KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Film

Lucky Dip Diving: an approach to film festivals

by Rochelle Siemienowicz , August 14, 2014Leave a comment

wetlands_poster

Earlier this year, I wrote about greed, cinephilia, and the fear of missing out – vowing to see fewer films, but to experience them more deeply. I wanted to let go of the grasping desire to watch everything and be part of every conversation. But with the Melbourne International Film Festival (31 July – 17 August) in full swing right now, such anxieties arise again, and I find myself having to take a deep breath every time the #MIFF2014 hashtag on Twitter reminds me of another spectacular, brilliant, potentially life-changing cinematic event that I happen to be missing out on while I’m cooking dinner for my son, or reviewing another stupid (but fun) Hollywood blockbuster like Guardians of the Galaxy.

I have this fantasy of one year checking into a hotel in the centre of Melbourne (ten kilometres away from my house), and seeing films from morning till midnight for the duration of Australia’s oldest and biggest film festival. Sciatica and sleep deprivation be damned, because in this fantasy I’d clock up 130-odd MIFF screenings, as some of my more fanatical film friends manage to do each year.

In reality, I generally settle for a smattering of about 15 films spread across the two weeks of the festival, many of them chosen purely because they happen to fit around my schedule. For example, sombre Chinese social realist tragedy Fantasia, directed by Wang Chao, in which a family is torn apart when the father contracts leukaemia, may not seem an appealing prospect on paper, but it was screening at the right time, and it took me somewhere new (and yes, slow and sad). Convenience also pushed me into the cinema to see Ira Sachs’ gay marriage drama, Love is Strange. It stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as an ageing New York couple who suddenly encounter homelessness when they make their relationship official. Molina plays a music teacher at a Catholic school, who loses his job when he signs the marriage certificate, despite the fact his employers had known he was gay for 30 years. A sweet, honest and funny film, its strength lies in its sensitive depiction of the ways in which the couple’s friends and relatives (especially a nervy niece, played by Marisa Tomei) struggle to deal with the elderly men sleeping in their spare rooms. I’m glad I caught the film (which will get a general release on 23 October) during a stolen Friday morning session.

That’s the thing about film festivals: they force us to take risks and challenge lazy preferences – or to explore more widely and adventurously within those preferences. Me, I’m drawn to films about love, sex and relationships – the ways they fire us up, or fumble and fail and leave us naked. During MIFF this year, I caught the strange indie marriage thriller, The One I Love, starring Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss as a couple who encounter their doppelgangers at a weekend retreat. Then there was the wry French splitting-up comedy, If You Don’t, I Will; and the fearless, funny and quite awesomely rude female coming-of-age story, Wetlands, which will surely never receive a general release in our prudish multiplexes (though it’s due for Cinema Nova release from 4 Sept).

It’s true that attending film festivals is exhausting. It’s so much easier to stay at home and watch films on DVD and download, and these days you can find almost anything you want that way. But for cinematic thrill-seekers (cultural bungee jumpers?), part of the pleasure lies in the gamble. Book a ticket, take a chance, and head out into the cold. Maybe you’ll meet like-minded adventurers and discover new worlds. Or maybe you’ll have a snooze in an uncomfortable seat next to a smelly stranger (it happens!). But while we’re talking about risks, here’s a shout-out for two of the bravest, newest and most interesting little film festivals in Australia, both poised to spring into action later this month: The 2nd Czech and Slovak Film Festival of Australia (Melb: 21 – 29 Aug and Syd: 2 – 7 Sept); and the Stranger With My Face horror film festival in Hobart (21 – 24 Aug). Now in its third year, this superb Tasmanian event is devoted to women working in horror and genre filmmaking. Now that will take you somewhere new.

Rochelle Siemienowicz is a Melbourne-based film journalist, reviewer and editor. 

ACO logo




AffirmPress_Fallen_CVR

Rochelle Siemienowicz

A Bride Stripped Bare: A writer gets naked on the path from novel to memoir

You can find my book in the nonfiction section of the bookstore. I can’t deny it. It’s even me on the cover. And it is me, talking on radio and writing in women’s magazines about open marriages, non-monogamy, and how religion can fuck up your sexuality. People are calling me ‘brave’, but I’m not sure it’s a compliment. I feel so naked. How did this happen? Read more »

9781921924835

Gerard Elson

Dissolving Into Humanity: An interview with A.S. Patrić

A.S. Patrić’s fifth book, Black Rock White City, is not your typical immigrant novel. Its married protagonists, Jovan and Suzana Brakočević, are academics from the former Yugoslavia. She is a would-be novelist, he a former poet – the couple were displaced to Melbourne at the end of the last millennium by the ravaging Bosnian war. Read more »

9781922079381

Kill Your Darlings

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their picks from April

Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month. Read more »

gbbo

Rebecca Shaw

Crumbling the Great Wall of Heteronormative Assumption

You are just there to see a doctor, or have a haircut, when all of a sudden you are reminded that you are different. You are forced to come out to strangers over and over again. You are required to either refute their assumptions and risk having an awkward or unpleasant discussion with a stranger about your personal life, or you are forced to lie. Read more »

6314976-3x2-940x627

Rebecca Shaw

Out of Alignment: Religion, politics and priorities

Throughout your (hopefully long) life, you will often be forced to prioritise one thing over another thing.
Because we make these decisions based on what we personally think is important or morally right, the things other people choose to prioritise can be confusing or upsetting to us. I find this happens regularly when bearing witness to what some religious people or religious groups choose to place importance on. Read more »

Rebecca Shaw

TERF War: Transphobia in the LGBTQI community

I started to realise that I was ‘not like other girls’ about the time I hit puberty. From that point on I underwent an extensive and daunting process to emerge from my closeted cocoon into the beautiful lesbian butterfly I am today. An important part of that development was realising – mostly via the Internet (or very occasionally through people I met in real life) – that there were people like me all over the world. Read more »

it-follows-4

Anwen Crawford

Behind You: The subtler horror of It Follows

I don’t watch many horror films. Lifelong victim of an overactive and slightly morbid imagination, I regularly envisage disasters, natural or otherwise, that might befall me, without requiring the added stimulus of cinema. Read more »

anne-dorval-and-antoine-olivier-pilon-in-xavier-dolans-mommy

Joanna Di Mattia

All About His Mother: Xavier Dolan’s fierce women

Xavier Dolan has created an exuberant body of cinema that privileges women (and others on the margins) as complex, chaotic beings. Dolan’s fierce mothers are cleaved from the pedestal that so much of cinema places them on, so that they may dig around in the dirt that is life. Read more »

every-day-2012-005_cmyk

Anwen Crawford

Being Boring: Passing time with the films of Michael Winterbottom

What does it mean to film the same performers over the course of years, to have them age in front of the camera? Everyday pays careful attention to boredom, and at moments it manages to capture a sense of time that is both elusive and profound. Read more »

TheSlap_Show

Genevieve Wood

The Slap: What’s lost when a cricket bat becomes a baseball bat?

‘A cricket bat wouldn’t make sense in an American context’, says Tony Ayres, executive producer of the US adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap. He’s right, of course – it wouldn’t. But when, in US playwright Jon Robin Baitz’s version, the eponymous slap occurs as the result of a swinging baseball bat, something’s not quite right. Read more »

empire-tv-review-fox

Anwen Crawford

Rise of an Empire

Watching Empire, I wondered why there haven’t been more television shows about record labels, the music industry being the cesspit of venality that it is. Forget TV dramas about police departments and hospital wards – a show about a record label comes with all that conflict, plus outfits, plus songs. Read more »

video-undefined-22D54AFA00000578-784_636x358

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Insufferable assholes and grown up Girls

Yes, our girls are growing, learning, discovering. But all they’re really discovering is how toxic and unheroic they are, and how to use that to their advantage. They’re not going to grow out of their asshole tendencies, because they are actually assholes. Read more »

DUKMRUTRHLU31425064919799

Katie Williams

The Currency of Games: The real world cost of in-game purchases

A new item introduced in World of Warcraft lets players purchase a month of playing time for the real-life price of $20, which they can then sell to other players in-game in exchange for virtual currency. It’s an exchange of real money for a virtual currency that has in-game value but none in the physical, ‘real’ world – and it makes me incredibly uneasy. Read more »

2011 Jesse Knish Photography

Katie Williams

Pilgrimage to San Francisco: Power and Privilege at the Game Developers Conference

Attendees talk about the annual pilgrimage to the Game Developer’s Conference with the same reverence as a child’s first trip to Disney World. It’s the Magic Kingdom for adult nerds. The weeks leading up to the conference are full of discussion about which parties to attend, and how best to make an impression on people who could be useful in furthering your game development career. Read more »

jakobson0052

Katie Williams

Storytelling vs. interactivity: What makes a highbrow game?

What makes a game ‘highbrow’? We don’t have solid criteria for deciding conclusively which games are masterpieces, and which are just dumb, explosive fun. Read more »

2909252617_1f456d0c81_b

Jane Howard

A Working-Class Mythology: Ironing boards at the theatre

In theatre, there is perhaps no prop piece more mythologised than the ironing board, which came to signify the birth of contemporary British theatre. Read more »

ForceM6609

Jane Howard

Witness and Connection at Melbourne’s Dance Massive

In a city where it feels not a day goes by without an arts festival, or three, happening, Melbourne’s Dance Massive is resolutely unique. Australia’s largest dance festival is by necessity heavily reliant on Melbourne-based companies and shows that will go on to tour independently of the festival. The festival is undeniably of, and for, the dance sector in Melbourne. Read more »

16475519129_bb489cf4ce_o

Jane Howard

Creative Space: The secret power of community theatres

Theatre is inextricably tied to space, and the best theatre spaces become more than buildings. They become communities of like-minded people: of artists and of audience members, intermingling their ideas and their lives. Read more »