like every frame is a separate watercolour painting for the main figures as the hair and clothes change tone from frame to frame. Rather than making the whole thing look choppy and amateur it makes it look endearing and gives it a unique style.

There are not many characters in the film but it still manages to tell a good story from them and only the one location.


Human Nature (2019)

Director: Sverre Fredriksen and Zaou Vaughan

In a world where the humans are the animals and cats look at funny human memes on their phones we get this film.

This was one of my favourites due to the animation style of stop motion sewn puppets and such strange scenes as the human cats and the field of human cows.

Not too sure if some of the images are safe for work but it is a funny film any way.



He Can’t Live Without Cosmos (2019)

Director: Konstantin Bronzit

Screenplay: Konstantin Bronzit

A young boy is born into a spacesuit near the cosmodrome and his mother tries to stop him from going to space, but can’t stop destiny.

While simply animated and only set in the one room mostly, it manages to tell a heartfelt and sweet story about motherly love and connection.

Some things are never answered like why the boy is born into a spacesuit but it does not really matter as they are treated like a normal child by their mother and even rugged up in winter even though they are already in a spacesuit.



Ghosts (2020)

Director: Park Jee-youn

Two people in a flooded room are shadowed by a crow and strange things happen.

Given the fact that this is a film festival and the animation shorts program you occasionally get things that make no sense and try your patience. This is one of those.

I did enjoy the animation style and surrealism of it but not really much else as it did drag on and on.


Flesh (2019)

Director: Camila Kater

Cast: Helena Ignez, Larissa Rahal, Raquel Virginia, Rachel Patricio, Valquiria Rosa

Various women recount their own stories related to their own bodies over various stages of their lives. Several different animation styles are used and they are very effective.

One of my favourite shorts for the program and I would recommend this one to health educators and parents talking to their children about health issues.

Even though it is in another language and I don’t actually know these people, the way these stories are told is very engaging and I wanted to hear how they turned out.

I did like the one that was animated by being painted onto dinner plates as it looked like it was very time consuming.



MIFF 2020: Hong Kong Moments (2020)

Director: Bing Zhou

Considering how many movies I have watched from this city over the years I have somewhat of a vested interested in the current issues there. I sort of know people who live there now or just like annoying them on the internet and was following the whole thing via twitter and social media via multiple accounts right up to the point people started being set on fire. Given the bushfire situation in Australia at the time, it was just all too much for me and I had to stop following everything from that city apart from the regular media.

It is hard to get a sense of what was actually going on during the protests just following the activist accounts as they tended to amplify and focus on every little thing and it was just too close to everything. Any other opinion was blocked out and shouted down online until it seemed like only one side was the correct one.

Seeing how events you are directly involved in contribute to history is almost impossible as you are right there and can’t see the perspective. Given the long colonial history of Hong Kong and the British East India Company in China these are issues that are hundreds of years old already.

This documentary is different in that there is no narrator or anyone connecting the different people’s stories together. There are seven different people’s experiences shown from taxi driving uncles, teahouse owner aunties, a PTU officer, a front line protestor, councillors on the government and pro-democracy side and an EMT who attended the protests for several months.

From what the director said they had seven different teams following the people over the same time period. There were professionals doing the drone shots and they made an official application to be accredited as media and where open and honest as to what the footage would be used for.

The camera operator at the front line protests was an Australian and had the full protective gear including a bullet proof vest.

Something that really stood out was them having a police officer’s viewpoint and they said it took at least a month to get approval to film with them. The police officer said he does not mind being trashed online, but has trouble with his family going through the same thing. He admits he is the same age as a lot of the protestors.

Even the hard line frontline protestor admitted that the government had been playing the protestors and police off each other to gain the favour of the public to their own ends. “If I had a gun I would not want to shoot a cop”.

With the insane partisan politics of how things are discussed online or in the Murdoch mainstream media these days, it was refreshing to see the actual people behind the viewpoints and you can’t just outright dismiss their opinions if you know why they hold them and how they came about them.

This documentary will be a subject of study in politics and social studies classes for many years to come and will hopefully get a wider audience online even if a lot of people behind the Chinese firewall will not get to see it.



Q&A at DOK.fest Munich 2020