Jun 08

SFF2010 New Beijing: Reinventing a City

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I love it when I bump into old friends at the festival (hello Jodeska, thanks for saving the seat for us).

Another nice thing about attending the film festival is that often the directors or producers introduce their films and participate in Q & A sessions.

This session turned out to be 3 for the price of one, as some of them were entries in a competition.

First up was Suburbia

Based on true events, an unsettling tale from the urban sprawl starring Don Hany as a man trying to make sense of what he’s heard and seen.

Let’s just say, this was not what I was expecting, this short film made me really tense and disturbed by the end of it. It took a while for people to respond with clapping at the end, not sure if it was because the audience didn’t like it or they were all too freaked out.

Next up was The Adjustable Cosmos

A fantastical adventure played out in a jewelled cosmos housed inside a great crystal sphere.

This was an animation, it was quite cute and whimsical with a little bit of unpolitically correct humour and major religious overtones (please remember, I am not a professional film reviewer, I just make this stuff up)

Finally, New Beijing: Reinventing a City

‘Better take a photo now as it will be no more!’ comments a local man, as activist Zhang Jinqi snaps his traditional home in one of Beijing’s narrow lane-ways (hutongs). Zhang Jinqi’s photography project Memories of China documents the remaining heritage districts of the old city, which are soon to be demolished. Swinging from old to new, the documentary switches to a panoramic view of the biggest construction boom in history and charts the modern face of Beijing and its newly iconic buildings such as Watercube, Birds Nest Stadium and the National Theatre. Wallace-Crabbe’s film is a fascinating record of a period of extraordinary change in one of the oldest cities on earth.

I appreciated the need to document old Beijing before the almost complete modernisation of this city. I felt that this doco was a bit disjointed and not explained well enough, it really “swung” a bit much. They kept talking about he hutongs being destroyed but never really explained what a hutong was in the documentary. I still think it was an important piece of work, but felt that if they had a chance to start filming a few years earlier, it would have helped.

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Jun 07

SFF2010 Eye (and Mind)

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Eye

Award-winning indigenous photographer, Bindi Cole, travels from her Melbourne home to the far north of Australia. She’s been invited by drag performer Foxxy Empire, the alter ego of Tiwi Islander Jason De Santis to document the transgender Sistergirls of his community. She plans to create 12 photographic portraits – positive, celebratory images – and soon realises she must also enlist the help of ‘the mother of all Sistergirls’ Crystal Love.

As Bindi struggles with the logistics of the shoot and being an outsider in a remote community, she listens to stories of the girls’ lives, of family acceptance and rejection, of loneliness and the bond of sisterhood.

World Premiere

I don’t think this is one of the better docos from this year’s festival. Dave thought that it was a mockumentary, and not as serious it was intended to be. It was also unnerving because a guy behind me kept laughing at what I considered inappropriate moments. Was he laughing at the indigenous drag queen or was he laughing at what she was saying?? I found the stories of some of the Sistergirls very moving and I really appreciate what they have suffered through and fought against, as well as the struggles they will continue to have. I’d say this doco was allright. (Though I think I’ve been generous and voted/very good or excellent on all my film festival voting slips)

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Mind

An exploration of the nature of identity: from an early age, award-winning writer Tom Cho thought he was different and knew he didn’t match his mother’s expectations of a good daughter.

I read the book Look Who’s Morphing, I borrowed it from the library, I didn’t pay for it. I didn’t really like the book or the doco. Sure I could relate in some ways, being an asian teenager in Australia in the 80s (but not the part about wanting to be a boy) and questions about identity. Unfortunately I didn’t really feel it. Mind gave me some insight into Tom Cho’s background, but I still didn’t enjoy the “fantasy” stories.

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Jun 06

SFF2010 Bill Cunningham: New York

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I chose the doco Bill Cunningham New York because it featured three of my favourite things: photography, fashion and New York City.
Here’s the blurb from Sydney Film Festival website:

Veteran New York Times photojournalist Bill Cunningham has been called ‘The hardest working reporter in New York’ by his own paper. Still peddling the streets at 81, Cunningham’s eye for detail hasn’t diminished with age and his columns ‘On the Street’ and ‘Evening Hours’ which capture New York street style and society events, remain in demand.

He’s a notoriously picky snapper, skipping over Catherine Deneuve because ‘she isn’t wearing anything interesting;’ Vogue editor Anna Wintour remarks that it’s worrying when he doesn’t raise his camera. Cunningham, however, is never knowingly unkind – he’s seeking style and beauty not exposure. His personal life is frugal; he lives in a cramped apartment in Carnegie Hall, eats at delis and dresses in a devoutly practical French workman’s jacket. Cunningham’s wholesale commitment to his work clearly gives him great joy and energy, and makes for an inspiring documentary.

The packed out crowd on Sunday really enjoyed this, there were lots of humorous moments. Bill Cunningham New York was a wonderful portrait of a fantastic photographer and humble man. Yes, he still shoots film (so old school)!! I loved his interactions with his “mac operator” at the NY Times, they were quite funny, driving each other nuts to make his newspaper layout every week. Oh and it name checked Andy Warhol (of course).

Thanks to Josie and Mark for saving seats for us while tucked into a pre-festival quickie lunch at Din Tai Fung with the O’Kwoks 🙂

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