BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2005 PART III

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Here we are back again to look at the history of the Brisbane International Film Festival. By the way just look at that poster above, one of my favourite BIFF posters although as some of my fellow BIFF vollys pointed out what was happening in the picture? Was the poor girl drowning, was that the symbol of our film festival?! Never the less I think it’s gorgeous and a print of it appeared on all our Volly T-shirts of which I still have mine. The 17th BIFF, the third I attended and second I volunteered at had a strong line-up of road movies of which I took full advantage of and shifted a lot of screenings to South Bank Cinemas. At it I saw 18 films apparently, from India, Israel Austria, the U.S.A., Australia, and kicked off a deep affection for Canadian cinema with The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess and Phil The Alien.

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BACKROADS: Saturday the 6th of August I was back in Regent Cinema 1 to see the Australian classic Backroads in Regent Cinema 1 at 5:50pm. There was short film called Yella Fella which I saw at least bits of beforehand. It was about the life of mixed race actor Tommy Lewis (star of The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith) who grew up not feeling part of either community at times. Backroads itself only runs 60minutes and was shot in 16mm back in 1977 featuring the debut of director Phillip Noyce who had some great movies during his career effortlessly gliding between Hollywood blockbusters and films of substance. A first rate storyteller. Backroads starred the great Bill Hunter and Gary Foley who drive around NSW on a bit of a crime spree. These men are not friends, they’re brought together by circumstances, by today’s standards Bill Hunter’s Jack is racist and even by the standards is openly confrontational with Gary Foley’s Gary. Yet through these lack of political correctness and open disrespect comes direct dialogue where opinions are put forward and explained why by the character’s own experiences. Both men begin to view the other in a different light and Jack’s confused feelings about race and beliefs begin to be challenged. I found the film excellent and revealed Noyce’s talent at making exciting action but thoughtful ideas existed right from the beginning of his career.

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HOTEL: I can’t tell if I saw Backroads as Volly or a paying customer but I assure you I saw Hotel a horror film from Austria/Germany in Regent Cinema 1 at 9:40pm with the privileges of being a Volly. A slow burn of horror film, there’s no gore and no threat really every sighted. We’re left to wonder what happens, directed by Jessica Hausner, this is all about mood and atmosphere. I really enjoyed it but barely remember much all this time later including whether I snoozed a little near the end.

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UP AND DOWN: There was a screening of this film (a co-production of the Czech Republic and Australia), at 03AUG2005 at 7:25pm in Regent Cinema 3 but I believe I saw it Sunday the 7th of August, 2005 at 2pm in South Bank Cinema 4. Wow time really does fade the memory, I barely remember much about Up and Down except that it was a really good movie. Reading through my BIFF booklet somethings come back, a couple who adopt a child sold to them by people traffickers, a son returning to Europe from his utopian Australia. The last bit was particularly ironic. You see the child is ‘brown’ and the husband does not want to keep it as a result but his wife who can’t have children feels very differently. There’s various races represented by the characters and the racial tensions that were already smouldering in Europe at the time. Of course while the film doesn’t present this, these are similar issues facing Australia as well. The film caps off a trilogy started with Divided We Fall and Pupendo from writer/director Jan Hrebejk and co-writer Petr Jarchovsky. Of course I don’t have answers for these complex questions. Up and Down doesn’t really either but its a timely reminder that we’re all human, we’re all looking for a better life for our families and there will be predators exploiting that need. Since Up and Down the growing threat of domestic terrorism has only expanded. If we close our borders and our hearts the monsters who drive cars into people, behead British soldiers and set off bombs in Paris will win. On the other hand we can’t idly by and not react. Up and Down is a reminder that most immigrants only make a nation richer, to recognise our common humanity, to remain hopeful for the future and to never let racism thrive no matter the circumstances. In that way Up and Down only gets more timely.

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WALL: Screening on Sunday 07AUG2005 in Regent Cinema 3 at 7:30pm was Wall from Israel and France directed by Simone Bitton. Pretty sure I came over from South Bank to the Regent to catch this. May have snoozed but this followed on from the previous film in terms of how we shut ourselves out to be safe but that doesn’t necessarily make it so. An interesting film I may have been guilty of snoozing a tad through this, it seems to happen more in the sessions I get into as a Volly rather than a paying customer, coincidence? Images of Israel and Palestine have haunted me from this film ever since. The question of how we can hate ourselves so much and how can we come to peace with each other is at the heart of similar war torn territories from the Sudan to Northern Ireland to the former Yugoslav to the Middle East. I hope we find the answers one day.

ROADGAMES: Was the last film I saw at BIFF 2005 and the last film I saw from the Blacktop Dreams program. An Australian film made in 1981 it screened Sunday 07AUG2005 at South Bank Cinema 4 at 9:20pm. The landscape of the time was fascinating, Road Games was the most expensive Australian film ever made at the time and the Australian film industry was at the height of its powers. A mish mash of tributes to the style of Alfred Hitchcock and 1970s Australian road movies and starring the Scream Queen herself Jaimie Lee Curtis it had dated very badly by 2005. Stacy Keach’s humour didn’t stand up and while he was a likeable enough lead I can’t help but wonder what could have been if original choice Sean Connery hadn’t been so expensive. Still the visuals are great and there’s some neat stuff. Quentin Tarantino says its one of his favourite movies, that’s great Quentin…I’m happy for you. I remember leaving late after the screening with one of the front house staff. I never really saw myself as very useful so I always tried to make up for it with an enthusiasm to help where I could. I hope I did.

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THELMA AND LOUISE: There is one more film to cover that I saw at BIFF 2005. I can’t tell you when I saw it, it was part of the free screenings at the Suncorp Piazza but obviously not CineSparks. These included the Max Max trilogy and many others so as you can see there were many road movies at BIFF 2005 that weren’t part of the Blacktop Dreams program which makes sense. Most of the films in that program were rare hard to find titles whereas the free screenings at the Suncorp Piazzi mostly included titles people had seen several times and possibly owned in their home collection. I chose to see Thelma and Louise for two simple reasons. It is my favourite film and I wanted to see it with a live audience and see how they reacted. So on a cold evening I think during the week I sat on the aluminium seats and watched up on a relatively big screen Thelma and Louise. I can’t say enough things about this film, once somebody seemed surprised that it was my favourite film as a man. I don’t identify as a feminist and but I think it is certainly a great feminist film. It rails against all the hypocrisies of our society and the way it treats women. It takes a classic male story of rebellion and freedom and gives it to these women. If you ever had the special edition of the DVDs I highly recommend for the commentaries from stars Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, write Callie Khouri and director Ridley Scott. Scott who hails from Great Britain and is a master visualist captured what was so beguiling about the idea of the American open road. Most of the film was shot outside LA in regional California with some in Utah. When a helicopter flies through smoke swirling everything in its rotor wash everybody understands how Scott makes things look better. Yet  take for example a diner scene with Sarandon and Michael Madsen. The next scene is the same diner table with Davis walking in as Madsen leaves. One is shot closer with more intimate lighting. You won’t notice the difference until its pointed out to you and yet it evokes different moods. Its these subtleties that I don’t think Scott gets recognised enough for. Sarandon and Davis start out as two women wearing make-up and sunglasses. As the film goes on they get wilder, more boyish in their clothing, more natural and yes more beautiful. We’ve talked about car chases a bit with BIFF 2005, Thelma and Louise has one of the best car chases of all time that I don’t think gets celebrated enough.

That’s Davis sitting next to the stunt driver as they plough through the fence. But to get back to why it appeals to me? Because its about hitting the open road, its about not taking shit from anybody anymore, its about empowerment. I spoke to author and BIFF 2005 guest Jack Sargeant who had written quite a lot about road movies at the break-up party. I asked him what he thought of Thelma and Louise and he said he liked it but he didn’t think it was fair that Thelma and Louise paid for it in the end. I knew Ridley Scott’s intention was to make them mythic legends but I think Sargeant has a point. I’d be interested to know what Callie Khouri’s intention was with the ending. Hopefully one day soon I’ll write more about my favourite movie.

The next day was the last day at BIFF and true to tradition I did not work as a Volly but did attend the Volly party. The closing night film was The Jacket starring Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley.  We had the break-up at some pub at South Bank reflecting our move away from the Regent. I had spent some hours up in the foyer outside South Bank Cinema 3 and 4. I got out a mop and bucket and wiped the floor in between sessions because I could feel the stickiness of dried soft drink on the bottom of my shoes. I had gotten to hand with more of the front of house staff. One of the twins went to a café with me and got me to drink chinoto for the first time with coffee. Having a sweet tooth I was not a convert but I was surprised to find he didn’t care for Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and was fascinated by his reasons. I hung out with Andre again and met his wife. There was a Volly from Norway who’s name I can’t remember but who was just the nicest guy who everybody fell in love with. Maybe I did work, I remember carrying an amplifier up to the top of that pub in preparation for the party. I asked the Executive Manager again if he felt BIFF had been successful and why. I had applied for a job with BIFF that year and so now knew the likelihood of that happening was minimal. I started to think of going back to uni to become a teacher rather that save up and travel to Canada. Looking back I really wish I had gone to Canada you make choices and these our the paths we take. BIFF 2005 was the best year I had at BIFF, BIFF 2004 will always hold a special place in my heart but this was it and I’m very grateful for these memories.

Today is Remembrance Day here in Australia, I would like to acknowledge all those who have sacrificed so much in war including those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Lest We Forget.

-Lloyd Marken

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