Winnie Girls (Nell Butler, 2000)

Overview

My first St. Kilda Film Festival was a real eye opener. I saw 89 shorts, 82 of which I review. I was buoyed by the diversity but dismayed by a pervading lack of story and substance. I’m left with an overwhelming sense of personal journeys that are too abstract to be accessible, and characters too inconsequential to be interesting. On the other hand, I was impressed by the professional production values of many shorts. Their outstanding cinematography was a testament to some amazing talent in this country.

Animation too has matured considerably. Nearly all the animated shorts in the Festival were technically accomplished. Those that succeeded best, did so because they were funny and entertaining, or because of the strength of their story. That there is a movement away from ‘punchline’, ‘gag’ or ‘twist-motivated’ films is also a sign of an increasing maturity. Though story telling seems to be problematic in many films, there is nonetheless a trend towards making films about issues rather than just abstract experiences. For me, narrative lies at the heart of a good film and so any movement away from a formulaic twist was a positive sign. And, finally, also evident was a heartening move away from stereotyping, which is refreshing in this the Centenary of Federation. The Festival delivered Wogs, Kooris, Queers, Whites and all the wonderful types of people, in a largely untypical way.

There are some things we could do with less of, they include; trams (I know it’s Melbourne, and I love trams too, but there were rather a lot of them), pianos (so sick of single instrument scores) and above all else the atrocious and uninspiring Festival Trailer.

And there is something the Festival could do with more of: some sense of curatorial vision. Apart from the Opening Night, was there any attempt to group films to suit audiences? I don’t know, but I doubt it. Films seemed to screen at random, missing opportunities for filmmakers to reach target audiences who might be more appreciative than random audiences. Note the difference between funny films and serious drama. Audiences clap funny films as soon as the credits start to roll. They clap drama at the end of the credits. What does this mean? That audiences feel uncomfortable applauding a film that ends on a sad note perhaps.

The Festival Director told me that he could have easily included another 80 films, on top of the 160 or so already screening. I disagree. I think he could have easily excluded half the films I saw. More is not better. The large number of films guarantees the Festival’s success in terms of audience participation (given that most session audiences are cast, crew, friends and family members), but this diminishes the Festival’s very real potential to be a world leader. The hard decisions need to be taken. Less films would make for a better Festival.

Alternatively, the organisers should select 40 or so films as the true finalists and show these over the course of one weekend. These films could showcase the art of the short film and attract an audience of moviegoers rather than filmmakers. The other films could screen in weekly sessions.

As it is, in any one session, there tended to be two very good films, two average films and four ordinary films (is this coincidence?). Not a very rewarding experience for audience members who are not associated with the films or the filmmaking industry.

There were many sidebar events at the Festival, including an industry Market Day, which was well attended. I hope this aspect of the Festival continues to grow in future years.

And on a personal note, I’d hate to be judging the awards. With only one category for BEST FILM (Drama) how does one choose? It may be worth considering splitting the categories a little more to allow for more realistic comparisons of films. Inclusion of new awards for: best short under 15 mins, best short 15-30 mins, best short over 30 mins would allow for apples to be compared with apples.

– KG

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Reviews

The following is a collection of capsule reviews of films that screened in Competition Sessions
1-3, 6, 8-9, 13, 22-23

The Festival Trailer
Possibly the least inspiring trailer that I have ever seen for any film festival. That I had to sit through it 12 or 13 times should bring eternal happiness to me in my next life.

Competition Session # 1

Tickler (d. Clayton Jacobson, 2001, 16mm)
A forty-something couple are parked outside an adult shop trying to inspire courage in each other to buy a vibrator. She’s keen. He’s embarrassed. He can live with the idea as long as the vibrator doesn’t look like a penis. Clever dialogue abounds in this funny and accessible comedy. The lead actors display a wonderful sense of timing. Situational comedy limited cinematically by the action being largely restricted to the inside of a car.

Gate (d. Peter Carstairs, 2000, 16mm)
Who let the sheep out? A wry exploration of Aussie country boy larrikinism as two shearers conspire to elicit an unjustified confession from their less experienced work mate. Joel Edgerton, Brett Wood and Tony Ryan deliver measured performances ably abetted by an exceptional script. However, the film is unimaginatively photographed, consisting largely of the three characters sitting on a bench outside a farmhouse building, making it look more like theatre than film.

Joy (d. Cate Shortland, 2000, 35mm)
Joy, a rebellious teenager, is hitting the town in this pictorial essay directed by Cate Shortland. Joy drinks, shoplifts, makes out with any guy who will have her, while text is intermittently superimposed on the images. The text, mainly negative statements that reflect Joy’s parents’ views of her behaviour and appearance, provides an insight into the kind of parental value systems that alienate younger people. This is an interesting idea, but it’s also heavy handed, and the initial impact of contrary text over image is soon dissipated by its recurrence. While Joy is accomplished from a directorial point of view, it lacks the kind of narrative structure that could have complimented the theme. Basically, Joy wandering through the streets is not enough and it begins to feel a little contrived.

Like It Is (d. Chris Begley, 2001, 35mm)
Old lady brings sick bird to vet. Vet tells the old lady, the bird will have to be humanely put down and reassures her that it will be buried with full respect. After she leaves, he rips its head off and tosses it in the bin, shocking his assistant. Old Lady returns to visit bird’s grave, sparking a small moment of human kindness in the assistant, who constructs a false cemetery for the long gone bird. A metaphor for the world we live in? Perhaps. The performances are fine, though somewhat lost in stylised (good) editing, and the whole story is narrated in voiceover. The combination of this editing and voiceover doesn’t really allow us to connect on the emotional level that the filmmakers may have hoped for. Comedy, with pathos, that almost works.

The Big House (d. Rachel Ward, 2000, 35mm)
A prison story, largely concerned with a long-timer’s growing love for a younger prisoner. Mutual love grows from the sexual favours that secure the younger man’s safety, the bond of intimacy strengthened as the young man (Kick Curry) teaches the older one (Tony Martin) how to read. Curry and Martin deliver strong credible performances, while Gary Sweet, in a lesser role, really doesn’t hack it as a tough guy. Ward has made an assured film. The production values are excellent and she handles potentially difficult material sensitively, managing not to exploit the easy shock factor that comes from sex between men. Confusion towards the end .when the character played by Curry is released, the film seems to take an unnecessary twist suggesting that a new young prisoner who comes under Martin’s protection is his estranged son. I could be reading that wrong.

Playing Hard To Get (d. Tim Bullock, 2001, 16mm)
A jazz quartet competes for the attention of a beautiful woman. A funny, well executed short, with increasing dramatic tension and laughs, as each member of the quartet endeavours to get the musical and female focus on his instrument. Good timing. Nice performances. This is a well-made film, big on laughs. It builds nicely to a significant revelation.

Competition Session # 2

A Kind Of Portrait (d. Rebecca Gallagher, 2000, SP Beta)
This is billed as “a series of moments in time which reflect personal and fleeting emotions of a woman who can only see herself through visual representations of women within her surroundings”. And that description points to one of the many problems this film suffers from: pretentiousness. Twice as long as it needs to be.

Insatiable (d. Irina Goundortseva, 2000, SP Beta)
An animation that tries to fool you into thinking that you’re looking at a pulsing vulva when you’re really watching an insect on a leaf. Fortunately it’s only one minute long.

Embrace (d. Kerreen Ely-Harper, 2000, SP Beta)
People dance. Some remain disconnected while others embrace. This is not good material for a film.

The Joint Effort (d. Benjamin Doudney, 2000, SP Beta)
15 minutes of banality and atrocious acting brought to a grinding halt when halfway through the screening there was a problem with the sound. It stopped. While the film played on, now mute, someone in the row behind me turned to his companion and said, “It’s better this way.” And scarily, it was.

Prelude (d. Andrea Brookes, 2000, 16mm)
A beautifully drawn animation, relying on texture rather than colour to create motion in greyscale. Seems to be about cot-death (SIDS) or at least the fear of it. The narrative left me confused, but the experience was worth it.

About Vivien (d. Kathy Sport, 2000, 16mm)
An exceptional and stylish documentary about Walter Lee, a female impersonator who frequented Sydney’s burgeoning gay scene in the 1940’s. Marrying newsreel footage with superbly crafted recreations and authentic photographs, it succeeds by telling a very personal story. It is perhaps a measure of its success that I wanted to know more about Walter Lee. Humbling and endearing stuff. Hard to comprehend that Walter was discharged from the army suffering from “a neurosis not yet diagnosed”.

Grace (d. Damien Power, 2000, 35mm)
A lonely girl looking after the family motel while her parents are away at a funeral tends to the only guest – a stylish woman reminiscent of Grace Kelly. This is a charming polished film with excellent production values and a stellar cast. A multi-layered story, and a well-conceived script, makes for accessible characters, who cross paths in a way that is only truly meaningful towards the end of the film. Director, Damien Power demonstrates a thorough understanding of story telling.

Competition Session # 3

The Opportunists (d. Daniel King, 2000, SP Beta)
There is nothing redeeming about this film. The script calls for the subtext to be spoken, the cinematography is unhealthy, the acting is tragic.

Break-Up International (d. Adam Zwar, 2001, SP Beta)
An hilariously funny film centred on a TV show about relationship break-ups, introduced by commentators who do an exceptional job mimicking Sports journalists. Solid performances all round and a witty script. This one was a big crowd pleaser, deservedly so.

Sonata in Tea (d. Julia Bourke, 2000, SP Beta)
A very cute and very short animation bringing the artifices of tea (cakes, cutlery and crockery) to life.

Divine Impression (d. John Nguyen, 2000, SP Beta)
“A tale of two people who miss each other too much.” Yes, but it’s also a repetitively annoying film that never really gets below the surface or allows the characters to grow. Instead we get a serving of amateur psychobabble and pseudo love philosophy, built on unconvincing voiceover narratives that are as flat as a dead book. The score and the editing are its strongest points.

Boy (d. Angela Buckingham, 1999, SP Beta)
Somebody may have gotten more from this inconsequential 3-minute short, but a boy learning to catch a ball . well, it’s just not cricket.

Karma at Deerly Beach (d. James Freud, 2001, SP Beta)
A confused story, made worse by over-acting. A lawyer prides himself on negotiating a shorter sentence for an habitual paedophile only to die of a heart attack shortly afterwards. Ten years later the paedophile is released from jail and murders a child who is the reincarnation of the deceased lawyer. Good idea. Poor execution.

Brown Shoe Polish (d. Nick Black, 2001, 16mm)
A self-indulgent short written by and starring Elliot Goblet. You’ll like this if you think Elliot Goblet is funny. I don’t.

Taste (d. Lisa Dombroski, 2000, 16mm)
A woman falls for a female to male transsexual chef, but finds it hard to take the next step. Taste is very well acted with a sassy, intelligent script and confident direction. Peter Barron as the transsexual delivers a thoughtful measured performance but this is not enough to suspend disbelief and accept that he was once a woman. This casting issue aside, it’s an accomplished short with its heart very much in the right place.

Burn (d. Michael Dunning, 2001, 35mm)
I generally have an aversion to ‘gag’ or ‘punchline’ films but not when they are as sophisticated as this one. The twist in its tail is intelligent and truly surprising. Very polished, and not a second too long, or too short.

1-3, 6, 8-9, 13, 22-23

Competition Session # 6

Out of Darkness (d. David Rittey, 2000, 16mm)
A young girl believes she caused an accident jeopardising her father’s eyesight. It’s a good premise complicated by interwoven ideas of planets, eclipses and space and a lot of meaningful (and largely meaningless) posturing. At 14 minutes the film is way too long. The performances are adequate. The cinematography is very good yet the original idea is never fully realised.

Pyjama Girl (d. Maryanne Lynch, 2001, 16mm)
Based on an apparently true story about a woman who was murdered and subsequently preserved pending identification, this very stylised film is curiously remote. Performance opportunities are limited because of the way the film is shot and edited while the cinematography is its strongest point. One of the more imaginative works in the Festival. Not sure if it works, but it deserves credit for its intentions to achieve something different.

Carriage (d. Nick Batterham, 2000, SP Beta)
5 minutes. 28 people on a tram. A slice of reality with the boring bits left in – all five minutes of them.

Reverence (d. Andrea Ulbrick, 2000, SP Beta)
A documentary about ballet teacher and choreographer, Valrene Tweedie. Nicely shot and edited and sympathetic to its subject.

Dear Bert (d. Christina Heristanidis, 2000, SP Beta)
Growing up Greek in the ’60s and finding Bert Newton as a source of inspiration are central to this long short (26 minutes), interwoven with childbirth and early motherhood experiences. It has its moments and surprises in places, but a bit too much mother and baby for my tastes. A documentary that seems a bit stagey in places, it’s helped enormously by good production values.

Diva Fever (d. Melisande Clark, 2000, SP Beta)
Self-indulgent send up of Rhonda, a musical and cabaret star. Starring Rhonda Burchmore, this stinks. Muchly.

1-3, 6, 8-9, 13, 22-23

Competition Session # 8

The Talent in the Room (d. Joel Anderson, 2001, SP Beta)
Often funny and ironic, this short is largely concerned with 9 random lives, subjected to a running commentary that is surprisingly mature.

Square Space (d. Claire McCarthy, 2000, SP Beta)
A five-minute documentary about Taylor Square, Sydney. Watchable, but it’s pretty surface stuff.

Self Harm (d. Lester Irving, 2000, SP Beta)
A sensitive exploration of self-mutilation, largely constructed around interviews with a young woman, interspersed with some interesting cityscapes. Strong direction, cinematography, and editing make for a compelling short.

Infinite Circle of Desire (d. Josu Abrego Sanz, 1999, SP Beta)
A lesbian couple argue about having a baby while one of them works at a sperm donor clinic. Has moments of high drama in the lesbian household but moments of farce in the clinic, creating a problem for the overall film, which is neither a comedy nor a drama. Though both strands succeed individually, together their sum is less than their parts.

In Training (d. Stephen Gurban, 2001, SP Beta)
Stylistically good, short animation, lacking story.

Bowl Me Over (d. Angie Black, 2001, 16mm)
Four Greek widows join the local lawn bowls club. A surprisingly funny and warm-hearted film which avoids patronising and stereotyping, allowing all the characters to exist as complete people. The acting is superb. Well-executed stuff.

Parlami d’Amore (Speak to Me of Love) (d. Glen Eaves, 2000, 35mm)
An old man recalls his early courting days for the benefit of his grandson. Lovingly photographed by Anthony Jennings, it has a larger than life feel. It doesn’t break any new ground, but it is especially watchable.

Competition Session # 9

Beautiful (d. Sung Khuu, 2000, SP Beta)
A 3-minute animation described as “a journey of metaphoric landscapes through the minute details of existence”. Visually interesting but not very accessible.

Tender Loins (d. Maurice Argiro, 2000, SP Beta)
Animated road movie about the food chain. Brilliant stuff, funny and meaningful. The filmmaker has a very clear sense of what he wants to say.

He drew like an Angel (d. Nicholas Nedelkopoulos, 2001, SP Beta)
Richard Larter’s take on Brett Whiteley. Described in the promo as the worst possible Brett Whiteley story, it shouldn’t be taken to mean that it is a story about the bad guy’s antics, just that it is a rambling piece of half-remembered minor incidents related by Larter.

Anniversary (d. Anthony Davison, 2001, SP Beta)
Well-executed comic short with the requisite twist at the end. Beautifully photographed.

The Letter (d. Anne Delaney, 2000, 35mm)
The story of a young novelist who had her breast amputated without anaesthetic in 1812. The film takes its impetus from a letter the novelist wrote to her sister. The filmmakers employ clever metaphoric uses of fruits and ribbons to interpret the operation, and this is complimented by stunningly beautiful cinematography. Made many people in the audience very uncomfortable, a measure of its success as it doesn’t resort to a gory recreation of the operation.

The Big Picture (d. Peter & Michael Spierig, 2000, SP Beta)
Shortly after turning down a dinner invitation from her neighbour, a woman watches how her life might unfold on TV. This is perhaps one of the most romantic, feel good films of the Festival until it is spoilt by an unnecessary, immature ending aimed at getting a cheap laugh. Having said that, it’s worth noting that it also succeeded in getting that laugh. The production values, acting, and cinematography are uniformly very good.

Brother (d. Adam Elliot, 1999, 35mm)
Adam Elliot’s hugely successful short animation has won several awards in Australia and overseas and it’s easy to see why. It’s clever, funny, well-crafted, honest, and very personal. A tribute to a brother who died young.

Elly (d. Kate Riedl, 2000, 35mm)
A young woman is forced to face an incident from her past. The story is driven by an unsatisfactory co-incidence where the protagonist runs over a young girl, reminding her of a childhood experience when she deliberately tried to con her sister into running across a road. The production values are good, as is the acting, but it seems to lose direction before it concludes unsatisfactorily.

Fragments (d. Nicholas Boseley, 2000, 35mm)
A compacted life journey of a woman from Central Australia. The animation is fine but the story lacks substance.

Right in the Middle of your Forehead (d. Daina Reid, 2001, SP Beta)
Noni and George (a closet queer) are lured into a mysterious nightclub, where the only rule is you can look but not touch. So begins a night that will end their relationship, and set them both free. It’s a good idea, though the characters are clichéd. Despite, or because of this, it is good-natured and the laughs come easily.

Return Trip (d. Phillip Donnellon, 2000, SP Beta)
A nod to the now defunct tram conductors of Melbourne. A 13-minute trip, that like a lot of tram trips seems to take an awful lot longer. Unrestrained nostalgia and acting, send it completely off the rails.

Tropsticks (d. Grant Noble, 2000, 16mm)
1-minute cute animation.

Op.er.at.ic (d. Christopher Benz, 2001, 16mm)
A very funny, stylish comedy set in the orchestra pit. A ‘fight’ breaks out between the piano player and lead violinist over the attentions of the ludicrously sexy cellist. Very well executed. The timing is spot on and it looks very good indeed.

Twitch (d. Daniel Giambruno, 2000, 16mm)
A dark comedy that involves a prostitute, a pimp and a naïve country boy, not to mention a freezer full of body parts. Funny ha-ha, not funny hilarious, and a bit obvious too.

Rubber Gloves (d. Anthony Mullins, 2000, 35mm)
An overworked housewife struggles to get everything done. What seems like a slight premise for a 12-minute comedy soon evolves into a witty, exceptionally funny story of Bondage and Discipline. Lucinda Shaw as the housewife is fantastic. The tension builds quickly and the laughs come often.A very polished short.

The Sauerkraut (d. Simon Wells, 2000, SP Beta)
A strange, disjointed story about an exiled Count trying to find and eventually reincarnate love. It’s very quirky and at times very funny, but it lacks direction.

Old Man (d. Robin Feiner & Jesse Gibson, 2000, 35mm)
A Tropfest winner from two years ago, this is a quick, funny piece. Basil Clarke is very funny as the old man.

Family Man (d. Nassiem Valamanesh, 2000, SP Beta)
A man struggles to find money to buy his son a present. A portrait of the heart of gold inside a seemingly violent and aggressive man. Too short at 4 minutes to create any real understanding of the characters.

Foaming Up (d. Glenda Tarle, 2000, SP Beta)
A funny black & white comedy, featuring a suicidal shaving lady. Quirky.

Winnie Girls (d. Nell Butler, 2000, SP Beta)
A journey into the hearts of women who survived ‘care & protection’ stays at Winlaton Youth Training Centre, made more interesting because the filmmaker is one of the women. Could have done with more balance, but it works as an insight into the long term hurt that short term solutions cause.

Elysium (d. Rebecca Glenn, 2001, SP Beta)
Bath time reminds a woman about her love of the ocean. Nicely shot mood-piece, but inconsequential.

Urban Eye (d. Geraldine Cahill, 2000, SP Beta)
A good idea about momentary eye contact in the city. Interesting cityscapes often compete against the human elements that lie at the heart of the idea. The film mirrors the fleeting moments quite well and makes its point successfully.

Under My Skin (d. Jacqueline Matisse, 1998, 16mm)
At 1 minute, this was probably the funniest short animation at St. Kilda. “Fifi ends an uncomfortable relationship” (and leaves everyone in the audience laughing).

Unpleasant Bride (d. Angela Buckingham, 1999, 16mm)
Quick, easy, situational comedy, bride overhears friends talking about her husband at her wedding.

Whitebait (d. Beth Phelan, 2000, 16mm)
A woman’s childhood remembrance of friends and a lonely desperate old man, embodying themes of emerging sexuality. Good production values let down by stilted acting and dialogue, leaving the story strangely unconvincing.

The Third Note (d. Catriona McKenzie, 2000, 35mm)
Well meaning but contrived story of a near-blind woman and her warring emigrant neighbour. Piano versus lawn mower and that kind of stuff. Nice cinematography, but very long at 15 minutes. Could have done with a ruthless edit.

1-3, 6, 8-9, 13, 22-23

Competition Session # 13

The Laws of Motion (d. Rohan Smith, 2001, SP Beta)
A funny, short, interpretative take on the above laws.

Saturn’s Return (d. Wenona Byrne, 2000, SP Beta)
Several years ago I read the short story version of this film. Written by Christos Tsiolkas,, Saturn’s Return was adapted for the screen by Tsiolkas. It’s surprising then that much of the urgency and a lot of the subtext has been lost in the translation. Basically two young gay men are on a journey to find/understand their respective fathers: one a Greek immigrant, the other a dying hippy. Damien Walsh-Howling puts in a good performance as Dimi, but Joel Edgerton (as Barnet) is unconvincing, and probably miscast, as his lover. The film unfolds nicely and is greatly improved when Harold Hopkins delivers a moving performance as Barnet’s dying father. This part is particularly emotionally engaging and there are many opportunities for humorous relief too. However it concludes unsuccessfully and given that Kim Batterham was the DOP, it’s somewhat surprising that the cinematography isn’t more engaging.

Ride On (d. Christian Buxton, 2000, 16mm)
Sentimental surfer drama, over acted and corny and built on a prior father/son conflict that lacks the stakes to justify the main character’s angst.

Bound (d. Erhat Caradee, 2000, 16mm)
A well executed short film that plays with how you see things, gradually revealing layers of information that change your perceptions of the action line. Well edited, nicely composed, it transcends the navel gazing that is now endemic in short films to deliver a story with punch.

Pentuphouse (d. Cate Shortland, 1998, 35mm)
Della, an aspiring jazz singer lives with Dale, her petty thief boyfriend, and the relationship is on its last legs. Stylistic work from Cate Shortland, much more successful than Joy . The actors deliver strong, realistic performances making this an engaging film.

Trace (d. Darcy Maine, 2001, SP Beta)
Confusing story that jumps all over the place. Would be virtually impossible to decipher if it weren’t for the program synopsis. Unconvincing acting and a bad script don’t help. The cinematography and production design are its saving graces.

1-3, 6, 8-9, 13, 22-23

Competition Session # 22

The Last Tram (d. Arthur Michelopoulos, 2000, SP Beta)
4-minute animation. Technically accomplished.

Where The Two Rivers Meet (d. Ken Kelso, 2000, SP Beta)
Two men, (one Aboriginal, one White), who were enemies at school, discover a new bond after a ‘chance’ encounter. A 26-minute talk-fest lacking any kind of subtlety as it negotiates a path through two cultures that may have more in common than we think. The treatment is very heavy handed and long winded, with obvious dialogue and stilted performances. That these two men would end up as friends stretches credibility. At 26 minutes it is waytoo long.

Discombobulation (d. Adam Grossetti & Joshua Martin, 2000, SP Beta)
Called a documentary but probably more easily understood as experimental this is a nice energetic (frantic) film.

Live to Eat (d. Marc Lanniello, 1999, SP Beta)
An elderly Italian couple discuss their love of food. Very charming.

Schmatte Mazel (d. Lesley Sharon Rosenthal, 2000, SP Beta)
A documentary about the Melbourne Jewish rag trade. Not very polished but it manages to hold your interest and has some funny moments.

The Way of The Birds (d. Sarah Watt, 1999, 35mm)
24-minute animation displaying strong craft skills but lacking pace. Developed for the children’s market, it’s likely to be well received by younger kids, though it may cause bouts of ADD in older ones.

Competition Session # 23

Severance (d. Kym Vulling, 1999, SP Beta)
Striking, engaging and genuinely original interpretation of one woman’s experience with pregnancy and abortion. A very strong experimental piece.

Emerge (d. Tina Gonsalves, 2001, SP Beta)
An experimental exploration of memories of a near-drowning childhood experience. It succeeds in conveying the experience and is visually interesting.

The Decisive Moment (d. Anne Marie-Cook, 2000, SP Beta)
Quite possibly the most boring film of the Festival. Red Symons and Mary Sitarenos are at odds, but (surprise!) love is around the corner. Neither of them can act, the sound recording is terrible and the cinematography is bland. The screenplay is abysmal. It makes me angry to think I lost 13 minutes of my life watching crap like this.

1975 (d. Michael Hochkins & Emma Buckley, 2001, SP Beta)
This is listed as a documentary but it is more like a propaganda film. Its agenda, clearly, to expose (is this new?) the Australian Government’s cover-up of the killings of five journalists killed in East Timor in 1975 when the Indonesians were invading. It makes its point clearly but provides no opportunity for balance.

Don’t Try This At Home (d. Ben Pietor, 2001, SP Beta)
A tollbooth attendant has a night to remember. A film based on an urban legend, starring Nicholas Hope. Well executed, delivering a moment of sheer horror unmatched by anything else I saw at the Festival.

Chopper (d. Bernard Derriman, 2001, SP Beta)
A very finely crafted animation that steals some scenes from Andrew Dominik’s Chopper (2000). It’s incredibly well done, capturing all of Chopper’s nuances in the funniest way.

Lost (d. Jo Kennedy, 2000, 16mm)
A kind of contemporary ghost story. Three children suddenly reappear years after their unsolved disappearance. They haven’t aged. The plot leaves many questions unanswered but the production values and the performances are good. Very watchable.

The Other Days of Ruby Rae (d. Vikki Blanche, 1999, 35mm)
An enjoyable film. An elderly priest is losing his direction and his will, when along comes a young girl who has a unique connection with him. She appears to be his dead wife reincarnated. Her presence helps him to heal. This is a visually splendid film; DOP Kathy Chambers deserves credit for capturing the essence of the story so well. The performances are uniformly good and the story evolves beautifully.

Road (d. Catriona McKenzie, 2000, 35mm)
Two young Koori boys are involved in a provoked fight with a cab driver. Before the night is over their lives will be changed irrevocably. A parallel story of Koori girl meets White boy is intertwined. This film has tremendous energy. The cinematography (Allan Collins) is exceptional and the lead actors Shane O’Mara and Gavin Ritchie are utterly credible. The boys are chased through the night by irate cab drivers; eventually one of them is run over and killed. The film sags a little in the middle and could be shorter than its 26 minutes, but it’s big on heart, and one of the few films that manages to engage on an emotional level.

1-3, 6, 8-9, 13, 22-23