Wednesday, 3 May 2017

May 4 2017:  
Human Right Arts & Film Festival
Pork Pie
The Zookeeper's Wife
A Dog's Purpose

This week brings a film festival that has something really important to say, a World War 2 film based upon a true story, a very funny New Zealand road comedy, and and a story about furry friends.  

HRAFF: Human Rights Arts & Film Festival
Melbourne 4-18 May at ACMI

With all the festivals sprouting up left, right and centre, it's easy to say "oh here's another!" and not give this important festival the attention it deserves. The salient tagline for HRAFF is "Stories That Matter", and I doubt you'll find a finer selection of docos, films and events that have something important to say about human rights in today's world. I've caught up with quite a few and I urge you all to make time to go along to some of these fine films: 

© HRAFF - a refugee story 
with a difference
Constance on the Edge: Constance's sunny smile (left) belies the fact that she has suffered, fleeing from South Sudan to Wagga Wagga. This is an inspiring doco, filmed over 10 years, which brings home with a wallop just what refugees must go through to end up finding an unexpected sense of community in rural Australia. 
Do Not Resist: this most disturbing doco tracks the progressive militarisation of the US police force. As well as showcasing some of the paranoia that seems to be entrenching in small-town USA, it also highlights racism and bigotry experienced at the hands of the police.
Happyland: Aussie street artist Kaff-eine heads to Manila to make enormous paintings of people who live on dumpsite slums, eat the leftovers others throw out, and make their living from garbage. Despite the ghastly conditions, there is a lot of joy to be found by the locals in Kaff-eine's work.
Fed Square will feature a Happyland exhibition where you can see Kaff-eine's work, and learn about the daily lives of the slum-dwellers. 
Cafe Waldluft: Flora Kurz is kindness personified. The owner of a once thriving tourist hotel in southern Germany now welcomes refugees to live with her there. This compassionate film casts light on the plight of refugees in Europe, and those locals with hearts big enough to take them in.
Les Chevaliers Blanc: This Belgian feature film deals with a fictional humanitarian organisation who purport to do good deeds for local orphans in African villages. The underlying agenda is something more sinister, and the story highlights some of the grey moral areas faced by aid workers. Featuring a stunning performance by Vincent Lindon, this is a gripping and morally challenging film. 
The Settlers: One of the world's most vexed issues is that of Israel and Palestine. This in-depth doco looks at both sides of the story of the Israeli settlers who are progressively moving into territory owned by Palestinians Again, unsettling, and thought-provoking film-making.
Tanna: Don't miss a chance to catch Australia's fist nominee for Best Foreign Film. This beautiful story, set in Vanuatu, looks at the rights of young people to marry the one they love, not the one chosen by their tribal elders. 
Dheepan: Palme d'Or winner in Cannes in 2015, Dheepan deals with the immigrant experience of Sri Lankan refugees in Paris. I saw this a couple of years back and it's a moving, strong film.
Pearl of Africa: Fascinating documentary about transgender woman  Cleo and her loving partner Nelson, who live in fear of oppression and hatred in Uganda. The doco traces their trip to Thailand for Cleo's gender reassignation surgery.    
Spear: film and event: An afternoon of music (Saturday May 13, Footscray Community Centre 2pm) is followed by a screening of the excellent Australian film Spear, which is a dance interpretation of a young man's life, caught between Indigenous tradition and the life in the city. 
Other events include a gala screening of HRAFF shorts, and a series of talks, along with many, many more fine feature films and docos. Check the website for details. 
4.5 - HRAFF is wholeheartedly recommended!

Pork Pie
Director: Matt Murphy
Length: 105 min
© Studio Canal - Dean O'Gorman is Jon, failed novelist,
failed fiance, soon to be local hero. 
I haven't laughed so much in a long time as I did at this whacky New Zealand comedy. a remake of the original "Goodbye Pork Pie" directed by Murphy's father back in 1981! This is the story of Jon, who is headed south to reconnect with the bride he dumped at the altar. When Luke, driving a bright orange stolen Mini Cooper, nearly runs him over they set off together, driving too fast and soon pursued by cops. Along the way they pick up Keira, a vegan activist. Soon the trio, dubbed The Blondini Gang, become home-grown local heroes. There is much to love here - plenty of physical comedy and hilarious set pieces, breathlessly clever driving through glorious NZ countryside, much larrikin humour, and terrific chemistry between the three leads.  Underneath it all there is a touching heart, and with such memorable characters this is set to entertain big time. (not to mention make you want to race off to NZ and/or buy a Mini Cooper!) 
3.5 - highly recommended!

The Zookeepers Wife
Director: Niki Caro
Length: 127 min
© Roadshow - a Holocaust story with a difference. 
Antonina Zabinska (Jessica Chastain)  and her husband Jan (Johan Heldenbergh) are in charge of the Warsaw Zoo where life is idyllic until the Germans invade in 1939, take away the prize animals, shoot the rest and use the place as a munitions store. They are now answerable to the Reich's chief zoologist Heck (Daniel Bruhl). Antonina and Jan fight back by using the underground areas of the zoo as a place to hide Jews who Jan has managed to get out of the Warsaw ghetto. This is a true story based upon a book that used Antonina's diaries as its source. The film tries to pack a little too much content into its runtime - so much happens and by necessity it glosses over detail. This, combined with the feel-good animal theme, seems at odds with the intrinsic horror of the story. Nevertheless it is a beautifully shot, well acted and moving depiction of the so-called "righteous Gentiles" who put their own lives at risk to save others.
3 - recommended!

A Dog's Purpose
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Length: 100 min
© EOne - "man's best friend" tells the tale
from his own point of view
I went to this with some trepidation, but left feeling a bit teary-eyed and uplifted, though guiltily so, as the film is shamelessly sentimental and manipulative.  Don't be freaked when I tell you this dog is literally reincarnated several times in the film, and he tells his own tale via a voice-over from Josh Gad. Dog number one lives his brief life and is euthanised by the dog catcher. He is then reincarnated as Bailey, much loved for many years by young Ethan. Several other incarnations take place, and we see the dog's place in the lives of its various owners. Eventually aspects of the plot come full circle. Many critics have savaged the film, but there is sure to be joy for dog-loving film-goers in hearing what their adored pet might be thinking as it philosophises about its life. This dog is is big on having fun, and bringing joy to its owners and is a panacea for human loneliness. Love or hate the film, how the film-makers got so many animals to "act" so well is definitely a miracle!     
2.5 - maybe - but for sentimental types and dog fanatics possibly recommended!

1 comment:

  1. I'm being more generous ... 3 and a quarter stars.