Every now and then a hitherto unknown work, by a departed master of their craft, greets the light of day. Fortunately for all, Frank Howson in particular, we have not had to wait for Howson’s physical demise to enjoy this gem of a short film, “A Thin Life.”
After strong encouragement from MUFF Fest Director, Richard Wolstencroft, Howson and editor, Gary Robertson, fashioned 20 year old uncut negatives into this beguiling tale of isolation, paranoia and dissipation. Filmed in the moribund days of Howson’s company, Boulevard Films, “A Thin Life” is the perfect meeting place for Howson’s gift with dialogue to be enriched by Tommy Dysart’s ability to layer dialogue with deeper and deeper nuance.
Howson is a sublime wordsmith. His great strength is in never rubbing the nose of his audience in his cleverness. His words always display respect for the intelligence of others and allow for interpretation. Passive slumber will not open the fullness of Howson’s offering. Stay open to the moment portrayed on the screen and its depth will reward you.
“All the tea in Romania. All the brains in New Zealand. All the coconut ice on a lamington.” As spoken by Dysart’s forlorn character, these absurd images play with our prejudices to the point where you question if you heard it correctly.
Shot in 3 days, Tommy Dysart’s performance is truly remarkable when you understand he learned his lines on set. His delivery lives where ability and uncertainty collide.
Dysart’s character is a decayed and desiccated mess of a man. He is closed to the present and his recollections are questionable on any level you may choose. One wonders how reliable a witness he is to his own life.
“A Thin Life” hopefully will find its audience. Mainstream it won’t be. Howson demands way too much from the audience for that. No music, other than melancholy piano at the intro and outro, to help jolly the observer along. Almost no action. No interplay between characters. The only olive branch Howson provides is a glimpse of feminine beauty, both clad and naked.
A sparse set, Howson’s beautiful facility with words, and Dysart’s powerful physical and aural presence is what you are offered to go on this journey. Believe me, it’s a journey more than worth the price of its ticket.
“A Thin Life” by “Shifty Brothers Production.”
Written and directed by Frank Howson
Edited by Gary Robertson
Cast: Tommy Dysart. Connie Fortis
Incidental Music: Warren Wills. Song by Kole Dysart
Filmed: John Wheeler
“A Thin Life” opened this year’s MUFF Festival. Tommy Dysart won the award for Best Actor in a Short Film.
The film went down a hoot at the opening.
Look out for it!!!
Another work by Frank Howson, the musical chronicling the life of Bobby Darin “Dream lover” opens in Sydney October 6.
Multi talented artist Nathan Hill, one of Melbourne’s hidden gems is to shine at MUFF on closing night with his latest feature film “Revenge of the Gweilo”, in which he directed and starred in.
Nathan Hill has begun making waves even back as a student at Footscray City College Film Dept. when Nathan Hill was accredited with pioneering the diploma program of two year to instilling the advanced diploma to a four year study “They used me as the first student to help pioneer the 3rd year, for which during that time I was almost alone in my work”. Nathan Hill culminated his film studies with the production of his first feature film, ‘Tomboys’ which went on to win at festivals in L.A.
Nathan Hill takes the film industry seriously.
To date Nathan Hill has made an impressive eight feature films, many of which have won at festivals around the world, with ‘Revenge of the Gweilo’ having recently won best music score at the Prestige Awards in L.A. (composer-Gerard Mack), & Best Action Film at the 21st Indie Gathering International Film Festival USA & Official selection Action on Film in L.A. (the AOF).
Along with his passion for directing, Nathan is also an outstanding actor having featured in 15 feature films, 7 of those in lead roles, at one point went to extreme lengths of losing 15 kilos to authentically act the role of tortured character, in Nathan Hill’s first horror film, “The Tub”, nominated for an international award.
Nathan Hill as Joel Haydon in short film, “The Tub”.
With a slew of commercials currently airing for RACV, Work Safe & Healthy Break, being the face of Monsterfest’s 2016 trailer, also starring festival creator Neil Foley and actor Glenn Maynard, he is also the casting director for ‘Cult Girls’ directed by Mark Bakaitis, starring Jane Badler & Dean Kirkright, and is in post production for his latest feature film ‘Colourblind’ (co-starring Jake Ryan & Anne Gauthier). The time has come for the world to see a whole lot more of Nathan Hill with Channel 31 being a loyal supporter having aired ‘Running on Empty’ interviews with Nathan Hill three times this year and now will be raising Nathan Hill’s recognition further with showcasing 13 NHP films dating over the past 13 years, by airing one per week, on Monday nights for the last 13 weeks of the year.
Nathan Hill delivers a fly kick during filming for “Revenge of the Gweilo”.
The Melbourne Underground Film Festival will screen ‘Revenge of the Gweilo’ on closing night, 17th September, at 8pm Alex Theatre, 135 Fitzroy Street St Kilda 3182 (Richard Wolstencroft’s 17th year running), tickets available at the door and through Ticketek.
Here at Antenna we can’t help but beam with pride when we see the breadth of home-grown documentary talent, unearthing and creating stories both uniquely Australian and universally human. In 2016, Antenna presents 19 Australian documentaries in total, including four features, 14 shorts and one Virtual Reality experience.
Four Australian features are in the running for the prize for Best Australian Documentary, to be presented at closing night, and the directors will be holding Q&As after their screenings. SERVANT OR SLAVE (pictured above), directed by Steven McGregor, revisits the time of the Stolen Generation, when thousands of Aboriginal girls were taken from their families by the Australian Government and forced into servitude. The film sheds light on a still raw part of modern Australia’s history, the consequences of which are still felt today. Read on below for more info on the Australian features.
Antenna is also pleased to be presenting our Australian shorts program over two dedicated sessions on Sunday 16 October. The shorts competition showcases the best emerging and established Australian filmmaker talent, with films from some Antenna old friends as well as exciting new faces.
A powerful and moving film by Rosie Jones (THE TRIANGLE WARS, ANTENNA 2011). ‘The Family’ was a sinister apocalyptic cult active in Melbourne in the ’60s and ’70s. THE FAMILY pulls back the cover on the murky story of a still-operating sect, revealing the scars the victims carry to this day.
Australian director Jeff Daniels shadows brash and outspoken Shelley Rubin, leader of the Jewish Defense League – advocating any means necessary to prevent antisemitism. MOTHER WITH A GUN untangles her past and present to expose this unusual pathway to Jewish extremism.
Take one comic-book artist, send him on a journey following his father’s footsteps from French resistance to restaurant ownership in Melbourne, add a sprinkling of Nazis and coat liberally in mayonnaise. Artist and filmmaker Philippe Mora is producing a graphic novel about his late father, Georges, and his fascinating life.
Shorts take centre stage in two dedicated sessions on Sunday 16 October. Come and discover an eclectic mix of stories from the personal, to the quirky, to the scientific, to the global! There will be a short intermission between the sessions, buy tickets to one or both.
Discover how AFTRS’ 2017 Grad Certs and newMA Screen (11 disciplines including Documentary) are designed to nurture the next generation of visionary screen and broadcast storytellers. Wed 21 Sept, 6-8pm. Check out details on the AFTRS website.
Please join us in celebrating Aussie documentary at Antenna – and make sure to book tickets early as many films will sell out fast!
Get in quickly to see these films on the big screen.
ANTENNA PROGRAM in THE SATURDAY PAPER THIS WEEKEND!
Even in the digital age, there’s still nothing quite like perusing a printed festival program and circling the films you’re interested in with a pen. Tomorrow morning when you sit down to breakfast with your coffee and newspaper you can do exactly this, as a copy of the 2016 Antenna Documentary Film Festival program will be nestled snugly in the pages of your favourite weekend read, The Saturday Paper.
Great journalism and great documentaries make a natural pairing, which is why Schwartz Media, publishers of The Saturday Paper and the Monthly, sponsor Antenna and make the hard copy program available to you. So get your pens ready!
Antenna is partnering with The Saturday Paper to present THE AGE OF CONSEQUENCES at the festival. You might have seen a dozen climate change docs, but you certainly haven’t seen this one. Director Jared P. Scott (REQUIEM FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM, Antenna 2015) takes a new tack, no melting glaciers and species die-offs to be seen. Instead he places in the interviewee’s chair people generally positioned as a conservative policymaker’s dream – military planners, marine brigadier generals, Pentagon insiders and veterans who have served in warzones. These are the people who will be on the frontline when climate stimulated conflict hits – wars over scarce resources, mass migrations creating population tensions. Together, they build a terrifying picture of a series of global humanitarian catastrophes, and draw a direct and unassailable line between them and our voracious energy consumption.
Screens Sunday 16 October, 5:15pm at Chauvel Cinema, Paddington
Janis: Little Girl Blue is a nostalgic musical journey based on rare archive footage. It is laced with interviews with her younger siblings (Laura and Michael), but largely features members of her boy bands: firstly Big Brother and the Holding Company, and her later backing bands, Kozmic Blues Band, and the Full Tilt Boogie Band.
We follow Joplin’s upbringing in the small, conservative mining town of Port Arthur, Texas in the 1940s, leading to her student days at the University of Texas in the early 60s, and her debut in Austin’s burgeoning folksy blues college music scene.
Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015).
The images of Joplin’s involvement in the development of the San Francisco psychedelic sound during the mid-60s are a highlight of the film; while the scenes associated with her lonesome demise in Hollywood in 1970 are melancholic.
Nicknamed the Mother of the Blues, Joplin sang to her own Southern acoustic beat and inspired other female musicians, such as Sharon Jones, to combine rhythm and blues with extraordinary soul.
Miss Sharon Jones! is a medical mix tape of the 60-year-old singer’s struggle with cancer since 2013, her loyalty to her Brooklyn-based indie label, Daptone Records and life on the road with the Dap Kings, where – like Joplin – Jones was The Girl in the band.
Miss Sharon Jones!Cabin Creek Films
Jones learnt her craft as a gospel singer in church, and worked in various jobs (for example, as a prison warden), before a mid-life career break as a session backup singer for soul and funk legend, Lee Fields in 1996. Her band the Dap Kings, which formed in 2002, helped to rekindle a
renaissance in funk and soul music.
Understandably, both documentaries differ in tone. Janis, Little Girl Blue laments the loss of a great talent at age 27. Joplin’s fourth (and most famous) album, Pearl, was released three months after her death from an accidental heroin overdose. It delivered a Number 1 Billboard hit with Me and Bobby McGee.
In contrast, Miss Sharon Jones! celebrates Jones as a soul survivor, who has cancer but is using music as a remedy.
Both stress that Joplin and Jones experienced marginalisation in the music industry, not only because of their gender, but also because of their appearance.
When the plain looking, slightly overweight and acne-scarred Joplin strutted her musical talent at University of Texas, she was nominated as the “Ugliest Man on campus”.
Later Joplin was criticised by feminists for exploiting her bisexuality at a time when popular culture was grappling with “the problems of image and the representation” of women. In her brief eight year career, Whitely argues, Joplin had “the balls to succeed in the brotherhood of rock”.
Yet both films hit high emotional notes. The highlight of Miss Sharon Jones! is watching her sixth album with the Dap Kings, Give The People What They Want, be nominated for the band’s first Grammy in the Best R&B album section. Both these singers’ train-rattling, emotionally powerful voices became trademarks in an industry that prides itself on radicalism, yet silences woman from serious discussion and participation.
This article was written by Andrea Jean Baker – [Senior Lecturer in Journalism, Monash University]
The line-up includes subjects as diverse as refugee crises, an elusive endangered parrot and docu-fiction hybrids. The inimitable documentarian Werner Herzog – whose last Festival film was 2011’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams – turns his idiosyncratic gaze to the many oddities of the Internet age, with Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World. Two-time Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple has two entries in the year’s line-up: Hot Type: 150 Years of the Nation, a tour of America’s oldest continuously published weekly magazine, and Miss Sharon Jones, which charts the eponymous singer’s life and music.Weiner, about Anthony Weiner’s now-infamous 2013 New York mayoral campaign, has been hailed as “the best documentary about a political campaign ever made.” And the Festival continues to be as supportive of world-renowned non-fiction filmmakers as homegrown ones. The Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary competition again features films from ten Australian directors, covering subjects as diverse as their makers. BOOK NOW!
Screening at the 2016 Sydney Film Festival are 65 documentaries from 27 countries in 31 languages. 59 are feature-length productions, 40% are directed by women filmmakers, 14 are Australian productions or co-productions, eight are world premieres, 52 are Australian premieres – and there’s one international premiere, for good measure. In short, it’s a broad representation of all that’s on trend in the documentary filmmaking world.
BAXTER AND ME
TUE 14 JUN 8:30PM | EVENT CINEMAS GEORGE ST
In this charming documentary, award-winning Sydney director Gillian Leahy (My Life Without Steve) combines her two great passions: dogs and film.
EUROPE, SHE LOVES
SAT 11 JUN 8:50PM –
EVENT CINEMAS GEORGE ST
MON 13 JUN 6:15PM | DENDY OPERA QUAYSAn excitingly original hybrid documentary about four young couples in today’s Europe, viewed both in and out of the bedroom, by award-winning filmmaker Jan Gassman.BOOK NOW
FIRE AT SEA
FRI 17 JUN 4:25PM STATE THEATRE
SUN 19 JUN 5:15PM – EVENT CINEMAS GEORGE STWinner of the Golden Bear for Best Film at Berlinale: a striking Italian documentary exploring the tragic refugee crisis on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa.BOOK NOW
A GIRL IN THE RIVER: THE PRICE OF FORGIVENESS
SUN 12 JUN 6:30PM | DENDY OPERA QUAYSSharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s film about honour killings in Pakistan won the 2016 Oscar for Best Documentary Short, and will screen in a double bill with her 2012 Oscar winner, Saving Face.BOOK NOW
IN JACKSON HEIGHTS
SUN 12 JUN 2:00PM | DENDY OPERA QUAYS
SUN 19 JUN 6:15PM | DENDY OPERA QUAYSCelebrated documentarian Frederick Wiseman explores New York’s Jackson Heights – one of the world’s most diverse neighbourhoods – in his exquisite fly-on-the-wall style.BOOK NOW
JHERONIMUS BOSCH – TOUCHED BY THE DEVIL
SUN 12 JUN 1:00PM –
EVENT CINEMAS GEORGE ST
TUE 14 JUN 10:00AM – STATE THEATREThe fantastical and utterly unique imagery of Dutch medieval painter Jheronimus Bosch is celebrated and interrogated in this true-life whodunit from the obsessive world of art.BOOK NOW
KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE
THU 16 JUN 8:05PM –
EVENT CINEMAS GEORGE ST
SUN 19 JUN 12:05PM – DENDY OPERA QUAYSSundance award winner: a provocative interpretation of the events leading to the first televised suicide, directed by innovative US filmmaker Robert Greene (Actress).BOOK NOW
FRI 10 JUN 8:40PM DENDY NEWTOWN
SAT 11 JUN 3:50PM – EVENT CINEMAS GEORGE STThe 2016 Teddy Award winner at Berlinale: a walk through New York City’s voguing ballroom scene, led with swagger by gatekeeper Twiggy Pucci Garçon.BOOK NOW
ON RICHARD’S SIDE
WED 15 JUN 8:20PM –
EVENT CINEMAS GEORGE STFilmed over three decades, this intimate documentary charts the life-story of Richard, a young man with a complex disability since birth.BOOK NOW
LO AND BEHOLD: REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD
WED 8 JUN 6:15PM –
EVENT CINEMAS GEORGE ST
THU 9 JUN 3:55PM STATE THEATREWerner Herzog, director of such beloved classics of the non-fiction realm as Grizzly Man and Cave of Forgotten Dreams, turns his inimitable eye on the evolution of the Internet.BOOK NOW
SAT 18 JUN 4:15PM – STATE THEATRE
SUN 19 JUN 11:00AM – EVENT CINEMAS GEORGE STAn award winner at Sundance 2016, Oscar winner Roger Ross Williams’ heart-warming documentary tells the unique story of a boy with autism and his love of Disney films.BOOK NOW
MON 13 JUN 6:20PM –
EVENT CINEMAS GEORGE STA David-and-Goliath battle between the residents of the Paga Hill settlement, Port Moresby, and the developers with plans for an international five-star hotel and marina.BOOK NOW
NOTES ON BLINDNESS
SAT 18 JUN 2:05PM STATE THEATRE
SUN 19 JUN 9:30AM STATE THEATREA beautiful and precise account of the world of blindness: an innovative visual recreation of the audio diaries of writer and theologian John Hull.BOOK NOW
THU 9 JUN 6:30PM – DENDY NEWTOWN
FRI 10 JUN 6:30PM – EVENT CINEMAS GEORGE STA jaw-dropping documentary on the surprisingly sinister world of competitive endurance tickling, from New Zealand co-directors Dylan Reeve and journalist David Farrier.BOOK NOW
SAT 11 JUN 5:00PM STATE THEATRE
TUE 14 JUN 8:00PM DENDY OPERA QUAYS
SUN 19 JUN 5:45PM EVENT CINEMAS GEORGE STAbsorbing exposé of Anthony ‘sexting scandal’ Weiner’s 2013 New York mayoral campaign: winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary – 2016 Sundance Film Festival.BOOK NOW
The St Kilda Film Festival 2016 19th May to 28th May Palais Theatre
I was fortunate enough to be a part of this year’s opening night of what I believe is the 33rd year of the St Kilda Film Festival. I shared this lavish affair with a 2000+ large audience of filmmakers and devoted lovers of film all celebrating the unique talent of the Australian film industry.
The festival is presented and produced by The City of Port Phillip and is “Accredited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the St Kilda Film Festival is now an Academy Awards® qualifying event, with award-winning films from the Festival eligible for consideration in the Short Film Awards AND Documentary Short sections of the Oscars®”.
I could not think of a more spectacular venue than The Palais Theatre to present this special event, with all it’s grandeur and history it is a perfect setting to celebrate this year’s Australian top 100 short films, by filmmakers that are both emerging and accomplished industry professionals.
After many introductory speeches, including that of Festival Director Paul Harris and MP Martin Foley, both passionate and dedicated to supporting Australian talent, plus tributes to those in the industry that have passed, screenings of some wonderful historic archives, we finally, with great anticipation, were offered a select sample of a collection of some of the best works that the 2016 program has to offer.
Approximately 8 samples of some extraordinary films and documentaries were screened, each with a running time of no more than approximately 10 to 20 minutes, showcasing a range of drama, documentary and wonderful Australian humour. Always topical, always raising awareness, Australian filmmakers are translating through film important and thought provoking issues in today’s society, both in the context of Australia and all around the world.
The opening night was a splendid representation of the sensitivity, the creativity and the amazing talent that Australian film has to offer, it is exciting to watch the unique talent of our industry.
It was hard for me to pick a favourite, but if I had to chose, I would The Flower Girl, a drama about a young girl from a rural village who is sold by her parents and forced to live with strangers and sell flowers in Bangkok. It is a very real and raw depiction of the trafficking of children. Directed by Kaz Ceh and produced by Hayley Surgenor.
On a lighter note The Strudel Sisters directed and produced by Peter Hegedus and Jaina Kalifa is a lovely documentary about two elderly sisters who share the art of making Hungarian strudel. It is a warm and humorous look at a unique lifestyle, and depicts a very deep and personal story of the mother that taught her daughters everything they know.
The St Kilda Film Festival is a great and significant event that provides opportunity and support for those in the Australian film industry by highlighting some fascinating works and in turn it’s an opportunity for the public to experience Australia’s filmmaking first hand.
Last Friday, mid-afternoon I had the pleasure to interview the creators of “Sick to My Bones” in Starbucks just down from Lang Kwai Fong, the trendy up-market entertainment district of Hong Kong. And true to form, both Matthew NOMATTSLAND Leonhart, who wrote the screenplay and created the world behind the concept, and his co-director, Guy Davies, whose expertise with the technical side of film making is second to none, both were speeding at a million miles an hour between engagements to talk about their aims, concepts, development, and how they both entered into the film-making business as teenagers. Their schedule at the time, having just returned from setting up their clobber at the Third Culture Film Festival, it was time for the interview then off to take some drone footage over high-rise Hong Kong Central for use in their next movie, and then freshen up for the excitement and intense local and international press coverage for the official opening of the festival that was to take place a few hours hence.
At the award ceremony at the end of the festival their efforts were roundlyapplauded as they took out the top two coveted awards; the People’s Choice Award and the Outliers Award. The first things that one notices about this dynamic pair is the unwavering commitment and direction they employ in focusing on their work. They have this infectious youthful positivity about them that radiates in the way they discuss ideas, concepts and possibilities. One gets the feeling that no obstacle too huge or implacable could be placed in their path to hinder their progress in the slightest.
Matthew began his life, and his first 18 years, in Hong Kong to a British father and a Chinese mother. There is something special about the way these two bloodlines has fused into forming his character and personality in a blending of the Ying and Yang to produce an achiever whose glory days are still way ahead of him as he sets about building on each success with another step foward in his constant journey upwards.
Educated at the prestigious English Foundation Island School on Hong Kong Island where he first began to develop his interest in acting and multi-media, the moment he finished his final year of secondary education, the stable door burst open and he was off and flying to study acting in Los Angeles at the Californian Institute of the Arts. It was here where he first gained his love of puppetry, an element of his signature work which has featured to a high degree in his films, music videos and live theatre shows. After completing his course of study at the Institute he worked professionally in films and theatre garnering his skills and experience, and connecting with a wide range of professionals employed across the theatre and visual arts spectrum.
Later he returned for a five year spell to Hong Kong where he completed a Master’s degree in Multi-media Technology and re-entered the world of visual arts where he set about curating and creating many solo and group exhibitions, some of which were toured through the Asian region. At the end of that five year period, seeking new fresh fields, ideas and experience, he was off to London where he hit the ground running involving himself in a variety of projects in film, live theatre and acting. After some time in London he was to experience that classic Robert Frost ‘fork in the road’ dilemma that was to shape his future in a really significant way. Responding to an ad for an acting job, on the morning of the day of his interview he tossed over in his mind whether he filled the right requirements for the job, or should he just give it a miss. At the last moment he decided to take the road less travelled, and it was purely through making that choice that he came in contact with Guy Davies whose film, ‘Emily’ he was to be interviewed for. Of course he got the job and the rest is pretty much history as that was the basis of their formidable and productive relationship. Soon after , Matt was on board Zebrafish Media Productions , the company established by Guy Davies and Matt Brawley, as a storyboard artist and director. http://www.zebrafishmedia.com/
Guy, who is seven years younger than Matt, actually had a much earlier start in the film industry, beginning as a child actor at the age of 11 in a leading role in a short film, “Benjamin’s Struggle”. The film was about a German Jewish boy who came across Hiltler’s manuscript of Mein Kampf, and tells of the struggles and persecution that beset Benjamin’s life, and the poetic justice it renders in the end. The story begins in 1934 while the Nazi reign of terror is running white hot, with Guy as the young Benjamin while Andrew Sachs, well-known for the Manual character he played in the British classic comedy series Fawlty Towers, takes over the role as the adult Benjamin. After premiering at the Californian Palm Springs FF in 2005, it screened at several Oscar qualifying festivals worldwide and won the Audience Award at ‘Encounters’, UK’s leading short film and animation festival. Already bitten by life in the film industry he spent his teenage years making films and being involved in many film projects. By the age of 18 he was awarded the Brett Ratner tuition grant to study at the New York Film Academy’s Cinematography programme. After graduating from this he returned to London to continue his passion of working with cameras to gain greater experience and opportunities. By 2014 Guy had expanded his range of skills to include directing and shooting his first short film, Emily, which had its premiere in New York and was then subsequently shown on the international short film circuit.
‘Sick to My Bones’ is the first film in a trilogy of films that, while not connected by storyline, are linked thematically to cover fundamental concepts of human perception and behaviour such as the struggle between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ using allegory and uncluttered imagery to present a set of opposites, and by the end of the film arriving at a point of resolution. Set a billion years in the future when the earth, after much evolutionary change, is unrecognisably to the world we know today. In our timeframe, it was 570 million years ago that life forms that we are familiar with today began to evolve, and it wasn’t until 200,000 years ago that homo sapiens first started to take shape with the major religious beliefs that surround us today having their beginnings a mere two thousand years ago. Therefore as the film begins, much change both through war and climatic cycles, has taken place, and opens on an earth that has just cooled down enough to allow the two tribes of surviving humans to once again walk upon its surface. Prior to this one tribe had to tunnel into the land to seek relief and survive while the other had to live in the upper atmosphere to escape the earth’s heat. The earth people, as represented by the nine foot mole-like puppet with a demonic appearance, had to grow horns in order dig through the soil and rock to survive. Meanwhile the sky people, as represented by the aviator angle-like figure, developed wings to survive in their aerial domain. At the end the opposing forces are resolved and assimilated into the one state for, in essence there is both the good and bad in everyone and when that is acknowledged, the differences that divide them fade away and are taken over by the positive elements they share. Matthew’s deft hand at storytelling and with the extensive research he had put in on the world’s major religions and belief systems, and combining that with his visual arts and performance skills have all come together to a thoroughly plausible conceptual framework for the film.
The ethereal yet foreboding voiceover that underpins the tone of the film adds a new dimension to the story. If the narration was only spoken in English, perhaps that would have, to a greater or lesser degree, lessened the impact of the film to an English speaking audience. Doing it this way, the short clipped lines of English subtitles flash on the screen to make bare simple statements on the development of the action in the story. Presented in Japanese by Reina Tokura http://www.reinatokura.com/
It adds a glow of timelessness to the film that gives it the authority of a classic morality play or a children’s classic story. Added to that is the sensational panoramic landscape scenes taken in the Scottish Highlands by cinematographer Sil Williams which bring a breath-takingly stunning location to life with mountainous terrain, ancient woods, drifts of mists, floating clouds and other elemental features.
A brilliant cinematographer, Stil Williams brought amazing depth and created beautiful shots with his talent using the ARRI ALEXA camera.
Check out his reel and past work at WWW.STILWILLIAMS.COM
Another point worth mentioning that further enhances the icing on the cake is music. That was composed by Xiaotian Shi who has written music for the Royal Ballet School, London Contemporary Dance School and the Sacconi Quartet. Xiaotian was the Winner of 1st Prize in the 6th Annual International Composition for Orchestra Competition, in LA, California, his orchestral work was premiered by the Asia America Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Benoit. He was also a prizewinner of the Sibelius Student Composer of the Year competition.
He was the youngest finalist of the Transatlantyk International Film Music Competition for 2 years running, open to all composers aged up to 35. The judges were made up of A-List composers such as Jan Kaczmarek, Mark Isham and Marco Beltrami.
Over the last few years, he has been working as an assistant composer for both Series 1 and 2 of the Discovery Channel’s Emmy Award Winning “Stephen Hawking’s Universe”. Xiaotian’s music has been used by Greenpeace International and UNICEF.
Kristina Lao, a Hong-Kong born actor and singer-songwriter gives a formidable appearance as the lead actor in the film. She studied at the London School of Musical Theatre, and has worked on a number of theatre productions, commercials and short films in the UK and Hong Kong. She is currently living in Vancouver and recently signed with Principals Talent.
As well as playing the lead role in this film, Kristina co-wrote the theme song to ‘Sick To My Bones’ with her long-term co-writing partner, Elli Parish at Spotty Snail Studios. www.principalstalent.com .
CHECK OUT THE NEXT EXCITING FILM IN THE TRILOGY, “MAY YOU NEVER DIE”. YOU CAN ADD SUPPORT TO DRIVE ITS SUCCESS BY CLICKING ON THE LINKS BELOW
This is the official selection of Films for TCFF 2016, curated by TC co-founder, Faiyaz Jafri.
In its first year, there were over 1800 submissions from around the world.
The films selected were done so based solely on merit, artistic vision, creativity, originality, professionalism. Maybe one element of the film stood out, the story, the acting, the production, the direction. What we made sure of however, is that we gave all films a fighting chance, irregardless of where they were from, or what budget they had. If the film was good, it would be considered, and in this way we strive to stay true to our desire of being a genuinely independent festival.
40th HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL A RESOUNDING SUCCESS
The only thing missing was an Australian presence
Crowds flocked to the concluding ceremony held in the open air behind the Hong Kong Cultural Centre overlooking a resplendent Victoria Harbour last Sunday. They were there to see the actors and directors who won awards, parade before the public. Thrilled with the vast array of great films that were shown throughout the duration of the festival, there was one in particular that deeply touched a chord with Hongkongers in particular, along with international guests and film lovers, and has sent a wave of intense interest around the world. In a very real sense, the winner of the Best Film Award, is one which carries a great rags to riches, a David and Goliath message, that given the will and determination to achieve a goal in life, once the first step is taken along the path, great achievements and unexpected results can and do arise.
The film that won the Best Film Award, ‘10 Years’, was made on a peppercorn budget of HK$500,000. While this amount might be considered petty cash in production terms as other contenders in the field had outlaid far greater amounts to get their films into theatres to be included in the awards. Not that this should be any yardstick to judge other films by as the field contained a huge range of high quality and leading edge films from many countries in Asia and Europe. However, in ‘Ten Years’ case, it appears political pressure was brought to bear to stop major commercial cinema complexes from giving it exposure.
The film is made up of five short pieces each focusing on changes to Hong Kong society ten years into the future. There are scenes such as uniformed army cadets raiding shops accused of selling banned materials, Mandarin (Putonghua) becoming the major language taking over and displacing the native tongue, Cantonese (Guangdonghua), and an activist self-immolating in a fight for Hong Kong’s independence. All up, the content flies in the face of the way Beijing wants to exert its control over any form of dissent.
The film was released without hullabaloo in late 2015 and surprisingly became something of a box office hit earning over HK$6 million, before exhibitors felt pressured to remove it from their screens. Only a week ago, the film was shown at some 30 public venues such as public halls and even in closed-off streets for the occasion, drawing huge crowds in a rush to see it.
One of the 30 community locations for the screening of ’10 Years’ last Friday
Many reports describe teary-eyed viewers leaving screenings in droves apprehensive over Hong Kong’s future. Following the spontaneous uprising of the Umbrella Revolution that took place in the later part of 2014 and lasted for several months causing a significant impact to daily life in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok, key areas of commerce and government in Hong Kong, this film has a similar resonance with the local population because of concerns of what is happening to Hong Kong. The creeping influence of Beijing overriding the Basic Law, which was set in place to guarantee HK’s independence by the British in 1997, is becoming more evident since the new Chinese leader Xi has taken control of the CCP. The disappearance of the five Causeway Bay booksellers who published and stocked a small portion of penny-dreadfuls highlighting the sexual perversions and unreal lifestyles of the political elite, has turned into a political farce with the booksellers disappearing across borders and countries, reappearing, disappearing again, and making staged televised admissions of ‘guilt’. The clamp down and jailings of human rights lawyers on the Mainland, and the difficulty of doing business in China due to the opaque nature of its political and financial regulations, have all added to the feeling of uncertainty.
As the rapacious process of development continues to relentlessly push forward at all costs, the fear in people’s minds is creating an exodus of intellectual and arts-based culture to other countries that is taking place as a counterbalance to unbridled capitalism and development. Most of this development is fuelled by mainland cash being put into real estate as a safe haven, and a good deal of it has uncertain origins. By putting it into real estate, it is put at arm’s length from being caught up with the anti-corruption drive currently taking place in China. It follows the same pattern of the way Chinese cash is buying up property in the US, Africa, Australia and other countries. Meanwhile many locals, those that can afford it, are leaving to move abroad to find more stable lifestyles and give their children a better chance in life. While those who through limited financial resources, or are reluctant to leave because of family commitments, are left to face this ever-present fear of being subsumed into a more ordered, controlled and less equitable society.
Although it is difficult to ascertain how much pressure was applied to cinemas to stop it being shown commercially, it is certainly clear that Chinese authorities are dead against the film. Many rants have been directed towards it from on-high with a typical example being from the Chinese tabloid newspaper The Global Times who dumped on it as being a “disease of the mind.” And when it was announced as a HKFA contender, mainland Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) immediately withdrew from its normal live broadcast of the awards show. Mainland Internet giant Tencent quickly followed suit and refused to stream the ceremony on the web in China. Ten Years trailer: – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4zebygSaZE
Getting away from dystopian views of the future, a documentary by director Funahashi Atsushi added great excitement for audiences mainly due in large part to Hong Kong’s love affair with everything Japanese, from fashion, food, travel and of course the newest fads in music and culture. Director Funahashi Atsushi, whose films and documentaries include Echoes (2002), Big River (2005), Deep in the Valley (2009), Nuclear Nation (2012) and Cold Bloom (2013), has previously given visual perspective to such harrowing events as the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. In this documentary, Raise Your Arms and Twist – Documentary of NMB48, he presents a behind-the-scenes view on the life and struggles of the band members of the NMB48 Idol band and what it takes to reach the idol and goddess status of Japanese girl bands. Link to Idol group NMB48’s music: – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ig9q9UyvamQ
Reaching pop and cult status in Japan is notoriously difficult, and the way that NMB48 have managed to break through the glass ceiling largely put in place by management control and domineering recording labels calling the shots from on-high, makes this group’s ascension a noticeable exception to the general rule. Sawao Yamanaka, leader of the Pillows rock band, who many refer to as the ‘Japanese Beatles’, provides a good insight into how difficult it is to break through to the top of the musical spectrum in Japan. The Pillows started in 1989 and went on to become very successful both in Japan and with touring in Europe and the US to the point they are still releasing new material and remain at the top of the charts.
Sawao’s older brother, Hidetoshi Yamanaka, is an equally accomplished singer, songwriter and musician as Sawao, and despite being an active musician in bands before his younger brother started, Sawao had a trouble free ride to the top where he remains in the super realm today. Hidetoshi, on the other hand played in many bands, initially in the capital of Hokkaido, Sapporo, close to his home town of Otaru, then spending many years playing bars and clubs in Tokyo. He even came to spend a year in Australia on a working holiday to check out the music scene in Sydney and Melbourne. While he was in Melbourne he spent time working for me and staying with my family which gave me the chance to take him to various venues where he played his own compositions and cover songs jamming with local musicians.
His musicianship was readily acknowledged by all those he came in contact with and he went on to be influenced by such indelible Aussie bands, and their unique styles, as INXS, Hoodoo Gurus, Crowded House etc. When he returned to Japan he was able to spread these new musical sounds to Tokyo musicians and audiences. At one stage both brothers had a successful act together as the ‘Thirsty Boys’, but Sawao’s record label quickly put a stop to that so as to not have things impinge on the Pillow’s image. However, while Sawao’s trajectory was always on the rise, Hidetoshi, despite everything he did and his wealth of musical knowledge and experience, had to give it away in the end, and several years ago he returned to Otaru to live in hibernation with his elderly parents.
A similar story based around the pitfalls and hardship of making it to the top in the pop music area in Japan where bands and artists have to gain the attention of the essential record label producer without whom success becomes almost impossible, was well detailed in the 1988 movie, Tokyo Pop,
starring Carrie Hamilton (the daughter of US comedian Carol Burnett who unfortunately passed away at a young age) and Diamond Yukai (aka Yutaka Tadokoro). The movie, which covers many fantastic songs, tells the story of a girl from the US, a Japanese boy, and a briefly successful pop band. The movie contrasts American customs with Tokyo lifestyles, as it presents an evolving love story between the two main characters. Tokyo Pop was used extensively for the cultural component of my Japanese studies at RMIT between 1989-1991 as it provides a strong insight into the lifestyles of people working in the art and music fields and everyday life in general, in Tokyo and other major cities in Japan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6OUlCuciBY
At the press conference for NMB48 on Sunday 3rd April before the showing of his documentary later in the day, the director Funahashi Atsushi, was clear to point out that with every new project he undertakes, he approaches it with a completely open mind so that he doesn’t allow any preconceived ideas to cloud his vision on how things should evolve. It is with this clear perspective in mind that he set about uncovering the labyrinthal trials and tribulations these girls go through in their quest to become idols to the millions they are today. Press conference link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_BkC25tWf8
After the closing of the most successful Hong Kong International Film Festival to date that screened over 280 titles from 50 countries in 11 major cultural venues in Hong Kong reaching an audience of over 600,000, and 4,500 business executives attending the Hong Kong International Film and TV Market (FILMART), one was left with a lingering thought. With Australia being so central to the Asia Pacific countries both in South East Asia and further to the north to include China, Japan, Korea etc, and being so reliant on these countries for both exports and imports, the lack of presence from the Australian film industry came into stark contrast. There is a lot spoken about the difficulties and the poor state of support from government and corporate sources the industry faces at home, however by not competing in the HKIFF, suggests that initiative is not being used to take on new challenges to remedy this problem. As stated, the film ‘Ten Years’ which was crowned the best film of the festival was made on HK$500,000 budget. That translates to around AUD$100,000 or less. One can only hope that next year’s festival will see more Antipodean involvement.
Perhaps if Aussie filmmakers take inspiration from the national Japanese figure and quasi ‘patron saint’ of Sapporo, William S Clarke who, in the 19th century, established the first agricultural college (now Hokkaido University) in Japan, in Japan’s quest for modernisation following the Meiji period. A number of statues of him are set in prominent positons in Sapporo bearing his famous words, “Boys be ambitious!” Sawao Yamanaka heeded his advice to go on to achieve much greater things in life. Why can’t we, similarly, take that positive step to move forward and seek new markets for our films?
If you’re a culture vulture, especially of the celluloid persuasion, and you’re travelling to or through Hong Kong over the next week, be sure to check out the 40th Hong Kong International Film Festival. It finishes Monday April 4 so there’s not much time left, but there’s still some great films on offer coming from all over the world. This year there are, 369 screenings, 248 films from 66 countries and regions, 8 of which are world premieres, 4 are international premieres and 51 are Asian premieres.
HKIFF is one of the oldest film festivals in Asia whose global reputation was developed through showing Asian films and its retrospectives when Asian and Hong Kong cinema were not well known to the international community. Established by the Hong Kong Urban Council, the first HKIFF was held in the summer of 1977 with a focus on world cinema, while the second HKIFF included its pioneering Hong Kong cinema retrospective on Cantonese films of the 1950s. In 1978, the HKIFF began publishing its acclaimed bi-lingual publications that have since been a notable hallmark of the HKIFF Society.
HKIFF’s international reputation has been built on intelligent programming along with its devotion to the discovery of new areas of filmmaking in Asia and China, and its exceptional work for Hong Kong cinema, seminars and acclaimed publications which has given it a unique and sought after international focus. The HKIFF is now Hong Kong’s largest cultural event and is one of Asia’s most reputable platforms for filmmakers, film professionals and filmgoers from all over the world to launch new work and experience outstanding films. Screening over 280 titles from 50 countries in 11 major cultural venues in Hong Kong, the HKIFF reaches an audience of over 600,000 and 4,500 business executives attending the Hong Kong International Film and TV Market (FILMART).
The 40th Hong Kong International Film Festival presents “Focus on Korean Cinema”, a programme of new and classic films from one of the world’s most dynamic centres of popular and art-house films. The HKIFF also will host a seminar with South Korean filmmaker PARK Ki-yong on the challenges facing the global film industry.
The “Focus on Korean Cinema” series includes: the Asian Premiere of The Bacchus Lady (2016) by director E J-yong, about a 65-year-old woman who sells sexual favors to old men; KWON Oh-kwang’s debut feature, Collective Invention (2015), an outrageously hilarious satire on media, pop culture, corruption and corporate greed; director WOO Min-ho’s Inside Men (2015), a slick thriller about corrupt politicians, with international superstar LEE Byung-hun; and renowned filmmaker IM Kwon-taek’s classic The Surrogate Woman (1987), a story of forbidden love starring KANG Soo-yeon, who won the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival. Directors and casts of The Bacchus Lady and Collective Invention will attend the screenings.
The HKIFF has hosted a film seminar, “Training for a Global Industry”. South Korea’s Dankook University, led by the Busan International Film Festival’s co-founder KIM Dong-ho, prepares its students for the international film industry through co-productions with Japan, China and Australia. PARK Ki-yong, a leading filmmaker of the new Korean cinema, and Roger GARCIA, executive director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society, discussed the challenges for film students in a rapidly changing and increasingly globalised industry.
Check this link for more information about the titles of films being shown plus lots of information about their production, actors and more:-