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.
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:-
While we wait and see if another theatre comes our way, we continue to take the cinema to the people and the great outdoors through our outdoor cinema co. Blow Up Cinema. This summer’s just too good to be stuck in a cinema anyway!
Working with local councils bringing free, family films to Melbourne parks, bringing a cinema to the middle of a city square (QV Melb) or creating a lovely outdoor cinema/market in Balnarring; here’s a taste of what we’re putting on over the summer months.
A SUMMER OF BLOW UP CINEMA
We launched Stringybark Cinema last Saturday to a sold-out screening of Back To The Future and we continue with other classics such as Stand By Me (this Sunday), The Blues Brothers, Muriel’s Wedding and more, all set amongst the majestic stringybark gums at Emu Plains Reserve, Balnarring.
With the gates opening at 6.30pm, come early and reserve a deck chair, grab something to eat from a variety of food trucks, have a drink of some penninsula favourites and enjoy some live music as you wait for the light to drop and the film to start.
Working with the good folks at Maribyrnong, Moreland and Darebin councils, we have been hired to run a series of free, family films over the summer in various parks within their municipalities and most of these screenings are solar powered.
Showing films on our huge 6m inflatable screen such as Back To The Future, Elf, Shaun The Sheep, Paper Planes and The Sapphires, check our website,www.blowupcinema.com for more info.
MUSIC FILMS AT QV
We’ve been employed by QV to run and curate a summer of films within their grassy space in the heart of the CBD. Running four days a week from Dec-March, one of the highlights is a weekend celebrating some cracking music films starting on Thurs, FEB 4th with AMY, then onto Searching For Sugarman, Love & Mercy and the electrifying, WHIPLASH. Tickets and more info here.
LABYRINTH AT QV
In somewhat of a sad but appropriate coincidence, we had already programmed the family fantasy film starring David Bowie as the Goblin King to feature amongst this weekends’ films at QV. Sunday night’s film is just another example of Bowie’s unbridled creative talents. Tickets here.
Going forward and in the interests of keeping it simple, I am going to combine the mailing lists of the three film events I have been running for the last six years (George Revival Cinema, Red Hot Shorts & Blow Up Cinema) into one mailing list – that of Blow Up Cinema. It will of course all be Melbourne film related. I’ll keep the George mailing list quiet unless I find that illusive cinema that needs reviving. If you ever need to unsubscribe, you can do so instantly below. All the best for 2016! Gus
Acclaimed documentary about the life & music of Elliott Smith to screen one night only – November
HEAVEN ADORES YOU
ACCLAIMED DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE LIFE & MUSIC OF
ELLIOTT SMITH TO SCREEN ONE NIGHT ONLY – NOVEMBER
“Smith’s life was a trail of tapes, and following it in Heaven Adores You is the film’s greatest joy.” – Pitchfork
“Heaven Adores You is a beautiful experience, start-to-finish – just as Elliott’s life was.” – Huffington Post
A revered folk-punk hero, whose remarkable gift for melodies belied the darkness of his lyrics. A decisive songwriter whose work influences musicians to this day. US singer/songwriter Elliott Smith (1969-2003) died tragically aged just 34, but his legacy lives on – and now Australian fans have the chance to celebrate his life with exclusive, one-night-only screenings of acclaimed documentary Heaven Adores You.
Directed by Nickolas Rossi, produced by Jeremiah Gurzi, Kevin Moyer and Marc Smolowitz and brought to Australia by Mushroom Pictures, Heaven Adores You is the first comprehensive film about the prolific musician. Heaven Adores You features over 30 interviews with Smith’s closest friends and collaborators, creating an intimate and personal history never seen before. It’s also the first film to be allowed to use Smith’s catalogue – including 20 previously unreleased pieces of music.
Mourned by many of the world’s best songwriters (his fans and friends included Beck, Cat Power, Death Cab For Cutie, Lou Barlow, Eels, Conor Oberst, Beth Orton, Moby, Rilo Kiley, Grandaddy and more), the ex-Heatmiser guitarist first made his solo name with 1994’s intimate, acoustic debut Roman Candle, released via Kill Rock Stars. Living in Portland, Smith quickly rose to mainstream prominence when his song ‘Miss Misery’ – included in the soundtrack for the film Good Will Hunting (1997) – was nominated for Best Original Song at the 1998 Oscars.
Smith’s body of work – including albums Elliott Smith, Either/Or, XO, Figure 8 – quickly set a benchmark, tracks like ‘Waltz #2 (ZO)’, ‘Baby Britain’, ‘Needle In The Hay’, ‘Son Of Sam’ and many more showing his lush pop-craft and morbid depths.
Smith struggled with depression and drug use throughout his career, eventually committing suicide in Los Angeles from two stab wounds to the chest. The film focuses on Elliott’s life and music.
Heaven Adores You premiered in May 2014 at the San Francisco International Film Festival and has gone on to screen at 35+ film festivals on four continents, including AFI Docs, DOC NYC, Melbourne International Film Festival, International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, CPH: Dox, among others. This is the first time it has been screened outside of a film festival in Australia.
“This has been a labour of love from the very first day we started working on this film, says producer Marc Smolowitz. “It brings us so much joy to see that Elliott’s life and music will be shown around the world.”
Wine and cheese, George and Amal Clooney, documentary films and quality journalism: some things were just meant to go together. This year, Antenna was pleased to partner with Schwartz Media, publishers of The Saturday Paper and theMonthly, and our discerning audiences have a lot in common!
Thanks to Schwartz Media, we have a fantastic opportunity for readers of the Antenna E-newsletter to sign up for regular quality journalism and also support the future of the Antenna Documentary Film Festival. If you subscribe to The Saturday Paper before 26th November, 2015, using the promo code giveAFF, The Saturday Paper will donate 20% of every subscription to Antenna Documentary Film Festival.
You can brush up on your Australian politics, current affairs and culture over your Saturday morning coffee, while feeling the warm and fuzzies knowing that you’re also helping Australia’s premier documentary film festival to continue to bring you the best global documentary stories – sounds like a deal to us!
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