Monday, 7 November 2011

A Bit of BIFF: Week 1

The delightful TCF and I began a two week stint at the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) last Friday night. I’ve always wanted to go, but until now have been unable to find a suitible friend who has been willing to accompany me to multiple showings of political documentaries, intellectually challenging cinema and geeky diversions. We chose seven films, three in the first week, four in the second week.

A Dangerous Method
The opening night of BIFF saw the Australian premiere of David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method: The film is described thus:
First seen arriving at Jung's Burgholzli Clinic in Zurich in 1904, Sabina (Keira Knightley) is a feral, convulsive wreck, A young doctor in his early 30s, Jung (Michael Fassbender) is just beginning to test his hero Freud's revolutionary methods and achieves considerable success in the case of Sabina, who quickly reveals her intelligence and emotional warmth. Two years later, Jung travels to Vienna to meet Freud (Viggo Mortensen), initiating a close but often uneasy bond with unexpected consequences when Freud asks him to treat a fellow psychiatrist, Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel). Unruly, defiant and disdainful of anything he perceives as a repressive social constraint, Otto encourages Jung to cross the lines of acceptable practice. Conveniently enough, Sabina, eager for healthy sexual experience, has given Jung an open invitation, one he is unable to resist for long despite his loyalty to his wife, Emma (Sarah Gadon), and their young children.
The film is particularly strong when exploring the complex relationship between Freud and Jung. They seem to embody their own psychological theories and although the actions of Sabrina keep the plot moving, the central antagonism between the two male protagonists seems to evolve into a love a dark, twisted and often tragic love story. Fassbender and Knightly are particularly good throughout and deserve to be nominated for many awards at year’s end A-

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey
This was one of the films I was looking forward to seeing most given my fondness for all things Muppet related:
The film traces Kevin Clash's rise from his modest beginnings in Baltimore to his current success as the man behind Elmo, one of the world's most recognizable and adored characters. Millions of children tune in daily to watch Elmo, yet when Kevin walks down the street he is not recognized. Pivotal to the film is the exploration of Jim Henson's meteoric rise, and Kevin's ultimate achievement of his goal to become part of the Henson family of puppeteers. In addition to puppeteering Elmo, Mr. Clash is arguably the creative force behind today's Sesame Street, producing, directing and traveling around the globe training other puppeteers.
The film is both heartwarming and fascinating in equal measure. The origins of Elmo’s creation are traced, but perhaps more importantly the magic and techniques of bringing the Muppets to life are examined. The audience gets to appreciate how intricate the creative process is, and discover why Clash is the best in his field. A must for all Muppet fans and their kids B+

The Tall Man
Given my fondness for all things political I was really looking forward to this film, but I was ultimately disappointed in this incredibly bias, one note, yet technically proficient film.
This is the story of Palm Island, the tropical paradise where one morning Cameron Doomadgee swore at a policeman and forty-five minutes later lay dead in a watch-house cell. This is also the story of that policeman, the tall enigmatic Christopher Hurley who chose to work in some of the toughest and wildest places in Australia, and of the struggle to bring him to trial. The Tall Man is a story in luminous detail of two worlds clashing - and a haunting moral puzzle that no viewer will forget.
I find the description of ‘two world’s clashing’ an interesting concept because it was very clear the film makers were only intent on showing one side of the story. Despite the facts of case leaving little doubt that Hurley was guilty of striking the blows that ultimately led to the death of Cameron Doomaagee, the film failed to explore many of the gray issues surrounding the case. The film suffers from not conducting interviews with anyone in the Queensland Police Service (QPS), except for the occasionally militant union spokesmen. One can hardly blame the QPS given the way the material was presented.

The Q&A with some of the film's participants after the screening only exacerbated this bias. One of the Aboriginal elders suggesting a Darwinian approach to law reform by suggesting '...every copper should be bashed, just like they bash us' to applause from a self congratulatory audience. Such a disappointing outcome for a worthy subject. C

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