Friday, August 05, 2005


Partially as a result of having the flu for the first week and a half of the festival, and partially as a side effect of having purchased a festival passport for the first time in several years (whereby you book for 75 films, wake up hungover at 10am on a Sunday morning and say to yourself "Hmm, I might pass on the 3-hour subtitled epic at 11am until my brain stops bleeding" and consequently only see a third of the total number of films you'd actually planned to watch), I've only seen about 20 films at the Melbourne International Film Festival this year, and shock! horror! there's only two days left to go.

Bear in mind that 20 films over 18 days is actually not bad going. It certainly provokes the occasional gasp of disbelief in people for whom seeing 20 films in a year is a lot. That said, between 2002-2004, thanks to the fortnightly film reviewing segment I was then presenting on 3RRR on the lovely Nina-Marie Petrik's show Mercury Rising, I saw about 120 new release films a year, not including preview tapes/DVD's. Sadly that's dropped significantly this year, but on the other hand I've seen heaps more exhibitions and really amazing theatre...

I'm getting distracted. MIFF update part two. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly...

Dead Meat (Ireland, dir Conor McMahon, 2003) was billed as the first ever Irish zombie film, and featured the premise that the undead plague was caused by a mutation of Mad Cow Disease rather than any supernatural means (akin to 28 Days Later in its contemporary rationale of a deadly pandemic). While the film successfully made cows seem menacing, it lacked bite - certainly there was little new on display save for a zombie cow that smashed through a car window and dragged one of the passengers screaming out into the night, although a morbid vein of humour gave me a bit to laugh at. Frustratingly the final reel of the film had gone missing in transit, and the screening ended abruptly, with no resolution. I'm off to see it again tonight, as apparently the final reel has turned up. Hopefully the ending will be worth the wait!

Screaming Masterpiece aka Gargandi Snilld (Iceland, dir Ari Alexander Ergis Magnusson, 2005) was highly enjoyable doco about the Icelandic music scene, and featured the usual suspects (Bjork, Sigur Ros) as well as less-popular outfits (Mum, Amina, Bang Gang). While it lacked depth and critical voices and opinions, and didn't really answer the question of 'Why the hell is an island nation of 300,000 people so damn obsessed with music?' it did present interviews and live performances by a range of bands, from hip-hop and metal to the glorious, cinematic post-rock of Sigur Ros. Despite its flaws I really enjoyed this film, but that's obviously because I'm a huge fan of many of the bands it featured.

Punk: Attiude (UK, dir Don Letts, 2005) conversely was a disappointment, although once again I love many of the bands who appeared in its scenes. Dierctor Letts was on hand as the first wave of punk swelled and broke in the UK, and I had hoped for a personal and intimate examination of the likes of The Clash and The Sex Pistols. Instead we got a detailed but hardly original or inspired, very straight-forward history of piunk, from the 50's and 60's through to the 90's. Some good bands, some great songs, and some badly-aged icons, but nothing especially memorable, unique or exciting.

Born Dead (Poland, dir Jacek Blawut , 2004) was one of those wonderful film discoveries that is part of the joys of attending a festival. It screened with an American film called Juvies about the USA's juvenile justice system, which was the film I actually went along to see. Born Dead totally blew it out of the water. It was a moving and intimate portrayal of 23-year old Robert Jurczyga, a young man who has been incarerated since he was 15 and soon to be up for parol. To aid his potential transition into the outside world, Robert took part in a program that saw him working as a carer for children and teens with sever intellectual disabilities. We gradually saw this tough, angry man opening up to the young people he was caring for, and in the process revisted the essence of humanity: tenderness, compassion and love for our fellows. Without needing to preach, or use laboured voiceovers, this film touched my heart.

Much more to come, but it's time to saunter back into the festival and catch the second half - and the end! of Dead Meat.

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