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Sydney Film Festival Day 3

by Michael Collins

With the weather still rather pitiful, the decision to spend the whole day and evening couped up inside a cinema doesnít seem quite so strange. Cannes may revel in all its summer glamour, but winter is the best season to have a film festival.

Health check: I kinda had a cold coming into the festival, but itís no better or worse at the moment - Maybe a little better if anything. Maybe Iím the guy who gives it to everyone else this year.

During the shenanigans of the Favela Rising (non)screening it was deeply distressing hearing a whole bunch of people coughing all over everyone. Patrons should get masks to wear.

Speaking of subscribers, I said there werenít any. Evidently I was wrong on that. Thatís a shame. They are easily the worst thing about the festival.

First up for the day is The Archive Project. That's a suitably named film, to start my festival campaign at the State Theatre. The grand old theatre is quite the archive itself.

The Archive Project tells a big story Ė maybe too big. It tells the story of the Realist Film Movement. They were a film group making activist documentaries in the late 1940s and 50s at the height of the anti-Communist hysteria.

The Archive Project film tells of the era, the film-makers, the films and a restoration of the soundtrack of the films. Thatís a lot to fit into a film. Each aspect is worthy of a film itself.

The original films are telling, and still resonate today. Itís not hard to extrapolate the themes in the old films and place them in a modern context.

We didnít get to know much about the film-makers. I would have liked to have seen more of them, like what kind of people they were and their motivations

Visually, the film is a treat with excellent inventive screen composition. There are lots of cool visual effects, but not too much so they donít overwhelm the subject matter.

The doco also shows some excerpts of the original films with updated soundtracks. These add to the power of the film as they somehow ground them in reality.

Itís a fascinating film, but I feel it could have done with a little more shaper focus.

The third film for me was to be at the third venue, The Dendy Cinema at Opera Quays. The State Theatre is the best looking, but the Dendy is easily the most comfortable to view a film.

I was at Dendy to see Solo, a debut directorial effort from Australia. Starring Colin Friels as a hitman whoís keen to get out of the business, the film does well to mostly steer clear of the cliches that are to be seen in a film from the crime genre.

Made on a modest budget, the film is an assured debut from Morgan OíNeill. Thereís a hint of some of the camera and editing trickery of a big budget film, but not too much. Itís a nice work of restraint Ė maybe that was due to the budget.

The budget size didnít seem to affect the casting. Thereís a top cast in this one including Vince Colosimo and Bruce Spence. Itís getting a theatrical release and is definitely worth checking out.

While waiting in the foyer of the State for the triple bill of this evening, Iím sitting just outside the male toilets. A photo of the toilets actually makes it on the State Theatre website. Theyíre that flash. Not the toilets proper, mind, more the foyer to the toilets. You gotta love a theatre thatís toilets make it onto the website. The actual toilets themselves are kinda lame - A disappointment after the Toilet foyer.

While waiting for my first triple bill in a while, I felt part anticipation and part dread. Two of the films at least I was confident about.

Anyways back to the films. Itís now time for An Inconvenient Truth. During Solo the person who I was sitting next to gave it a glowing endorsement. He had also sat through all of Favela Rising which apparently came good eventually.

In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore, the man who came so close to being President of the United States gives an impassion yet well reasoned and thought out, plea that we really need to get our heads out of the sand in relation to climate change and global warming.

The film is more or less a presentation that Gore has given with a few additional interviews and images to make the film more interesting. He presents scientific research, lots of figures and probably most importantly is an engaging speaker.

Goreís message is powerful, inspiring and convincing. It makes you wonder how different recent history would have been if Gore had become President. It is really rather disturbing thinking about that.

His message is that climate change needs to happen now. He believes that there is plenty enough evidence that the climate change we are experiencing is not just part of a cyclical pattern.

Gore also argues that these changes can be addressed without harmful economic effects Ė the most powerful argument of the anti-environmental movement. ďAll we need is the political will,Ē Gore declares.

Letís hope he gets what he wants Ė and we all need.

Kidulthood could not have been a more different film. While the focus for An Inconvenient Truth was, well, the whole world, Kidulthoodís focus was what could be reached by a fist.

Set in London, Kidulthood tells the story of West London teenagers and what they have to deal with in a day in their lives. What they deal with includes things like bullying, suicide, pregnancy, random acts of violence, drug taking and pretty much what ever else hell can throw at them.

Itís hard to not compare this with Larry Clarkís films Ė especially Kids. Kids really annoyed me though, whereas I had more sympathy with the characters in Kidulthood. This film has a superior script and has a more thoughtful look and feel to it.

The cast are astounding. All of the actors do a fantastic job. There are performances with nuance and power.

The film has had positive reviews in its home country of the UK, and significantly it has been given support from school kids who have lived similar situations.

Last up for the day is Friends With Money. As the title suggests, this is a world apart from the lives of estate kids in London of Kidulthood. Instead of worry about getting shot by gangster uncles, the people of Friends With Money are worrying about how to handle a $2 million donation.

With a stellar female cast, the film starts like a comedy of manners feeling quite amusing. If it had been set in New York you would think that it was a Woody Allen movie. Yet the movie grows gradually depressing as the viewer is allowed to peel away the faÁade of these people.

The cast are excellent. Jennifer Aniston again puts herself in an unglamorous role and is quite understated in it and does a good job. Joan Cusack and Katherine Keener can always be relied on for excellent performances while Frances McDormand once again gives an excellent stand out performance. The supporting roles played by the men of the film are also rock solid.

The men mainly play a supporting comedy role. The sub plot of Simon McBurneyís character, Aaron, seeming to be gay provides the light relief when the main action starts to turn angst-ridden.

So thatís Day 3. Coming up for Day 4 will be Friday or Another Day at lunch time and then Starfish Hotel and The Last Days of Yasser Arafat in the evening. Importantly for me it will include my first inter venue dash as I scramble to make the next film.

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originally posted: 06/12/06 10:14:41
last updated: 06/16/06 12:35:56
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