Friday, May 28, 2010

Fish Tank


British film, Fish Tank, the sophomore feature film from director Andrea Arnold (Red Road), was originally scheduled to be released in Australia in March, but distributors were forced to move the films theatrical release to May 27th. For once this serious rescheduling is a positive sign. When Fish Tank won Outstanding British Film at the BAFTAS in February this year, the film’s season in British cinemas was extended and expanded, so there simply weren’t enough prints of the film to be sent to Australia.

It is always good to hear that a small budget film has been given an opportunity to reach a wider audience, and even though it has meant a delay for Australian audiences, most will agree this incredible film was worth the wait.

Set in and around an Essex Estate in South England, this film focuses on 15 year old Mia (newcomer, Katie Jarvis) and the impact her mum’s new relationship has on her. Set in the same sort of council estates as shown in the recently released
Harry Brown, instead of stereotyping the lippy and troublesome Mia as a juvenile delinquent with homicidal tendencies- the marching-song propaganda of British tabloids, Arnold shows how vulnerable the seemingly bolshy and aggressive teenagers who live in these housing project truly are.

Living with her single mum, Joanne (Kierston Wareing) and younger, more sociable sister, Tyler (a fabulous performance from newcomer, Rebecca Griffiths), Mia has been excluded from school and spends her days wandering the estate, drinking cheap booze and practicing her dance routines. Both quick-witted and quick-tempered, Mia isn’t a pleasant teenager, but then she doesn’t seem to have any adults that particularly care how she is or what she does, that is until Connor (Michael Fassbender, 300, Inglourious Basterds) turns up.

Connor, Joanne’s new boyfriend, brings a whole new dynamic into Mia’s life, he not only notices her, but he also seems interested in her, what she thinks and what she does. Connor is like no-one Mia has met before, he has a steady job and a car and he like to get out of the city into the countryside.


Arnold’s film, beautifully shot by cinematographer Robbie Ryan (Red Road, Brick Lane) is meant to be a piece of stark social realism. The tangled and increasingly complex relationship that develops between Mia and Connor is both disturbing and devastating, with a certain amount of sympathy allowed to both characters.

Mia is a unique character on film and Jarvis brings strength and fragility to her performance. While she has an excellent supporting cast, this film’s success is predominately on the back of Jarvis, who had never acted before. So the story goes Jarvis was spotted on a train station platform in Essex, by a casting agent for Arnold. Jarvis caught the agent’s eye because she was having a heated argument with her boyfriend at the time. A little bit of fate, maybe, but the end result is an amazingly powerful and immersing film. Not finely polished like a big budget film, Fish Tank’s ability to connect with audiences is reflected in the multiple awards the film, its director and its star have received.

First Published on Trespass

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Women on Top- Interviews with Film Festival Directors

I have been lucky enough to work on a few film festivals in N.S.W over the last three years; I volunteered at the Sydney Film Festival (SFF) in 2008 and 2009, I have written for the Spanish Film Festival blog for the past two years and this year I have been working on the Dungog Film Festival. As well as getting to see how much time and effort goes into making these cinematic celebrations a success, I have also been inspired by the women who run them.

Clare Stewart of the Sydney Film Festival, Natalia Ortiz of the Spanish Film Festival and Allanah Zitserman spoke to me about their roles as Film Festival Directors, their passion for films, and the female experience in the Film Industry. This was especially generous as they all took time out during the run-up to their respective festival when they are at their most busy.

The most obvious question for all three women is, how do they define their role as a film festival director?

With the biggest festival to contend with, The Sydney Film Festival is now in its 57th year, Clare has been at the controls for four years,

“The role has many faces and is incredibly varied. I guess the critical part of my job really is the selection of the films for the festival and the overarching architecture of the guest filmmakers; choosing the guest filmmakers who will come to accompany those films.”

Both Natalia and Allanah founded their own festivals with the focus on the cinema closest to their own hearts, Spanish and Australian,

Running in five cities, The Spanish Film Festival comes to the end of its 13th year at the end of May. Natalia is hands on with every part of the festival,

“I reinvent the festival every year, by that I mean every year the program has completely different things to offer. I also work with the schools in promoting the films for kids. I supervise all the design of the website, the television commercials that we have, the program, the whole image of the festival. I also supervise the coordination of the print movement with the chairman. A bit of everything really”

The youngest of the festivals, The Dungog Film Festival runs over four days in May in the picturesque Hunter Valley region. This year is the 4th year of Allanah’s festival;

“I wear a lot of hats in this particular job. It is about developing a really dynamic and diverse festival that showcases the best of Australian screen content across the board. And really my focus has always been to create something that is about bringing Australian film and content to Australian audiences.”

How did these three hard-working ladies start their love affair with the cinema?

Clare, a country girl growing up in a small town, doesn’t quite have the childhood stories about films you might expect from such a passionate cinephile.

“You read all the wonderful tales about Martin Scorsese being taken off to see Red Shoes as a four year old by his mother, I have a very very scant number of stories to tell from my early childhood and teenage years. I can remember E.T. at the Leongatha drive-in, and Hanna Barbera productions’ Charlotte’s Web at Frankston when I was four or something. But really my passion for cinema came about because I lucked into taking on Media Studies as a course. I was majoring in cinema studies and film production. It was really there and the move to Melbourne and being surrounded by the opportunity to try all sorts of cinema I hadn’t known about before. Through things like the Melbourne Cinémathèque, and the Kino cinema had just opened at that time. It was a very exciting time for me then.”

In contrast Natalia’s induction to the world of films started from an early age in Spain, as part of a long-term family love affair with the cinema.

“My mother was a film critic at the national radio in Spain and used to do all the reviews and interviews for the San Sebastian International Film Festival. My father was more of a painter, but did the billboards, back in those days they were painted by hand. They both loved cinema, arthouse cinema- so I grew up watching Pasolini and Fellini combined with Disney films. It was really exciting, obviously everyone in my family loved cinema. For me it is like the air I breathe, I really need it, it is more than just like it, it’s a real need, I suck life from cinema.”

Allanah’s commitment to Australian cinema and Australian filmmakers comes from her drive to work hard and her belief in giving everything a go;

‘I came here as a refugee, when I was three, with my family. Everyday that I’ve been here, I have a sense within me about how lucky I am, that I ended up here, and how different my life would have been, had my mum not chosen to go to the country that is the furthest away from Russia. We came with one suitcase, we lived in housing commission properties, it was pretty tough for both my family and me. My parents instilled in me a very strong work ethic and a desire to be educated, that was something that was always in me. For me it wasn’t so much about what I was going to do, I didn’t know I was going to be in film, I just knew whatever I was going to do I was going to throw myself in 150%.”

Although these women have very different backgrounds, they all seem to have found the place that suits them best in their roles as festival directors.

Before becoming the Festival Director of the Sydney Film Festival, Clare was Head of Film Programs at ACMI (Australian Centre for Moving Images);

“I started volunteering at the Melbourne Cinémathèque and really got into programming as a sort of way to just feed myself if you like. I found out that was exactly the right place for me to be, because it combined the critical thinking I like to do about films with the role of actually taking that to an audience. Where I get my real buzz, is that great moment when the lights go down and you feel the audience engaging with a film that you’ve worked really hard to get onto that screen, and it is a very very rewarding moment. So it turns out that the perfect place for me was precisely in-between criticism and filmmaking.”

Natalia worked in the Spanish film industry as an editor for a number of years, before moving half way across the world;

“When I moved to Australia I realised the Spanish film industry was misrepresented on the screens here. You could only see Carlos Saura and Pedro Almodóvar, the usual suspects kind of thing. I thought there was more to it and because of my contacts and knowledge of the industry I could do something about it. I wasn’t really thinking about a film festival, I thought more about a film society and bringing a few films and doing Q&As etc… That grew to a national film festival with 45 films this year.”

Allanah movement into films began with a successful side project whilst studying business, starting up and promoting a club night called Barberella;


“It ignited something in me, and it became clear to me I had to do something creative that included the business side of me. I kept doing events. I knew I wasn’t going to work for a corporate company, I needed to do something else. I met Stavros and I worked with him on Strange Planet. I remember the first time that he brought me to set, to the production office and I walked in and I just had this moment where I just knew this is exactly what I wanted to do. It was creative, it was exciting, it was risk-taking and it tapped into my love of clothing, my love of music, my love of hard work, my love of the business side and story telling.”

In 2007 Allanah co-founded the Dungog Film Festival, the biggest festival of Australian content in the world, with her partner Stavros Kazantzidis (with whom she co-wrote and co-produced the AFI award-winning Russian Dolls) “People always find it quite amusing that it took a Russian and a Greek to put on the first Australian festival.”

This being women’s week, I had to ask these high-profile women, who are at the top of their field, were they concerned about the lack of women in key positions behind the camera in the film industry?

Clare made a point that I had found to be very true whilst researching,

“I certainly think you see a lot of women in producing roles, in bureaucracies, you see a lot of women now in the curatorial programming side of things. But I do think it still really is a struggle for women who are directing and are in certain technical roles as well. I’m not really sure why that is the case.”

And while Allanah is very positive about the Australian Film Industry; ‘in this country we’ve got a lot of really talented women filmmakers. I think Australia is quite progression in that regard.”

It is Natalia who is most passionate about the issue,

“I think probably when people are reading your article they will be like ‘ah here we go again’ but you know there are still people who don’t want to acknowledge there is an issue for women to be treated equally. You can see it in the film industry, I think it is about 8 or 9 % of films are directed by women, and 15% of important roles in the film industry are held by women; that is directing, writing or producing. Why is that, we are as creative as males. This year a women won an Oscar for the first time in history- why is that? This is something that we need to question obviously.”

Clare, Natalia and Allanah all thrive on the shared film experience, bringing their audience, original and dynamic programs. Each of their festivals showcase the amazing diversity in film today. Their programs all reflect the breadth of female filmmaking talent too. This year the Spanish Film Festival had a special section devoted to films from female directors, called
All By Women, (some recommendations of films to look out for during the SFF and Dungog Film Festival from Clare and Allanah are at the end of this piece).

I asked Clare, Natalia and Allanah to each give me a highlight or a stand out moment from their festival careers so far and I think each answer illustrations their dedication to film and their desire to put on the best possible events for their audiences.

“After the intense effort of establishing the official competition having Hunger take out the first official competition prize [in the inaugural year, 2008] was a really terrific moment. Being able to secure the second screening in the world of a film like Steve McQueen’s Hunger for that competitive program and then having such an extraordinary film go on and win, really set the agenda, set the benchmark. A festival director would want that to happen for a competition, which was about audacious, courageous and cutting edge films. That was definitely a very significant moment.”

Natalia “Just getting [the festival] up and running every year! Because every year there is a different story, the financial crisis, the swine flu- last year we couldn’t get any films coming out of Mexico, and we’d bought out a special Luis Buñuel retrospective. This year we had the volcanic ash in Europe. Every year the biggest achievement is to look back in June and say “we’ve done it”. It is a learning curve, when I look back at the first festival with four films over a weekend and where we are today- you can imagine ever single day is huge learning in every aspect of what you do.”

Allanah “I guess just having 500 people at the Saturday night party dancing together. From the ages of 18-85, all different backgrounds and social backgrounds, all mixing and mingling and having such a wonderful time together. Last year we had Three Blind Mice, on the Saturday night and we had a line going from the cinema right up to the train station to get into the film, and we ran out of seats, so we were throwing more seats in.”

The Spanish Film Festival has finished for this year in Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide, but is still underway in Brisbane, and due to ‘popular demand’ the festival has been extended in Melbourne- click here for details.

The Dungog Film Festival runs from 27th -30th May. For programming and ticketing information click here

The Sydney Film Festival runs from the 2nd-14th June. For programming and ticketing information click here

Here are some recommendations from Clare and Allanah of some of the best of female directed films on offer at their festivals;

The Sydney Film Festival- Clare


Miranda Otto in Shirey Barrett’s South Solitary

“I’m so excited this year about how many films we have in the program that are directed by women. I couldn’t be more delighted to be opening and closing the festival with films by Shirley Barrett and Lisa Cholodenko, two very intoxicating filmmakers who have great track records and whom we have been waiting for next films from for quite some time. You look at their films, you look at Debra Granik’s Winters’ Bone, the very wonderful, compelling, stark and riveting film that won the jury prize at Sundance this year. You look at Claire McCarthy the Sydneysider’s second feature The Waiting City, which has just come leaps and bounds since her first film which we loved very much and did the world premiere in my first festival Cost Life. As well as Julie Bertucelli’s film which is screening in official competition, a French Australian co- production called The Tree and Sophie Letourneur, a young, extraordinary French director who has made a film Chicks about a bunch of Parisan students in their early twenties, who all share this apartment called the Ranch, which is a very different kind of film again. Through to someone really classic, well classic in the sense that she is a contemporary master, Claire Denis and her wonderful film White Material. I think that there are a lot of really terrific films directed by women on offer in the festival this year”

Dungog Film Festival- Allanah


Lily Bell-Tindley and John Hurt in Belinda Chayko’s Lou

“This year’s program shows how many women are working in the industry- Belinda Chayko’s Lou is the opening night film Sue Brooks’ Subdivision is the festival’s closing night film. We also have the World Premiere of Surviving Georgia by Sandra Sciberras and Kate Whitbread. We’ve got Alexandra Schepisi’s amazing short film One Night. Also this year there are Master Classes with Gillian Armstrong and Nadia Tass, as well as a panel discussion called Women in Film, done in collaboration with iTunes’ Meet the Filmmaker Panel, which features Belinda Chayko, Gillian Armstrong and Alexandra Schepisi.”

Published as part of Trespass' Women's Week

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sydney Film Festival Preview


Now in its 57th year, the Sydney Film Festival (SFF) is a 13 day celebration of the best of cinematic achievement. With a wide selection of films from around the globe- feature length, short films and documentaries, the festival has something for everyone. The Official Competition has a prize of $60,000 as well as other awards for documentaries and short films. This event isn’t just about showcasing film talent there is also a nice bit of cash and some important recognition up for grabs too.

There are thirteen films in the Official Competition, and the SFF has managed to include female filmmakers, unlike Cannes. I’m looking forward to seeing French-Australian co-production The Tree from director Julie Bertucelli and Romanian film If I want to Whistle I’ll Whistle, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Berlin film festival. I’m really intrigued by Haitian film Moloch Tropical, which is directed by the country’s ex-Minister of Culture, Raoul Peck. But perhaps the competition film I’m most looking forward to is;

Four Lions (Chris Morris, UK)


From the creator of Brass Eye, The Day Today and Nathan Barley, this film is likely to be the darkest comic film, with the most bad taste humour in the festival. Morris, who is considered close to a comic genius in the UK, except by those who find him incredibly offensive, has made a film that breaks modern comedy taboos. His debut feature film centres around four British jihadists, who want to avenge the treatment of Muslims. They just don’t seem all that good at terrorism.

Chris Morris will be attending the festival

Following on from last year’s pathways the festival has again been divided into sections, designed to help Sydney Film Festival patrons navigate their way through the 100+ films on offer, giving audiences an idea of the experience they can expect. In the Love Me section, Tilda Swinton’s star turn in Italian film I am Love, has already sold out one screening. I’m not sure if any film for pure cuteness and heart-warmingness will be able to beat the documentary Babies.

The Fire Me Up section includes Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith’s documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America, which is just one of many fascinating documentaries in this year’s program. I’m also keen to check out Australian film Strange Birds in Paradise which looks at often forgotten West Papua and Adrien Grenier’s Teenage Paparazzo, which is part of the festival’s Creative Drive pathway which also includes street artist Banksy’s genre-confusing documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop which is already completely sold out.

The Take me to the Edge section plays home to a French documentary that caused huge controversy in its home country and it is not hard to see why;

The Game of Death
(Chrisophe Nick & Thomas Bornot, France)


This film follows 80 people who signed up to a French pilot game show, which was really a cover to try the 1960s notorious Milgram experiment. In the original experiment, participants seemed to control huge watts of electricity administered to other participants. In this game show version, the documentary looks at how many people are willing to shock other contestants who get answers wrong with apparent lethal amounts of electricity. This film’s aim is to investigate the nature of reality T.V. and the level of compliance in modern society. The results of this experiment promise to be alarming.

The Take Me on a Journey category plays host to Sydneysider, Claire McCarthy’s The Waiting City and I am compelled, like a moth to the flame, to find out what Aussie comedy/horror film The Loved Ones, part of the Freak Me Out section is all about. I’m also eager to check out this British film, if only to see what Gemma Arterton is like outside a mythical epic

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (J Blakeson, UK)


This small British film about the kidnapping of rich girl Alice (Arterton), is designed to seriously mess with the audience’s minds. Described as having elements of Kubrick’s The Shining and Lynch’s Blue Velvet and while these are pretty big claims, this film has certainly been thrilling British critics. Looking at how even the best laid plans can go awry, The Disappearance of Alice Creed stars Martin Compston (Red Road, The Damned United) and Eddie Marsan (Happy-Go-Lucky, Sherlock Holmes) as the film’s kidnappers.

The Make me Laugh pathway is boosted by the presence of Jonah Hill at the festival, here to promote his film Cyrus. Directed by the Duplass Brothers, this film is a part of the Mumblecore movement.

These are just a few of the films at the festival, and with an amazing program on offer for Sydneysiders there is a lot to get excited about at this year’s festival.

First published on Trespass

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Harry Brown


There is a question which haunts you after watching Harry Brown; why do these filmmakers hate young people so much? This is a film which perpetuates a vision of British, working-class youth as hooded criminals who would stab/shoot you as soon as look at you. This is tabloid propaganda and an irresponsibly negative stereotype to attach to the youngest and poorest section of society. Harry Brown shame on you!

The film is a reworking of similar revenge movies. Labelled by its own marketing as the British Gran Torino, Harry Brown has much more in common with Charles Bronson’s Death Wish series, which was also an orgy of violence and unnecessary stereotypes. Harry Brown played by Michael Caine, is an ex-marine living out his retirement in one of England’s countless estates. He spends his days visiting his hospitalised wife and playing chess with his best friend Leonard (David Bradley, Harry Potter series) in a local pub. Brown keeps his head down, avoiding or ignoring the crime on his housing estate.

That is until Leonard is murdered and Brown, seeing the inadequacies of the police investigation, decides to hunt down the killers, vigilante style. Brown uses knives, guns and torture against a bunch of teenagers and junkies in a glorification of violence that is repugnant to watch. The suggestion that the audience should cheer on Brown’s bloody quest is truly alarming.


Harry Brown’s message is not the films only failing. As well as clearly signposting every single plot point, the film is also a waste of acting talent. Poor Emily Mortimer (Lars and the Real Girl) as D.I. Alice Frampton, the cop who wants justice and is suspicious of Brown, is so underwritten she is apparently only in the film as the token female. Sean Harris (who is amazingly good in The Red Riding Trilogy) obviously has fun as the menacing drug dealer, Stretch, doing a great impression of malevolent evil. The film wastes none of its 103 mins on character development for any roles aside from Caine’s, with the cast largely being there as fodder for Brown to kill.


Old people are scared of today’s youth. This is nothing new. Older generations have feared and disapproved of teenage behaviour for decades. The filmmakers have tuned into this paranoia and have tried to make it into a modern, contemporary problem. In actuality the imagined is far worse than the reality. Saddest of all is that Harry Brown’s filmmakers are perpetuating this negative message

First published on Trespass

The Passion of Gabriel/ La Pasión de Gabriel


Father Gabriel (Andrés Parra) isn’t a model Catholic priest. He likes a drink and has more than an eye for the ladies, but he loves his parish and is fiercely protective of his parishioners. Set in a small village in the Colombian mountains, Luis Alberto Restrepo’s second feature film The Passion of Gabriel focuses on an imperfect character determined to stand up for what he knows is right.

Father Gabriel is a progressive priest, an enthusiastic participant in all forms of community life. He plays football with the village boys and helps raise funds to rebuild the village’s rotten bridge, a vital contact to the outside world. But the village is precariously located, with FARC guerrillas living in the surrounding jungles and encircling military forces, who view the villagers as rebel collaborators. The village residents are literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Showing the excesses of both sides of Colombia’s civil war, this film is only sympathetic to those forced to live in the middle. Father Gabriel is the ultimate man stuck in the middle- he is a priest, but he is in love with the beautiful Silvia (María Cecilia Sánchez). He is viewed with suspicion by both the guerrillas and the military and he must watch as the lives of village teenagers are harmed by both sides. His attempts to help young men recruited by FARC, and his efforts to warn the village children against the seductive lure of holding a gun are met with either annoyance or concern by the villagers, afraid of disturbing the fragile peace.

The Passion of Gabriel has an inevitability to its ending from the outset, but this takes nothing away from the compelling storytelling of co-screenwriters Luis Alberto Restrepo and Diego Vasquez Moncayo. The excellent central performance of Andrés Parra really brings the film’s powerful message home. The film asks, should you stand up and be counted or move with the prevailing powers? Father Gabriel is a refreshing character in his ability to be both flawed and honourable at the same time.

First published on the Spanish Film Festival Blog 21/05/10

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Food Inc.

Warning- this film will make your next visit to the supermarket very fraught. Robert Kenner’s Academy Award nominated documentary raises questions about what we eat, and where it comes from, ultimately looking at unveiling the hidden truths of modern food production.

Narrated by activists and investigative journalists Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma) this documentary covers vast territories from the complete industrialisation of farming and genetic ownership of crops, to concerns over governance and ever increasing corporate power. This is an issue film so don’t expect objective musing. The filmmakers want their audiences to change their lifestyles and they aren’t afraid to use shock tactics.

There is always a fear with big issue films that viewers will be overwhelmed by the breadth of the problems and will, in the end, do nothing upon leaving the cinema, and in some ways Food Inc. falls into this trap by trying to cover too much. Factory farming, FDA inaction, corn monopoly, farming subsidies, health concerns, cost of healthy food, consumerism and advertising, seed ownership, genetically modified food, migrant working rights, the list goes on and while these issues all link into one another it is a lot to take in, in a short amount of time (94 mins).

It is however hard to ignore footage of chickens grown to monstrous commercial proportions, unable to stand or the factory slaughterhouses that treat both their employees and products (animals) with inhuman detachment. Very personal accounts from Barbara Kowalcyk, whose two year old son, Kevin died from E.coli poisoning after eating a contaminated hamburger and seed-cleaner Moe Parr, whose livelihood has been destroyed by Agricultural giant Monsanto’s patenting practices, are poignant individual illustrations of the larger issues.

Food Inc. does what all good documentaries should; it makes you stop and think. This film is focused on America and its food industry and while it is easy to bury our heads in the sand and think of the problem as contained there, you have to wonder with Australian’s obesity statistics if we too don’t have an unhealthy food industry.



First Published in The Brag 17/05/10

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Interview with Rupert Murray- The End of the Line

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Rupert Murray’s documentary The End of the Line, is the first feature length film to examine the devastating impact of overfishing and the catastrophic consequences which seem to have gone almost unnoticed- until now.

“I had a sense that there was something terrible happening out at sea, there were a few sporadic newspaper articles filtering through to me here in London.” It was when Murray picked up a copy of investigative journalist, Charles Clover’s book, The End of the Line, that he realised this would be the topic of his next filmoverfishing, “The book is a mine of incredible jaw-dropping detail. I read it, and I suddenly realised the problem was much much worse than I’d imagined”.

This filmmaker’s passion for his subject gave him a very real desire to make a positive difference, “Everywhere we went [for filming] I was just bowled over by one shocking fact after another. I want the audience to feel that relentless onslaught of mind-numbing details and statistics and data. In a sense I want the audience to hear as much as possible, because the more you hear, the more shocked you’ll become, the more likely you are to change the way you do things.”

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Murray and his team travelled from Alaska to Senegal, the Straits of Gibraltar to Tokyo, to show the enormity of the problem. When asked, Murray is quite blunt about the reasons why the plight of fish has been ignored for so long, “The problem is that fish are so alien to us that people find it difficult to get worked up about their demise. You look at them and you think ‘perfect food’. I find when I look at fish there is something primeval that says ‘that would be delicious on a bbq’. It is very difficult to get rid of that, I don’t know how you get rid of that, I mean the reason I made the film is because I love seafood.”

The film’s purpose isn’t to dissuade its viewers from eating fish, Murray really wants to illuminate the issue, so that we can start making informed decisions about what we eat, ‘Fish and the ocean are such a massive part of Australian culture yet how many people know how many local stock are overfished, and where the fish you actually eat comes from?”

While the film’s scientific experts predict an end of global fish stocks by 2048, ultimately there is a message of hope and individual power woven through the documentary’s narrative, with the experts stating that if fishing practices and regulations improve, the tide can be turned back before it is too late. Murray isn’t too optimistic yet- “This is a 360 degree issue, every way you look there is a massive problem; in any fishery, anywhere in the world, even the sustainable ones, even the ones doing the best practice, there are still massive issues.”

Watching The End of the Line you start to wonder why it has taken so long for this serious environmental crisis with huge food- shortage implications to be revealed, and it appears Murray feels the same way. With the voice of a man obviously frustrated by bureaucracy and weak political will, he makes it clear that you simply have to do what you can, “It would have been nice to have made this film ten years ago, when there was three quarters of the catastrophe, but unfortunately the world doesn’t work like that. It’s sad that we had to wait until it gets extremely bad before you can start really shocking people about it.”


First Published in The Brag 17/05/10

Monday, May 17, 2010

Crab Trap/ El Vuelco del Cangrejo


This year’s festival has a special section, Tribute to Colombia, showcasing the cinematic talents of this north-western South American country, whose geography gives it a mix of Latin American and vibrant Caribbean culture. Set in the isolated village of La Barra, Oscar Ruiz Navia’s debut feature film is a slow paced examination of this community through the eyes of an interloper, Daniel (Rodrigo Vélez). Seductive in its languid, simplistic style, Crap Trap lures you in, without ever letting you really get a grasp on the full story.


Daniel walks us into the seaside village, in need of a motorboat to get him out of the country. Daniel is only the second white man in La Barra, a black community. The first is El Paisa (the White Man, played by Jaime Andres Castaño), who is trying to turn the area into a beach resort. His incessantly blasting of reggaetón, through large speakers in front of his property, is slowly driving the community members mad. Daniel must wait for the fishermen, driven further and further out to sea to catch fish, to return before buying his way out on a boat. Daniel stays with Celebro (Arnobio Salazar Rivas), the informal head of the Afro-Colombian community, doing odd jobs to pay his way, saving his own money for the illusive escape vessel. Whilst waiting, Daniel is befriended by Lucia (Yisela Álvarez), a young girl desperate for him to spend some of his money at her mother’s makeshift restaurant.


With a similar visual style to Fernando Eimbcke’s Lake Tahoe (2008), Navia’s shots linger after the action/characters have moved out of frame. This technique is surprisingly affecting, with the landscape given time to exist on film in its own right. Navia’s fascination with this unique area of Colombia has obviously developed over time. He filmed a short film there previously called There Is a Brain at La Barra. Crap Trap, made using mainly non-professional actors from La Barra, is an excellent introduction to Colombian cinema for many Australians, lucky enough to catch this film at SPFF. Hidden under the surface, this clever mood piece contains vastly complex political, cultural and environmental issues.

First Published on the Spanish Film Festival Blog 14/05/10

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Love, Lust & Lies


Australian Filmmaker, Gillian Armstrong is well-known for her strong, independent female protagonists (My Brilliant Career, Oscar and Lucinda), but her interest in the female experience extends beyond her feature films. Since 1975, Armstrong has been making a documentary series, following three Adelaide women; Diana, Josie and Kerry. First meeting the friends as fearless 14 yr olds at a community centre, Armstrong has documented their lives in five films, the latest being Love, Lust & Lies. This series of films is a comprehensive insight into the lives of Australian women and is surely an important historical record.

Love, Lust & Lies rejoins the women at 47, their lives altered over the years after failed relationships, marriages, children and grandchildren. While these women have been through many changes, what has stayed the same is their honesty and the courage to tell us their feelings, experiences and mistakes without sugar-coating or vanity.


There is an amazing bond between the director and her subjects, as they have all essentially grown up together. Armstrong was in her mid-twenties when she was commissioned by the South Australian Film Corporation to make a documentary about teenage girls, looking specifically at whether they were freer and more independent than their 60s counterparts.

Mutual trust and respect has grown over the years with Armstrong returning to the women’s lives at 18 (Fourteen’s Good, Eighteen’s better), 26 (Bingo, Bridesmaids and Braces), and 32 (Not Fourteen Again) and Armstrong’s approach and delicacy has allowed the women to feel safe enough to continue the project each time a new documentary is suggested.

Love, Lust & Lies
has been developed so audiences who haven’t been initiated into the series can still watch and enjoy, with footage from earlier films leading viewers into the latest instalment. This film almost feels like it should be compulsory viewing for teenage girls, with its narratives of love, the film beautifully illustrates generational consequences and ideas of responsibility through these engaging women’s stories.

First Published on Trespass

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Love You Too


I Love You Too marks a double debut; director Daina Reid’s first foray into feature films, and comedian Peter Helliar’s first film script. This Aussie romcom has its heart in the right place but unfortunately not much else. While the film has buckets of honest emotion, without firm structure and direction I Love You Too is an enjoyable but not successful look at modern relationships.

Jim (Brendan Cowell) is a man stuck in boyish ways, unable to make a commitment to his long-suffering English girlfriend, Alice (Yvonne Strahovski). When he fails to tell Alice that he loves her on a special night out, she decides to return home. In an odd twist of events Jim meets Charlie (Peter Dinklage), a man who is able to express his emotions beautifully in letters. With Charlie’s help can Jim win Alice back?

There are plenty of notable Aussie faces in this film, with Peter Helliar, Bridie Carter, Megan Gale and Steve Bisley all having supporting roles; there are also a few interesting cameos to look out for, but unfortunately for Australian Cinema it is American actor, Peter Dinklage who steals the show. He is fantastic as the droll and insightful Charlie. Whilst plenty of jokes in the film are directed towards his dwarfism, this is done in a charming enough way that his role doesn’t seem tokenistic and his character is by far the most intriguing and developed, so much so that you almost wish the film could have just focused on him.

I Love You Too suffers from both over explanation and underdevelopment, while Jim’s problems and past are laboured, Alice is a complete mystery; why did she put up with Jim for so long?, what sort of personality does she have?, why is her English accent so strange?

For a comedy there are few laugh-out-loud moments, but I Love You Too gives its audience plenty to smile at. This film shows the promise of the writer and director and is a happy reminder that Australian films don’t all have to all be bleak dramas or crime films.



First published in The Brag 10/05/10

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Blank Canvas


Sydneysiders may remember the tragic death of dancer/choreographer, Tanja Liedtke in August 2007. German-born Liedtke was due to start as the Artistic Director of the Sydney Dance Company, when she was struck by a garbage truck whilst crossing the road. She was to take over from Graeme Murphy, who had held the role since the founding of the company in 1976. This shock loss reverberated through the dance company and the 2008 season ended up with a radical program. Three guest choreographers were each invited to create a new work starting from a blank canvas.

Spanish choreographer Rafael Bonachela was one of the three invited to Sydney, before ultimately being announced as the company’s new Artistic Director in 2009. In a fascinating and inspiring work of Australian documentary, Blank Canvas follows the Spaniard as he creates his first piece, We Unfold for the Sydney Dance Company.

Offering unprecedented access and insight into the renowned dance company, director Tim Slade and his team follow the creative process from start to finish. Bonachela begins with a beautiful piece of music from his creative collaborator, Italian composer, Ezio Bosso, Symphony No 1 ‘Oceans’ for cello and orchestra. Bonachela works with his dancers, organically discovering the movements that go with this music. Bonachela, who is a new Spanish Film Festival patron this year, is a delightful focus for the film, with his enthusiasm and tactile approach to both dance and the dancers he choreographs.

This film gives you an incredible insight into the art form of dance, not only the processes of developing a performance, but also the grace, strength and endurance of the human body. As a viewer it doesn’t matter if you are a dance novice, it is the world of Bonachela you are being taken into and even if the vocabulary of dance is new, the emotions and spectacular visions on screen transcend prerequisite dance understanding. As Bonachela says to his dancers in the film, ‘Just hold my hand and I will guide you through it”.

Using footage from rehearsals and performances as well as interviews with Bonachela, Noel Staunton (Chief Executive of the Sydney Dance Company), dancer Amy Hollingsworth (Bonachela’s second in command) and the other guest choreographers; this documentary shows the highs and lows for the dancers and the drive they all feel to be working at their best.

First published on the Spanish Film Festival Blog 08/05/10

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Milk of Sorrow

All by Women
is a new category introduced into the Spanish Film Festival’s program this year. This section’s aim is to showcase the work of Spanish and Latin American female directors, who have had a significant impact on world cinema. Claudia Llosa’s The Milk of Sorrow (2009) is an excellent example of why this addition to the program is so important; highlighted by the international recognition and success her Peruvian/Spanish film has received; winning the Golden Bear at Berlin (2009) and the nomination for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar (2010).

The film’s title, The Milk of Sorrow refers to the name given to the children of victims of state-sponsored violence in Peru (1980-1992). This period in Peruvian history saw intense fighting between The Shining Path, a Maoist influence group and the State, whose actions included the torture and rape of ‘suspected terrorists’, leaving a permanent stain on Peru’s history. The folk belief is that the trauma the mother suffered is transmitted to her children through breast milk. It is the impact of violence on the next generation that Llosa examines in her film, which she wrote as well as directed.

The film follows Fausta (Magaly Solier) who is a generation separated from the violence, but whose total existence has been infected by the trauma. Her mother (Bárbara Lazón) has sung her songs through her childhood about the sexual violence she endured. Labelled as one nursed on the milk of sorrow, Fausta’s constant fear (of being alone, of men and of being the victim of sexual assault) is seen by her extended family as the unavoidable conclusion to her mother’s suffering. When her mother dies Fausta, who has a beautiful singing voice, is forced to leave her safe haven and earn money to pay to transport her mother’s body to her home village.

Magaly Solier is absolutely mesmerising on screen. Discovered by Llosa for her first film, Madeinusa (2006), this actor/director combination creates magic on the screen. Llosa’s work, which combines dreamlike lyricism with social realism, is heightened by Solier’s amazing screen presence and her exquisite singing. While the subject matter of The Milk of Sorrow is at times hard-going, as you would expect from a film that is in essence a meditation on violence against women, the visual beauty brings out the charm of contemporary Peru, allowing the audience to both consider the context of the film and appreciate the stunning cinematography. The festival program has said it best - ‘An unmissible artistic highlight of the Festival.’


First published on the Spanish Film Festival Blog 03/05/10