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Sydney Film Festival Diary Week 2

Got a spare tick to West of the Tracks?
by Michael Collins

Time for week two of the festival.After we experienced the de-lovliest music in week one, we now get the saddest music in the world. We also experience some of the weirdest films in the world – and some of the most tragic and confronting images in the world.

First up for my week 2 was the short Vet/Great. It features Dutch street kids into hip hop and having pointless sex. That was about it really. Not much at all.


About French students who want to be actors. Set in the housing estates of Paris, one kid is keen on a girl and so joins the production in a hope to get closer to her.

It feels all warm and fuzzy for the most part. It’s interesting to see kids with this Muslim chic thing going on. Lots of slang and importance of language. French films often place importance in the language itself, but this film did it big time.


The cool chamber music is great. The film was gorgeous and lush and so delightfully evil.

This is a Korean film set in olden times (18th century) retelling the Dangerous Liaisons story.

Intricate and beautiful, it was surprising (to me at least) to see that they’re Christian. The actors seem to have very western mannerisms. Has that always been the case?

Perhaps the plot will be a little lost for those not familiar with the original story. It does hurry along to the next funny bit rather that make sure the exposition has been done properly.

* * * * *

Overheard from an audience member: “He was obviously making a satirical comment.” That’s a dangerous claim to make at a film festival.

* * * * *

How Not To Make A Short Film

A strange choice to accompany an Iranian drama, but I guess then can’t all fit in together. This is a film about some people trying to convince a director of make a film by any means necessary. So naturally there are a lot of coercion, threats and appeals to ego going on.

Appealing to the vanity of film makers. A writer’s revenge. Nasty and funny. And you could oddly see the camera – and that didn’t quite click with me.


Set just befor the Islamic revolution in Iran, we see teenagers living in a reasonably free country just before the revolution.

One particular kid who gets in trouble for drawing faces has been getting into trouble for other things as well.

One particular face is that of a girl. The film’s slow and frustrating – like all Iranian films – but there’s spots of rewards.

This kid is pretty much into everything he’s not supposed to: Photography, music, and drawing. He’s constantly getting into trouble. To top things off all the kid falls in love with a Jewish girl.

I love Iranian films how they vividly show real and normal life. This film is no exception. It shows things that are quite familiar and other thing that are utterly foreign.

The film has a beautiful ending and has English credits to maximise its audience and lots of French crew.


Go Further is a documentary featuring Woody Harrelson – best known as the dumb guy from and Cheers and the freaky psycho guy from Natural Born Killers. Nowadays he's more interested in enviro-politics and in a hemp powered bus he tours the country to campaign for environmental issues.

As part of SOL (Single Organic Living) Harrelson and his cohorts make their way down the east coast of America documenting and lamenting the environmental scars that are seen on the way. It's funny and they all seem like a bunch of hippies, but mean well; And there is very serious and important message to be told here. A message to take care of the environment which is in a dire state.

The film is a lot about the participants really. They're campaigning for the environment of course, but we learn about the people and their attitudes and how they reflect what's going on in the world in general. Part of the group on the bus don't know much about particular environmental issues so it is through these people that the viewer is educated.


I've wondered if Los Angeles has spent of lot its time trying to match how it's portrayed in the films that are made in this sprawling city. With a drab mono-tone voiceover this film gives us one man's reaction to how the city is portrayed.

LA is the most photographed city in the world it is claimed. Which is funny since it's such a drab city.

This is a straight as an arrow essay on the effect of the film industy on LA and its people who feel they have a right to criticise it. The city is profoundly effected by the lies told in film which the city tries to live up to and exploit.

The film has interesting things to say and to show us but that voice over is a killer. Ken Burns would have made a good film out of this material, but the film doesn't have Burn's touch at all.

The film maker is incredibly embittered about how his city is portrayed. Thoroughly researched, I just wish that great background work could have been put to better use.


This film looks kind of like a spooky 30s freak out film.

And so it is!

The unusual old school film technique reminds me of Zentropa and other Von Trier's work. This film is hard to get through. It's a nice technique, but it's hard to sustain through out the length of a feature film.

Filmed in grainy, flashing black and white style and set in the 30s , there's a worldwide competition to compose the saddest music in the world.

It's very different for a 21st century film watcher and it has to be commended for that. Maybe if I was watching some late night TV when I had insomnia I'd be appreciating this film, but that's not the case under normal cinema watching conditions.

This is on the those films that you see in the middle of Festival Madness - just to freak you out. You'll talk about later about how things were getting hard around this time and your film selection should have been better.


This film is one of the most difficult to watch at the festival. Not because of its style, but because of how tragically real it was.

The film focuses on the aftermath of the nuclear power reactor explosion in Chernobyl and in particular the effect of future generations of children.

It seems that the reactor is still highly dangerous and is still having direct and harmful effects on people in the area – Especially with the children of the area.

There are children with cancer, there are mentally ill and horribly deformed children. All born after the actual accident. The health care for these kids is hopelessly inadequate – even dangerous, when they are taken to adult mental asylums. The staff are even cruel.

The tragedy of these people's plight makes you feel sick. It was extremely heart wrenching to see these forgotten people.


Beauty salons which double as abortion clinics when they're not being brothels. You want weird huh? Then this is what you've been looking for.

It reminded me of one of those old experimentalist film of Man Ray from the 1920s. Shot in black and white and feeling like it's using all the bad lighting and editing techniques of the time, this film would be more at home in an art gallery.

It really is rather odd.

Eat Carpet and other similarly themed programs will well be into this one.

It's about ice hockey and . . . well . . . it's kinda hard to tell.

This film goes for seventy minutes – less than twenty would have suited this style. I lasted ten.

It's cool to create this highly stylised film, but 70 minutes of it is just too demanding for most apart for the most forgiving viewer.


There seems to be a bit of an old school crowd for EotC. Maybe lots of old Ramones fans. I’ve never been quite won over by their albums, but I wish I had seen them live. They looked extraordinary and dangerous.

Dendy crowds are also very different to State Theatre crowds. While tonight’s crowd may be a touch on the older side with all the Ramones fans turning up, they are still much younger and funkier than the State audience. The State is grey hair, blankets and thermoses.

Yet another sold out session. I’ve been noticing a lot of those small, ‘sold out.’ Stickers. Maybe (hopefully) this time the festival will turn a profit.

The crowd was hyped up like the Sex Pistols doco Filth and The Fury that appeared at a previous SFF. While there was a lot of laughing during the film, it felt incredibly sad to me. About a group of misfits who needed the release of punk. All of the core members of the band looked deeply troubled – Dee Dee in particular. His final fate comes as no surprise.

My last day was to be the shorts day. I turned up in the afternoon with the first one I caught up with being So Close To Home. About an Albanian girl who wishes to see the Sydney Opera House. It was touching and sad.

Deluge was in black and white: A man and his two sons – the elder being depressed and the younger trying to help out. Had a buzzing sound and the film came and went before it could really hook you in emotionally.

Birthday Boy was a Korean animation that evidently had an AFTRS connections with fans in the audience.

Cracker Bag has fireworks! Quite nostalgic. Fireworks = explosions = fun!

Then there was Footnote. A stop motion animation film. Not really happening for me. B&W combined with CGI.

Harvie Krumpet is quite sad really, but a deserving Oscar winner. Great to see it on the big screen. People laughed more than I did when I first saw it.. It won as Oscar because it’s so touching and a real emotional story with real feelings. It has some great lines in it:

“The trouble with nude dancing is that not everything stops when the music does.”

“Given up the will to die.”

Drunken shows with knitted finger puppets. Wonderful looking characters with a unique design.

Alice was about a Pregnant woman writing about her experiences. Powerful and painful in dealing with a still born birth. The film feels very real – unnervingly so. Powerful stuff with scorching and raw performances.

Two daughters struggle with their mother’s addiction to pills

Some of the shorts were hard to watch. The day (and festival) was ending on a downer.

It’s funny how the films that I saw at the beginning of the festival seem so long ago. The films I saw at the beginning of the festival seem an age ago. Most of the films were 4-5 stars flims. I really enjoyed the festival and wished I'd seen more. You never see as many films as you origianl intend. Another festival comes to and end and we return to the bland emptiness of the multiplexes.

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originally posted: 07/04/04 11:16:08
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