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Sydney Film Festival 2003 Day 6
by Michael Collins

Day 6 sees triumph, tragedy and out and out boredom. Might have been just me, but it seemed warmer in the State Theater this morning.

First up for the day was AMANDLA! A REVOLUTION IN FOUR-PART HARMONY. A rousing look at the role of song in the Anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa. Itís hard to think that something like Apartheid actually happened barely 20 years ago. That is, itís hard to think until you realise that things not far removed from it are still going on today.

The film started and finished with musician and activist, Vuyisile Mini. Seen as the greatest protest singer from South Africa during that Apartheid era, there was footage of his remains being transferred to a more respectful burial. Mini was convicted of murder and executed in 1964. Itís the time between his execution and his reburial that is the subject of this stirring documentary.

Amandla means power and it was through the power of music that the oppressed South Africans got through this abhorrent time. The film is a canvassing of the great singers, artists, and the songs they sang - as well as the people who are making sure theyíre remembered.

As activists like Nelson Mandela were jailed, so were the songs suppressed and made illegal. This film is also a history of the anti-apartheid movement as well as a musical history.

In a chilling sequence, the former riot police were interviewed. They didnít seem particularly contrite. They even had a mocking tone, with one man remarking on his power trip he used to get when executing prisoners.

The many songs of the time are performed to the camera - Some original footage, some archival. Itís wonderful stuff. - Inspiring and moving - As was the case for the whole film.

Itís sad to look back at that the time of the late 80s/early 90s and how it was a significant time of liberation. Nowadays it seem so distant from where we are now. Struggle is at its most tragic when it is closest to success. Hopefully a period of liberation and an end to suffering will be upon us soon.

The difference between festival crowds and other movie crowds: Six types of tea for sale.

Certain to be a tea fan was 1887-born Annette Kellerman. Before Elle Macpherson was The Body, actress, swimmer, vaudeville act, and all round perfect body, Kellerman was the one wowing the men (and frustrating the women) with her admirable proportions.

Again a film of an unheralded Australian woman who made her mark on Hollywood, it was Kellerman who provided the inspiration for Million Dollar Mermaid. The Mervyn LeRoy water fest classic starring Ester Williams that is guilty for inventing the joke fest that is synchronised swimming.

Using the rather questionable technique of using a narrator speaking as if she actually was Kellerman, the film shows that despite her pin-up appeal she was a steadfast woman who did her own thing. She wanted to contribute to breaking down barriers. A couple of those barriers being able to wear skimpy one-piece swimsuits (which got her in trouble with the law) and more significantly the first female swimming of the English Channel.

Despite her achievements, her interest in being taken more seriously led to film roles. She became a movie action hero notably doing her own rescuing and kicking the bad guyís ass rather than have the male lead do it for her.

The self-narration made it feel a little weird and at times like a kids movie, but she was a remarkable woman and itís great that her story has been told here.

From the kitsch, flesh and sensation of Annette Kellerman, we couldnít go in more different direction with GERRY - A bore fest of the highest order.

Donít you just love a movie where absolutely nothing happens in the first ten minutes? I mean, NOTHING. We ainít talking James Bond openings here. Car drive in the middle of nowhere.

Thatís it.

Nothing else. No dialogue. Not even atmospheric sounds - just a simple music motif.

Then the two guys went walking - and nothing happens.

Matt Damon and Casey Affleck (it seems the other Affleck thought heíd rather hang out with J Lo - donít blame him) are the ones who did the walking. They started to talk - about nothing in particular.

People in the audience were laughing, but I couldnít think why. At times I think people are over eager to laugh just so they can appear to be on the same level as the movie - even though they havenít a clue. I donít know - itís just a feeling.

Nice rugged landscape níall, but I donít need 100 minutes to find out that. I missed the NSW v Queensland match for this?

Casey climbs a rock - A big ass rock - and then he gets down. Still nothing happening.

OK. So taken literally, itís as boring as all hell. No wait. Hell may be hard, but at least it wouldnít be as boring as this film. So was there some sort of allegory going on? So whatís the big underlying metaphor going on here?

Any meaning attached here is more your own work, and little to do with whatís on the screen.

People will talk about the good cinematography - but itís not really. It was indulgent cinematography. Nothing particularly skilled or clever about pointing a camera at some spectacular landmark. And when itís done with nothing to show in the foreground then itís just over-extravagant.

Maybe Mr B. Affleck knew what he was doing when he opted out of this. Seems Iíve underrated the guy.

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originally posted: 06/13/03 14:35:56
last updated: 01/02/04 11:30:01
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