Mountain,  is a documentary directed by Jennifer Peedom that uses high-altitude photography to bring to life the salient themes of Robert Macfarlane’s Mountains of the Mind (Granta Books, 2008), which I had just finished reading (thank you, Chester!).  The images are selected to fit a magnificent soundtrack, including Vivaldi, Beethoven and many others, played by the Australian Chamber Orchestra directed by Richard Tognetti.  Macfarlane’s book traces the origins of our (quite recent) obsession with mountains and the attractions they offer to those willing to risk oblivion for an encounter with the sublime.  Mountains represent Deep Time (‘They watched us arrive and will watch us leave’) and the film is fully seized of their alien power, their imperturbable such-ness.

Alongside its images of awe-inspiring splendour, Mountain offers a series of breath-taking and potentially bone-crushing descents (on skis, bicycles, parachutes, hang gliders, bungee cords…) that are shot from helmet-cams and other close-up technologies in a way that will have you gripping the arms of your no-longer-comfortable seat.  The frenzy of risk-taking is accompanied by spectacular crashes and near misses as mountains become a stage for human recklessness and (it must be said) unashamed narcissism and a kind of dogged ignorance:  the slopes of Everest are shown crowded with people and gear, so that this is no longer mountaineering, but ‘queuing’.

Macfarlane’s sparse and poetic commentary is read by William Dafoe to create a perfect consort, dancing together, of music, imagery, voice and text. 

Let The Sunshine In

Let The Sunshine In, is a French romcom starring Juliette Binoche.  The film develops themes around the possibility of a relationship that satisfies ‘on all levels’ (sur tous les plans).  The only character that has succeeded here isn’t talking about it, whereas everyone else is busy analysing, advising and verbalising.  At one stage Isabelle embraces her potential new lover and blurts out: ‘Thank God we’ve stopped talking!’. That elusive object of desire is always on a receding horizon that seems even more inaccessible for those on the other side of fifty. Isabelle’s quest for inter-personal happiness provides witty insights into post-modern courtship rituals, the ambiguities of language, the counter-assertions of silence and hesitation and the constant need to interrogate (and be interrogated about) one’s feelings.  

Juliette Binoche, now in her fifties and as beautiful as ever, brings a wide range of emotions to the role as she moves from one lover to the next and becomes increasingly disenchanted. When she finds a moment of fulfilment with a man outside her class, her friends ensure that the affair will be short-lived, doomed by the words of others (‘Do you see his friends? Has he met your friends?’). Isabelle finally seeks advice from a rascally charlatan, played beautifully in a cameo by Gerard de Pas-de-Deux, as the Americans call him.  His ‘professional’ opinion Dangling a bob-line over photos of Isabelle’s exes!) is for her to ‘let a little sunshine in’ despite the likelihood that all present and future relationships will disappoint.  Unless, of course, she finds someone more… ‘solid and substantial’ (sub-text: like me!). The comedy is bitter-sweet, the upper-class Parisian society nicely drawn, the minor characters with just enough opacity to make them interesting.

Chasing Trane

Chasing Trane is everything you want from a music documentary and should appeal to newcomers as well as to jazz aficionados.  The legacy and influence of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Franklin and Thelonius Monk enables us to see Coltrane’s continual evolution towards the boundaries of the jazz canon as he turns from playing to composing.  The southern Baptist childhood, the struggle with heroin, his involvement in Civil Rights and the peace movement, his early death: it’s all here, with plenty of photos, footage and generous excerpts from more than fifty recordings.  The film’s rather odd coda looks at the obsession of certain Japanese people with Coltrane’s music and tries to extend this into a claim for spiritual universality, but I can’t see this idea making much of an impression in Pyongyang or anywhere else. Interviews with Santana, the drummer from The Doors, a histrionic philosopher and Bill Clinton (saxophonist of lesser note, but an insightful fan), fill out the movie without distracting us from the music.  What’s not to like?

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless comes highly recommended, having been awarded the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Festival, but it only elicited lukewarm applause in Melbourne. Perhaps Australians are less welcoming to the wintry bleakness of the film’s settings, not to mention the searing, hateful exchanges between Boris and Zhenya as they approach divorce and argue about which of them is best suited to look after their twelve year son, Alyosha.  Boris’s job is at stake if his employer finds out about the divorce; Zhenya hopes he will be fired as she indulges in her Brazilian wax treatment. Aloysha bursts into silent tears as he overhears his parents’ vituperations and he decides to run away. All this domestic drama takes place in a social context of lives led in quiet desperation (thank you, Thoreau) of I-phone Dreaming, selfies, bland indifference to others and public drunkenness. The police are unhelpful, too busy with murders and robberies and worried about paperwork; and social workers are a force to be feared and avoided if possible.  Boris’s new love is pregnant and fearful of abandonment, whereas Zhenya gives herself to body worship and unbridled lust, kidding herself that she has finally found true love, after acknowledging her failure to choose wisely between abortion and marriage. Meanwhile, a child is missing.

The search for Aloysha takes up more than half the movie and creates the tension one would expect in a thriller, but without the conventional dénouement.  We walk through icy forests, abandoned buildings, hospital corridors and witness a terrible scene where Boris and Zhenya scream and scratch at each other inside a filthy morgue… There is no respite, no redeeming feature, unless it is the remarkably well-equipped team of volunteers who scour the area in search of Aloysha.  Meanwhile, the television shows us the carnage in eastern Ukraine, voice-overed with the bland reassurances of the authorities. The only enlivening scene involves a splendid diatribe from Zhenya’s paranoid mother (‘Stalin in a skirt’) who rails against everything and begs God for help. The closing scenes, a few years on, show that nothing is likely to change for anyone.

Loktak Lairembee

Loktak is a lake that supports a fishing community that builds houses on floating biomass and fish from long canoes. A fully self-sustainable community that the Indian Government decided was polluting the lake their houses were destroyed. The Floating demolition rig is a monstrous looking machine boat loaded with armed military and the locals are scared and angry.

The story is told to us with an intimate look into lives of a terrified Tomba and his overworked wife Thombalsang after their home had been torched and living in a new hut on the lake. Tomba is so fearful he is frozen and his poor wife is so overworked and frustrated with his inability to function she warns of leaving him.

His mindset becomes more aggressive after he finds a hand gun in the bio mass, but his paranoia and fearful response to a late night visitor leads to tragedy. The film has no soundtrack and comes across as a reality protest documentary with a script.

LOKTAK LAIREMBEE may be slow going but is also mindful story and I am glad I am now aware of the indecency that is enforced on these people. 

Director: Haobam Paban Kumar Cast: Ningthoujam Sanatomba India, 2017
Manipuri with English subtitles

Run time: 91 minutes

LOKTAK LAIREMBEE is showing on Sunday the 20th of August at Hoyts. Forrest Hill for more info or to book your tickets click  here 

Melbourne Festival Our Top Ten

The Melbourne Festival program has just been released. Once again, for 18 days this October it will unify, divide, enchant and entice our city with some of the most colourful, bright and brilliant acts from around the world. Artistic Director Jonathan Holloway describing the selection of this years program  as having

“Searched the world for the most courageous, visionary and ambitious artists: artists who are actively taking on the biggest subjects with flair, excitement and drive. We have drawn together as many of them as possible to create a blockbuster that attempts to remind us all what humankind is capable of.”

The 2017 line up has something for everyone and TAGG will again this year be bringing our readers the very best of the festival. To kick things off, here’s our top 10 picks.



For the fifth year, Melbourne Festival opens with the celebration of the ground on which we stand and the people whose ancestors walked it before our time. Performed by the clans of the Kulin Nation, through Tanderrum we acknowledge the lore of creator spirit Bunjil and pay their respects to the vibrant and living culture of this land.

Federation Square Wednesday the 4th of October at 6.30pm.

Tom Waits’ Black Rider: The Casting Of The Magic Bullets 

It maybe hard for one to go wrong with an opera penned by Tom Waits that has on it’s bill  both Meow Meow and Paul Capsis, these two veteran performers have and continue to delight Australian Audiences. Presented by Malthouse Theatre this work continues on a bit of a trend for gothic theatre that has emerged in Melbourne and should prove to be an impactful performance.

Playing at the Malthouse Theatre from Friday the 15th of October.

All The Sex I Have Ever Had

As part of Melbourne Festival 2016, Hair Cuts By Children placed scissors in the hands of school kids and allowing them to play barber for some of the more intrepid Melbourne Festival patrons. This year the same creative team Mammalian Diving Reflex brings us something a little different. With Seniors taking the seat to talk about sex, life and longevity. Because let’s face it, we all do it and it certainly isn’t a new invention.

Playing at Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse from Thursday the 12th of October.

Bangsokol: A Requiem For Cambodia

Over two million Cambodians, were in the 1970’s, murdered. But in the face of this genocide and over the proceeding 40 years, a resilient and strong community has grown. Giving voice to a country which is still reeling from such unimaginable events. Spanning song, film, dance, voice and orchestra this is the first major symphonic work to commemorate the atrocities that played out in Cambodia

Playing at Arts Centre Melbourne Hamer Hall on Friday the 13th & Saturday the 14th of October.

Tree Of Codes

If any performance this festival  promises to deliver “Epic” it has to be this one. Having wowed audiences across the world, Tree Of Codes finally touches down in Australia premiering as part of this years Melbourne Festival. Between dance, light and structure, this is the work of three of the world most resplendent artists Wayne McGregor, Olafur Eliasson, and Jamie xx.

Playing at Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre from Tuesday the 17th of October.


Now settled into their new digs at Temperance Hall, BallatlLab under the guise of Phillip Adams, for this years festival gives us Ever. A transformative, painterly expression of vibrant minimalism and chromatic Romanticism morphing Shaker and Quaker roots and nostalgic tropes of the American West. 

Playing at Temperance Hall from Friday the 6th of October.

Ayoung Kim

Korean artist Ayoung Kim’s work is for the first time presented in Australia through dual exhibitions, Porosity Valley, Portable Holes and In This Vessel We Shall Be Kept. To walk through an exhibition by this artists akin to taking a voyage across dark and eerie waters, where real events rub shoulders with myth and memories are made mutable.

Exhibiting at Collingwood Arts Precinct, The Gym and the Royal Botanical Gardens, Mueller Hall Herbarium from Friday the 6th of October.

Under Siege 

A chance to see one of China’s most epic stories reinvented as one of this century’s most ravishing spectacles. The work of renowned Chinese choreographer and dancer Yang Liping this is her vision of the climactic battle between Chu and Han armies; an encounter that changed the course of Chinese history.

Playing at Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre from Thursday the 5th of October. 

Dark Circus

A riotous work for all ages, Dark Circus makes its Australian debut for Melbourne Festival audiences. Combining shadow puppetry, live illustration and hand drawn animation they present a scripted piece that is never the same twice. The resulting effect, is something close to “cinema without film”.

Playing at the Malthouse Theatre from the 5th of October.

Taylor Mac: A 24 Decade History Of Popular Music

From 1776 to 2016 this is a decade-by-decade account of American history and popular culture, told by the unmissable Taylor Mac. Re told from a radical, queer and unapologetic view point, these stories are often forgotten, dismissed, or buried. Part celebration, part exorcism, all party, this extravaganza will take its place as one of the most spectacular moments Melbourne has ever witnessed.

Playing at Forum Theatre and Hamer Hall Arts Centre Melbourne from Thursday the 5th of October.

With this being just the tip of the iceberg, head to the Melbourne Festival website to find out about many of other great offerings this years festival promises local audiences. 

Celebrating choirs & the joy of singing at the Melbourne Recital Centre, Sunday June 11th

Do you LOVE to hear choirs and beautiful melodious singing …WE DO!

Are you a fan of the Divine Divas of Sunbury, THECHO!R, Co-cheol and Amber Evans … WE ARE!

Would you like to be introduced to the sublime singing of Musica and Men Aloud! …YES???

Then come to our choral extravaganza at the Melbourne Recital Centre this Sunday June 11th!!!

The Melbourne International Singers Festival proudly presents our three Fantastic Festival concerts, starting from 5pm.

Our first GALA concert features the spectacular Divine Divas of Sunbury conducted by Adam Przewlocki, Musica (Queensland) conducted by Melissa Gill and Men Aloud! Conducted by Dr Jonathon Welch AM

Flow My Tears, at 6.30pm is an exquisite musical journey, with soprano Amber Evans accompanied by the incomparable Adam Przewlocki. Returning to Australia fresh from her triumphant performances and studies in the U.K. and USA, soprano Amber presents her first solo recital ‘Flow My Tears’ that takes you on an exquisite musical journey from Dowland, Mozart, Schubert, Debussy and Puccini to Strauss, Hamilton and Lehar.

Our GALA concert at 8pm, features Co-cheol, an award winning a cappella quartet with spine tingling harmonies taking you on a journey to the Celts and beyond, and THECHO!R one of Melbourne’s most exciting non-auditioned choirs, created and conducted by Dr Jonathon Welch AM.

You can buy a concert package and come to all three concerts. Individual tickets are also available. Book at

What is not to LOVE?? You will also be supporting the School of Hard Knocks, providing arts and cultural programs to the vulnerable and marginalised in our community.

Please check our website if you would like to find out more about how the School’s programs are Empowering Through the Arts.

Melbourne International Singers Festival is proud to present Fantastic Festival Concerts on Sunday June 11th

GALA Festival Concert #1

5.00pm – 6.30pm

Featuring the spectacular Divine Divas of Sunbury conducted by Adam Przewlocki, Musica (Queensland) conducted by Melissa Gill and Men Aloud! Conducted by Dr Jonathon Welch AM

GALA Festival Concert #2

8.00pm – 9.30pm

Featuring Co-cheol, award winning a cappella quartet with spine tingling harmonies taking you on a journey to the Celts and beyond, and THECHO!R one of Melbourne’s most exciting non-auditioned choirs, created and conducted by Dr Jonathon Welch AM

Tickets at

1 ticket: Standard $24.90 / Concession $21.90 / student or child $16.90
2 concert package: Standard $44.90
NB Transaction and booking fees may apply

Proceeds from the Festival support the School of Hard Knocks providing arts and cultural programs to the vulnerable and marginalised in our community. Please check our website for information about the Festival and the work of the School.

Enquiries Call 0419 337 283 or email

School of Hard Knocks

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Midsumma Festival


The first quarter of the year has slipped by so quickly.

All at Midsumma are excited to have now launched applications for our Midsumma Futures mentoring program. Help us spread the word amongst early career artists and culture-makers about this eight-month program of support.  We were also thrilled to be successful in securing a capacity building grant from the Victorian Government that will enable us to boost marketing and promotional support for the festival.

We are now hard at work putting the finishing touches on plans for our Midwinta Ball; details will be released very soon. In the meantime put a big circle around the evening of Saturday 12 August and save the date for what will be a wonderful way to celebrate with us and help raise funds towards our artist and event support initiatives for the coming year.

Wishing everyone a safe and fun Easter. See you on the other side.

CEO, Midsumma

Zoe Brinnand wins Playtime Staged Readings with ‘My Big Fat Lesbian Greek Wedding’

Zoe Brinnand wins Playtime Staged Readings with 'My Big Fat Lesbian Greek Wedding'

Gasworks Arts Park, in partnership with Midsumma, is proud to announce that Zoe Brinnand has won the Playtime Staged Readings and the opportunity to take her work to full development. Playtime Staged Readings invite developing voices in queer theatre to submit works for consideration. These are then shared with a Midsumma at Gasworks audience, with a panel of judges providing feedback. More >>

Victorian Government awards $900K in LGBTQIA+ Community Grants

Victorian Government awards $900K in LGBTQIA+ Community Grants

The Victorian Government has announced that $900,000 in community grants will go to 38 organisations and individuals working in the LGBTQIA+ community, including Midsumma Festival. More >>

Sydney Dance Company’s ORB: 17 – 20 May

Sydney Dance Company's ORB: 17 – 20 May

Be captured by Sydney Dance Company’s ORB at Arts Centre Melbourne – an extraordinary lunar mystery featuring the world premiere of Ocho by Rafael Bonachela and Full Moon by Cheng Tsung-lung, the Artistic Director of Taiwan’s phenomenal Cloud Gate 2. Email with subject ORB to enter the draw for a double pass for Thu 18 May. More >>

Fringe Festival @ Testing Grounds: EOIs open

Fringe Festival @ Testing Grounds: EOIs now open

One of Midsumma’s favourite arts venues, Testing Grounds will curate a multi-disciplinary Melbourne Fringe Festival program (14 Sep – 1 Oct) of visual art, new media art, live-art, dance and performance projects that are site-responsive, take calculated risk and are experimental in their form. There will be no venue hire fees for all selected projects. EOIs now open. More >>

Comedy Festival: YUMMY 20% discount

Directed by James Welsby (BRIEFS, Finucane and Smith), and featuring a Midsumma alumni powerhouse team of drag, circus and burlesque performers, YUMMY has become something of a phenomenon that looks set to leave its mark on Australia’s drag history. View trailer >>
Enter code midsumma when booking tickets to get adult tickets at concession prices – that’s 20% off (expires 3pm Sat 15 Apr). More >>

Move In May: Fun Run or Walk for IDAHOTIB

Move In May: Fun Run or Walk for IDAHOTIB

This large-scale community fun run/walk on Sunday 21 May is an open-minded, all inclusive event in support of IDAHOTIB that welcomes anyone who believes in equality and inclusion, regardless of their sexuality and/or gender, which will have you entertained from start to finish. Proceeds go towards Stand Up Events’ preventative programs, to be implemented into junior sporting clubs in order to eradicate sexual & gender discrimination. Register to Participate >>

Studio Welder: A Week of Free Acting Classes

Studio Welder: A Week of Free Acting Classes

The Owl & Cat Theatre and Studio Welder present a six week Beginner part-time class for actors. “Acting Essentials” has been designed for people who are new to the field of acting, or haven’t been in the game for a long time and want to break into the industry. More >>

The Queer News Shortlist

The Queer News Shortlist

Some of the best in queer ideas, writing and culture this week from around the world.

Sarah Waters: ‘The Handmaiden turns pornography into a spectacle – but it’s true to my novel’ by Claire Armitstead
“Waters’ hit novel Fingersmith, about a lesbian love affair in Victorian England, has been transported to 1930s Korea for a new film. The author explains how it remains faithful to her original.” via The Guardian

Activists are helping gay men flee from Russia’s Chechen region by OIP Staff
“Gay men in the Russian region of The Chechen Republic are fleeing as authorities reportedly round up people who are gay, or perceived to be gay.” via OUTinPerth

Tasmania moves to wipe gay sex convictions by Jess Jones
“Sex between men should never have been a crime.” via Star Observer

And finally…
Dutch protest after attack on gay couple 
“Hundreds demonstrated in Dutch cities on Saturday in a show of support for gay rights after a male couple were attacked last week while walking hand-in-hand.” via SBS

Partners of Midsumma Festival

Donate now to help keep your Midsumma alive.


IMPROVILICIOUS: The Improvised Guide to BFFs

Meet Ben and Cassie – your new best friends. After conquering the internet, high school, and history, our award-winning improvisers are back with their new impro-larious, edu-comical and help-arific guide to making and maintaining best friends forever.

These (possibly) real-life BFFs have created an improvised experience especially for tweens and teenagers about the positives and pitfalls of friendship.

At every show, Ben and Cassie bring a few new besties from the audience to join them on an epic improvised adventure. Get on stage or sit back and watch the made-up-on-the-spot merriment and madness. With audience participation and awesome improvisation, every show is unique!

“Great, honest and wholesome performance for the whole family… sure to tickle your fancy.” Weekend Note