ST.GEORGE Bank Brisbane International Film Festival
30 July – 9 August, 2009
The 18th St.George Bank Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) showcased a varied and exciting program of films in all genres including features, documentaries, shorts, animation, experimental work, children’s films and more.
For program details, including screenings at the Australian Cinémathèque, see the 18th St.George Bank Brisbane International Film Festival program.
ASTERISKS* a re-appreciation of the physical properties of film
Exclusive to the Australian Cinémathèque
Opens with the Australian premiere of Dreamland, an existential, extraterrestrial mood piece directed by award winning Australian filmmaker Ivan Sen. Also features the latest from world renowned Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami (A Taste of Cherry and The Wind Will Carry Us), the spatial experimentation film, Sense of Architecture, by the idiosyncratic Heinz Emigholz (Schindler’s Houses), the provocative Koyaanisqatsi (1982) featuring the haunting music of Philip and tantalizing found footage films by Craig Baldwin with Mock Up on Mu and Gustav Deutsch with Film ist.
Film notes by St.George Bank Brisbane International Film Festival Executive Director Anne Démy-Geroe (AD-G), and Programming Manager Alex Fischer (AF).
Dreamland is the second feature film by award-winning director Ivan Sen (Beneath Clouds). The film is reminiscent of Sen's early short-film work, using an arresting visual style that tells as much of a story as the spoken narrative. The film is best described as an existential, extraterrestrial mood piece. It follows Dan Freeman (Dan Roberts), a career military man who experiences life anew searching the night sky at some of the most famous UFO-sighting areas in the American West.
With a masterful use of time-lapse, soundscapes, and cinematography, Sen creates a film that is truly cinematic. The pacing enables viewers to contemplate the ideas presented without being rushed, thus turning a 'thinking film' into a meditation on our existence in the universe.
The third in a series of masterly found-footage films by Gustav Deutsch (both previous films have screened at BIFF) reflecting on what 'film is' takes as its theme early cinema's relationship with sex and violence. The drama in five acts (Genesis, Paradeisos, Eros, Thanatos, and Symposion) draws on tinted images and sequences from silent fictional, erotic, and scientific footage. Deutsch's extraordinary montages combine with the score to create a dreamlike effect, surreal in the true sense of the word. The film opens with Annie Oakley shooting at a target and concludes with an iconic shot of a cowboy aiming his gun at the audience; what we see in between has been mined from film archives, including (with privileged access to hitherto unseen footage) those of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. (A D-G)
Named after the legendary Indonesian rock group who take centre stage in the film, Kantata Takwa, a semi-documentary protest against the Suharto regime, is a collaborative effort from Iwan Fals, 'the Bob Dylan of Indonesia', and his band; poet W. S. Rendra and his theatre group; and the filmmakers and artists Eros Djarot, Setiawan Djody, and Gotot Prakosa. Independent and experimental (although boasting a relatively large budget thanks to private patronage), the film began production in 1990-and includes footage of a Kantata Takwa concert held that year-but was only completed in 2008.
As one reviewer has written,
'The Indonesians were mainly fed, but social injustices were virtually everywhere and, while it was blatantly there, would not be acknowledged. So anger and inner resentment were the only driving force for resistance. And Kantata Takwa was one of the few who shouted,
Be patient and wait. That's the response we always get. We must take it to the streets. To topple down that towering Devil ahead. Oh yes, oh yes, tear it down! Oh yes, oh yes, tear it down!'
But instead they made a powerful film. (AD-G)
Originally released in 1982, Koyaanisqatsi is part one of the 'Qatsi'-or 'Life'-trilogy produced by Godfrey Reggio. The title, Koyaanisqatsi, is Hopi for 'life out of balance', the central theme of this intense visual essay, which documents the tug-of-war between humankind's need to urbanise and nature's ability to reclaim. This film features no spoken narration but is a prime example of a visual tone poem.
The haunting music of Philip Glass sets an atmosphere of both hope and terror, a fitting juxtaposition given the complexity of the environmental issues referenced. Glass uses the following excerpts from Hopi prophecy as chanted lyrics throughout the film: 'If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster'; 'Near the Day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky'; and 'A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky which could burn the land and boil the oceans'. (AF)
Set in the not-so-distant future, Mock Up on Mu is the latest work by eccentric artist and hailed culture jammer Craig Baldwin. Keeping on par with his previous films, Baldwin uses found imagery to tell the story of the Empire of Mu. In this alternative reality, L. Ron Hubbard (Damon Packard) is an enterprising lunar developer banished from Earth. In an attempt to disrupt terrestrial developments, Hubbard deploys an alluring Marjorie Cameron (Michelle Silva) to occupy his rivals- Jack Parsons (Kal Spelletich) and Lockheed Martin (Stoney Burke). The result is a complicated yet entertaining narrative in which character plotlines are ingeniously woven into both obscure and iconic movie footage. This is not a film for passive audience members but a not-to-be-missed experience for those interested in the revisualisation and rebranding of the status quo. (AF)
Focusing on forty-two different buildings and lasting just under three hours, Sense of Architecture provides ample entertainment for those interested in viewing structures in their natural settings. Using diegetic sounds and a static framing, filmmaker Heinz Emigholz enables the viewer to meditate on the properties of design.
The apparent minimalism of the work is only a façade, and the inherent complexity of both the film and its subject is revealed as Emigholz develops the relationship between time and space. It is this relationship that separates the film from architectural books. The 'real time' projected image permits the viewer to experience each building as it exists. Thus, idiosyncrasies such as shadows, wildlife, and the home-owners' belongings all contribute to the sense of space. (AF)
Shirin observes 112 Iranian actresses and one French ring-in (Juliette Binoche!) as they watch a performance of Khosrow and Shirin, a famous Iranian myth perhaps comparable to Tristan and Isolde. The actresses, filmed in fixed-frame close-up, watch intensely, rearrange their headscarves, and, on occasion, cry. The camera then cuts or pans to the next actress. But nothing is as it seems. The original 'performance', which we never see, is only a narration-albeit a very powerful one-with a music score. And director Abbas Kiarostami has in a way elicited the performances by asking the actresses to imagine a love story of their own and then editing them to the sound.
It is difficult to imagine how Khosrow and Shirin could be portrayed realistically today on film in Iran, a subtext intensified by the presence, alongside contemporary actresses such as Nicki Karimi and Leila Hatami, of preIslamic Republic actress Iren, the much-loved Christian Armenian, also no longer permitted to appear onscreen. Shirin is a conceptually complex work that evokes a surprisingly emotional response. (AD-G)