Monthly Archives: August 2015

MIFF 2015 – Gulpilil Shorts

Crocodile Dreaming (2007)

Director: Darlene Johnson
Starring: David Gulpilil, Tommy Lewis, Richard Birrinbirrin, Mary Dhapalany, Frances Djulibing, Jamie Gulpilil

An important ancestral stone gets thrown into a billabong leading to one of the local crocodiles being angered. This crocodile kills the daughter of the man who threw it. He offers to help, but the elders reject his offers and ask his brother (Gulpilil) to help even though he is away living with the white people and a famous actor.

The film is based on the dreaming of David Gulpilil’s mother. The director originally met the actor while working on Rabbit Proof fence and the story was originally meant to be about a troublesome crocodile and involve Steve Irwin, but David Gulpilil felt that story had already been made and he wanted to tell the story in his own words.

I enjoyed that there were spiritual and other worldly elements involved in this movie, but they were more touches to the film and helped emphasise when something had a special significance such as the fire trail left by the crocodile, the flaming billabong, the glowing stone and the crocodile attack in reverse.

The acting was also great in this even from the extras who are acting like you would expect them to act in such a situation. Having seen Dark Age before this movie, the dialog for this film is much better and not corny.

Mimi (2002)

Director: Warwick Thornton
Starring: David Gulpilil, Sophie Lee, Aaron Pedersen

A yuppie (Sophie Lee) buys some Aboriginal art just as investment not caring about the story behind it. This comes back to bite her when she opens the cupboard the next day to find the painting of the fish is only bones having been eaten. The next day she finds her apartment messed up and the other artwork is actually a Mimi. In panic she rings her friend and asks if she knows a “real Aboriginal”. When the man arrives (Aaron Pedersen) the sight of the Mimi scares the shit out of him, but he agrees to help.

Ringing his grandad (David Gulpilil), he first has to put up with a torrent of abuse about pretending to be white but does agree to help if he gets a new fridge. Opening his new fridge he finds the foul-mouthed Mimi waiting for him. He throws it in a cave and walks away to it throwing rocks at him.

There is very little comedy based around Inigenous issues in Australia as it is a delicate subject as any non-indigenous person who would make a joke would be accused of being racist quite likely as they are not in the situation and do not understand the issues involved.

There is room for parody from people who do understand in both the art scene in that Indigenous art is seen as a set things and only certain things would sell and also people who buy the art without knowing the story behind the art and only seeing it as an “investment”.

The Rainbow Serpent (1975)

Based on the book by Dick Roughsey, David Gulpilil narrates the story of creation involving the Rainbow Serpent. While there is not really any animation in this film, the painted backdrops and sound effects do tell the story quite well.
I remember seeing this when I was younger but do not know if it is still available online. Schools used to have actual film reels these films were on.

Showing Melbourne to Maningrida (1973)

Director: David Gulpilil

David Gulpilil films his trip to Melbourne in 1973. Melbourne sure looked boring back then and very white. Lots more older buildings that have since been knocked down also.

There are segments of the film that are not in English but they are few enough that subtitles are not really needed.
I liked the part where David Gulpilil went to buy a suit since everyone in the city was wearing one and he looked like a cowboy. There was a part where he goes into a music store (Allans?) and tries out a guitar also.

This film was made when David Gulpilil was studying film at university.

An excellent time capsule of the era and it is good to see David Gulpilil looking relaxed and natural in a role. I still have to see Charlie’s Country and Another Country.

Violence in the Cinema, Part 1 (1971)

Director: George Miller

A doctor gives a boring lecture on violence in the cinema only to be interrupted by an intruder who blows half his head away with a shotgun. Somehow he manages not to die and continues the lecture and casually hangs someone, cuts the breast off a woman, pokes a red hot poker into someone’s eye and cuts open guts. Some thugs then throw him out the window and he gets run over and set on fire.

Exactly the sort of smart arse type of thing you would expect a young film maker to make and it supposedly won a lot of awards in the international festival circuit.

Considering his next two films were the first two Mad Max films you can see in which direction he is going and even if the violence is present on screen there is a comedy element to it depending on the context.

I saw this film at the ACMI Australian Mediatheque with the booths you can sit in and watch titles on demand. If they don’t have it available you can search the collection and request a private screening.

MIFF 2015 – Deathgasm (2015)

Director: Jason Lei Howden
Starring: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Sam Berkley, Kimberley Crossman, Daniel Cresswell, Delaney Tabron

Metal head Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) is forced to move to a country town after his mother is hospitalised and immediately feels isolated due to living with his churchy uncle and aunty and his cousin who treats him shitty.

It’s not all bad, he does meet Giles (Daniel Cresswell) and Dion (Sam Berkley) and at the local metal record store he makes friends with Zakk (James Blake) and they become metal brothers and form a band named Deathgasm.

Brodie has his eye on Median (Kimberley Crossman) who turns out to be already going out with his cousin, causing him much grief as he is very possessive and can’t stand anyone even looking at her.

The story really gets going when Zakk asks Brodie to go to a supposedly abandoned house where a legendary death metal performer is hiding out with the pages of a black metal hymn, they escape but the people looking for the hymn are still looking for it.

Having gotten the pages and ignoring the fact that they are adorned with Latin and pictures of Satanic rituals they decide to try and play the hymn, only stopping when he gets a bad feeling about it.

Brodie manages to translate the Latin on the pages, but due to being beaten up by his cousin and having all his stuff trashed he decides to go through with playing the full song, which is when all hell breaks loose.

The director who attended the screening read out a review of his film from twitter saying that the film was nothing but teenagers wanking each other off. “Aww! That was going to be my next movie, duelling palms!”

From the Q&A the director had a background in visual effects but decided to go the practical route as it was more visceral and has more of a presence when there were actual things that were there.

This did lead to problems for things such as the blood pump they used had to be manually pressurised and it took 20 minutes each time. A lot of the shots are the only one they got as they did not have the time. The movie was shot over 20 days of 10 hour shoots.

It was funded with not very much money, only $200,000 NZ as part of a competition to make a horror film when he submitted five different ideas and this is the one that was accepted. He hoped that it would not be as it was going to be the hardest to shoot.

Kimberley Crossman paid her own way to fly to New Zealand to be part of the film, she is one of the more famous actors involved in the film.

There were some issues with the casting, a week before shooting there was a totally different cast. The director did not agree with having an actor play Zakk who was in his mid 30s and had receding hair however.

At the moment the director want to make a more serious horror film, but all the offers he has had are for another movie like Deathgasm. He does hope to make a sequel to the movie in the future with more of a budget and much more blood and gore.
Some of the gore came from a metal musician in New Zealand who wanted to have a gore fountain in his front yard, but could not get it to work. Also the collection of metal t-shirts worn in the film are from the same person.

The drawings in Brodie’s notebook were made by a production designer and they do still have the book around somewhere.
There are 30 songs on the soundtrack from metal bands in New Zealand, Australia and overseas. The director says it is the most he has heard in any movie of its type. There will be a double album release of all the songs later in the year. They selected the songs to use by what would fit the scene.

The film was inspired by 80s horror films such as Rock’n’Roll Nightmare, Bad Taste (the director first saw it when he was 9) and other kids vs baddies films such as Goonies and Monster Squad.

The lightning effects were produced by a Melbourne visual effects company and are a tribute to those used in older movies. Also I remember Highlander having a lot of them.

If you are a fan of horror movies and metal music I would recommend this movie or even if you just like funny movies I would recommend this movie. It is very gory in parts but there is a lot of humour to go along with it.

Being a first time script writer most of the jokes are what you would expect and it does feel like teenage boy wish fulfilment but that is part of its charm.

I did get to see the audience going out from the 808 documentary before and then all the metal heads coming in to watch this movie at the festival, there were very few people who watched both.

With horror undergoing a renaissance it is interesting to see what a new director does with the genre, especially one where their background is in music and that is what the style of the film is based around. A lot of the metal songs talk about epic battles, but it is mainly left to your imagination to picture what these would be like.

I would like to see what a band like Barbarion would make if they had an opportunity to make their own movie.

MIFF – 808 (2015)

Director: Alex Dunn
Featuring: Damon Albarn, Afrika Bambaata, Phil Collins, Felix Da Housecat, Lady Tigra, Pharrel Williams, The Beastie Boys and many more

Having something of a passing interest in electronic music (I even went to a festival this year) and already knowing about samplers and other old school synthesisers I was interested in this documentary as it looked different.

As it turns out most of the documentary is taken up with people talking about the key albums that used the 808 and the impact it had on creating the rap and drum and bass scenes. Every rap song of not either has an 808 used on it or samples from one.
Even if you are not into some of the artists involved, they talk about working with the 808 and the creative process with such enthusiasm that you are carried along with it.

It is a sausage party in terms of musicians interviewed, but that seems to be the nature of the scene unfortunately.

Hearing from the original creator of the Roland 808 was also interesting as he said there is was a deliberate decision to use a faulty transistor in the machine to give its unique properties. Improvements in manufacturing meant they could no longer source the faulty transistors so there were only ever 12,000 units sold over the three years they were available. Supposedly in Japan they are more widely available, but their impact continues to this day.

I did like the interview with two of the members of the Beastie Boys being adorable old duffers trying to remember how the tape loop was recorded and breaking Snoop Dog’s brain in reminiscing about the 808. They also said the Suzuki Samurai should come with that drum machine installed.

I would recommend this documentary if you have an interest in the development of the rap genre or dance scenes or like hearing about the creative process of artists.

MIFF 2015 – Dark Age (1987)

Director: Arch Nicholson
Starring: John Jarrat, Steve Harris, Nikki Coghill, Cathy Pope, Max Phipps, Burnham Burnham, David Gulpilil, Ray Meagher

There was a killer crocodile movie released a few years ago that was similar to this movie, but I have not seen it. This movie has a lot of fans in the cult genre and the print screened at the festival was Quentin Tarantino’s personal copy.

The storyline is not that much different to any other killer animal movie with an initial attack being played down until there is one in broad daylight and all hell breaks loose. It is pretty graphic in this case with a young child being eaten in broad daylight.

If anything the response from the authorities was muted in this movie. If it had happened today the current government would have done everything bar nuking the crocodile to get rid of it, but they only care how much money they can dig out of the ground.

This movie did screen as part of the David Gulpilil retrospective, but he does not get to do that much in it apart from get ignored by people and a couple of action scenes.

Burnham Burnham gets a lot of corny dialog to deliver but still manages to maintain his dignity. I liked him more in the Howling III where at least he gets to be funny and take the piss on the native spiritual thing “no way I’m just gunna die!”
Another thing to appreciate in this movie is that is a rare chance to see a rare non-Home and Away performance by Ray Meagher, ya flamin’ mongrel!

Yeah, yeah John Jarrat is in it too, but he is a bit of a dork in it. The crocodile it quite well realised and they wisely keep it off screen for most of the running time except at the end.

It does say the film was shot on location in Cairns and Alice Springs, but you can see at least one pick up shot with the word “MARL-“ as in Marlo clearly visible on a building.

While I wouldn’t rush out and see this movie, it is $5 on the Umbrella entertainment website so if you are already buying a bunch of movies it would be easy enough to pick up.

MIFF 2015 – Daises (1966)

Director: Vera Chytilová
Starring: Jitka Cerhová, Ivana Karbanová, Marie Češková, Jiřina Myšková, Marcela Březinová, Julius Albert

I had been wanting to see this for ages but had been holding out until I could either see it on DVD or on the big screen. I am happy it turned out to be as good as I was expecting.

Two friends decide to be bad and live their lives as “parasites on society” by getting men to buy them dinner and then putting the men on the next train out of town. It happens over and over.

Between these scenes they go back to their apartment and do strangely artistic stuff like eating pictures of food, cutting the film with scissors so they end up in bits and setting small fires in the apartment to burn paper streamers.

The film is dedicated to people “whose main source of pain is the depiction of a messed up trifle” as it was banned for “depicting the wanton” on release due to the food fight scene.

It was interesting to see this with an audience but if anything the one I saw it with was a bit too accommodating, they laughed at every single scene.

I still enjoyed it though and was glad to have finally seen it. There is a Czech and Slovak film festival in my city that I may try to get along to in the future also.

MIFF 2015 – Fehérlófia (1981)

Director: Marcell Jankovics

A combination of several folk tales from Hungary where the Son of the White Mare of the title quests to find his brothers and do battle with the three dragons who were freed from the underworld when the doors were unlocked.

Although it is a fantasy story it is different to many of the traditional stories in that the character designs are unique. I have recommended this movie to other artistic people and tattoo artists to watch for inspiration as I had never seen anything like it.

The “dragons” are not what you would expect and they are called that in the subtitles, I suspect they are not really that at all. One is a giant three-headed stone statue with hanging balls, the other is a eight-headed tank and the final one is a 12 headed skyscraper complex.

The powers of the main character are legendary as are his brothers with them punching mountains to rubble and picking up an entire mountain and turning it on its side like it is nothing. I was a bit disturbed they never put it back though.
I did like the part where each of the three brothers got lowered down in the cauldron to the underworld and meeting each of the wives in the castles.

There is so much to look at in this movie it is hard to get bored and you could watch it over and over and find new things each time. I am not sure of the availability of this film on DVD. But it is on Youtube in bits if you are so inclined.

MIFF 2015 – Head (1968)

Director: Bob Rafelson
Starring: Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, Michael Nesmith, Victor Mature, Frank Zappa, Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, plus many more

Hey, hey, we are The Monkees
You know we love to please
A manufactured image
With no philosophies.

There is not really a plot for this movie so it really defies a conventional review. As a cultural artefact it is an interesting example of what happens when someone tries to tap into a popular movement and fails.

Unfortunately for the Monkees it meant the end of them as a group due to problems with the production and the movie being rejected by their core audience and the older audience they were trying to attract. The film bombing so hard meant it was not seen that widely and cost the studio a lot of money.

There are quite a few examples of this sort of movie, even the Beatles had a go at one point. Some of the more obscure movies have only recently been released on the “manufacture on demand” catalogues from studios such as the Warner Archive.
The songs were really good in this and it was a pity the album that was released at the same time as the movie did not do too well either.

Even before I watched the movie people were telling me their favourite scenes, so it has a big impact on the people who get to see it.

While I don’t know if I like the same things other people like about it, I do like certain things and not others such as the execution of the Viet Cong prisoner being used as a punchline several times. It was obnoxious to even consider. It does feel like a lot of things were either included in the movie by someone deliberately trying to sabotage it or trying to see what they could get away with.

Some films to watch if you liked this movie (courtesy of the Gentlemen’s Guide to Midnite Cinema Facebook group and my own research)
The Phynx
I Love You, Alice B. Tolkas
The Groove Tube
The Pink Angels
Everything You Know Is Wrong
Kentucky Fried Movie
Amazon Women on the Moon
The Holy Mountain
The Magic Christian
Hollywood Boulevard

MIFF 2015 – Talking Pictures – In Conversation with Joshua Oppenheimer

Interviewed by John Safran
Special guest Adi via Skype
Wheeler Centre, Sunday 9th August 2015
This is a dump of all the notes I made during the session. Some of the questions and responses were in Indonesian so I was not able to transcribe everything. There was a recording made by the Wheeler Centre.

Q – What is your artist background?
A – Joshua’s sister was a painter. Two of his artistic idols originally had the surname Oppenheimer.
He studied Physics and Cosmology at University originally.

Q – Why are you interested in genocide?
A – The Oppenheimer family escaped the Holocaust but the extended family was lost. The aim of politics is to prevent genocide.
Crimes against humanity effect all of us.
The situation in Indonesia was like wandering into Germany 40 years later and finding the Nazis still in power and the rest of the world had supported the Holocaust.
You have to be able to emphasise with people or you will do horrible things.
There was a suppression of talking about politics in Indonesia during the military dictatorship.
His views of politics were given to him by his parents. Joshua got into trouble at school for refusing to take off a “Question Authority” badge that he got in-lieu of money from a Socialist tooth fairy and which stabbed him when he reached under the pillow.

Q – When did he first go to Indonesia
A – First went in 2001.
His mentor is Dusan Makavejev known for Mysteries of the Organism, Sweet Movie and the Coca Cola Kid.
He is a followed of Cinéma vérité developed by Jean Rouch but does not agree you can truly be a “fly on the wall” as being there changes things.
This style lets people play out their fantasy.
It was originally developed when films were recorded without sound and then dubbed later and people made up their own soundtrack including commenting on their performance as part of the film.
The first film he wanted to work on was about a group of farmers trying to form their own union after a long period of repression. He had selected a place in Northern India that had been under martial law, Colombia and Indonesia and ended up in the latter.
There was a Belgian multinational that ran palm oil plantation and was letting the workers spray dangerous pesticides without protective equipment, leading to many deaths.
The company ended up hiring the Pancasila Youth to threaten the workers and they dropped their demands.
The film the Globalisation Tapes was still finished.
The workers asked Joshua to make a film about the killings.
He started working on the film in 2003.
He found that he did not need to ask neutral questions as an “in”, people were very open about talking about the killings.
The perpetrators were boasting as they acted with impunity and had never been punished.
He found that it was more of a performance than a remembrance.
He agreed to film the re-enactments but also told the participants he would film them talking about them and how they thought they would be portrayed.
Anwar Congo became the central figure of the first film as in his city the death squads were recruited from the local gangsters.
The re-enactments of the killings were based on the films they liked.
Recursive process of shooting and reshooting scenes.
More surrealistic as it goes along.
The scenes became a mirror where Anwar confronts his guilt.

Q – Was it a case of give people enough rope and they hang themselves?
A – Due to the impunity in which they acted the killers felt they were not responsible.
The perpetrators were never removed from power
The history they wrote still supports them.
If you belong to a group doing bad you try and spin it into something positive.
There was a boasting of the worst details.

Q – Islam was mentioned in the second movie, not mentioned in the first.
A – The survivors have more confident religious views.
The victims’ families were religious.
The perpetrators at the time were not religious and would mock religion.
They hid behind religion afterwards and used it as an excuse to justify the killings.
It was part of the national lie and propaganda.
There was a stigma relating to political discussion.

Q – Are there still threats being made?
A – Joshua still gets threats from the henchmen from people discussed in the first movie.
Adi has not gotten any threats.
The current Vice President of Indonesia was in the Act of Killing.
There can be a human rights court set up in Indonesia but it has not been done.
The military still enjoys immunity from prosecution.
The death threats are always the same, the most dangerous threats are from Americans who refuse to emphasise with the killers and call them “monsters”.
Palm oil production involved atrocities.
Our clothes and electronics were produced in sweatshops.
If these people are monster then they are “our monsters”.

Q – Are you surprised how literal the critics are?
A – There may be monsters amongst us, but they are too few to worry about. You have to worry about the so-called “normal” people.
The men involved did not have a platform to promote their views, they merely made scenes for the film maker.
You would not ask Nazis in hiding to tell their stories, but the men involved in these films were regarded as heroes.
The aim is to build a society with the widest possible empathy.

Adi speaks via Skype:
Q – Why did you want to get involved in the project?
A – He had always wanted to make a film to try and expose the lies about the killings but could not do it himself.
He was surprised to meet Josh and seized the opportunity to get him to make a film about the killings.
Adi apologised for using Josh to make the film that he wanted to make himself.
Q – How are you parents?
A – His father died in 2012 and his mother is unwell at present. She talks with Joshua via Skype and is very sharp one example
Joshua – “Isn’t this amazing I am talking to you over the computer?”
Adi’s Mum – “It’s called technology it’s not that amazing”

Q – How are relations between Adi and people in the film?
A – Some months before the film came out the family relocated to another part of Indonesia and has not returned.

Q – How have your feelings changed after making the film?
A – He now feels much better, as if a burden has been lifted.
Before the films were released it was taboo to talk about the killings.
Things are more open now.
People are no longer silenced and can speak.

Back to Joshua Oppenheimer.
Q – (from a person who was working in Indonesia when the first film came out) Did the justice minister try to prevent screening of the film?
A- The film was never banned, but they did try to prevent the release so it was screened in secret at first. There were thousands of screenings.
Q – Was there a positive media reaction to the first film?
A – The editor of Tempo magazine decided to support the film and sent 60 journalists out into various areas of Indonesia and over two weeks they gathered 1000 pages of testimony from the killers about their actions. These were printed in special edition of the magazine with 25 pages on the film and 75 pages of testimony.
After this the rest of the media opened up.
The second film was distributed by two government organisations in Indonesia.
3000 people turned up to the first screening to a theatre that only held 1500 so they had to do two screenings. Adi was a surprise guest and got a 15 minute standing ovation at both screenings.
The film opened on “National Heroes Day” and was trending on twitter since Indonesia has the highest amount of Twitter users in the world.
There have since been thousands of screenings of the second film.

Q – Was Anwar Congo aware of how he was being depicted in the first film?
A – Anwar was happy to have someone to talk to and Joshua did not denounce him.
Anwar was the one initiating the conversation.
There was one time when Anwar was stabbing a teddy bear and Joshua started crying, Anwar wanted to stop filming, but Joshua did not.
Joshua was always open with Anwar.
There were situations where he could not be open due to safety.
Anwar did not have editorial control of the film, but he did see the final product and said “this is what it is like to be me”
Joshua is still in touch with Anwar although not as much as he used to and he feels it is a highlight of his life to have worked with him.
John Safran recommended the documentary “The Emperor’s naked army marches on” for further study.
Joshua has seen that movie but does not agree with beating up people on camera, he likes to create “safe spaces” when filming.

MIFF 2015 – The Look of Silence (2014) with Q & A

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer

In this companion documentary to the Act of Killing, Adi, whose brother was killed in the Communist purges in Indonesia during 1965 confronts the killers responsible for his brother’s death in an effort to get them to apologise or at least admit their guilt.

How Adi manages to keep it together in the face of such shocking admissions from the killers is nothing short of extraordinary and he is also threatened at times as his questions are seen as too deep and probing.
I would recommend watching this if you have seen the Act of Killing or even if you have not but be warned there are some brutal descriptions of the killings by the people who carried them out and the behaviour of some of the killers is even worse.

From the Q&A Joshua Oppenheimer said they started filming with Adi and the survivors first, but after three weeks the army threatened them and they had to shut down.
It was the survivors who suggested that they film with the perpetrators of the killings as they were open to talking about it.

As it turned out this was a good idea as the perpetrators boasted of the killings and after filming interviews with 40 people, Anwar Congo was the 41st person filmed and turned out to be the main protagonist of the first film.
Joshua thinks that the boasting and guilt are related and the killers are putting on a performance when they describe the killings as they do not merely recount what happened.

Adi watched all the footage that Joshua sent him over the seven years while making the first movie.

Joshua gave Adi a camcorder to record a video diary, one thing that Adi filmed ended up in the Look of Silence.

It was decided by Joshua to make two movies way back in 2004, one with the perpetrators and the other with the victims.

It was Adi’s idea to meet his brother’s killers, Joshua was against it as he did not think it would be safe.

Adi said he wanted to do it as he did not want his children to live in a “prison of fear” as his parents had done. The footage he shot that appears in the movie shows the day his father was too far gone to be able to conquer his fears as his mind was gone.

The film was shot in the months before the Act of Killing premiered in 2012. While the first movie covers Indonesia-wide killings, the second movie focusses on one village in Northern Sumatra.
Joshua did not think they would get to finish filming after the first film came out and he was waiting for them to be shut down.

Q – What happened to Adi?

A – The Act of Killing led to a change of attitudes in Indonesia so the killings are now regarded as a genocide and not covered up. Although Joshua cannot return to Indonesia, Adi and his family remained but moved to another part of the country. He has since opened an Optometrist and there are people monitoring his safety. He has not received any death threats but Joshua continues to.

There is still too much corruption in Indonesia and it is a democracy in name only according to Joshua Oppenheimer.

Q – Is there a truth and reconciliation commission? What is the role of other countries?
A – The International Criminal Court (ICC) cannot try the cases as they happened before it was set up.
There could be a special tribunal set up by the UN Security Council but several countries that supported Indonesia in the killings have veto power and would not agree to it.
A senator saw the film and is moving a resolution to get the files in the USA involving the support of Indonesia at the time declassified. There is a petition to support this resolution.
Major corporations used slave labour from people detained around the time of the killings.
The USA provided the radios used to organise the killings and a list of names.

Q – What about West Papua and the involvement of corporations?
A – The film takes place in Northern Sumatra. There was no need for other massacres in other parts of the country as people were scared into silence. Atrocities are still being committed by the militias and supported by the Army.